Ah, Blind Guardian. How I love thee. In fact, I don’t think there has been any band I have listened to more over the whole of 2016. To my shame, I haven’t always been a fan. They just bypassed me somehow. It confuses me how I missed them – I mean I knew who they were, I knew they had written an album dedicated to the Lord of the Rings and I even knew a couple songs, I just hadn’t realised how much I would like them and then I went to see them play live and it changed everything for me. It was like an awakening – my eyes opened and I was just blown away by the whole experience. I left that gig, bought every single album and song I could get my hands on and in a few short months have listened to them more times than many people will have in the last few years. While that hardly makes me an expert in the band, it does mean I have formed an opinion and this is it. My favourite ten Blind Guardian songs (so far?) are –
10 – Twilight of the Gods – (Beyond The Red Mirror)
The first of two from the excellent Beyond The Red Mirror album, Twilight of the Gods is a real mix of thrash and power metal. It starts off with a brilliant guitar lead over some intensely fast drumming before the excellent “How we dare to be” line of vocals is sang. It has a really fast moving riff and vocals to match through the verses and a very catchy chorus that will have everyone singing. All sung sections are bridged by great little guitar solos and it ends with a huge solo with dual guitars over an insane drum and bass line before cutting one last time into that great chorus.
9 – The Ninth Wave (Beyond The Red Mirror)
The Ninth Wave is nothing short of epic – from the choir and symphonic start to the small bursts of subtle guitars and muffled drum rhythyms that make up the intro this song feels like a huge AAA blockbuster movie soundtrack to an incoming battle scene in a fantasy movie. Lord of the Rings or Warhammer or something of that scale. It is a long saga of a song being just under ten minutes long and after the orchestral intro we get a gentle tapping of drums before the layered vocals join in too with angry calls of “As Dark Night Embraces”. The verses are sung at a slow, but not soft, pace. They are heavy and dark with a chugging riff and symphonic backing and they build near their end with a faster riff and thrashy drums taking over. It has a really eerie feel to it so far and then with a call of “Let This Fire Burn” it breaks into a beautifully sung and played chorus that is as infectious as most of the choruses this band produce. There are so many things to love about this song and there is so much depth to it. The vocals have so many layers to them as they overlap and work off each other. There is a pretty solid guitar solo over a broody bass line that is really neat but that then breaks into a second solo which is brilliant and complex. Near the end, as a chorus ends, it breaks back into the choir from the intro and gently fades out to the deep, eerie symphony from the start. This song is a journey.
8 – Bright Eyes (Imaginations From The Other Side)
This song didn’t appeal too much at first listen but has really, really grown on me over time. It showcases beautiful vocal arrangements and harmonies from both Hansi Kursch and the backing vocals of both Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen and the many session artists used to add depth. It is so wonderfully constructed and is jam packed full of beautiful acoustic melodies and solos but the magic in this song is the way the singing fits into and around those notes to the point where you can feel lost within the ever changing melody of the voices. There are so many layers to this song, so much depth, it is quite something.
7 – A Voice in the Dark (At The Edge Of Time)
A Voice in the Dark is another one of the really thrashy numbers that starts off with brilliant drumming over a very thrashy, metal riff. The vocals are spat out at speed at first before settling into Hansi’s familiar singing style with backing vocals adding different harmonies. The verses have drums, bass and riffs that are nothing short of furiously heavy underneath the great vocals. The chorus, typically, is brilliant and infectious. I love how the vocals move up and down in tone in line with the guitars. It almost makes the guitars appear almost like extra singers. Andre Olbrich treats us to another great solo before it jumps back into the thrashy riff and then the chorus again. It ends with mosh pit suitable riffing and drums accompanied by a squealing guitar line. Brilliant stuff.
6 – Fly (A Twist In The Myth)
Fly is a song that has to be heard to be understood. It is a tale, a journey more so even than a song. The structure of the song is quite unique with lots of different sections making it up. There are fast sections, slow sections, big heavy riffs and drumming of the highest quality. There are some really heavy portions of this song but it also has plenty of folk elements too just to add to the ride. Close your eyes, listen to this song and you kind of feel like you are flying, on the back of a dragon over mountains and rivers and valleys. A song that invokes such strong feelings in a listener is special indeed.
