Adding proof to the tired cliche about good things coming to those who wait is Beyond The Red Mirror, the tenth long-player from German symphonic metal maestros Blind Guardian.
Put simply, Beyond The Red Mirror is a triumph. From the opening choral pomp of The NinthWave through to the metallic fanfare of Grand Parade, this album exudes class.
The band’s first outing since 2010’s At The Edge Of Time, it serves as a conceptual sequel to the 1995 epic release, Imaginations From The Other Side.
Considering the first instalment of the tale included such dazzling workouts as The Script For My Requiem, Mordred’s Song, Another Holy War and the mighty title track, following on from where it left off is a feat most bands would not dare consider.
But, most bands don’t possess the incredible abilities of vocalist Hansi Kursch and his cohorts.
Such is their knack for constructing multi-layered and truly fascinating soundscapes that it’s no surprise to find they have far surpassed their spectacular previous body of work.
Calling in no less than three internationally renowned choirs [from Budapest, Prague and Boston] and two full-scale orchestras to help create the atmosphere, nothing has been spared in bringing the new creation to life.
And it’s not a case of the odd orchestral hit here and a dash of operatic vocals there. The choirs and orchestras are recurring elements, adding extra instrumental narrative to the fantastic lyrical worlds created by Kursch.
Describing the Blind Guardian sound is rather tricky at best. There are classic metal elements – at times the melodic guitar influences of the likes of Iron Maiden are rather evident; there are heavy passages of harmonic vocal layering, which bring to mind Freddie and Queen; there’s flat out speed; and there are enough time shifts and bouts of fret board wizardry to keep the musical intellectuals smiling.
Where many bands of similar ilk seem to excel in one or two areas, Blind Guardian prove they are truly without peer.
If proof were needed, one need only take in track Prophecies. I fail to find adequate superlatives to describe it.
The hairs on my arm rose upon first listen and by the second I found it near impossible to refrain to singing along with the key chorus grab, ”once upon a dream ago”.
If good music transports the listener to another time and place, thenthis is a time machine.
Special mention must go to the stellar guitar playing of key creator and lead, Andre Olbrich and his six-string sparring partner, Marcus Siepen.
The pair exchanges enough slick licks throughout this release to once and for all assure their place in the hall of guitar gods.
While I could easily laud each of the album’s tracks, I will highlight in particular The Holy Grail. It is quite honestly one of the finest metal offerings I have ever heard.
Stunning riffs, dazzling speed and yet, still capable of inspiring emotion, it is exquisite. Again, there’s a feeling of pure bliss derived from adding to Hansi’s already deeply layered chorus and singing loud the line, ”the holy grail is on its way now”.
Other standouts include the classic Twilight Of The Gods, The Throne and the beautiful refrain, Miracle Machine.
According to a quote in the presser attached to the new release, Olbrich says that after 30-some years in the business, the band is still bent on surprisingand impressing.
”Nowadays, music tends to be arbitrary and predictable, but we want to keep developing our music,” he goes on to say.
Assuming that is the case, the future certainly looks exciting.
Blind Guardian will tour Australia in June. They will play The Hi-Fi in Sydney on June 20. Tickets are on sale now.
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