Blind Guardian - A Night At The Opera

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: 7995-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 70:45:00

Blind Guardian are as powerful as ever on their latest release A Night At The Opera, and as I much as I like this release, I can help but think that the operatic choruses are just a little shrill. This adds an element of coldness to what is otherwise a very warm release. There seems to be a bit more overall energy here than in previous releases. The highlight track is "And Then There Was Silence," which had been released months ahead of the album as a single (and debuted at Progpower USA 2.0), which generated a lot of excitement and anticipation for the full release. "And Then There Was Silence" is a 14 minute epic full of contrasts and textures, definitely one of the best tracks on the album. As strong as the rest of the album is, nothing here is as diverse as "And Then..." I'm not suggesting this 11 track release is 1 track and 10 fillers, but that which Blind Guardian have been heading towards is captured in "And Then..."; harmonies, mighty choruses, leads and solos, pummeling drumming, orchestra -- everything comes together here. The band spent four months working on this track alone - time well spent.

So, what else catches the attention on this album? From the opening notes of "Precious Jerusalem," the album grabs a hold and doesn't let go...even after the disk has actually ended. In this track specifically, you see that this Blind Guardian is energized and that they have added to their musical palette. This is followed by the equally strong "Battlefield," which contains one of the so very many little moments that I absolutely love -- the way certain piece of lyric is delivered has just the right amount drama and emotion. "Battlefield" has that end of the play (or opera) kind of feel - the final battle has ensued and there are no victors. There is a grim realism as in Boorman's Excalibur film, or Branaugh's Henry V.

"Under The Ice" Isn't quite so easy to crack - no pun intended. It is a tightly wound, twisted arrangement that plays things close to the vest. It's a busy track, perhaps a little too busy. It takes a few read-throughs of the lyrics to find key phrases that make the theme snap into place (at least for me). In this, the protagonist is the antagonist, the "hero" (that is, to whom the song is sung) is faulted for being good (more or less)...perhaps for not partaking in some villainous act. The lyrics themselves aren't included in this promo edition, but a visit to their website quickly solved that challenge.

Other standout tracks for me were "Sadly Sings Destiny," and "The Maiden And The Minstrel Knight." The former is well put together with beautifully sung choruses. Hansi Kürsch vocal style is perfect for this track. "The Maiden..." is what would result if Tempest and Jag Panzer were fused together, though the Celtic elements take a back seat to the metal. "Wait For An Answer" has a classic metal feel that mixes Iron Maiden, Queen, and melodic rock. But still this retains the complicated arrangements that Blind Guardian are known for. It does end abruptly, strangely. "Age Of False Innocence" starts out lyrical and maintains an uptempo but undeniable metal feel throughout. "The Soulforged" is a track whose theme was picked by fans; that winning theme was the Dragonlance saga. I didn't get far enough into the series to tell you much along those lines, but the press notes mention the character Raistlin Majere.

As usual, the musicianship excellent; Obrich plays some terrific guitar leads and solos. The drumming, percussion and bass work from Stauch and Kürsch nail everything down, and rhythm guitarist Siepen fills out the sound wonderfully. As you no doubt know by now, the band are scheduled to headline Progpower USA III in November 2002; I am ever more excited to see this band live now than I might have been even a few weeks ago.

If there is minus, it's that I wish all the tracks on the album were as good as "And Then There Was Silence." If the first 9 tracks were in the very good to excellent range, you can imagine then what I think of "And Then..." though I acknowledge that Marcelo takes the opposing view on this. In either case, you cannot lose with this release. I anticipate bigger things for this band on the basis of this album than are already happening now and have been happening in territories outside North America. Um, which isn't to suggest that the band haven't "made it" because they aren't "household names" in the US, but that this might be the album that gets those North American metal fans who've been lagging behind to find out what they've been missing. Unfortunately, I'm not so naïve as to think that the mainstream will catch the metal wave. I'd like them to prove me wrong, of course.

By the way, this version of the album, the North American version, includes a Spanish language version of "Harvest Of Sorrow," the Japanese import version contains an acoustic version of "Harvest Of Sorrow."

Precious Jerusalem (6:21) / Battlefield (5:37) / Under the Ice (5:44) / Sadly Sings Destiny (6:04) / The Maiden And The Minstrel Knight (5:30) / Wait For An Answer (6:30) / The Soulforged (5:18) / Age of False Innocence (6:05) / Punishment Divine (5:45) / And Then There Was Silence (14:05) / Bonus Track: Mies del Dolor (3:39)

Hansi Kürsch - vocals, bass
André Olbrich - guitars
Marcus Siepen - guitars
Thomas Stauch - drums

Battalions Of Fear (1988)
Follow The Blind (1989)
Tales From The Twilight World (1990/1999)
Somewhere Far Beyond (1992/2000)
Tokyo Tales (live) (1992)
Imaginations From The Other Side (1995/1999)
The Forgotten Tales (1996)
Nightfall In Middle-Earth (1998)
A Night At The Opera (2002)
Live (2003)
A Twist In The Myth (2006)
At The Edge Of Time (2010)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: June 2nd 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 930
Language: english


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