A Devil’s Dozen – Blind Guardian

[Artwork: Felipe Machado // interior gatefolds of the 2018 Nuclear Blast remasters]

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as power metal, and the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And then lo, a handful of German kids from Krefeld begat Lucifer’s Heritage and then Lucifer’s Heritage begat Blind Guardian and then Blind Guardian begat power metal and then there was power metal and the people didst rejoice unto a bounty of meads and ales. And the story ends.

Hi, hello, how are you, friends. No, Blind Guardian did not single-handedly create nor popularize power metal, so kindly return your carrier pigeons to their perches. But consider this, as we celebrate 13 of the very finest gems from this tremendous band’s more than three-decades strong career: Blind Guardian is the greatest power metal band.

But first, some ground-clearing: the roots of Blind Guardian were indeed in the band Lucifer’s Heritage, formed in 1984 by Hansi Kürsch (vocals, bass) and André Olbrich (lead guitar) in the West German city of Krefeld. A few other members came and went in those early days, but notably, they would eventually be joined by Thomen Stauch on drums. After recording two demos in 1985 and 1986, the band signed to No Remorse Records but adopted the name Blind Guardian before eventually releasing their debut album Battalions of Fear in 1988 (featuring four of the 1986 demo’s five songs re-recorded). During this time, they were also joined by Marcus Siepen on guitar who remains in the band to this day.

On Battalions of Fear (and its quick-to-follow successor, Follow the Blind), Blind Guardian’s style was almost entirely devoted to speed metal, though with elements of thrash as well as nascent power metal (particularly in some early grand singalong choruses and an inclination toward classical-leaning melodies – including lifting the theme from the fourth movement of Dvorak’s 9th symphony for the instrumental “By the Gates of Moria”). The band’s frequent collaboration with Kai Hansen of Helloween (who features as a guest on guitar and/or vocals on three of their early albums) and Piet Sielck (later of Iron Savior) cemented the notion that there was a nexus of a particularly European (and, really, particularly Germanic) style of power metal forming.

Blind Guardian opened the 1990s with Tales from the Twilight World, their third and final album on No Remorse, and the one that found their speed roots turning more fully toward the more recognizably epic power metal that soon bloomed completely. On the success of Tales, Blind Guardian would sign to the major label Virgin Records, which would release their next four albums. The twin triumphs of Somewhere Far Beyond and Imaginations from the Other Side are likely the apotheosis of the Blind Guardian sound, although it was 1998’s Nightfall in Middle-Earth that gained the band the most widespread renown. A thoroughly theatrical concept album based on Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, Nightfall is notable for its dramatic and cinematic interludes, but it also saw Hansi Kürsch step back from bass to focus entirely on vocals as the band brought in Oliver Holzwarth on bass. (Holzwarth was never considered a full member, but stayed with the band all the way through 2010’s At the Edge of Time.)

Following Nightfall, Blind Guardian embarked on a more forthrightly modern set of progressions (as well as eventually to new label home Nuclear Blast), from the gloriously overstuffed Night at the Opera and the dialed-back but thoroughly symphonic A Twist in the Myth to the slightly more aggressive orchestral sprawl of At the Edge of Time and the roundly magnificent Beyond the Red Mirror. Red Mirror, in fact, served as a bit of a homecoming for the band, keeping all the many enhancements to their style but making intuitive sense as a sequel to the early-career high-water mark of Imaginations from the Other Side. Although not an official Blind Guardian album, 2019 finally saw the release of the long-gestated Legacy of the Dark Lands, an entirely symphonic (that is, no metal) album spearheaded by Hansi and André which had been in the making for roughly 20 years.

