This is a review I’ve been eagerly anticipating, Blind Guardian’s Beyond the Red Mirror is now in shops. Somehow it’s only the bands tenth studio album despite it feeling like they have many more out there. Serving as a sequel to 1995’s Imaginations From The Otherside, Beyond the Red Mirror is another in the list of concept albums, and as you can imagine, it’s pretty damn powerful.
When an album is this big and expansive, it becomes hard to review. You can’t simply go “such and such track” is the fast one, “this one” is the ballad, they’re just not that kind of band. From the offset the multiple layers of instruments are present and evident. Though two 90 piece orchestras and three choirs makes the word multiple seem a little underwhelming.
There’s so much going on, if you’re the kind of person that longs for a simple raw sound you’re in the wrong place. It’s a wall of sound, from the layers upon layers of vocal tracks battling for lead, to the orchestration on top of full on heavy metal, there’s little by way of rest. Even in the rest periods like the soft start of At The Edge Of Time, you’re simply anticipating the inevitable moment when Hansi switches “on.”
The tracks themselves are incredibly well composed. Over the last decade the title “metal opera” has been thrown around, it’s a bit of a pompous title sure, but what is power metal all about if not going over the top. If people don’t throw the MO title at Blind Guardian for this album I’ll be amazed.
In terms of sound we really do have a bit of everything, there are the near movie soundtrack choir moments, sinister riffs, joyous choruses, harmonised solos, even guitar licks that sound like they’ve come from an old video game (achieving the science fiction sound). This just sums up the first track, there are a further ten tracks to follow, each one of them almost stupidly well crafted. If you’re a musician this might ruin your day a little bit.
Songs about twilight’s of gods are always good, Amon Amarth and Helloween prove that point
I mentioned the sinister riffs and joyous choruses; Blind Guardian always manage to switch emotion mid-key, your brain expects a minor but they hit a major or slip in a sudden mid line key change. They’ve thrown out this trick through their career yet I’m still a little caught off guard by it, and I still love it.
Are there epics? Two of them, the album opens and closes with two nine minute plus marathons of song writing. The Ninth Wave and Grand Parade are almost worth paying full price for alone, they do add up to twenty minutes of entertainment after all.
By now in life we’ve all accepted that if Hansi sings on it, it’s going to be good, whether it be Blind Guardian or guesting with Edguy etc. He has always sounded like a man with his own personal overdrive button for his vocals, the switch from soft to ball breaking yells is near seamless. If it doesn’t make you long for an army of Hansi’s to follow you about, harmonising about your day then you have some form of problem.
I’m not always one for a rerecording, but I would genuinely love if Blind Guardian were able to revisit some of the old tracks and give them a once over with this production, they were huge before, picture them with this.
This will need a good few listens for everything going on to sink in, but it’s the kind of album you’ll be happy to repeat. This is an absolute victory in terms of power metal song writing, even in terms of metal. Metal is such a wide ranging beast these days, but with Red Mirror, Blind Guardian have proven themselves more than worthy to sit at the front of the group.
Beyond The Red Mirror is out now via Nuclear Blast, find the band on Facebook for more.