Album ‘Review’: Blind Guardian – “Beyond the Red Mirror”

BG

For anyone who lives under a rock and might have happened to miss this: Corey and I are both pretty big Blind Guardian fans. Have been for as long as we can remember. For me, they’re one of the few bands (like, countable on one hand few) in power metal that can still make me drop anything and listen. And it always feels like a proper event when the band put out something new…a sentiment their new-album-every-four-years scheduling pattern is significantly, if not totally, responsible for creating.

So when the time came to decide who’d be reviewing the band’s new album, Beyond the Red Mirrorwe had a bit of a struggle figuring out who’d receive the assignment. Instead of picking one of us to review the thing and one of us to be left out in the cold, we decided to join forces, listen to the album together, and live-blog it. Is this a proper review? Not at all, hence the quotation marks in this post’s title. Do we give a damn? Also not at all. Now as you might expect, this thing is LONGAnd also, if **SPOILERS** apply to music, we’ve definitely got ’em in here. That being said, here’s what we thought of the album:

— “The Ninth Wave” —

Dan
They’re not wasting any time setting up the theatrical side. This angelic, orchestral chorus is getting my epic side all hot.

Corey
And it sounds so MASSIVE. But then…Blind Guardian never doesn’t sound that way.

Dan
Now there’s this interesting kind of rhythmic pattern. It almost reminds me of the intro Iron Maiden had on their last album—“Satellite 15…The Final Frontier,” I believe the song was called.

Corey
Yeah, I kinda hear that. This album couldn’t start with a better two minutes, as far as I’m concerned.

Dan
Yeah, it’s kinda ominous so far. I’m digging it.

Corey
Yeah, kind of has a dark feel early on.
Love the way Hansi comes in over-top the choir, there. Really nice layering of sound.

Dan
Oh man, that chorus.

Corey
So catchy, so beautiful.

Dan
“Sail on ’til you reach the promised land…” is epic as all hell. Nice build up to that point.

Corey
Is there a band out there that creates a catchy chorus better than Blind Guardian?
I’m willing to bet there aren’t many.

Dan
I really don’t think so.
They’ve got their melodic side so well-oiled at this point, it’s impossible for them not to.

Corey
Kinda feels like a battle hymn now.

Dan
Yeah, but again…dark and kind of subdued. Nice alternation between the whispery, sinister sides and that super-triumphant chorus.
Speaking of which, AHH, THERE IT IS AGAIN.
I just came.

Corey
So much glory. Screw that…ALL OF THE GLORY.

Dan
There are still almost four minutes left in this song. I’m not bored, but I’m curious as to what they’re gonna do with ’em.

Corey
Hmmm…

Dan
Oooh, I like this upbeat solo section they’re doing now.
This isn’t “bluesy” by any means, but it’s as close as Blind Guardian could come to the term, I think.
Lots of bent notes and stuff, rather than their usual tremolo-picked leads.

Corey
They’re certainly covering all bases on this opener. No time wasted here.

Dan
Agreed.
Oh thank god, another chorus. It was almost starting to lose me for a bit there.

Corey
This chorus is so amazing.
And yeah, agreed. Talk about timely!
And it’s closing the same way it opened. Things are coming full-circle. I can dig it

Dan
Yeah, we get a slow build in, then a slow burn out. Pretty cool from a thematic standpoint.

Corey
Agreed.

Dan
This sets the tone nicely for…

— “Twilight of the Gods” —

Which we’ve already heard before, as it was the lead single, but dear lord…this damn song.

Corey
Yeah. What can you really say?

Dan
This is vintage Blind Guardian. It’s got the tone and melodic sensibility of stuff like A Night at the Opera or A Twist in the Myth, but the pure speed and aggression of their early days.

Corey
I was gonna say, this thing brought me instantly back to the backbone of Twist. Which, by the way, is not a bad thing.

Dan
Not at all.
And what do you know? Another fantastic, triumphant, singalong chorus.
Ah, this part right after the chorus…that parallel, ascending-and-descending lead pattern. It just gets me every time.

Corey
Dude, it’s insane. So cool.

Dan
This thing really just doesn’t let up at all.

Corey
Nope, not even remotely, haha.

Dan
I really wanna know what Andre Olbrich’s guitar setup is. I want that goddamn guitar tone.

Corey
Seriously.
I remember watching the lyric video for this a few weeks back, and having them throw the lyrics at us on the screen every bit as epically as they were being sung. I lol’d many lulz.

Dan
Haha, yes.
AHHHH, guitar solo into that parallel lead line part again. This is just a giant game of pants-jizz

Corey
Man, I just wanna get up and move to this shit.
This is everything I love about Blind Guardian.

Dan
Yes, 100 percent.
Am I weird to be curious what a Hansi and Devin Townsend collaboration would yield? Because based on this, I feel like it’d be AMAZING

Corey
That needs to be a thing at some point.

— “Prophecies” —

Dan
Ooooh, I do like this intro. It almost feels like fluttering wings or something. In musical form.

Corey
I wonder how many times Hansi says the word “time” on this album. Something we should look up later.

Dan
Haha, we’ll do a supercut. For the YouTube.

Corey
Hahaha, that’d be ridiculously entertaining.
“Prophecies” is slowing things down rather nicely.

