Released: 2004, Century Media
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
2004 was quite a year for metal DVDs as releases ran the gamut from disappointing (Marduk, Strapping Young Lad) to groundbreaking (Iron Maiden). The new DVD from Blind Guardian, entitled IMAGINATIONS THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, falls into the latter category, raising the bar of what metal bands can, and SHOULD, be doing for their fans. Spread over two discs, the package features the full shows recorded on June 13 and 14, 2003 at the Blind Guardian Open Air Festival in Coburg, Germany on the first platter and a second bonus disc with an interview, “making of” documentary, photo slideshow and four extra songs recorded in 2002.
The Coburg show is quite spectacular. As seen on the documentary included on the bonus disc, this show was quite an arduous task to put together. A crew of many faced rainstorms, a MASSIVE stage and lighting rig and enough pyro to take out a small town. The show is filmed with many cameras that pan across the crowd yet are close enough to zoom in tightly on the musicians. It goes without saying that the band is tight and despite some pre-show jitters, things go off without a hitch. Hansi Kursh’s voice sounds better here than on last year’s BLIND GUARDIAN LIVE 2003 CD and what he doesn’t do, the enthusiastic crowd fills in for him; the crowd actually carries on the vocals to “Valhalla” for a good three minutes while the band looks on in awe! This appears to be a sold-out show and the crowd just goes nuts for the entire two hours and forty minutes. The chosen setlist is pretty much flawless as every studio release, with the exception of BATTALIONS OF FEAR, is covered and all the essential songs are played. A spellbinding version of the aforementioned “Valhalla,” as well as “The Bard’s Song (In The Forest),” “Bright Eyes” and “I’m Alive” are definite highlights.
The bonus disc is chock full of another 100 minutes of material. The 40-minute “Making of The BG Festival Coburg 2003” documentary features a behind-the-scenes view of the actual set-up and tear down of this colossal show. The size of the stage is incredible and the lighting crew must be commended for the superb job they did. Clips from the soundcheck are included as well as fans in the campground doing everything from drinking, sleeping, drinking, eating, drinking, partying, drinking and singing (did I mention the fans like to drink?). The band is actually shown working the beer garden, playing soccer with fans and signing autographs. All in all, this is a very interesting featurette. The 24-minute band interview is a bit flat (these guys are not exactly charismatic off stage) but some interesting things are covered. The slideshow of pictures is interesting (once) but the four extra tracks taken from Wacken 2002 and the band’s stop in Stuttgart (before Kursh cut his hair) are definitely worth checking out.
The packing of the DVD must also be mentioned. Housed in a slipcase, the package unfolds into a three-panel digipack with the two DVDs taking up a panel each and the booklet tucked away in the third. Inside the booklet (and the rest of the packaging) is a cool medieval theme with some excellent artwork that shows even more upon close inspection (see the wizard with the digital camera on the cover!). A lot of thought went into not only the programming but the packaging as well. Good work.
If I were to find fault with this otherwise stellar package, it is in the rapid jump cuts used when editing the Coburg show together. It is almost dizzying how many cuts are made as the focus goes from drummer, to vocalist, to crowd, the guitarist, to crowd, to bassist, etc. Also, the menu screens are MUCH louder than the actual programming so when one selection is finished, the menu screen reappears AND IT SCARES THE HELL OUT OF YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Minor complaints but a definite nuisance nonetheless.
IMAGINATIONS THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is clearly one of the benchmark metal DVDs currently on the market. Projected in 16x9 with either a Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Stereo 2.0 track, the show makes the viewer a part of the show. Blind Guardian did a superb job of encapsulating their storied 17-year recording history into one show and when combined with the extras and lavish packaging, the band has raised the bar on what to expect in a metal DVD.
****For those who do not understand German, go to the “Settings” section of the menu on the bonus disc and pick the English subtitle feature (I wish someone had told me the same thing before sitting through the documentary wondering what was being said).