If Blind Guardian’s career has been marked by almost constant progression, then, and if they have spent nearly as much time balancing their early speed metal as their late symphonic excursions, how can they truly be the greatest power metal band (and this particular dork’s power metal sine qua non) – all-time, no caveats, full-stop? The answer is that Blind Guardian, while certainly not the first and likely not even the most stereotypical power metal band, embodies power metal because of the extraordinary, well, POWER thrown into every single element of their music, and the overwhelming sense of a grandeur larger than the sum of its constituent elements. This approach, of course, may have turned off some fans over time, as the increasing use of more and more guitar and choral layers and overdubs turned the speed/power template into a more progressive and eventually symphonic sound. (This, it should be noted, was the stated reason for the final departure of Thomen Stauch in 2005. Whether one sides with his judgment on later Blind Guardian, it seems quite plausible that he channeled some of that frustration into the excellent debut album of his project Savage Circus, 2005’s Dreamland Manor.)

Whether in 1990 or 2020, when you listen to Blind Guardian, you can hear a band of eager 19-year-olds playing to a sweaty 200-capacity club crowd; you can hear a group of weary travelers singing folk tales around the campfire; you can hear seasoned professionals playing to tens of thousands of devotees at Wacken; and you can hear the orchestra tuning up for An Evening With: Blind Guardian. Crucially, though, this is not an either/or: you can hear all of these things at once. More to the point, you can hear one of the surest realizations of the supreme power of heavy metal both to bring the grandiose into the realm of the everyday, and to elevate the routine into something larger than life and truer than truth. Won’t you join this grand parade? [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

TIME WHAT IS TIME

[Somewhere Far Beyond, 1992]

If Tales from the Twilight World saw Blind Guardian truly come into their own with the theatrical but still speed-throttled style that would define nearly all of their work in the 90s, Somewhere Far Beyond is where they landed every single punch in a top-to-bottom masterpiece. Just think about the acoustic guitars that open the album on the fiery and indelibly anthemic “Time What is Time.” The entire intro is only about 40 seconds long, but in the rich tone and beautiful melodic interplay of André Olbrich’s and Marcus Siepen’s guitars, it already crafts a perfect miniature of the album as a whole: melodically dense and forward-driving music with a careful sense for both rhythmic architecture and narrative movement. And listen, too, to how much variation the band throws into each of the verses; how many speed or power metal bands treat their verses simply as a race to the next chorus or solo break? But of course, as is so often the case with Blind Guardian, the chorus here is a bulletproof singalong to end… well, not all singalongs, because this is Blind Guardian and they’ve likely already dreamed up another three since you started reading this, but it’s a singalong to end nearly any other band’s singalong. Thomen Stauch’s drums actually play their most restrained role in the chorus, keeping up the red-eyed energy through a steady pummeling with judicious fills, but Hansi Kürsch’s vocals carry the day, projecting just the right mix of resignation and desperation that the lyrics – inspired by Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner – demand. The guitars alternate between ringing open chords and hairpin-tight riffing, too, which allows Hansi and the full backing chorus to build the drama with each line they deliver. Oh, and you wanted an acoustic-backed break with a gorgeous lead, acrobatic twin-guitar lines, and then a fiery solo spot? You got it, pal. Firing at anything less than top form? What is firing at anything less than top form? [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

I’M ALIVE

[Imaginations from the Other Side, 1995]

Most folks agree that Imaginations is among Blind Guardian’s absolute best records, if not their ultimate masterpiece, bar none. There is nary a lean moment across the album’s 50 minutes, and while the opening title track is full of regal grandiosity and glorious melody and a hundred other great qualities, “I’m Alive” is, to borrow a phrase, where shit gets real.

The track opens with a sound that can only be described as rolling bombast (complete with actual snare rolls) before it momentarily lulls you with an acoustic break. Then all hell breaks loose. Hansi Kürsch, by this point displaying his full level of intense melodrama, sounds downright unhinged on this track, screaming his lungs out in the pre-chorus and then finding yet another lung to blow during the chorus. It’s truly a bonkers moment for a style of metal not always praised for its bonkers moments, and even the band’s signature gang choir parts manage to make it all sound that much more nutty, as if Kürsch has some army of the obsessed backing him up at his most desperate time.

