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Album Reviews : Blind Guardian – 2009 Remasters/Re-issues

By on January 3, 2010

When Blind Guardian formed in 1986 to produce their first EP “Symphonies of Doom”, no one would expect this small power metal band from Germany to go so far, especially considering how much the global metal scene has evolved over the last 35 years, if not longer. During Blind Guardian’s early days, they were originally named Lucifer’s Heritage. It was not until after the release of their second EP “Battalions of Fear” that they changed their name to what we know now as Blind Guardian.

Blind Guardian’s music bordered on a flavoursome twist of power and speed metal, which was new at the time, with lyrics inspired by J.R.R Tolkien, Stephen King and numerous biblical and fantasy tales. Over the years, Blind Guardian have continued that tradition and have become known as one of the true heavyweights of power metal, as each release offered a vibrant palette of music which inspired a generation of nerdy metal fans alike. Blind Guardian’s recent releases may not hold the same speed and integrity as their earlier predecessors, but they have kept their quintessential power metal roots intact while keeping their sound and style fresh for a new generation of fans in the 2000’s.

Century Media has released Blind Guardian’s first six full length albums including their first live album “Tokyo Tales” and compilation album “Forgotten Tales”, remastered and some with rearranged tracks.

These albums would be considered highly coveted by many of their Australian fans but were unaccessible due to the unfavourable foreign currency exchange rate and thus financially making the albums out of reach.  Thankfully, Century Media came to the rescue when they offered each remastered album earlier this year through their US online store. They are now finally within reach and more reasonably priced.

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Battalions of Fear (2009 Re-issue)

Blind Guardian - Battalions of FearConsidered a masterpiece by many, this album represents the speed metal movement beautifully. Its combination of pure speed and intensity fit perfectly with Hansi Kürsch’s amazing vocals. The album in its original mastered format was perfect in its own way, but listening to the remastered version the faults and improvements stand out more clearly.

The sound is crisp and sharp with major enhancements in Hansi’s vocals. Andre and Marcus’ guitars are heard in both stereo speakers beautifully and the wattage is given an extra boost. Thomen’s drum sound has been given a revamped feel with more hard-hitting kicks and cymbals.

Tracks like ‘Guardian of the Blind’, ‘Majesty’ and ‘Run For The Night’ have a richer, fuller sound which have enhanced the listening pleasure ten fold.  A selection of bonus tracks from the “Symphonies of Doom” EP are also present. The tracks have been faithfully remastered and enhanced, considering the age of the original recordings and the fact they were recorded before the digital age. Any borderline obsessed Blind Guardian fan, such as myself, will certainly appreciate these classic demos. 8.5/10

Tracklisting:

1. Majesty
2. Guardian of the Blind <- Reviewer’s choice
3. Trial by the Archon
4. Wizard’s Crown
5. Run for the Night
6. The Martyr
7. Battalions of Fear
8. By the Gates of Moria
9. Gandalf’s Rebirth
10. Brian (Demo Version)
11. Halloween (The Wizard’s Crown) (Demo Version)
12. Lucifer’s Heritage
13. Symphonies of Doom
14. Dead of the Night

Follow the Blind (2009 Re-issue)

Blind Guardian - Follow the BlindIf you thought “Battalions of Fear” was amazing, “Follow The Blind” is perfection in regards to a solid speed metal album. Easily the band’s most recognisable early material, it introduced a much heavier aspect to Blind Guardian’s previous effort.  That heaviness can be heard on the timeless classic ‘Valhalla’ which also includes guitar and vocal work from Kai Hansen (ex-Helloween and Gamma Ray).  From start to finish, there is not one dull track on the album. Much like “Battalions of Fear”, the sound quality has improved with enhanced riffs and drums, while Hansi’s vocals seem to dominate most tracks with a much harsher tone.

The power and intensity of  tracks like “Valhalla” and “Banished from Sanctuary” are given a new level with the addition of newly-added vocal effects into the mix. The instrumental “Beyond The Ice” does sound over-produced initially, but balances out as the track explodes into its uplifting state. The drums on “Beyond The Ice” can get a little on the nerves in the remastered version, they sound slightly overpowering compared to the original version but it does not tarnish the  sound of the song overall. It is an album that can only earn more appreciation over time. An amazing album!  9/10

Tracklisting:

1. Inquisition
2. Banish from Sanctuary
3. Damned for All Time
4. Follow the Blind
5. Hall of the King
6. Fast to Madness
7. Beyond the Ice
8. Valhalla <- Reviewer’s Choice
9. Barbara Ann/Long Tall Sally (The Regents and Beach Boys cover)
10. Don’t Break the Circle (Demon cover)
11. Majesty (Demo Version
12. Trial by the Archon (Demo Version)
13. Battalions of Fear (Demo Version)
14. Run for the Night (Demo Version)

Tales from the Twilight World (2009 Remastered)

Blind Guardian - Tales from the Twilight World‘Tales from the Twilight World’ was Blind Guardian’s turning point to a much wider audience. It is the album that defined Blind Guardian’s sound as we know it today. Blind Guardian perfected a fusion of speed and technicality with hints of neo-classical undertones that has now become Blind Guardian’s signature sound.

