Location: Krefeld, Germany
Released: June 29, 1992
Genre: Power/Speed Metal
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – ATF Nominee
By: Kris Kotlarik
Blind Guardian is forever immortalized as the first metal band I saw live (The Cabooze in Minneapolis, 10/30/10) and was at one point my all-time favorite group. I’ve branched out quite a bit since then and The Bards have fallen a bit on my power rankings, but I still hold them in high regard and they are a worthy fit for this series.
I was on the brink of reviewing their third album, Tales From The Twilight World, before I decided I had a hankering for some bagpipes. Somewhere Far Beyond has several fantastic songs that rank among their all-time best, but there is some obvious filler material that keeps this from clinching a spot in the ATF rankings.
“Time What Is Time” is a fantastic opener that starts acoustically and contains a highly catchy chorus. “Journey Through The Dark” is a faster song with a similarly catchy chorus. The highlight here is a swift, layered guitar solo and the vocals before the second chorus.
The best tracks are on the second half; “The Quest For Tanelorn,” while arguably one of the cheesiest songs in Blind Guardian’s early era, is also contagiously memorable. The chorus here is one that can easily be sung along to at a live show (I really don’t understand why it isn’t performed more often), and the solo is among Blind Guardian’s most memorable, especially the section from 3:42 to 3:56 that sounds like a metalized version of any number of the “War Chants” in American sports.
Everyone who has ever heard the words “Blind” and “Guardian in the same sentence knows “The Bard’s Song (In The Forest);” it is a signature power metal ballad and a staple at every show they play, with good reason. The best, however, is the title track, as well as its intro, “The Piper’s Calling.” It has all the trademarks of a Blind Guardian song: A grand intro, Hansi Kursch’s hallmark (and often layered) vocals, and an awesome solo, which includes a bagpipe. Parts of this track are highly upbeat and therefore infectiously fun to listen to many times over.
I consider “Theatre Of Pain,” “Ashes To Ashes,” and “The Bard’s Song (The Hobbit)” to be average tracks with some good moments. The verses in “Ashes” are swift and aggressive, and it is one of the rare tracks on Blind Guardian’s discography that deals with personal reality (in this case, it deals with the death of Hansi’s father). “Theatre Of Pain” serves as a preview of what would be unleashed upon us on A Night At The Opera and doesn’t jump out at me except for the second verse. “The Hobbit” flows well with “In The Forest,” but goes on for a little bit too long.
The only song on the main album that I consider to be completely worthless is “The Black Chamber,” a painful minute-long interlude that serves no purpose and sounds like it could have been a part of Hamlet 2 . “Spread Your Wings,” a bonus track and Queen cover, is equally terrible, but “Trial By Fire” is an excellent cover which features some of Hansi’s best vocal work.
Overall: Somewhat uneven, but has some excellent tracks to balance it out.