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Blind Guardian - The God Machine review




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Reviewer:
8.2

272 users:
8.24
Band: Blind Guardian
Album: The God Machine
Release date: September 2022


01. Deliver Us From Evil
02. Damnation
03. Secrets Of The American Gods
04. Violent Shadows
05. Life Beyond The Spheres [feat. Joost van den Broek]
06. Architects Of Doom
07. Let It Be No More
08. Blood Of The Elves
09. Destiny


Helloween made all kinds of waves last year with their jubilant trip down memory lane; not one to be outdone, Blind Guardian have swiftly popped up to remind everyone why they both were and still are the cream of the crop in power metal.

It’s funny how one can find natural parallels in seemingly unrelated events. Helloween 2021 was the first time that Kai Hansen had appeared on a Helloween record since the band’s late 80s heyday, and the album reflected this by featuring several songs very reminiscent of those classic Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums. Blind Guardian did release some worthy material in the 80s, but I think most would agree that it was the 90s when they fully peaked, unleashing a slew of all-time classics that showed their epic, thrashy, anthemic approach to be pretty much unrivalled within the power metal genre. Some aspects of that signature 90s style, particularly the thrashiness, have faded in prominence across the albums released by the Germans since the turn of the millennium, but after 2019’s symphonic detour, Legacy Of The Dark Lands, Blind Guardian’s next ‘typical’ album, The God Machine, sees them rolling back the years in style.

One of the first things that is really striking when taking in The God Machine is how relatively compact it is for the group. Since Nightfall In Middle-Earth, three of their four subsequent full-lengths have been over an hour in length and featured at least one epic exceeding 9 minutes; funnily enough, the one exception, A Twist In The Myth, is almost exactly as long as The God Machine. Hansi Kürsch has acknowledged that this shift in approach away from the complexity of their recent output was conscious, and as much as I’ve really enjoyed Blind Guardian’s ventures into the grandiose (“And Then There Was Silence” is never going to be dethroned as their finest song, in my eyes), it’s quite exciting to hear Kürsch and company biting hard after such a long time.

The other thing that is striking is, as already alluded to, the intensity of several songs on this album, particularly early on. The opening double-header of “Deliver Us From Evil” and “Damnation” have a full-pelt pounding intensity to them that has only appeared in brief moments across the past 20 years, and Blind Guardian haven’t lost their touch, as “Deliver Us From Evil” in particular has all the guitar shredding, choral bombast and relentless power that made their classic albums, well, classic. “Violent Shadows” is in a similar vein, its opening riff highlighting just how sharp Siepen and Olbrich’s guitars can sound when the group are going for the jugular.

The song that’s impressed me the most so far from the album also takes me back to the 90s, but not due to its intensity. “The Secret Of The American Gods” has a majestic tenderness to it that I can’t help but compare with “And The Story Ends”, the closing song from Imaginations From The Other Side. Blind Guardian have obviously written music in this ballpark since, but I don’t think they’ve replicated this specific type of emotionality, or at least not to this level. For me, “The Secret Of The American Gods” is a spectacular throwback, a perfect vehicle for Kürsch to highlight just what a brilliant vocalist he still is, and my personal highlight of The God Machine.

Everything I’ve been saying so far has been really complimentary, and there’s no huge ‘but’ waiting around the corner; although I think the strongest songs are placed earlier on the album, The God Machine is fairly consistently solid. “Architects Of Doom” and “Blood Of The Elves” offer more high-energy fare, “Let It Be No More”, while not nearly the band’s best soft track, is not a misstep, and “Destiny”, although not an obvious album closer when put against previous efforts such as “Wheel Of Time” or “Grand Parade”, is a nifty, twisty cut. The only moment on the album that really throws me in a less-than-positive way is the bizarrely 90s Guns N’ Roses-esque solo on “Let It Be No More”, which gives me whiplash every time it comes on, and goes as unnaturally as it arrives.