5 – Imaginations from the Other Side (Imaginations From The Other Side)
As well as having a cool name, this song is an epic masterpiece. The intro of orchestral instruments and a slow thumping drum acts as an ominous warning before a furious chugging riff takes over. Its a really heavy rhythm which only slows for a few seconds for the first vocal section from Hansi. It picks back up as the song progresses with layers of vocals that sing short verses followed by huge sounding instrumental sections and high pitched guitar leads. The chorus is phenomenal, as is the guitar solo that follows each one. The song breaks into a deeper, darker tone with more orchestral sounds and shouts of “No one’s left, to keep alive”. It has a really cool section of quite menacing vocals that reference fables and tales of old before it jumps back into the excellent chorus and then leads straight into a beast of a solo. Another chorus before it returns to the ominous sounds of the intro. Everything about this song is brilliant.
4 – Mordred’s Song (Imaginations From The Other Side)
In the space of about a week I went from not really being too sure of this song to absolutely loving it. It is such a beautiful song. It has a gentle acoustic intro with minimal violins and other orchestral instruments that gently add depth. Hansi sings the intro beautifully and then, while staying melodic and soft, the vocals become more passionate and, at times strained with emotion. It builds in kind of prog like, off beat tempo to a stunning chorus that has amazing vocals on it, from Hansi and the backing singers. The next verse raises the tempo a bit but only, again by utilising the raw emotion in the singing. It jumps straight into an absolutely delightful acoustic solo that builds and builds to the stunning chorus with extra layers of backing vocals and symphonic music added this time before returning softly, and almost morosely, to the acoustic intro of the song.
3 – The Bard’s Song – In the Forest (Somewhere Far Beyond)
This little acoustic ballad is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Hansi Kursch’s vocals on this song are nothing short of beautifully moving. Coupled with the intricate acoustic melody from the guitars they become magical and will have the hairs on your arms standing on end in excitement. Absolute beauty is the best way to describe it but if you want to add a little more magic, well check out any video of this song being played live and you will see the whole crowd, whether 500 or 50,000, sing this song in perfect harmony with the band. It is an amazing experience.
2 – Mirror, Mirror (Nightfall in Middle-Earth)
What a song this is. I mean, how anyone can hear this song and not instantly adore Blind Guardian is beyond me. From the opening crash of instruments to the quickly following air punching instrumentals it just catches your interest and imagination. The verses are fast, thrashy and powerful. The chorus is catchy as hell and the vocals move along the line of the riff brilliantly. Add to that one of the greatest solos you will ever hear which is almost more like 3 completely different solos that are seamlessly blended together and you have a song that, to me, is very close to being the absolute best of not just Blind Guardian, but of Power Metal entirely.
1 – Sacred Worlds (At The Edge Of Time)
I genuinely believe that anyone who does not get rock and metal, you know, those people who say “but all they do is shout and scream” only need one thing to cure their ignorance. Sacred Worlds is that cure. I don’t believe anyone can listen to this song seriously and not change their mind about what they think of rock and metal. This song transcends category and genre and is just one of the most amazing compositions ever put together – ever. It is over 9 minutes long and utilises a full orchestra throughout. The intro is a slow building orchestral section with strings and wind instruments slowly building up and up in tension. It is joined by a choir and an ominous bass while violins play a winding and waving tune in the background. As the choir builds again there is the crash of cymbals and then the guitar riff gently creeps in, quietly before, bang, drums, guitars and orchestra altogether raise the volume for a mesmerising end to the intro. It quiets down a bit as Hansi’s beautiful vocals take over gently along with the orchestra. The chorus is epic and brilliant and beautiful. The lyrics, while originally written for a video game, Sacred 2 – Fallen Angel, are meaningful and deep and can easily be applied to real life. Lines like “Watch Me I Will Rise” and “I Know I Will Not Fail Anymore” are moving and inspirational in they way that they are delivered. There are great guitar solos that are moving but also at times, thrashy and heavy. The song is so well put together that the orchestra knows when to quieten a little bit and let the guitars and drums be in charge and vice versa. It ends with a huge crescendo of every instrument playing together at pace that sounds so beautiful and layered before it gently filters out to the slow, drawn out sounds of the orchestral strings and flutes. This song is special.
So, there you have it, my number one song is Sacred Worlds. In truth, I love so many of their songs that I had to rewrite the list here multiple times before settling on these 10. I had songs like Thorn, Lord of the Rings and Curse My Name in here at one point too and there could easily be others. Being so new to the band, there are probably ones I have missed too. What would you have in your top ten?
The moral of the story though is that you really should check this band out, if you haven’t already. They have so many great songs that I struggle to believe you won’t find something you love.
Check them out on their website for more information on the band.