Published Jan 30, 2015Whether you listen to their albums sequentially or in random order, there is fluidity within the Blind Guardian catalogue that few bands have managed to achieve. The German power metal stalwarts have a damn near untouchable legacy, transcending fan-imposed barriers on oft-cheesy mainstream Euro power metal. These torchbearers for a genre have grown and evolved throughout their substantial history, and their tenth album, Beyond the Red Mirror, fits well into this trajectory. As on all of their previous albums, the songs here are bombastic, flitting between whip-fast speed metal, operatic rock, neo-classical and progressive.
Of course, after 28 years of music-making, Blind Guardian have morphed. The neo-classical and progressive elements have intensified as the years have gone by; the dominating speed metal sound has receded. Beyond the Red Mirror continues along their latter day trajectory begun in the mid '90s, yet turns up the driving and operatic elements beyond those found on 2010's At the Edge of Time. Continuing the story of the two worlds that dominated 1995's Imaginations from the Other Side, Beyond the Red Mirror tells how "the two worlds described therein have changed dramatically for the worse since then. While there used to be several passages between the worlds, there is only one gate left now: The Red Mirror. It has to be found at any cost."
With a crunchier mix and a bigger sound (thanks to three choirs and two orchestras), Beyond the Red Mirror is a fist-pumper. The massive, vocally layered "The Ninth Wave" is a spectacular opener; "Ashes of Eternity" is driving with metronomic double kick and gruff growls; "Miracle Machine" is about as sentimental as Blind Guardian get, featuring slow piano and honeyed crooning that build up magnificently. The dual universe storyline comes to its triumphant conclusion with "Grand Parade," an aptly named track with oscillating classical strings and twinkling triangle that become massive as the orchestra supports the rock instrumentation to great effect. This is Queen-level grandiosity conveyed by a team of 100 or more people, and dear goodness, it's BIG; the bombastic ending leaves listeners wanting more.
Altogether, this is a Blind Guardian album that will please newcomers and reward long time fans that stayed aboard after 2006 while fair-weather fans jumped ship. (Nuclear Blast)