This is a very solid late-career album from a band that was on a very slight decline in the past decade or so; still, despite all this positivity and even with all its callbacks to their earlier material, it’s not a classic to that level in my eyes. The simple reason for that is the songs themselves just aren’t as great as the band’s best work. With the exception of “The Secret Of The American Gods” and perhaps “Deliver Us From Evil”, I don’t feel any of these songs have classic choruses or other memorable moments that will stay with listeners to the extent that a “Somewhere Far Beyond”, “Mirror Mirror” or even “Fly” does; to the contrary, I feel like “Life Beyond The Spheres” and “Architects Of Doom”, if anything, slightly peter out in those critical moments. Ultimately, this is an album where consistency is both a positive and a negative; The God Machine is consistently good throughout and offers a good mix of older and newer approaches, but by never rising too high above or far below a steady baseline of quality, it lacks the true killer songs or moments that are necessary to take it to the next level.

Overall, though, this is a really interesting next step by a legendary act that already had pretty much nothing left to prove, and certainly there’s some bands (*cough* Iron Maiden *cough*) that could perhaps benefit from following their lead in terms of going more direct. What’s more, Blind Guardian aren’t just falling back on nostalgia and hoping it will do the work for them; this is an album full of conviction and purpose, and even as it nods towards fondly remembered albums, it shows that Blind Guardian remain a real force to be reckoned with.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Production: 8





Written on 07.09.2022 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 12   Visited by: 277 users
07.09.2022 - 23:28
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Glad that we can all agree that "Secrets Of The American Gods" is the obvious highlight here
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08.09.2022 - 09:03
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by RaduP on 07.09.2022 at 23:28

Glad that we can all agree that "Secrets Of The American Gods" is the obvious highlight here

One of best songs, equal to 80s n 90s classics. Best so g after Mirror, Mirror they have composed to.
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Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

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08.09.2022 - 09:44
MightyFireLord

Not a word about production, rated 8 out if 10. I could not agree more with this rating, compared to their previous "regular" album (the symphonic one aside). I'm happy to hear new material from BG with a nice sound, their songwriting deserves something decent.
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08.09.2022 - 15:23
Metal Spartan

Great album and very good review. Hard to say yet if it's their best since Nightfall since I've liked all their albums, but it's definitely their heaviest/fastest since Imaginations.

I agree that "Secret of the American Gods" is a great song, but only a brief mention of "Damnation?" I'd say that's the best of the faster songs on this album. In terms of the mid-paced, I'd say "Destiny" gives "American Gods" a run for its money.

Overall, this album proves this band has plenty of energy left.

Side note: Couldn't agree more about Iron Maiden's later offerings. They really gotta take it easy on the "epic" songs that seem to have the same formula.
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08.09.2022 - 17:22
DarkWingedSoul

I am revisiting Imaginations... and the albums around it, on a regular basis. but i could not tell you the albums put out lately, probably i heard some of them, but somehow they have left no impression probably. then i heard one song from this album and i was like heh?? this is new BG wow !! i havent heard the whole album yet, but its on my TO LISTEN list for sure thanks for the review.
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08.09.2022 - 18:22
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by Metal Spartan on 08.09.2022 at 15:23


I agree that "Secret of the American Gods" is a great song, but only a brief mention of "Damnation?" I'd say that's the best of the faster songs on this album. In terms of the mid-paced, I'd say "Destiny" gives "American Gods" a run for its money.



Damnation is a solid song and one of the ones that calls back to their 90s aggression most strongly - the main reason I didn't go further into it was because this review is just shy of 1000 words as it is, and I try to stop myself going on forever in my reviews lol
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08.09.2022 - 22:43
Rating: 8
BlankFile

Another solid record from BG, i really like "Secrets Of The American Gods".
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08.09.2022 - 22:51
Rating: 8
AndyMetalFreak
A Nice Guy
Definitely their best release since Nightfall In Middle-Earth imo, and I would even say it's as heavy as Imaginations From The Other. I agree that "Secrets Of The American Gods" is the strongest track on this album, it's one of the best songs they've ever written imo.
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09.09.2022 - 04:52
Metal Spartan

Written by musclassia on 08.09.2022 at 18:22

Written by Metal Spartan on 08.09.2022 at 15:23


I agree that "Secret of the American Gods" is a great song, but only a brief mention of "Damnation?" I'd say that's the best of the faster songs on this album. In terms of the mid-paced, I'd say "Destiny" gives "American Gods" a run for its money.