There simply isn’t a moment in this track cranked to less than 11. Even the album’s quick moments of beauty (the ever-so-brief acoustic breaks) only serve to amplify the rest of the madness. And when an absolute barrage of infectious leads and solos burst out like some sort of hot licks relay race after the second chorus? Hot damn. Just HOT DAMN, folks. What a tune. [ZACH DUVALL]

VALHALLA

[Follow the Blind, 1989]

Sometimes the masses aren’t so dumb after all. If you search for “Blind Guardian,” the first auto-suggestions are Nightfall in Middle-Earth and “Valhalla.” Well done, people searching for some of the very best that Blind Guardian has to offer. 1989’s Follow the Blind was still very much rooted in the speed and thrash metal of the day, and hoo-boy does it rip. We shall pretend that “Valhalla” is the proper closer to the album and skate right past the cheesy cover of “Barbara Ann,” one of the few Blind Guardian covers that was included on the original release of an album.

André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen’s guitars gallop sharply through the halls of “Valhalla,” and Thomen Stauch lays down a truly relentless battery throughout. But it’s the addition of a fellow German guest artist that takes this track over the top. None other than the godfather of power metal Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, Helloween, etc) brings his air-raid siren vocals to the bridge, as well as lead guitar to close the song. Hansen’s distinctive voice pairs well with Kürsch, so well in fact that this isn’t the only track on our list to feature him.

“Valhalla – Deliverance / Why’ve you ever forgotten me?” is such a simple chorus, but it packs the huge emotional weight of our wizard protagonist lamenting the loss of belief in Norse gods. Those masses again get it right in the video above, bursting back into the chorus as the song closes and filling Kürsch with joy.

Blind Guardian never needed to find their footing, but they undeniably leveled up on Follow the Blind. “Valhalla” is a great example of the speed, power and anthemic choruses that would always define their albums, but also a window into the grandiose songs to come. [FETUSGHOST]

INTO THE STORM

[Nightfall in Middle-Earth, 1998]

Label samplers – boy, those were great weren’t they? Lots of tracks for not a lot of money, a crash course for folks who wanted to dive deep but didn’t know where the pool was. Relevant to this discussion, Century Media’s turned me on to more bands than I can remember, and it all started with Identity 5: I Defy and its most impactful inclusion, Blind Guardian’s “Into the Storm.”

Plucked randomly from the metal section of the local record store, and thanks to familiar names like Iced Earth, Nevermore, and Skinlab, the $4.99 price tag seemed just right (and the label made up for it with all the money I’ve spent on their bands over the years). “Into the Storm” was smack dab in the middle, right in between Old Man’s Child and The Gathering. I nearly broke my damn neck to see who this was when those opening notes kicked in. It was so much more than just “power metal.” It had depth, substance, operatics, and most importantly, it had Hansi Kürsch, who quickly became one of my favorite vocalists.

“Give it to me / I must have it / Precious treasure / I deserve it”

With those words, it wasn’t long before I had my own copy of Nightfall in Middle-Earth and wouldn’t let anyone else put their grubby heathenistic fingers on it lest they so much as smudged the case. Of course, I was more than happy to let them hear it so I could bask in their envy… or smack the derisive little smirks off their faces when they just didn’t get it. IT WAS MY PRECIOUS! [DAVE PIRTLE]

OTHERLAND

[A Twist in the Myth, 2006]

Bands that endure the years long enough to net hundreds of thousands of fans and a pile of full-length releases reaching double digits will inevitably find said fans sacrificing a record here and there to an angry volcano for sensible and outrageous reasons alike. For me personally, it’s A Night at the Opera that lands in the crosshairsa record that demonstrates Blind Guardian’s extravagant layering technique to a level of flurry and bluster that occasionally borders on infuriating. For a number of others, it’s 2006’s A Twist in the Myth that plays the role of sacrificial lamb, thanks mostly to an admittedly thin, synthetic production and some of the most commercial material the band had done to date. (Placing the radio-friendly “Fly,” a song inspired by Peter Pan, directly alongside “Carry the Blessed Home,” one of the schmaltziest songs BG has ever recorded, clearly didn’t help matters.)

