Album Review – Blind Guardian / Beyond The Red Mirror (2015)

Are you ready to explore what’s beyond “The Red Mirror” with one of the most influential Power Metal bands of all time?

Rating4

blind guardian_btrmBeyond The Red Mirror, the tenth studio album by German Power Metal pioneers Blind Guardian, their first since 2010’s At the Edge of Time (the longest gap between two studio albums in their career) and the first without bassist Oliver Holzwarth since their finest work to date, 1995’s Imaginations from the Other Side, might not be a true masterpiece, but it’s good enough to keep those Teutonic veterans going and also a perfect example of how to effectively combine metal music with a great concept, creating what some people like to call a “Metal Opera”.

Blind Guardian’s iconic lead singer Hansi Kürsch has already explained himself this album is a sequel to Imaginations from the Other Side: the two worlds have changed dramatically for the worse since then with only one gate left now between them, The Red Mirror, with the storyline revolving around the young protagonist we first met in the 1995’s classics “Bright Eyes” and “And the Story Ends”. Add to that the fact that three different classical choirs (from Czech Republic, Hungary and the United States) and two grand orchestras, each featuring 90 musicians, are part of the album, and you can imagine how grandiose the musicality contained in Beyond The Red Mirror is.

blind guardianThe almost 10-minute epic track The Ninth Wave, with its choir intro, kicks off the album proving once again Hansi’s voice is not only unique but also so powerful it’s impossible not to follow his vocal lines in their entirety. Although I loved its harmony and storyline, it lacks a little heaviness, making it more Metal Opera than Power Metal per se. Twilight Of The Gods sounds a lot more traditional than the opening track, especially its fast drums and guitar riffs and solos. Moreover, Hansi guides the rhythm here thanks in part to the song’s awesome straightforward lyrics (“Witness the twilight of the gods / Will they ever return / A storm will take us / And then wipe us out / There’s no retreat”).

The most interesting aspect in Prophecies, which despite not being outstanding at least maintains the album at a decent level, is how well we can understand each and every word Hansi pronounces, even when he does his stronger/harsher vocals; while At The Edge Of Time, with its eerie intro and a more melancholic atmosphere, doesn’t really decide if it’s a metallic or a symphonic song, hurting the final result. On the other hand, Ashes Of Eternity is the true Blind Guardian we all have learned to love, with its exciting vocal lines and beautiful guitar solos by André Olbrich making it one of the top moments of the album. Keeping up with this awesomeness we have The Holy Grail, the perfect soundtrack in the quest for the Holy Grail itself where not even a single second is boring or out of place. Moreover, the top-notch Power Metal drumming by Frederik Ehmke will definitely sound amazing live.

blind guardian_btrm deluxe

Beyond The Red Mirror Limited Edition Digipak/Earbook Deluxe

The Throne is another symphonic-centered tune with lots of elements from traditional Blind Guardian, with highlights to the great job done by André Olbrich with his inspired solos once again. The following track, the dark Sacred Mind, showcases solid instrumental lines despite not being very creative, albeit it gets a little tiring after a while; and the piano ballad Miracle Machine focuses on a superb vocal performance by Hansi. Closing the regular version of the album we have another imposing progressive 9-minute song, Grand Parade, which in my opinion gets too symphonic sometimes, even knowing it was meant to be this way. In other words, it’s not a bad song, but it won’t probably work really well live nor become a classic or anything like that. Furthermore, the special versions of Beyond The Red Mirror come with an amazing bonus track, Distant Memories, a melodic and symphonic old school semi-ballad curiously inserted in the middle of the album (as track number 6) instead of at the end; and if you purchase the earbook there’s another Power Metal bonus track for you entitled Doom.

In summary, although some moments in Beyond The Red Mirror lack more intensity and power, there are lots of excellent songs, with a couple of them deserving a 5 out of 5 so amazing they are, augmented by all the majestic orchestral passages perfectly inserted amidst the band’s unmatched Power Metal. Some fans will end up comparing it to Imaginations from the Other Side due to the existing connection between the two albums, but I prefer to keep them separate and enjoy their own elements and musicality one at a time. Although we all know there’s never going to be another Imaginations from the Other Side, we can rest assured Blind Guardian is still capable of delivering Power Metal at its finest like in Beyond The Red Mirror, and that’s the bottom line. With that said, are you ready to explore what’s beyond “The Red Mirror”?

Best moments of the album: Twilight Of The Gods, Ashes Of Eternity, The Holy Grail and the bonus track Distant Memories.

Worst moments of the album: At The Edge Of Time, Sacred Mind and Grand Parade.

Released in 2015 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Ninth Wave 9:27
2. Twilight of the Gods 4:49
3. Prophecies 5:24
4. At the Edge of Time 6:53
5. Ashes of Eternity 5:38
7. The Holy Grail 6:02
8. The Throne 7:53
9. Sacred Mind 6:21
10. Miracle Machine 3:02
11. Grand Parade 9:27

Limited Edition Digipak Bonus Track
6. Distant Memories 5:51

Earbook Bonus Track
12. Doom 5:51

Band members
Hansi Kürsch – lead and backing vocals
André Olbrich – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars
Marcus Siepen – rhythm guitar
Frederik Ehmke – drums, percussion

Additional musician
Barend Courbois – bass guitar

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