Blind Guardian- At The Edge Of Time
Blind Guardian – At the Edge of Time (2010)
Written by Mark Nagy
Blind Guardian’s latest release, 2010’s At the Edge of Time, was the first ‘new’ release I heard in my fandom. It has what is perhaps the band’s best song, and in general, is a very solid album with an almost ‘best of’ feel. While it is not the band’s ‘best album’, it is still probably better than most of what the rest of the genre can churn out reliably. Come join me on a journey then, as we explore the somewhat scattered, but still masterfully written 10th album from metal’s favorite bards.
The album is bookended by two ‘epic’ length tracks, both featuring live orchestral recordings that usher the songs in and out. The first, “Sacred”, originally was never intended to make it on an album, but as the band continued to work on it, and enhanced it with the orchestral sections, it made a very fitting opener to the adventure. The orchestral feel runs rich throughout the song, though the rest of the band does get somewhat shoved to the back burner to make room for how much fun Hansi seems to have singing in front of an orchestra.
Throughout the album, listeners can delight in an art form that the band had gone far too long without, that being the hyper-aggressive speedfests of “Tanelorn (Into the Void)”, “Ride Into Obsession”, and “Voice in the Dark”. The last song in particular is a treat, because while we all love the choir of Hansi, it’s nice to remember that without layering, he’s still got one of the strongest voices around. I’ve heard these songs described as being “right at home’ on the band’s early 4-5 albums, and it’s true. A Twist In The Myth was a fun experiment in a more melodic approach, and A Night At The Opera was a very necessary endeavor into overproduction and bombast approaching absurdity. Thus, the band getting back, at least on some level, to their aggressive roots is quite refreshing.
I’ve often expressed that Blind Guardian is one of the few power metal bands that have earned the right to write ballads. This is no less true here, with two strong offerings in the folksy “Curse my Name”, and the more robust “War Of The Thrones”. I do have a beef though, that the band recorded two versions of “War Of The Thrones”, one led by piano, and the other led by acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar version is vastly superior, and it really makes it worthwhile to pick up the “Voice In The Dark” single (Or just go to Spotify).
Other than those offerings, there are a couple of songs that probably would have felt at home on A Twist In The Myth. Namely “Control the Divine”, “Road of No Release” and “Valkyries”. “Valkyries” in particular seems to have a bad rep on the album, but I don’t really see why. It’s got a rich dramatic element, and the song is well paced with a strong vocal performance. In fact, other than the absolutely phenomenal “Wheel of Time”, this is probably my favorite chorus on the record.
However, with that cat out of the bag, it’s time to discuss “Wheel Of Time”. In all my years as a metalhead, I can’t think of a single song that I’ve binged harder on than “Wheel Of Time” when this album dropped. It reminds me in some ways of the bombast of “And Then There Was Silence”, except with more maturity to let the melodies breathe. Don’t take that to mean I like it more than “And Then There Was Silence”, because I do love me some overkill, but “Wheel Of Time” certainly achieves a considerable amount. The song is lyrically vivid, and beautifully woven with the full symphony orchestra without taking any attention away from the tremendous guitar and drum tracks on the song. The more ‘middle eastern’ sounding orchestral section in the middle is a tremendous tribute to the deserts traversed by Rand Al’Thor. The dramatic force of this song cannot be understated either. I am a sucker for dramatic songs, and the band swept as high and low as possible with this one, taking symphonic metal to a whole new level of strength.
While it sounds strange to discredit an album for variety, it is what holds this album back from the peak of Nightfall in Middle Earth. There’s not a weak song on the record, but it suffers in that songs often don’t feel like they belong with what immediately precedes or follows. Were the band to fully commit themselves to an album of one of these styles, it’s entirely possible that their ability would cause lightning to strike twice, but for now, all we have is another phenomenal album from one of power metal’s most consistently great bands.
4.5 // 5