Twist is unfairly maligned, though. So much so that even behind the blessed walls of Last Rites—where long-time fans of Blind Guardian arthritically frolic about like creaky minstrels stabled in some retirement cottage—the record was nearly disregarded for our journey down Devil’s Dozen Ln pending a very dramatic and profound grievance from yours truly. But buried within all the album’s marketability rises some of the most melodic attacks and absurdly infectious choruses, so Twist absolutely deserves its time in the spotlight. “Otherland,” for example—inspired by the Tad Williams tetralogy of the same name—is a grand slam of a Blind Guardian tune that clearly continues the über glossy layering (upon layering upon layering) of A Night at the Opera, but it does so with a stronger emphasis on rekindling that unmistakable Blind Bardian power sashay. And while Hansi Kürsch is hardly a stranger to stealing the show, his performance throughout this song is so frigging compelling that every bit of the refrains, pre-choruses, bridges, hooks and whateverthefuckelses end up being equally as infectious as the chorus itself. In other words, “Otherland” is an undeniable peak amongst a great many other pinnacles scattered across the impressive Blind Guardian mountain range. [CAPTAIN]

JOURNEY THROUGH THE DARK

[Somewhere Far Beyond, 1992]

Delving into metal is delving into a world of darkness. Throughout it’s 50-plus year history, it’s probably fair to say that metal has more than established itself as a charging frontrunner in manifesting negative emotion into the auditory consciousness. Of course, it has simultaneously holds close a feeling of strength and hope; a triumphant spirit of controlling or even conquering the darkness from its true birth on those first few notes of Black Sabbath’s eponymous opener on their debut. Power metal, in particular, highlights this sense of overcoming the reign of oblivion, casting spells of uplifting empowerment on it’s listeners. And, simply put, few spells cast a radiant light in the unilluminated corridors of metal like Blind Guardian’s “Journey Through The Dark.”

The speed. The very energy behind the track (and, well, the very energy that drives Blind Guardian) is nothing short of explosively animated. The band had plenty of experience in this realm leading up to Somewhere Far Beyond, but this is where they emerged from the training realms and starter quests: the album was a power-up, that moment when the Saiyan realizes how ultimate their power truly is. While this list will surely reveal, Guardian have a knack for nailing openers, and though “Time What Is Time” certainly sets the stage, it is revealed that it’s simply the wind-up for the one-two follow-through when “Journey Through The Dark” hits. The rolling, fluid picking on the opening riffs hits like flint to steel, igniting with Hansi’s opening wail. The blaze sheerly burns across the talk-and-response riffs.

Then gas hits the growing blaze with that beautiful, beautiful chorus. The torches are lit, the darkness is washed away in a sea of light driven by the group vocals. It burns like a brilliant signal fire, carrying the listener away in this proverbial, well, journey through the dark. The quest is not without conflict, as the feeling falling out of the chorus adds a sense of strife as Hansi struggles to remember his name, claiming it back as though by birthright with his triumphant transition with the self-realizing, “I’m on my journey through the dark.”

The story’s great, but what about a little action? The solos have it covered, searing their way out of the blazing furnace of the song, lofting the flaming blade with a little more muscle that continues to flex with the creative interplay of rhythm and lead guitar, jumping up in melodically strategic moments for a perfectly fatal blow to the nefarious shadows. “Journey Through The Dark” continues to stand as a beacon of light and hope in metal; its feel, its very spirit has spread contagiously across all of power metal, lighting the torches and illuminating the pitch darkness of even the dimmest corners of heavy metal. [RYAN TYSINGER]

TANELORN (INTO THE VOID)

[At the Edge of Time, 2010]

