Showing posts with label blind guardian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blind guardian. Show all posts

Thursday, July 2, 2015

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2015 (VIDEO)

Almost forgot to put this video up. This was a ton of fun, really did love making this - always nice to talk about music that's actually all sorts of awesome.

So next up is Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then finally I might have time for this new Vince Staples... stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

the top album/songs of the midyear - 2015

Last year when I put together this list, I was debating its very relevance. I mean, would it give away what would turn out to be my top albums of the year overall, or would it find an audience at all?

This year, the debate was different: I knew I had to do a midyear review for 2015 because there was so much quality that came out in the front half of the year that I'm honestly a little concerned I'm not going to get a chance to highlight it all. Between comebacks that delivered in spades, debuts that blew my mind, and records that seemed to have an abundance of creativity more than I would have ever expected, the first six months of 2015 have been overwhelming strong, to the point where keeping my list of albums to twelve was insanely difficult. It'll be incredible if the rest of the year keeps up this momentum, but for now, here is my top albums of 2015, thus far:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

video review: 'beyond the red mirror' by blind guardian

And the streak of great albums continues... probably will piddle out with this next review, but you never know!

Then again, it is Fifth Harmony... wish me luck, folks...

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

album review: 'beyond the red mirror' by blind guardian

I've said before that it's hard to talk about legends, especially as a critic and especially when you know these bands had a seminal impact on shaping their genre. But do you want to know what's even harder? Talking critically about musical acts that were so formative to my musical evolution that I couldn't imagine being a music critic without hearing this band, who I first discovered online in the mid-2000s on clunky fantasy fansites as making music to a favourite novel series I was reading at the time. At the time I was a teenager absorbed in the Dragonlance series of novels, and I discovered that at the time, two metal bands actually wrote songs surrounding some of the characters from those stories. I'll talk about the second band in a month or two, but the first... Now keep in mind at this point I pretty much only listened to pop, hip-hop, and country, with limited exposure to rock and pretty much no metal. And I had never gone through an 'angry white boy' phase, I had no reason to listen to nu-metal or metalcore or even much punk, but I was curious.

The song was called 'The Soulforged', the album was A Night At The Opera, and the band was Blind Guardian. It might have taken three or four listens, but I was hooked - and from there, I started listening to power metal and symphonic metal. The folk tinges pushed towards fantasy-themed acts like Blackmore's Night which led me to Deep Purple and hard rock and blues, and the explosive, fast-paced chugging riffs pushed me towards the greats of thrash metal and punk. The rest is history, but I can say this definitively - if it wasn't for Blind Guardian, I probably wouldn't have this channel today. 

And thus revisiting the band is a little daunting for me, half because of their reputation and half because I know so much of their music by heart. Hailing from Germany, they started out as a speed metal band in the mid-80s before transitioning into a more epic, fantasy-inspired scope with Tales From The Twilight World in 1990. Plenty of fans hail the Tolkien-inspired Nightfall In Middle-Earth as their seminal work from the 90s, but for me it's always been Imaginations From The Other Side - the perfect blend of their speed metal roots and the folk-inspired power metal they would evolve into, and a damn classic, at least for me. And that evolution reached its apex with 2002's A Night At The Opera, a title that matched the overblown Queen-like bombast of its sound that features some of my favourite Blind Guardian songs like 'The Soulforged', 'Battlefield', 'Sadly Sings Destiny', and of course the gargantuan fourteen minute 'And Then There Was Silence'. But the record really is indulgent, and a lot more uneven than one might expect. It was enough that their drummer Thomas Staunch left the band, dissatisfied by the change in direction for the band.

And by all reckoning, he might have spoken too soon, because Blind Guardian changed again in 2006 with A Twist In The Myth, with less over-the-top bombast and more for a straightforward, hard-hitting thrash feel. And not only was the production stronger, the drumming of Frederik Ehmke was more intricate, varied, and wasn't as reliant on triggers for drum fills, which I definitely preferred. It didn't always hit the high points of A Night At The Opera, but I'd argue it was more consistent and a lot tighter. Unfortunately, that didn't really carry over into their 2010 album At The Edge Of Time, which... yeah, it wasn't bad, but that tightness wasn't there, which meant the album had a lot of pomp and bombast, but not quite the great songs to really stick the landing for me.

But now, five years later, Blind Guardian are back, with Beyond The Red Mirror, an album that was being hailed as a sequel to Imaginations From The Other Side, my favourite Blind Guardian record. And let's be honest, it's been twenty years from that album, and if you're planning to make a sequel to one of the best power metal albums ever made, you had better do it justice? I have to admit, I was worried - did Blind Guardian pull it off?