So let us begin again. I wished to review this album a couple months ago and didn't do so, but in reviving this blog's activity I decided it will be my first review in awhile. Anyway, with no further adieu, here we go:
Its been four (long) years since Blind Guardian's last album, A Twist in the Myth. Before that, it had been FOUR YEARS since their previous (studio) album, A Night at the Opera. Before that, 1998 was the year of their magnum opus, Nightfall in Middle Earth. So, needless to say, the band releases albums about every four years, and its always awaited by many in the same way that many mainstream metal fans await a Metallica album.
In light of this, I must admit that their last two albums left me cold in some ways. I enjoyed Night at the Opera, but in many ways that album was overblown. It was missing the guts, the "balls" if you will that previous albums had. The gutsy thrashy riffs, the heavy rhythm guitars. Also the speed, and the anguished vocals of Hansi Kursch which sounded almost to the point of breaking at times. These elements (in ADDITION to the awesome Queen like guitar and vocal harmonies as well as other elements) were what made the band to me. But the balance was skewed and in its place were neutered guitars, way too many harmonies, and overblown arrangements. The RIFFS were missing and the band's progressive side, however appealing, could wear thin at times. Night at the Opera remained a terrifically uneven album, with many highlights. But nothing could prepare me for the disappointment that was to follow. Longtime drummer Thomen Stauch left a couple years later, and the band tried to rebound with 2006's followup, A Twist in the Myth. This album stripped down many of the elements on the previous 2-3 albums, but in a way that would prove disastrous. The songs were stale and the production muddy and turgid. It was all around, a low point in a career with almost impossibly high standards, Blind Guardian being of a rare breed with nearly no critically panned albums (and I would say, on a string of albums worthy of a highly coveted metal status in the scene). Twist sounded uninspired all around, and the chunky rhythms, missing in action since Nightfall, were totally absent here. The "Riffs" that were left almost sounded like commercial hard rock in comparison, and overall, even the medieval atmospheres that could save a song or two failed here. I reckon this period of time to the time Iron Maiden were in after the opening of the Nineties, with album after mediocre album (though of course if you read my reviews of this period the story is not quite that simple). So, though something was amiss, early reports from the songwriting of the new album sounded promising. The band subtly hinted at Twist being a mediocre album in hindsight in interviews, and there was hope among many fans. And the hopes I am happy to say were very founded! All in all, At the Edge of Time is a return to form for the German Power Metallers. It begins with a song not unlike the title track of Imaginations from the Other Side, Sacred Worlds. Sacred Worlds is also, with its use of full orchestra, a hint of the long awaited "Orchestral album" which has rumored to have been in the works for over a decade. Whether or not this album sees the light of day remains to be seen.
For a song partially based on a computer game, its pretty damn good!
We then continue with the Michael Moorcock inspired Tanelorn, which is a return to the speedier, earlier Blind Guardian that we haven't seen since parts of Nightfall in Middle Earth. This song is a welcome second track, almost in the tradition of second tracks on BG albums such as "I'm Alive".
A more mid-paced track, Road of No Release follows and breaks up any potential tedium. All in all a decent song, though not one of my faves on the album.
We next follow up with probably my vote for most intense track on the album, Ride into Obsession. A careening, fast paced power metal epic, the track features the best vocals I've heard from Hansi Kursch in over a decade.
Curse my Name is another so-so track, followed by the decent Valkyries and then the OK Control the Divine. War of the Thrones is another mideveal song in the tradition of Skalds and Shadows or A Past and Future Secret. Not as dark as some previous balladic works of Guardian, but nevertheless a tune that takes one to a place around a campfire of bards!
Next up is another flash from the past, A Voice in the Dark. This song is pretty much early speed/thrash Blind Guardian but revamped for 2010. Another terrific track then follows, the epic "Wheel of Time". "Wheel of Time" basically continues with the orchestra from the first song, and probably (to me anyway) rivals the much lauded And Then There Was Silence.
Overall, the album is a return to form for the mighty Guardian. And my contender for album of the year. An essential release with a few so-so songs, but overall even the "Filler" is better than much of the last album's!