The Horns Up Top 10: Blind Guardian

Evening, metalheads! Bit late with this week’s Top 10 post, so let’s get right into it: tonight, we’re going to take a look at BLIND GUARDIAN.

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In most cases, I’ve more or less outgrown my interest in power metal–look no further than the intro to our recent Stage Dive post for proof of this. However, for reasons I can’t properly explain, Blind Guardian always seems to defy my loss of interest. Maybe it’s the earnestness the band has toward its fantasy side, or maybe it’s the level of success they’ve had in evolving their sound over the years (from speed metal, to straight power metal to the kind of symphonic, power/prog hybrid they’ve been pursuing of late. Hell, it may just be all of the badass, intricate album and single artwork they’ve had over the years. Regardless, I continue to enjoy Blind Guardian unconditionally, which made this Top 10 list both very fun and very difficult to come up with. Here’s what I’ve got for you…

“Mirror Mirror” (from Nightfall in Middle Earth, 1998)

The first Blind Guardian song I ever heard and still one of the best. An upbeat journey into melodic overkill, it’s the centerpiece on probably my second-favorite album of theirs and an absolute gem of a track. And it gets bonus points for winning over friend-of-the-blog Kevin Brown!

“Battlefield” (from A Night at the Opera, 2002)

A Night at the Opera took Nightfall‘s melodic power metal palette and kicked it into overdrive–articulating their melodic influences even further and adding more operatic flair. “Battlefield” is a perfect example of that, picking up nicely after the iffy intro that was “Precious Jerusalem” and formally welcoming listeners to Blind Guardian’s new experiment.

“Valhalla” (from Follow the Blind, 1989)

Always good to revisit the occasional relic from Blind Guardian’s speed metal days, and there are few better options than “Valhalla” on that front. It’s riffy as anything and features guest vocals and a killer guitar solo from power-metal legend Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, ex-Helloween)–what more do you need?

“Another Holy War” (from Imaginations from the Other Side, 1995)

Seriously…that opening riff? Cue every villain entering every movie scene ever. Such a deliciously dramatic and evil sounding thing. And what d’you know, the rest of the song’s pretty solid, too! (Especially that chorus. Completely drool-worthy.) Perhaps the strongest asset “Another Holy War” has going for it is how well it blends subgenre styles; while you can definitely hear the band working their way toward a more power-metal sound, there’s still plenty of speed-freak stuff to go around. Terrific listen.

“Fly” (from A Twist in the Myth, 2006)

Well now, this sure is something different, isn’t it? For a song about Peter Pan, “Fly” has a hell of a lot of bite. I’ve always loved how well the band juxtaposes this song’s heavier parts with its more melodic moments–Hansi’s harmonized howls in the early going make for one of the band’s most visceral moments ever, only to be followed up by the quieter, Far East-influenced pre-choruses. Oh, and that solo? An absolute beast.

“When Sorrow Sang” (from Nightfall in Middle Earth, 1998)

I’ll probably catch some flak for including this particular Nightfall deep cut over, say, “Noldor (Dead Winter Reigns),” “Time Stands Still (At the Iron Hill)” or even the title track. Why’d I pick this one? Simple–it’s the chorus. That operatic refrain (“when sorrow sang softly and sweet”) just gives me chills…every. damn. time.

“Journey Through the Dark” (from Somewhere Far Beyond, 1992)

No disrespect to the first three albums, but in terms of overall, top-to-bottom quality, Somewhere Far Beyond was Blind Guardian’s first big leap forward into greatness. And more than 20 years on, “Journey Through the Dark” remains one of the biggest highlights from that jump. It’s as ferocious and intricate as anything they’ve done.

“The Soulforged” (from A Night at the Opera, 2002)

Another one of my earliest points of exposure to the band. “The Soulforged” has held up incredibly well thanks to, perhaps unsurprisingly, an incredible chorus and, perhaps surprisingly, a really awesomely-refined guitar sound. Olbrich and Siepen serve up perhaps their best imitation to date of the classic, Queen-era Brian May guitar tone and it pays off so, so well. Fantastic tune.

“Born in a Mourning Hall” (from Imaginations from the Other Side, 1995)

My personal favorite BG tune to headbang to. The punishing verses, an infectious chorus and the pure adrenaline rush of the instrumental bridge make “Born in a Mourning Hall” the most memorable tune on Imaginations from the Other Side by a considerable margin–for me at least.  Just a classic.

“And Then There Was Silence” (from A Night at the Opera, 2002)

Their magnum opus. Need I say more? Nope, I think not.

The Horns Up Top 10 on YouTube

(Yep, that’s right; Spotify has nothing pre-Twist in the Myth from Blind Guardian. Except the re-recorded versions of some of these songs on the Memories of a Time to Come compilation. The hell with that, though–all or nothing, I say. So we’re going with YouTube.)

That’ll do it for this week’s list. Check back tomorrow for more Horns Up!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

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