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Blind Guardian - Legacy Of The Dark Lands review

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Band: Blind Guardian
Album: Legacy Of The Dark Lands
Release date: November 2019

01. 1618 Ouverture
02. The Gathering
03. War Feeds War
04. Comets And Prophecies
05. Dark Cloud's Rising
06. The Ritual
07. In The Underworld
08. A Secret Society
09. The Great Ordeal
10. Bez
11. In The Red Dwarf's Tower
12. Into The Battle
13. Treason
14. Between The Realms
15. Point Of No Return
16. The White Horseman
17. Nephilim
18. Trial And Coronation
19. Harvester Of Souls
20. Conquest Is Over
21. This Storm
22. The Great Assault
23. Beyond The Wall
24. A New Beginning

The long-rumored Blind Guardian symphony has arrived. For 20 years, this album was an ethereal dream, but things have been coming together lately: Demons & Wizards reunited for a promised third album, and Hansi Kürsch finally made his way onto an Avantasia album (which I was certainly waiting for - I don't know about the rest of you). And now, at last, Blind Guardian's pet project is out in the open.

While I'm sure Blind Guardian themselves would have preferred to get underway much earlier, the lengthy incubation period likely served them well; in the last two decades, they have had the chance to experiment with the type of orchestral songwriting that Legacy Of The Dark Lands demands. Songs like "Sacred Worlds," "Wheel Of Time," and "At The Edge Of Time" now appear to be obvious forerunners to "The Great Ordeal," "Point Of No Return," and "War Feeds War"; we could go as far back as "The Maiden And The Minstrel Knight" from A Night At The Opera for a clear instance of the Bards testing their symphonic chops. Yet they have never before wrought anything as ambitious as Legacy Of The Dark Lands, whose two-plus hours of dense ensemble storytelling present a possible challenge for fans of even Blind Guardian's most progressive tendencies.

Legacy Of The Dark Lands is a symphonic album, not a metal album - exactly what was advertised, whatever it means - and that takes me out of my depth as far as detailed reviewing goes. What I can say is that this album goes beyond stripping away guitar, bass, and drums and leaving the frames of recognizable BG tracks for the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra to take over; even doing that much would be dangerous, because Andre Olbrich's singular guitar work is as important to the Blind Guardian sound as Hansi's voice. Yet Olbrich has adapted his songwriting to suit the form as well, leaving us with a choir, an orchestra, and a leader and no guitar to be found anywhere. Tough decision. Rare are the pieces that would sound like traditional Blind Guardian fare given a change in instrumentation ("In The Red Dwarf's Tower" and "Harvester Of Souls" might qualify). These tunes have more in common with the folk, prog, film score, and straight symphony that Blind Guardian always acknowledged or took influence from rather than the hybrid power metal epics that the band produced itself.

Perhaps that's why they have branded this project "Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra"; this isn't meant to be just another Blind Guardian (I say as if any Blind Guardian album can be described as just another ____), and treating this album as such would only serve to disappoint your expectations. There are still similarities: not only will many of the backing vocalists sound familiar, but, if you listen to Nightfall In Middle-Earth twice a day like I do, you'll immediately recognize the voices of narrators Norman Eshley and the late Douglas Fielding, who lent their talents to this project. And, naturally, the one and only Hansi Kürsch sits at the helm of every major piece, as bardlike as ever. Hansi's range seems only to expand with age - he really pushes himself on this album, and there are a couple of notes that made me sit up straight. Range, tone, feeling, texture: Hansi has it all, and even if I'm not quite sure how to handle music so far out of my wheelhouse, it's enough for me to hear Hansi belting out myths and legends over a full orchestra.

Having said all of this, there are important questions about this album that demand answers:

Is this better than having a regular successor to Beyond The Red Mirror?

Well, it's different. I sure can't wait for the next proper Blind Guardian album, that much is true, but I appreciate the existence of Legacy Of The Dark Lands - not only because, as a fan, I'm glad that one of my favorite bands has finally gotten the chance to fulfill its longstanding goal, but because I don't listen to a lot of music like this, and being able to point to a magnificent two-and-a-half-hour symphony as something produced by a metal band is really cool.

Is the story interesting?

I don't know. I rarely read lyrics and I'm not good at following concept albums, so I couldn't actually tell you what the eponymous legacy of the dark lands is, but the high fantasy atmosphere is too palpable to ignore even without much of a literal understanding.

Will I listen to this again on my own time?

Hell yeah. Sitting through the entire run is a special-occasion sort of endeavor, but this is a great album; even the least interesting tracks make for good background music (it's Hansi singing over an orchestra, so nothing can go wrong), and songs like "War Feeds War" and "Point Of No Return" are climbing the ranks into my favorite BG tunes.

I haven't rated this album because it belongs to a genre I have no experience in - not that there is much precedent for this in heavy metal, either. This is probably a unique album on this website. But, as I've indicated, I'm pleased that this project has finally come to fruition and I hope that other Blind Guardian fans find it as rewarding as I do.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 9
Production: -

Written on 12.12.2019 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 6   Visited by: 267 users
12.12.2019 - 14:10
Rating: 6
Even though I wasn't that much into the album, your intro statement really gives the whole thing a sense of closure
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
12.12.2019 - 21:11
Rating: 7
Nick Carter

Well Hansi could sing with Nickelback and make them (at least) a great band.
12.12.2019 - 21:24
Rating: 6
Made of Metal
I'm not really sure what an orchestra is supposed to sound like on mp3, but I seriously doubt that this is produced well. The songs feel like they're in a box and you can hear some real bad clipping during the more epic moments (especially during red dwarfs tower). I'm not even an audiophile and its pretty noticeable. I do like the album though and there are certain songs which are just incredible but there are also some songs which have me changing the track almost instantly. I honestly haven't found myself coming back to the album too much since i've bought it.
13.12.2019 - 00:01
Rating: 8

Even the highest resolution MP3s will distort the sound. I purchased it on HDTracks 96/24 high resolution, and it sounds brilliant especially on a hi res DAP and with high res headphones. You get the full sound and experience. Give it a try, and you'll never go back to lossy formats.
13.12.2019 - 00:57
"The Quaker"
Written by NavyMetalMan on 13.12.2019 at 00:01

Give it a try

...on a very good set of headphones (or quality stereo system with a proper dac/amp/crossover etc if you can afford it). If you try them on shitty speakers or "trendy" headphones/earplugs it won't make a dent of difference.
17.12.2019 - 03:11
Rating: 8

I think a future release of this album, but to Blind Guardian's unique style of metal instead of the orchestra, could be as successful as Nightfall.

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