There is minimal improvement in sound from the original, considering the original release is already a beautifully created piece of work. The live rendition of ‘Run for the Night’ however, has been given a major boost in production, as the original version seemed a little low in the volume department.

The tracks ”Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Traveler in Time’ still hold their integrity, while ‘Lost in the Twilight Hall’ offer another duet with Gamma Ray front-man Kai Hansen. Simply put, it’s fantastic! 8.5/10

Tracklisting:

1. Traveler in Time
2. Welcome to Dying
3. Weird Dreams
4. Lord of the Rings
5. Goodbye My Friend
6. Lost in the Twilight Hall
7. Tommyknockers
8. Altair 4
9. The Last Candle <- Reviewer’s choice
10. Run for the Night (Live)
11. Lost in the Twilight Hall (Demo Version)
12. Tommyknockers (Demo Version)

Somewhere Far Beyond (2009 Remastered)

Blind Guardian - Somewhere Far Beyond‘Somewhere Far Beyond’ has been labeled as both a triumph and a tragedy by many metal fans. Many labeled the album as going to “mainstream” in its approach, which also introduced American audiences to Blind Guardian’s classic elements of J.R.R. Tolkien and fantasy laden themes. The elaborate mix and high end production value, along with more melodic and sombre vocals from Hansi Kürsch made many listeners weep, literally.

This sudden change in style was mainly due to Blind Guardian turning to Queen for inspiration, as backing vocals seemed to demonstrate the same elegance and finesse as Freddy Mercury and co. It didn’t offer the same intensity and speed as Blind Guardian’s previous material, yet ‘The Quest for Tanelorn’ and ‘Somewhere Far Beyond’ were the minor exceptions.

I find this album to be one of many gems in Blind Guardian’s collection. It’s story telling at its best. The album has a perfect blend of contemporary metal and neo-classical elements with beautifully placed melodies, along with an excellent bag pipe solo on the track ‘Somewhere Far Beyond’. The bonus tracks were originally on the Japanese version but with the addition of enhanced audio quality has only improved the listening pleasure of these tracks, receptively. 9/10

Tracklisting:

1. Time What Is Time
2. Journey Through the Dark <- Reviewer’s choice
3. Black Chamber
4. Theatre of Pain
5. The Quest for Tanelorn
6. Ashes to Ashes
7. The Bard’s Song (In the Forest)
8. The Bard’s Song (The Hobbit)
9. The Piper’s Calling
10. Somewhere Far Beyond
11. Spread Your Wings (Queen cover)
12. Trial by Fire (Satan cover)
13. Theatre of Pain (Classic version)
14. Ashes to Ashes (Demo Version)
15. Time What is Time (Demo Version)

Tokyo Tales (2009 Remastered)

Blind Guardian - Tokyo TalesThe release of “Tokyo Tales” was initially a live album to tide fans over until the release of “Imaginations from the Other-Side”. The album captures Blind Guardian’s magic live on stage with songs from the commercial success of “Somewhere Far Beyond” and previous releases.

Stand out tracks like ‘Journey Through the Dark’ and ‘Lost in the Twilight Hall’ really accentuate what the band can do live on stage.  The hoards of screaming fans singing along, while Hansi does his best to fill in minor spots with small talk and banter to the Japanese crowd really make it a fun album to listen to. As a whole, the band sound amazingly good and work extremely well to reproduce some of their classics live on stage. If only they released a visual counterpart to go along with this album, it would make the experience even more enjoyable.

The bonus track “Lord of the Rings” was originally on the Japanese release of the album and has been faithfully remastered and put back on the 2009 edition. 8/10

Tracklisting:

1. Inquisition
2. Banish from Sanctuary
3. Journey Through the Dark <- Reviewer’s choice
4. Traveler in Time
5. The Quest for Tanelorn
6. Goodbye My Friend
7. Time What is Time
8. Majesty
9. Valhalla
10. Welcome to Dying
11. Lost in the Twilight Hall
12. Barbara Ann
11. Lord of the Rings (Japanese Bonus)

Imaginations from the Other Side (2009 Remastered)

Blind Guardian - Imaginations from the Other Side‘Imaginations from the Other Side’ was produced by famed Metallica producer, Flemming Rasmussen. The original production was amazing with nothing but pure perfection, the remaster has improved this with minor adjustments in audio which has revitlised this masterpiece in the 21st century.

The album was essentially a return to form for Blind Guardian. It offered a much harder hitting array of riffs, drums and vocal stylisings which were noted in earlier material, while still offering a contemporary array of neo-classical elements. ‘Born in a Mourning Hall’ and ‘Imaginations from the Other side’ are just epic. The sheer scale of sound on these tracks are awesome.