If push came to shove and shove came to swords imbued by the power and flames of holy lightning I would absolutely die for Tanelorn (if need be). For any fan of the Michael Moorcock (yes, it’s funny) and his endless stream of novels loosely linked to the Eternal Champion series Tanelorn is not only a Holy World but it’s a Holy Place not to be tampered with; to be honored endlessly and to be worshipped with blood of infidels if necessary. Fortunately for Elric, Von Bek, Hawkmoon and others they won’t have to wield bejeweled foreheads, The Black Sword or Stormbringer to run through every single goddamn member of Blind Guardian because “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” is an absolute gem on an otherwise good-not-great album in their career. And believe-you-me they would absolutely run them through.

After the barreling and orchestrated opening track (“Sacred Words”), “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” gets At the Edge of Time down to business. Guitars flare and flash as Hansi Kürsch tears open the gravelly foundation of his upper register vocal delivery. While the verses support a musical landscape energetic, anxious and immediate, the choruses present an altogether emotionally-charged melodic experience that are likely responsible for the accolades hanging all over this album (at least at home in Germany). The guitars sing with harmonies during the intro, chorus and bridges in contrast to their ability to fire forward during their quickly-picked verse riffs. There’s enough material here for basically an entire album by a lesser band. But not Blind Guardian. Writing tracks like grand operas certainly takes a wealth of ideas to accomplish and no band is better suited to that writing style than Blind Guardian. Even here on their ninth album they revealed some of the same genius that made them so popular way back in the 1980s. On an album studded with tracks about popular fantasy series none sing quite as melodically and powerfully as “Tanelorn (Into the Void).” Prepare your body to cry and die for Tanelorn. For Tanelorn is under siege.  [MANNY-O-WAR]

MIRROR MIRROR

[Nightfall in Middle-Earth, 1998]

There’s no telling how many people have been ushered into the charmed realm of Blind Guardian by way of their sixth album, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, but the number is certainly substantial. Sure, some fans might give its predecessor the slightest advantage as the definitive Blind Guardian release to hand off to those curious about toe-dipping, but it was Nightfall that generated enough of a stir to catch Century Media’s ear, which quickly lead to the band’s first official “US version” and a relaunch of the back catalog for exploration by all the new adventurers suddenly afoot. In essence, Blind Guardian had finally hit the major MAJOR leagues, and Nightfall in Middle-Earth delivered something that was every bit as approachable as it was spirited and irresistible. Plus, granting fans a full and proper concept album (concerning The Silmarillion) solidified their stature as the ultimate bards of the European scene.

Here’s the truth of the matter concerning Blind Guardian’s place in Devil’s Dozen, though: You could probably take most any song that isn’t an interlude from Nightfall in Middle-Earth and call it “essential” when compared to the already impressive heap of crucial songs tacked to this wonderful band. Honestly speaking, the entirety of Nightfall in Middle-Earth is one of the most essential songs this band has managed, and approaching this sort of exercise on a song-by-song basis feels almost as weird as stating “Yeah, The Silmarillion is great, but ‘Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin’ is by far its best chapter.” Doable, but it still seems weird. But, w are here to comb with the finest toothed comb, so a-combing we shall go. All of which leads us to…

“Mirror Mirror!” A surprising candidate? Maybe? After all, “Nightfall,” “The Curse of Feanor,” “Thorn” and “Blood Tears” all pack such an incredible amount of dramatic, warm and curiously sorrowful spirit into their respective hearts, so they stand out as the most likely candidates for balladeers gathered around late-night campfires. What perhaps makes “Mirror Mirror” so effective, however, is its placement in the story here. Haphazardly reach for Nightfall and play just this song and it would seem a fairly appropriate choice, but no more correct than any of the others already mentioned. But listening to the record front-to-back (as it is intended to be consumed) finds the song hitting directly after one of the most emotional dirges of the bunch, and “Mirror Mirror” packs all the requisite energy and force necessary to send the listener galloping through Nightfall’s back half with the heart of a lion. If your mettle remains un-galvanized following one of Blind Guardian’s sunniest, liveliest, most melodic measures shortly after the 3-minute mark of “Mirror Mirror,” you very well may have been sans mettle to begin with. [CAPTAIN]

