Blind Guardian – A Twist In the Myth
Blind Guardian – A Twist In The Myth (2006)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
For a series of albums starting arguably with Imaginations From The Other Side, Blind Guardian had been in a vicious cycle of making records that were more and more bombastic, until the inevitable point at which they couldn’t get any more bombastic. The band started its career playing rather respectable speed metal before dominating the more muscular tendencies of mid-90s power metal en route to its eventual coronation as the kings of power metal excess. Blind Guardian then took a ceremonial 4 year break between albums to ask the harrowing question: “Now what?” What’s a band to do once it’s not only done everything, but done everything all at once?
The answer to such a question can only be controversial, and Blind Guardian’s 2006 offering A Twist in the Myth is certainly that. Gone are longer songs, overpowering grandiosity, and drummer Thomen Stauch. In their places: Hooks. Unlike many alleged ‘black sheep’ albums, A Twist In The Myth doesn’t feature some absurd shift in style. It seems like the fashionable way to lose your fanbase is to flirt with death metal, or rub up too close against power metal’s glam rock heritage. Blind Guardian decided instead to go back to something that’s always been a part of the band’s music, and push it front and center for an album: guitar and vocal hooks.
Resultingly, A Twist In The Myth is a more simple outing than any of its predecessors for at least 10 years, dating back to the excellent Imaginations From The Other Side. But outside of maybe three or four songs, there’s not the same level of aggression and grit that made Imaginations… so memorable. Instead, the band has written an album entirely around massively catchy guitar hooks.
Easing off the gas has allowed Hansi’s vocals a lot more space as well. As much as I enjoy the sheer absurdity of the choirs on A Night At The Opera, piling layers upon layers upon choirs sort of distracts from the quality of his isolated voice. As mentioned above, the band’s longtime drummer, the ever-thunderous Thomen Stauch, left the band before this album and was replaced by Sinbreed’s Frederick Ehmke. Ehmke’s style follows the guitars more closely, and as a result seems less distinct. However, he also provides quite a bit of heft as a talented multi-instrumentalist, including an eyebrow-raising credit for playing bagpipes.
While I don’t buy into some of the more popular criticisms of this album (Good but not great, not up to Blind Guardian’s usual standards, just sort of boring), I do think the album suffers from a severely unbalanced track list. Other than “The Edge”, which is nestled in the back of the album, the most aggressive and energetic tracks are clustered at the front. While Blind Guardian boasts mastery of ballads and mid-tempo songs, putting them all together in the middle of the album feels like something of a drag, and mixing up the speed and pacing throughout could have helped considerably.
I think inevitably, there’s some sense of disappointment that has to come with a band making such a sharp turn away from some of its biggest strengths, and it’s because of this that A Twist In The Myth is often considered something of a ‘black sheep’. However, I really respect the band for honing one of its most important skills, and for delivering an album that is still, by all accounts, very enjoyable. If you’ve listened to naysayers talk badly about this album, stop listening to them, because you’ve got more Blind Guardian to listen to
4.0 // 5