A Night at the Opera
Released: 2002, Century Media
Finally! After 3 long (and when I say long I mean painfully long) years since their unparalleled (in power metal circles) NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE EARTH release, the German quartet bring us their latest opus, A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. I find it very hard to fish for words to describe this monumental release since I have been waiting for so long to hear it and it had some many expectations to fulfill. But be not frightened, oh metalheads of the world, Blind Guardian are still at the top of their game and quite easily at the top of the power metal scene worldwide. Although many knowledgeable (and some who don’t know their heads from their asses) metalheads will tell you that Blind Guardian should no longer be stacked under the power metal genre, the German outfit has proven over and over again that they are without a doubt the most influential band in the genre since God knows when.
Hansi and co. have given the vocal department a lot of importance since NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE EARTH making this, the trademark of the band. This said, it’s no surprise that ANATO spins heavily around Hansi’s voice, but never compromising the musical prowess of axmen Siepen and Olbrich and skin-beater Thomas Stauch. The entire CD has been written in a much more sophisticated way than its predecessor, and the maturity in which the vocal arrangements have been laid down is simply breath taking.
The album’s opener “Precious Jerusalem” is the perfect example of what I meant when I talked about more mature vocal arrangements, Hansi’s voice can swallow you whole and set the mood perfectly for what is to come. Marcus Siepen and André Olbrich make their presence felt on “Battlefield” through their masterful handle of rhythm and melody. This song somehow reminded me a lot of NiME’s “Time Stands Still (At the Iron Hill)” through it’s rhythmic construction and vocal work. The variety in Blind Guardian’s composition is evident in “Under the Ice.” Starting off with an “Arabesque” intro, this song incorporates guitars, drums, bass and vocals perfectly in a manner that only Blind Guardian could have thought of. This is one of my favorite songs in the album. “Sadly Sings Destiny” is the track many of you have been expecting to hear, a classic heavy Metal cut à la Blind Guardian. This track is near perfect in my book, showcasing the trademark choirs, choruses and guitar work that has a little taste of progressive in it, this song is right now, my second favorite cut from the album. Up next we have another great one “The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight” is your classic power metal ballad seasoned by the German outfit, it might start off a little dull, but by the time the chorus comes in, you’ll be quickly swallowed into Blind Guardian’s world once again. Next is “Wait For An Answer.” I would think the band aimed at giving the vocals a little less importance in this song and focused more on the fantastic axe work that is displayed in the track. Siepen and Olbrich again show us their incredible handle of rhythm and leads and drummer Thomas Stauch complements the song with top notch drumming. On “The Soulforged”, the band use a five tone approach and incorporates the folk-ish melodies characteristic of TALES FROM THE TWILIGHT WORLD. “Age of False Innocence” is another great tune, featuring very solid axe work and some very nice vocals and choruses, I think they could’ve done a bit better though! The very last new song of the album is “Punishment Divine” and is quickly becoming one of my favorite Blind Guardian tunes ever! Quite frankly I think I hadn’t heard such a fantastic song in a very long time, this is my absolute favorite off the album. As the album closer (bonus track excluded) we have the single “And Then There Was Silence”. What can I say about this song? You all know it! Showcasing everything a Blind Guardian songs needs to have in my books, and incorporating every element that characterizes Blind Guardian, this epic masterpieces runs for 14 minutes and not one of them isn’t perfect! Finally and only on the American release, we have a Spanish version of the single’s B-side “Harvest of Sorrow” Titled “Mies del Dolor”, again you know the track and it is great!
In all I think Blind Guardian has put out a very strong contender for my top list for 2002 and I’m pretty sure nothing that happens this year will lower its position as one of the top 5. A must for fans and a recommended purchase for new listeners! No going wrong with this fantastic band from Germany. Why didn’t I give it a 5 you ask? I still like NiME better. :-)