Many considered this to be Blind Guardian’s best work as it carries the main bulk of the band’s “sing-a-longs” at any of their live shows. The addition of demos and video clips of ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Born in a Mourning Hall’ ties a nice little bow around this awesome package of an album.   9/10

Tracklisting:

1. Imaginations from the Other Side
2. I’m Alive
3. A Past and Future Secret
4. The Script for My Requiem
5. Mordred’s Song
6. Born in a Mourning Hall <- Reviewer’s choice
7. Bright Eyes
8. Another Holy War
9. And the Story Ends
10. “A Past and Future Secret (Demo Version)
11.Imaginations from the Other Side (Demo Version)
12. The Script for My Requiem (Demo Version)
13. Bright Eyes (Video)
14. Born in a Mourning Hall (Video)

Forgotten Tales (2009 Remastered)

Bg_forgotten_talesEssentially a compilation album, “Forgotten Tales” carries a heavy influence of covers from band’s like Queen, Uriah Heep and The Beach Boys. Blind Guardian also take part in a selection of orchestral and acoustic numbers which resurrect some of their previous classics to a new level. Tracks like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘A Past and Future Secret’ are given a more minstrel backdrop with the addition of harps, flutes and brass instruments,  while ‘Theatre of Pain’ is given a revamped Lord of the Rings movie esque orchestral touch.

The main bulk of the album is slow and takes quite awhile to get into. If you (a) don’t like slow or orchestral music and (b) you don’t like any of the band’s Blind Guardian cover I’d probably steer clear of this release. I’m a connoisseur of both contemporary hard rock and orchestral music, so I really had a fun time listening to the album. Many have noted that these Blind Guardian covers faithfully represent the original versions, if not better. That’s quite true,  just listening to the cover of Mike Oldfield’s ‘To France’ you can be assured that Blind Guardian really took the time to create individual masterpieces.

Thankfully, the remastered version sees the release of covers from Judas Priest, Deep Purple and Dio which were only found on rare singles. 8.5/10

Tracklisting:

1. Mr. Sandman (The Chordettes cover)
2. Surfin’ USA” (The Beach Boys cover)
3. Bright Eyes” (Acoustic version)
4. Lord of the Rings” (Orchestral version)
5. The Wizard” (Uriah Heep cover)
6. Spread Your Wings” (Queen cover)
7. Mordred’s Song” (Acoustic version)
8. Black Chamber” (Orchestral version)
9. The Bard’s Song” (Live)
10. “Barbara Ann/Long Tall Sally (The Regents/Little Richard covers)
11. A Past and Future Secret
12. To France (Mike Oldfield cover) <- Reviewer’s choice
13. Theatre of Pain (Orchestral version)
14. Hallelujah (Deep Purple cover)
15. Beyond the Realms of Death (Judas Priest cover)
16. Don’t Talk to Strangers” (Dio cover)
17. Mr. Sandman (Video clip)
18. The Bard’s Song (Video clip)

Nightfall in Middle-Earth (2009 Remastered)

Blind Guardian - Nightfall in Middle-Earth‘Nightfall in Middle-Earth’ is hands down Blind Guardian’s masterpiece, pure and simple. It’s considered the band’s holy grail in regards to both sound and song writing. The album’s concept is based on J.R.R Tolkien’s classic story The Silmarillion which plays out beautifully, much like the original book. The album contains not only songs but a selection of narration to unfold the fable.

The balance of contemporary and melodic metal infused with the band’s heavily influenced Queen backing vocals and quaint folk elements make this Blind Guardian’s best work to date. Blind Guardian’s traditional heavy elements seem to play a much more vibrant role on this album than some of the previous releases. The speed and intensity of ‘Mirror Mirror’, ‘Into The Storm’ and ‘Time Stands Still (At The Iron Hill)’ really take you back to the heydays of Blind Guardian’s traditional speed metal period, yet also influence a number of orchestral and folk elements, making it a superb package.

There is only one bonus track, ‘Harvest of Sorrow’. This track is also on “A Night at the Opera” as a bonus track. There are 7 versions of the song which include two English versions, French, Spanish, Argentinian, Italian and a mixed version.

This isn’t just an album, its an adventure.  10/10

Tracklisting:

1. War of Wrath
2. Into the Storm
3. Lammoth
4. Nightfall
5. The Minstrel
6. The Curse of Fëanor
7. Captured
8. Blood Tears
9. Mirror Mirror <- Reviewer’s choice
10. Face the Truth
11. Noldor (Dead Winter Reigns)
12. Battle of Sudden Flame
13. Time Stands Still (At the Iron Hill)
14. The Dark Elf
15. Thorn
16. The Eldar
17. Nom the Wise
18. When Sorrow Sang
19. Out on the Water
20. The Steadfast
21. A Dark Passage
22. Final Chapter (Thus Ends…)
23. Harvest of Sorrow

For fans of: Helloween, HammerFall, Iron Maiden, Dio, Gamma Ray, Queen

Band: Blind Guardian
Albums: 2009 Reissues/Remasters
Year: 2009
Genre: Power/Speed Metal, Progressive Metal
Origin: Germany
Label: Century Media
myspace.com/blindguardian

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.