Damnation is a solid song and one of the ones that calls back to their 90s aggression most strongly - the main reason I didn't go further into it was because this review is just shy of 1000 words as it is, and I try to stop myself going on forever in my reviews lol

Hey, if you have something worthwhile to say (like how great of a song "Damnation" is) then I wouldn't care if the review was 10,000 words haha
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09.09.2022 - 18:23
Rating: 8
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Beyond The Red Mirror is my least favorite Blind Guardian album, partly because I strongly dislike the sound of it and partly because it's too dense for its own good. Whenever I listen to it, I remember that I like it more than I think I do, but there are only a couple of songs that I really click with and think about between listens, and it's just so suffocating in its length and production that I can't get fully into it. When the singles for The God Machine were released, they gave me the same feeling, so I wasn't all that excited about the album; that's why I never took your invitation to take charge of the review (though I did appreciate it).

Listening to it now, though, my fears are put to rest - it's so much shorter than Beyond The Red Mirror, it's a lot faster-paced, and it really does sound like they're consciously eschewing all the symphonic/progressive elements they indulged heavily on just about every album of the last 24 years. It'll take a lot more time to get a solid feel for what I think about the album and where it fits into their discography, but my first impression is very positive. It's a much darker, heavier, and leaner album than I think they've ever released, and the songwriting is still fundamentally good even though it is different; "Deliver Us From Evil," "Life Beyond The Spheres," and "Let It Be No More" will be some new favorites of mine, I think. (I seem to be in the minority in thinking that "Secrets Of The American Gods" is one of the weakest tracks, though I still like it.)

You do lose points for not commenting on how much that cover resembles concept art for Evangelion (which, unfortunately, I think is not a result of the band's tastes; looking at some of his other works, I think Peter Mohrbacher is clearly a big Eva fan).
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I'm the Agent of Steel.
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17.09.2022 - 19:08
Rating: 9
WorpeX
Made of Metal
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 09.09.2022 at 18:23

Beyond The Red Mirror is my least favorite Blind Guardian album, partly because I strongly dislike the sound of it and partly because it's too dense for its own good. Whenever I listen to it, I remember that I like it more than I think I do, but there are only a couple of songs that I really click with and think about between listens, and it's just so suffocating in its length and production that I can't get fully into it. When the singles for The God Machine were released, they gave me the same feeling, so I wasn't all that excited about the album; that's why I never took your invitation to take charge of the review (though I did appreciate it).

Listening to it now, though, my fears are put to rest - it's so much shorter than Beyond The Red Mirror, it's a lot faster-paced, and it really does sound like they're consciously eschewing all the symphonic/progressive elements they indulged heavily on just about every album of the last 24 years. It'll take a lot more time to get a solid feel for what I think about the album and where it fits into their discography, but my first impression is very positive. It's a much darker, heavier, and leaner album than I think they've ever released, and the songwriting is still fundamentally good even though it is different; "Deliver Us From Evil," "Life Beyond The Spheres," and "Let It Be No More" will be some new favorites of mine, I think. (I seem to be in the minority in thinking that "Secrets Of The American Gods" is one of the weakest tracks, though I still like it.)

You do lose points for not commenting on how much that cover resembles concept art for Evangelion (which, unfortunately, I think is not a result of the band's tastes; looking at some of his other works, I think Peter Mohrbacher is clearly a big Eva fan).


Man I could never put into words my dislike for Red Mirror properly but you really just nailed it for me as well!

When I saw the tracklist for God Machine, I was a little disappointed that "Child Of the Smith" didn't make the album. Before this, I thought it was their best song since Sacred Worlds. Now that I've heard the album, I totally get it. I was expecting more of the modern BG sound like we heard with the previous records, but God Machine ended up closer in sound to Imaginations and the symphonic's would have sounded totally out of place.

After all these years, I had forgotten that feeling of what listening to a proper BG album was like. First time hearing Nightfall, Imaginations and Opera was just this incredible experience where I just couldn't stop myself from listening and singing along to every track. I would rack up over a hundred of play on the albums back in those days. God Machine brings back so much memories of that time! Even more impressively, I don't feel this nostalgic need to instead listen to their older records over the newer one. I hadn't felt like this about a BG album since 2006 with Twist and it couldn't have come at a better time! I had long called Blind Guardian my favorite band but i've started to wonder if my taste had started to change. They stepped it up on this, turns out my tastes didn't change - I still love this band!
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19.09.2022 - 22:43
Rating: 10
mikeprado30

Written by RaduP on 07.09.2022 at 23:28

Glad that we can all agree that "Secrets Of The American Gods" is the obvious highlight here

All haiiiiiiiiil... the American Gods...
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