Released: 2006, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Following the same path they laid out with 2002’s A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, Blind Guardian is releasing a single months ahead of their new album (tentatively titled A TWIST IN THE MYTH) to get buzz going. With FLY, Blind Guardian is at something of a crossroads in their career. Not only has drummer and founding member, Thomen Stauch, jumped ship for the third-rate BG knock-off, Savage Circus, but A NIGHT AT THE OPERA showed the band moving away from their trademark Renaissance-influenced, dragons and maidens-styled music to a more mature power metal. Two questions beg to be answered: Will Frederik Ehmke, Stauch’s replacement, be able to cut the mustard and will the new music continue evolving and leave behind the sound of SOMEWHERE FAR BEYOND, NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE EARTH and IMAGINATIONS FROM THE OTHER SIDE? If FLY is any indication of what to expect from the new album, Blind Guardian fans are in for a real surprise!
Is it just me or does the opening of “Fly” sound like Limp Bizkit’s song from MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE 2?! The band has never been ones to shy away from utilizing the studio to pump up their sound (and oft-maligned vocals of Hansi Kursch) but “Fly” reaches new levels of over-production. From the drum loop that opens the track to the synthesizers that nearly drown out Marcus Siepen’s rhythm guitar, “Fly” is bound to drive a wedge between the band’s old fans and the new ones the band will surely pull in with its new-found commercial sheen (the passage that begins with “No one ever dares to speak…” will be stuck in your head for evermore). Loads of effects and an impressive solo by Andre Olbrich can’t save this track from the out-of-left-field approach taken by the band and I can’t imagine the response will be warm to this new angle. “Skalds and Shadows” will win back fans of the “classic” sound with its medieval folk guitar and flute, drawing instant parallels to favorite tracks like “The Bard’s Song.” Blind Guardian are the unofficial masters of “minstrel metal” and no one can touch them with tracks like this. Kursch’s voice is perfect and the swelling vocal melodies that line the chorus really capture the essence of what got the band where they are today. Lastly, their take on the Iron Butterfly classic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is hit-and-miss. The strangely quieter production from the other two tracks is immediately off-putting but this amounts to filler and nothing more. Had the band sped it up and really made it their own as they did on the dismal “Mr. Sandman,” at least there could be cause for discussion, but as it is, there isn’t much to get excited about this time around.
Even though I have followed their career and own all their albums, I am not a staunch Blind Guardian fan, so the real fanboys will likely get their tunics in a knot over my opinions above. On the other hand, maybe an objective voice is what is needed here. Whichever side of the fence one sits on, when the dust settles, FLY sees the band entering what appears to be a new phase in their career. It has been four years since A NIGHT AT THE OPERA was released and maybe the band felt they needed to shake things up but it will be interesting to see how many forums light up with cries of “sell-out” once this streets. Let’s hope the rest of the new album doesn’t follow suit. Can anyone say REROUTE TO REMAIN?
KILLER KUTS: “Skalds and Shadows”