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Blind Guardian - "At The Edge Of Time" (CD)

Blind Guardian - "At The Edge Of Time" CD cover image

"At The Edge Of Time" track listing:

1. Sacred Worlds
2. Tanelorn
3. Road of No Release
4. Ride into Obsession
5. Curse my Name
6. Valkyries
7. Control the Divine
8. War of the Thrones (Piano)
9. A Voice in the Dark
10. Wheel of Time

Reviewed by on September 2, 2010

"'At The Edge Of Time' ... is steeped in the symphonic, traditional metal, and folk elements that Blind Guardian has proudly flown for the last two decades."

For cinema lovers, summer is a time to relax and enjoy the annual tradition of the summer blockbuster. Films like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Avatar,” and “Transformers” pack in stimuli for at least a dozen senses, a veritable buffet of bombast, while often forgoing things like plot and subtlety. And in this metaphor, of course Blind Guardian is the summer blockbuster franchise of heavy metal. These German masters of power metal drop a new album every few years, each time bigger and more bombastic than before. “At The Edge Of Time” is the most recent from Blind Guardian, and it is steeped in the symphonic, traditional metal, and folk elements that Blind Guardian has proudly flown for the last two decades.

Album opener “Sacred Worlds” is easily the best song on the album –maybe even a top ten metal song of the year - and encapsulates everything Blind Guardian wants in a song in just nine thrilling minutes. The extended intro of suspenseful orchestration eventually gives way to a headbanging-central riff, and from there “Sacred Worlds” flies off as Mr. Toad did on his Wild Ride. Choral chants back thrash riffs, Hansi Kursch fires off his melodic croon as an army of violins march behind him, guitars pick out lonely melodies that are lost in the forest, and world-conquering solos lead hordes of barbarians as they storm the gates with their trumpets and bassoons. “Sacred Worlds” may be the longest unbroken crescendo of all time, and the 60 seconds leading up to the bookend outro are speech-stealing.

Blind Guardian seems completely spent once “Sacred Worlds” is over however, and can’t get themselves together to deliver consistent material for the rest of “At The Edge Of Time.” To the bad: “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” is a pretty generic piece of thrash-power that they have churned out repeatedly over the years, “Road Of No Release” is the half-ballad-half-triumph piece that is two minutes too long, and “A Voice In the Dark” has a stripped down thrash riff that is flat next to all the big magic coming from the rest of the album. But to the good: “Curse My Name” is a heavy folk piece with a surprisingly pleasing arrangement. “Control The Divine” is more progressive and moves easily between time signatures, textures and tempos, and if anything it is too short. Album closer “Wheel Of Time” has hooks based on middle eastern melodies and takes Blind Guardian’s power and treks it across endless sand dunes.

Blind Guardian really brought some diversity to “At The Edge Of Time,” apparently not content to just play rote power metal at this stage of their careers. From the folk and progressive elements that have run throughout, to heavier thrash, to more diverse symphonic instrumentation and choral touches, and even the middle eastern and far eastern melodies hidden around the album (there is a gem tucked away at the end of “Control the Divine”), Blind Guardian is pushing itself to create new and exciting music. And while not all of it is classic Blind Guardian material, it sure is fun to wander the lands with them, finding new treasures and exciting adventures around every bend in the road.

Highs: “Sacred Worlds” is one of the best metal songs of 2010.

Lows: The stripped-down thrash bits just can’t stand up to the sounds of the bigger songs.

Bottom line: Pushing a bit past traditional power metal, Blind Guardian has delivered another strong album.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)