This is the 10th album from the iconic German power metallers, Blind Guardian & sees them exploring conceptual themes again. Beyond the Red Mirror serves as a sequel to the album ‘Imaginations from the Other Side’.
It’s important to touch upon the 3 sides of the Blind Guardian fan-base. We have those who prefer their early work (Nightfall in Middle Earth etc.), those who prefer their more modern progressive work (A Twist in the Myth etc.) & those who enjoy both. I fall into the last category…
Beyond the Red Mirror is an epic story-tale that only Blind Guardian could pull off & sees the band embracing their past, combining it with their more progressive modern sound & adding lots orchestral elements to make the whole package feel incredibly epic.
Opening song, The Ninth Wave is a stark reminder of just how catchy the songs Blind Guardian write can be. At almost 10 minutes long it’s all about breaking you quickly into an album that will need several listens to really appreciate everything that is going on. The layered singing (clearly inspired by Queen) is as impressive as it always is & a late guitar solo stands out over the heavy use of the orchestra.
The previously released single, Twilight of the Gods is up next. A song that sums up the album as a whole combining everything you will hear in one. It is a great song with fantastic guitar play & singing. Seriously, this is going to kill it live, the energy is sky-high.
Prophecies is a more classic Blind Guardian track with an easy to follow musical narrative, vocals backed up by strong guitar melodies while the next song, At the Edge of Time really captures that epic feeling that Blind Guardian mange so well. The opera elements dominate throughout & frustratingly over-shadow the guitars a lot of the times though.
Ashes of Eternity rectifies the lack of guitar in the previous song almost immediately. This is one the finest songs on the album with a killer chorus & amazingly harmonic vocals. A guitar solo just over the midway point breaks things up nicely just when you might be tiring of the song structure.
Distant Memories is a bonus track slap-bang in the middle of the album that was only available for limited editions & vinyl versions. It’s pity because it’s actually a really strong song…albeit a slower one. Opening with an almost folk-like ditty before vocalist Hansi takes over with his soaring vocals. It’s a catchy song that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Track number 7, The Holy Grail blasts the cobwebs out of your ears with some devastating drumming from the start backed up by speed metal-esqe riffs & the heavier vocals. The song continues at a frantic pace & the classic Blind Guardian elements begin to creep in before it’s too long. Harmonic vocals, shredding guitar solos & head-bangingly good drumming this is Blind Guardian at their best.
The orchestra returns to dominate The Throne which you might perhaps think is less than welcome coming off the last song. Surprisingly though it works well in keeping the albums concept & flow moving in the right direction. A classic Blind Guardian guitar solo helps split the song in half nicely.
A chugging intro with a more sorrowful depth to the vocals welcome the listener to Sacred Mind before it speeds up again. It never reaches the heights of previous songs & is one of the less memorable on the album. It’s not a bad song at all but it feels very filler.
The final 2 songs on the album are poles apart in style…Miracle Machine is a slow piano driven number that is all about the elegant vocals & the harmonies that back them up while Grand Parade is the most ambitious & epic sounding song on the album by far.
It is the perfect ‘outro’ lasting almost 10 minutes but showcasing just why Blind Guardian are such a loved talent. Every part of their career is touched upon here with all the finesse of seasoned veterans. “Say goodbye my friend”…it feels like the end of an important chapter for the band & it will fill you with such warmth.
An absolute belter of an album that should please all types of fans. This might not be the best Blind Guardian album but it is definitely up there as one of the best.
Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror (Nuclear Blast)
The Final Score - 9/10
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