Band: Blind Guardian
Album: Beyond The Red Mirror
Release Date: January 30, 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast
Blind Guardian have released their 10th studio album, Beyond the Red Mirror, after their longest period between full-length releases. From the cinematic beginning of “The Ninth Wave”, the album expands the epic tale birthed on the 1995 classic album, “Imaginations From The Other Side” with their typical grandiose style.
Blind Guardian’s roots go back some 30 years to 1984 and vocalist/lyricist Hansi Kursch has been there for all of them. I had the chance to chat with him at the end of his press conference at the recent 70000 Tons of Metal cruise and he shared a few thoughts with me about the new release. He told me that fans shouldn’t be “too picky” on first listen of the new album as it is “very rich” He believes that the album could rival the band’s most popular to date, 1995’s Imaginations From The Other Side and their next release, 1998’s Nightfall In Middle Earth. What I think that means for fans is that he would like us to withhold judgment until we’re a few listens in. Kursch was clear that what they’ve created in Beyond The Red Mirror might rival their best received work to date and hefurther stated that while the album is pure Blind Guardian, the band didn’t play the ‘safety card’ by repeating themselves. Whatever the case is certainly clear that the band has some lofty goals for this release. Do they achieve them?
The simple answer to that question is, on a grand scale, yes. I am sure that if you are the type that likes to compare every note, chorus and narrative twist to previous releases then you’ll find some fault with the album as nothing is perfect. Beyond The Red Mirror is damned close though.
The album begins with “The Ninth Wave”, a 9+ minute opus that sets the scene both lyrically and musically. One thing to keep in mind however is the Kursch the lyricist doesn’t weave his tales in a blow-by-blow fashion that spoon feeds the narrative down our throats with explicit descriptions of events. Rather, he paints murals of sense and perception, using words like paint on a canvas to encourage the listener to create his or her own visualization. The success of this lyrical style depends on the individual listener; there are those who will have the ability to follow Hansi’s wordscapes versus those of us who wonder what the hell he is on about. At the end of the day however it matters very little as the story is really secondary to the sum of the album’s parts.
Beyond The Red Mirror is simply a masterpiece and its aural palate is huge. Assisted by no less than 3 choirs and 2 orchestras the band has evolved while staying true to their creative vision. Kursch mentioned the use of more down tuned 7 strings and the choirs and orchestras are used to good effect in creating cinematic soundscapes but at the end of the day while I applaud the band for expanding their horizons, all I really care about is if it works or not. It does.
Highlights on the album apart from the awesome opener already mentioned include Prophesies which features some terrific interplay between the lead guitars and Kursch’s melody and the albums 9+ minutes closer, The Grand Finale, which, according to guitarist Andre Oldrich is “the best song we have ever written”. Truthfully, longtime fans of the band will not find a weak track amongst the 11 on the album. Honourable mention goes to artist Felipe Machado, long time collaborator with the band, whose fantastic work graces the pages of the album’s CD booklet.
Blind Guardian have created a masterpiece worthy of their legend. Fans of traditional, power and progressive metal will find much to love in Beyond The Red Mirror. If the album is your first foray into the band’s catalogue then expect to spend some serious time going through their previous releases and being amazed.
Reverend Rock’s Rating: 9/10
Lyric Video for Twilight of the Gods:
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