Blind Guardian – Follow The Blind
Follow The Blind
So, perhaps I just criticized Blind Guardian’s debut for being mostly indistinguishable speed metal without real memorable melodies, and maybe the same could be said for their second effort Follow The Blind. MAYBE. Though that might be an applicable criticism of Follow The Blind, it would fail to account for one very important variable. Follow The Blind is awesome. I think touring was beneficial for the band in this period, because they started to realize that while playing speed metal was fun, playing really, really fast speed metal was a lot more fun.
Follow The Blind is a better album in every regard than Battalions Of Fear. Most of the same formula is in place, which is now relentless and high-octane, alongside very 80’s-styled guitars, now focused on better rhythm work, and a distinctive Hansi Kursch that still hasn’t figured out how to take his voice from distinctive to legendary (rest assured, he’ll get there). The added rawness even gives this band a thrash edge, which they will, from time to time, fall back on with care and finesse in their later career.
There are still growing pains here, and the album suffers a bit from unmemorable songs, but they are fewer and further between than on the predecessor. Though they run together somewhat, the end result is of higher quality. The album opens up with “Banished From Sanctuary”, which is five and a half minutes of furious shredding, accentuated by what is starting to become a better idea for melody, and some great use of backing vocals. The chorus is memorable, and this is a song that finds itself into live set lists to this day.
The next song, “Damned For All Time”, starts with a pure headbanging moment, a great weedly segueway, and then just speed. Thomen Stauch really flexes some muscle with his drum fills here, and the band continues their great work with the shouted backing vocal chorus. Where this album loses steam for me is the title track, “Follow the Blind”. I can see the makings of a great song, and there’s attempts to build an atmosphere, but the band hasn’t reached the maturity to pull it off yet. Without much melody, it’s just a slow song that shows some elements of greatness to come, without being particularly interesting itself.
Near the end of the disc, some momentum really starts to build. “Beyond the Ice” is perhaps one of the best songs of the band’s early pure speed metal adventures, but it’s the album’s last song (before the covers) that achieves the status of legendary in Blind Guardian’s extensive lore. The guest appearance of Kai Hansen on “Valhalla” is further proof of the band’s love affair with early Helloween, but it also represents an awkward point in the band’s career (and in fact, in musical history) when Hansi was not the most famous voice on a song. Make no mistake, that wouldn’t happen for much longer. The song though, is among the greatest of metal anthems, with the band finally showing off the supreme talent they would later achieve for writing amazing melodies. It has become, along with “The Bard’s Song”, the definitive experience of a Blind Guardian live show. For that alone, this album deserves quite a bit of praise.
Dagg’s Rating: 3.25 out of 5