At The Edge Of Time
Released: 2010, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Blind Guardian is a group I’ve been listening to for about ten years, and they’ve had a massive influence on my metal tastes ever since I acquired their peerless album NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE-EARTH. These guys get ‘epic’ in a way that a lot of other groups (Manowar, Rhapsody of Fire, etc.) can’t match without inserting gobs of CHEESE into the mix. That’s not to say that Blind Guardian can’t get a little cheesy sometimes, but perhaps because they style themselves after Queen instead of Wagner, they still leave their competitors in the dust.
That said, their two follow-up albums to NIGHTFALL didn’t live up to my expectations. A NIGHT AT THE OPERA featured a couple good songs (and one truly astounding epic in the form of “And Then There Was Silence”), but it didn’t have the cohesion and punch of NIGHTFALL. A TWIST IN THE MYTH bordered on being flat-out bad, with most songs lacking the narrative punch and soul that makes up most BG tunes. So when I heard AT THE EDGE OF TIME, I was very pleasantly surprised that BG has taken a couple steps forward by taking one step back.
The thrash elements are back. The aimless bombast is restrained. The endless layering and multitracking have been pared back, as have the cheesy synths. The intensity and intrigue are in full force again. And yes, it’s still mildly cheesy (but no more severe than your average bit of mild cheddar.) For the first time, Blind Guardian has employed a full orchestra on a few tracks, which they’ve utilized pretty well. Opener “Sacred Worlds” just might be the best track they’ve penned since “Mirror, Mirror” with an intense, gripping opening from the orchestra and a dapper guitar riff. The gallant chorus reminds me of the favorable elements from A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. This is the biggest song they’ve done since “And Then There Was Silence,” and even though it doesn’t quite live up, it’s still a great success.
We travel right back to the IMAGINATIONS FROM THE OTHER SIDE era with the rollickingly thrashy “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” – tracks like this show that BG’s learned that not every song need be an exercise in orchestral bombast to be a killer. By keeping things simpler and more guitar-driven, the evocative chorus really sticks out in contrast to the uncharacteristically hostile riffing. This may be one of their best tunes in years. “Road Of No Release” might have been a cast-off from the NIGHTFALL sessions with its turgid, slithering bridge section that strongly evokes “Noldor (Dead Winter Reigns)”. The thrash attack returns with “Ride into Obsession,” though I found this to be one of the least interesting tracks. “Curse My Name” continues BG’s tradition of performing medieval minstrel tunes, and it’s one of their best yet.
Other standout tracks include “Valkyries”, which gets the perfect mix between strong riffing and maddeningly epic choral arrangements. “A Voice in the Dark” will really appeal to the older fans, even if the video is mercilessly cheesy and virtually unwatchable. And the band is still in top shape - vocalist Hansi Kürsch hasn’t lost any of his edge when it comes to emotive vocal arrangements, even if he can’t hit half the notes in live performance. André Olbrich’s amazing guitar work is back in full force, with all those spectacularly layered guitar solos that made NIGHTFALL stand out so brilliantly.
With AT THE EDGE OF TIME, Blind Guardian has returned to the fold in total triumph. Unlike its predecessor, this is an album I’ll be able to enjoy for numerous repeat listens. Newer fans should eat it up, and older fans should be appeased with the band’s renewed emphasis on their thrashy roots.