Blind Guardian – A Night At The Opera
Blind Guardian – A Night At The Opera (2002)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
In the annals of power metal, Blind Guardian’s A Night At The Opera is one of my absolute favorite chapters. While I doubt if it would make a personal top 10 or top 15 favorite albums of all time list, it would be #1 in albums I wish I could have seen written and recorded. A Night At The Opera is, quite simply, the album where Blind Guardian went completely out of their minds. While in recent years bands like Pathfinder have forged a career out of complete excess, Blind Guardian was established for pretty straightforward power metal. At times, I might have even complimented parts of their early career for effective subtlety. However, when it came time to record the followup to their opus, Nightfall In Middle Earth, someone forgot what the word restraint meant, and the result was absolutely wonderful.
As I suggest, A Night At The Opera is completely over the top. Every vocal, guitar, and synth layer they thought they could get away with seems to have made it onto the album, and I still have my doubts that a drummer with only two arms recorded these songs. Hansi Kursch, who I have gushed about in reviews of Imaginations From The Other Side and Nightfall In Middle Earth, has realized that recording choir sections with repeated overdubs of his own voice sounds awesome, and elected to do this wherever possible. Seriously, this album is power metal hedonism at its absolute finest.
But, as we’ve seen in recent years, it doesn’t take a particularly talented band to make an album Spinal Tap would be proud of. What takes serious chops is to make such an excessive album actually sound good, and this is the accomplishment of Blind Guardian. See, the bards had spent 6 albums proving to the world that they were beyond capable of writing great songs with really memorable melodies. They weren’t alone in this respect, but what separated them from their peers is that where some might have taken the solid advice to “Quit while you’re ahead” in songwriting, Blind Guardian attempted the musical equivalent of mounting a death ray on a velociraptor that had all its claws replaced with knives. And you know what? It was exactly as awesome as it sounds. This is no more evident than on “The Maiden And The Minstrel Knight”, which might have been considered among the more subdued songs if not for the false ending. The song builds to a pretty solid crescendo, and features an extended outro with great choirs. Most bands would have been more than happy to end the song there. Most bands are not Blind Guardian. The false ending is just about to fall to silence when the Hansi’s powerful voice explodes into the song and you’re treated to a final, intense rendition of the chorus before getting let off the ride for real.
Seriously, “And Then There Was Silence”, which clocks in at 14 minutes, is one of the most incredible power metal compositions I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. As further proof of the teeth-gnashing insanity that had taken hold of the band during this period, the band decided to release this 14 minute song as the album’s lead single. “Battlefield” is an unbelievable rush of adrenaline, and even for a guy who already sounded like one of the best vocalists metal had ever heard, “Punishment Divine” trumped anything Hansi had accomplished at that point of his career. This all in mind, the album is fantastically difficult to score, because for all this excess and awe-inspiring scope, it’s a very difficult album to listen to front to back. While I don’t think there’s a single song that could have used any restraint, listening to the whole album is nothing short of exhausting. I’ll typically listen to 3-4 songs at a time and be completely satisfied. If you haven’t heard this album, and you’re a fan of power metal, I can think of exactly zero reasons why you shouldn’t be listening to it and enjoying it right now. All the same, the difficulties I have in enjoying it as a complete work hold it back from being Blind Guardian’s best work.
4.5 // 5