BRIGHT EYES

[Imaginations from the Other Side, 1995]

That music video is very 1995, but the music is timeless Blind Guardian. One of my favorite things about Blind Guardian is that with a few introductory notes, one is turned into a “Fool, just another / Fool, just another..” and BAM! the song is stuck in your head (making it an obvious choice as one of Blind Guardian’s first official singles). Recreating Kürsch’s layered, soaring voice, on the other hand, is even more of a fool’s errand.

Always masters of dynamics and speed, the band dials back a bit of the thrash on “Bright Eyes,” which sits comfortably between two of Imaginations’ speedier numbers, “Born in a Mourning Hall” and “Another Holy War.” Of course, this is Blind Guardian, where even the ballads are fast. At 2:57, the band kicks into gear and flexes some speed and a ripping solo before dropping back into the mid paced pre-chorus.

Kürsch uses his entire range over the course of the song, building in intensity over syncopated beats and leading into that layered screech of the title. He manages to crank his voice (and backing vocalists) past 11 for the incredibly powerful “Briiiiiiight Eyes, blinded by fear of life” like the heroic storyteller that he is. Massive choruses are a Blind Guardian signature, and “Bright Eyes” is one of the most iconic. [FETUSGHOST]

THE THRONE

[Beyond the Red Mirror, 2015]

It’s no mean feat, on an album as ridiculously stacked to the rafters as Beyond the Red Mirror, to nail a gob-smackingly perfect standout, but Blind Guardian is no mean band, and one expects neither are their feet, hands, brains, hearts, and everything else that went into making “The Throne” one of the best heavy metal songs of the last decade. It takes a steady hand indeed to work not just with an orchestra and a choir on an album of musical as intricate as this, but to work with two orchestras and three choirs. And yet, the truly remarkable thing is just how seamlessly the choral and orchestral elements blend with and never come even close to overpowering the high-wire dramatics of the heroic grandeur of something like “The Throne.” In a way, it could be because of the way that Blind Guardian, at this point in their storied career, essentially treat every element of a song as a chorus unto itself – the guitars lay down sweetly thick beds of sound, Hansi’s multitracked vocals and the plentiful backing vocalists fill out half an opera’s worth of power, and even the confluence of Frederik Ehmke’s drums and the added keys/electronic percussion elements give a sense of a full drum corps at the front of the stage. Given all of that, however, when you strip most of those elements away and just focus on the vocal melodies, things are relatively straightforward. In fact, it reminded me of some musicological doofusery I read long ago about how the intervals most naturally pleasing to our ears are either stepwise (one note to the next) or large jumps (like a fifth or an octave) – think, for example, of the principle theme to Beethoven’s 9th symphony (the “Ode to Joy”). Hansi’s powerhouse vocals on “The Throne” often follow that sort of pattern, even when they’re crowded against chromatic riffs or the absolutely WORLD-DESTROYING power of the drum rhythms on that chorus, where the toms sync up with the riffing guitar at the end of the bars in such a clenched-fist furor that I have behaved seriously unwell in public while listening to this song on more than one occasion. Let’s put it this way: “The Throne” has an outrageously compelling pre-chorus that sounds like a pitch-perfect homage to Rainbow’s “Stargazer” and that still isn’t the best thing about this song. Holler it with me, friends, today, tomorrow, and forever: “We must serve the fire / WE MUST CONFESS WE ARE LIARS.” Goosebumps every goddamn time. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

AND THEN THERE WAS SILENCE

[A Night at the Opera, 2002]

I was still basking in the glow of the recently-discovered Nightfall in Middle-Earth (and enhanced spreading abilities via college radio) when I received an email from Century Media asking if I’d be interested in giving airplay to the first single from the upcoming A Night at the Opera, a 14-minute epic entitled “And Then There Was Silence.” First of all, who would be so daft as to select a song that long as the first single? My keyboard cracked in several places as I replied with an emphatic “YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU SIR!”

