Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror
Release date: February 3, 3015
German power metal pioneers Blind Guardian returned to the scene in early 2015 with the release of their tenth studio album, Beyond the Red Mirror. It is no doubt that a Blind Guardian release will stir about tons of hype throughout the power metal community, but with solid release after solid release since the early 1980’s, it is well deserved. Over the years however, the band has taken a turn for the more dramatic, slower tempos, with larger than life production, and all but left their speed metal roots behind. This created a divide among the fans, leaving some stuck in the 80’s while the rest moved on and loved the ride of progression the band has given us. Beyond the Red Mirror is no exception, as it pushes more into the dramatic and theatrical tale that is Blind Guardian.
One of the best tracks on the record kicks off the release, “The Ninth Wave”, which begins with a slow, but driving tempo pushed along by repetitive drum work and layered chanting. The song picks up into one hell of a track, with the cherry on top being an amazing chorus featuring perfect, soaring, layered vocals. For an album opener, it’s a relatively long song, at nine-and-a-half minutes, but in the true style of the band, the track never gets old or repetitive. The following two tracks; including the single, “Twilight of the Gods”, are very strong, and really keep the pace of the album flowing. “At the Edge of Time” slows it down a bit with the strong brass instrument elements, and builds as a classic fanfare would.
“The Holy Grail” is a hard, heavy hitter from the start, and “Sacred Mind” sounds like a direct follow-up to 2010’s full length At the Edge of Time, with nice, building mid-tempo melodies. The album closes just as strongly as it starts with another nine and a half-minute long epic, “Grand Parade”. This track features dancing melodies, orchestrated perfectly behind verse lines, and a huge chorus that will send chills down your spine. The guitar solo is just as moving, which the album could have definitely used more of. All in all, this is a great way to ensure the listener is fully focused in to the release, before it all comes to its end.
While the album as a whole is a wonderful experience, I can’t help but feel as if some element is missing. Each track has dozens of layers of instrumentation and vocals alike that the listener can feel, but somewhere there is a slight disconnect for me. In the past few releases, Twist in the Myth proved to be a bit more simple, then the band triumphantly returned with the epic At the Edge of Time. Beyond the Red Mirror seems to lie somewhere in the middle with an apparently large sound that is relatively simplified.
There are few moments on the album that are guitar driven, catchy, and larger than life, but somewhere along the way they lose my interest. Production leaves a bit to be desired, but that’s not entirely the culprit. Now, I must say that I am not one of those fans stuck in the 80s, as their last release still remains one of my favorites. However, I can’t sit here and say that I absolutely love this release. It has its strong moments, as pointed out in this review, but how often I will actually return to this release still remains to be seen.