Blind Guardian – Battalions Of Fear
Battalions of Fear
The late 80s were the years commonly associated with the formation of power metal. Alongside Helloween, Rage, and Stratovarius, Blind Guardian was on the forefront of an emerging genre drawing heavily from the onslaught of speed metal that had defined the previous decade. Battalions of Fear shares a lot in common with what was going on a few years before in the scene. This means that their approach is a bit more refined, but perhaps brings less to the table in originality. Battalions of Fear does contain infantile versions of the band’s legendary attributes to come. Hansi’s voice is distinctive, but not dominating. Thomen’s drumming is quality, but not stellar, and the band wanders into melodies, but not with consistency.
What really stands out about this release is the first song, “Majesty”. It is an absolutely phenomenal track, and it is extremely fortunate to hold the opening spot, because there isn’t really anything else on this album that comes close to that level of quality. It’s got a rather entertaining circus intro that breaks down into a furious onslaught of speed metal goodness. Hansi’s vocals are in surprisingly good form for this early in their career, and it features what I could count among Marcus Siepen and Andre Olbrecht’s more entertaining performances on guitar. Even Hansi has a great melodic and jumpy bassline.
The only other track that really had staying power for me was “Run For The Night”. It has a pretty similar formula to “Majesty”, and while it’s a bit more aggressive, I wouldn’t say it’s nearly as memorable. The rest of the album, unfortunately, is fairly pedestrian late 80s speed metal. There’s nothing that’s poorly executed or difficult to listen to, but at the same time, the monotony of this album tends to get to me on tracks like “The Martyr”, “Battalions Of Fear”, and “Wizard’s Crown”. “Trial of the Archon” however, is a very entertaining, and fortunately short instrumental.
What may make this the most difficult to approach (as a Blind Guardian album), is that the memorable strengths of the album tend to be in the guitar leads. Take your pick of your favorite Blind Guardian classics, but for me, I can’t really say any of my favorite Blind Guardian tracks owe their strength to Andre’s shredding. That’s because after the early albums, it falls into the background, both because the band’s primary creativity lies elsewhere, and because what he shows here rarely distinguishes itself from any of the other German speed giants of the time.
It’s clear at this point that Blind Guardian was invested in shredding and emulating the idols that came before them (Especially Helloween), but there are much higher peaks for this band to reach. While this will entertain speed freaks, the bulk of the album lacks memorable melodies, and even their brand of speed metal would be done much more masterfully on their next album. Look at this album in light of the band’s youth, and it makes a lot more sense why a lot of the songs just don’t work quite right. They put on enough to fill an album, and even to make it entertaining and of reasonable quality, but outside of “Majesty”, they didn’t do anything to distinguish themselves from the crowd.
Dagg’s Rating: 2.75 out of 5