Second, you can be sure I had no intention of playing the six-plus minute radio edit. No, Blind Guardian must always be enjoyed in their full unedited glory, and oh, what glory it was. Mind you, at this point I hadn’t yet delved into their back catalog, so all I knew was that I had never heard anything like this before, even with healthy amounts of Opeth under my belt and a burgeoning obsession with the more theatrical side of metal. None of the common pitfalls of lengthy tracks are present; there is no filler, no sections that drag on, no aggravating repetitiveness. Just a band pouring out the entirety of their creative lifeforce and converting it into pure gold. Simply epic storytelling, musically and lyrically. [DAVE PIRTLE]

MAJESTY

[Battalions of Fear, 1988]

There’s a lot to be said for hitting the ground running. Start hot, stay hot, win hot. The 2019 Washington Nationals were the exception, not the rule. After 50 games they sat at 19-31, horribly disappointing and miserable to their fans… only to go on an insane run and win the World Series. It was historic and exciting, sure, but it’s not the way any team draws it up at the beginning.

Blind Guardian preferred the wire-to-wire approach, opening their career with a masterful debut in Battalions of Fear, which itself was opened by an almost unthinkably perfect mission statement in “Majesty.” The Tolkien-inspired lyrics, thunderous, relentless drumming, machine-gun rhythm guitars, and fiery, folksy leads all revealed a band that was already fully formed. But when the song arrives at its first, unforgettable chorus ‒ with its cascading melody, hint of melancholy, and overwhelming sense of, well, majesty ‒ it’s clear that this band was much more than fully formed. Blind Guardian was, from the first moment, primed to be champions.

There was no slow start for this band. Their lyrics dealt with distant pasts ‒ of fictional worlds, sure, but still times of yore ‒ but Blind Guardian was only ever charging ever forward with the same intensity and momentum that drummer Thomen Stauch displayed here and throughout their early records. The band evolved gradually over the years and decades that followed their debut, but it’s hard to imagine a season opener more perfectly written and delivered than “Majesty.” [ZACH DUVALL]

LOST IN THE TWILIGHT HALL

[Tales from the Twilight World, 1990]

It may seem a bit odd to think of Tales from the Twilight World as Blind Guardian’s version of King Diamond’s Fatal Portrait, but apart from a decision to change the name of the band to something like Kürsch Olbrich, the parallels are actually rather sound. After going for the throat with two banger opening records, Tales from the Twilight World introduced fans to a fresh direction that still managed to maintain a direct connection to the raw roots. Furthermore, this record established a newfound enthusiasm for the concept album—something that would immediately become a principal hallmark for years to come—and like Fatal Portrait, the concept portion only spans a portion of the record.

Oh, and there’s a song about a candle.

Adding to the correlation is the fact that many fans consider Tales from the Twilight World to have landed just before what’s largely considered Blind Guardian’s classic run, but there are those who hold the record in just as high (and in some cases higher) regard. A song like “Lost in the Twilight Hall” paints a clear picture why. Some might argue we should’ve picked the album opener or “Welcome to Dying,” but those songs don’t feature the maestro, Kai Hansen (not for the first time, of course—that distinction belongs to Follow the Blind), and he adds that extra bit of snarl & vigor to the newly established sing-songy element that vaults the tune into the upper echelon. Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that “Lost in the Twilight Hall” also just so happens to unchain one of Blind Guardian’s heaviest riffs (22 seconds in) and seamlessly combines every aspect that makes this band a paragon of power metal superiority thirty years later. And it does so while maintaining the clear reverence to the vigorous speed metal beginnings that landed the band in our hearts in the first place. [CAPTAIN]

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Posted by Last Rites

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