Review: Blind Guardian – Beyond The Red Mirror

Location: Krefeld, Germany
Genre: Power Metal
Released: January 30, 2015
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

I’ve said it before, and since I probably won’t get another chance to say this again for four years, I’ll say it again: Blind Guardian was my first heavy metal love. There was just something about the Bards’ ability to tell a story that enchanted me for several years. Although their later releases fell short for me (although both At The Edge Of Time and A Twist In The Myth had some good tracks on them), nothing could have prepared me for the craptastic generica that is “Twilight Of The Gods.” It’s a song that I’ve heard a thousand times before, if not more, and it really lowered my already-tempered expectations for this album.

But something unexpected happened, because I actually like this quite a bit. There are a number of memorable parts in most songs, including the opener that might have been entirely forgettable without an array of electronic effects that stand out in a way that adds a complementary contrast with the rest of the track.

What stands out the most to me is Blind Guardian’s attempt at turning nearly every song on this record into an “epic” of sorts; the average length for the eleven tracks (I am counting “Distant Memories,” the bonus track which was slotted as sixth in the limited edition, in this calculation) is almost 6:30 per song. The only songs that go below five minutes are the aforementioned “Twilight of the Gods,” and the token ballad, “Miracle Machine,” which occasionally has some good moments (especially in the chorus) but probably can be skipped.

“Grand Parade” is fittingly bombastic and completely over-the-top as a closer. “Distant Memories” sounds like the band attempting (and succeeding) to resurrect the better parts of A Twist In The Myth. And while there is still a bunch of folksy and/or symphonic parts on here, it still feels more like an actual power metal album (for lack of a better phrase) than their previous two albums. And while it’s clearly a power metal album, it’s much more unique in sound than the other albums that have been pervading this genre in recent years.

Many of the songs are presumably about Sci-Fi or fantasy series; I have not been able to figure out what the themes are about on this album yet. In the past, Blind Guardian has been the gateway to several of my favorite series, most notably The Death Gate Cycle, which was depicted on the song “I’m Alive.” So if you’re more in sync with these genres than I am, the lyrics will probably mean a lot more to you.

The production on this record reminds me a lot of A Night At The Opera, but is executed in a far better way. The chorus to almost every track, which habitually features a wall of Hansi Kursch, is almost flawless. Amazingly, Blind Guardian has managed to maintain their sound and pull off something different from anything they have ever attempted before. At times, it even feels progressive. Keep on progging!

Overall: You all know the Bards and their songs, but this is different. And really good.

Rating: 4.0*

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