Blind Guardian definitely aren’t a new band on the scene, being formed in the mis-1980’s. Beyond the Red Mirror will be the band’s tenth album – quite a landmark when it’s released on February 2nd (in the UK – lucky Europeans get it on Jan 30th, North America on Feb 3rd).
The album is four years in the making, two years of which has been solid slog. It’s not so much a symphonic metal album as a truly orchestral one and breathtaking in its scale. The band worked with three different classical choirs (from Prague, Budapest and Boston) and two grand orchestras, a total of 180 musicians. Who says metal is unambitious and limited?
There’s no denying that the end result is something special. The core is very much traditional metal, but with a wealth of sub-genre influence as well as the non-rock aspects. Progressive? Yup. Industrial? A smidgen. Electronica? Here and there. Symphonic? Definitely.
Beyond the Red Mirror as a whole is summed up by opener “The Ninth Wave”. It acts almost as an overture featuring blasts of pretty much every influence that crops up on the rest of the album. The amount that is has to include to do this perhaps explains the 9:29 running time; coincidentally the exact same as album closer “Grand Parade”.
It is a concept piece, featuring the protagonist from the band’s earlier songs “Bright Eyes” and “And The Story Ends”. Thematically it’s not far from Imaginations From The Other Side featuring, as it does, inter-dimensional trips where mythical beasts and objects are encountered.
Tracks like “Twilight of the Gods” and “The Holy Grail” have their feet firmly in the traditional / speed metal camps, whereas “Sacred Mind” owes a lot to symphonic metal and “The Throne” ramps up the orchestral feel to the max.
André Olbrich classes “Grand Parade” as “the best song we have ever written”. Well, in honesty I’d find it hard to grant it that title if only because of the strength of the other material served up here. It reminds me a little of “Með griðungum” from Skálmöld’s last album. It brings everything together at the end of the album and ends with a climax that makes the hairs on your neck stand erect. And if you don’t have neck hair when the song starts, the metal flowing through you will make you grow some.
I’ve not had time to listen to this album that much – such is the downside of having so much new stuff to listen to around work, kids, etc. However, Beyond the Red Mirror is an album I want to listen to more. A lot more. It is without a doubt one of the most ambitious metal albums I’ve heard in a long time and I can happily state that all that time and effort has paid off. In spade. Big, metallic spades.
The sampler below will give you an idea of what to expect but… wow. What an album!
- Ninth Wave
- Twilight Of The Gods
- At The Edge Of Time
- Ashes Of Eternity
- Distant Memories (bonus track on limited editions + vinyl)
- Holy Grail
- The Throne
- Sacred Mind
- Miracle Machine
- Grand Parade