Dan
Yeah. I listen to a song like this, and I think I’ve found another reason why this band is so successful. They explore elements of a lot of oft-maligned subgenres—power metal, symphonic metal, you name it—but they don’t go overboard with any single one of them.
Also, this chorus is–surprise!–totally awesome. “Shadows will be rising soon!” Terrific call-and-response vocals during that thing.

Corey
Yeah, that’s why I’ve never lost interest in these guys. They introduce other elements to keep things fresh, but never once have they overdone any of it. This is a really good example.

Dan
Yup.
So I didn’t even make it a full three songs with my attempt to resist singing along with the choruses to this thing. Good game, “Beyond the Red Mirror.” Good game.

Corey
Yeah. I need to do something a bit more impressive than what I’m doing now…which is drinking beer and listening carefully, haha.

Dan
And now onto the most confusing track of the album…

— “At the Edge of Time” —

Which is mainly confusing because that’s also the title of their last album. Who do they think they are, Queen?

**(Editor’s Note: Queen released the album, Sheer Heart Attack, in 1974. The SONG “Sheer Heart Attack,” however, didn’t appear on an album until 1977’s News of the World. Because sense.)**

Corey
Haha, right?
Wait a minute. That intro…are those…

Dan
Yup. Glockenspiels.

Corey
Of course they are.

Dan
This band can do no wrong. At least so far.
Anyway, definitely a slower vibe to this thing off the bat.

Corey
Yeah, they’re definitely putting the breaks on a bit.

Dan
I like the instrumentation here. The glocks at the start, what sounds like some nice melodic wind instruments now….

Corey
Yeah, exactly.
I like the symphonic side of this thing. It’s interesting. Four more minutes of this thing, though? Hmm…

Dan
Yeah, it feels like a lot more than not-even-three-minutes have gone by here, haha.

Corey
I kind of feel like I’m being told a story here.

Dan
Oh dude, you absolutely are, haha. It’s a full-on concept album. This is why I wanna get the hard copy—so that I can get liner notes and follow along with these lyrics.

Corey
Oh, I was commenting on how obvious it became during this song. The track listens like a story.
Anyway…

Dan
Gotcha, haha.
Anyway, another very majestic chorus here. This thing’s got a very different feel—much more deliberate and weighty—but I think I still like it.

Corey
I like it, but at the same time…I kinda get it at this point.

Dan
Yeah. It’s not quite at the same level as the others thus far, simply because the exhilaration factor isn’t allowed to build up quite so high. But it’s not bad at all.

Corey
Right.

Dan
Alright, yeah…they’re dragging this thing on a biiiiit too long…

Corey
I will agree with that; it’s been a bit of a long almost-seven-minutes.

— “Ashes of Eternity” —

Dan
Whew. Now onto “Ashes of Eternity.”
This is an odd kind of groove. Not sure how I feel about it, actually, haha. At least they changed up the pace a bit from the last song.

Corey
I’m trying to formulate a coherent thought…and it’s proving difficult, haha.
That was a bit of an off-beat intro.

Dan
Side note: I just Googled “Beyond the Red Mirror” for some extra context, and apparently there’s a Red Mirror Merlot? What?!

Corey
Dammit, Dan, don’t you read our Quickies?? That was yesterday’s news.
Psshhh…

Dan
… (awkward silence) …

Corey
Haha.

Dan
Anyway, this song kind of feels like it’s not sure what it wants to be.

Corey
It seems a bit all-over-the-place. Some of the transitions aren’t don’t really work. I don’t hate it though, let’s be clear.

Dan
Oh no. But I think it’s clearly the weakest one we’ve heard so far.

Corey
This solo…isn’t my favorite—at least in its early stages.

Dan
Nope.
Ooooh, there’s a reference to “Bright Eyes”—a connection to the Imaginations from the Other Side album, which, I guess, this is a kinda-sorta sequel to. To parts of, at least.

Corey
Haha.

Dan
Yeah, this one’s mostly forgettable. It might sit better once I have the story and lyrics in front of me for context, but for now…not so much

Corey
Yeah, I kinda feel like I need those lyrics. This is definitely a read-along album.

— “Distant Memories (Bonus Track)” —

Dan
And now we have a bonus track. Not a lot of bands put their bonus tracks in the MIDDLE of the record. And by “not a lot,” I mean “this is the first time I’ve ever seen that.”

Corey
Hahaha for real, though.

Dan
At any rate, this is a nice rebound.

Corey
Definitely. I’m kinda into this.

Dan
A cleaner, downtempo little thing. Doesn’t get too dirty, but has plenty of flair all the same.

Corey
This reminds me of something very distinct and I just cant put my finger on it.
Screw it; I’ll let that annoy me later.

Dan
That chorus line. “Then these fools will fade awayyyyyyyyyy” is another real singalong moment. Overall, this thing’s steady, but not overpowering. The solo section’s a nice highlight, too.

Corey
It fits the song brilliantly. Works perfectly in its place.

Dan
FYI: Red Mirror Merlot. $21 a bottle, plus shipping.
I may partake.

Corey
I thought it was only available for delivery in Germany?

Dan
Nuclear Blast store says you can adjust the currency to US dollars, so I’m assuming they ship elsewhere?
Oh. Nope. “Delivery is only possible in Germany.” Balls.
Anyway…

— “The Holy Grail” —

This thing is riffy right off the bat. Off to a good start.

Corey
I like this intro. They’re bringing some aggression back—again, rather timely.

Dan
Yeah, there’s a really nice rise-and-fall sequencing to this album so far.

Corey
Ugh, this cadence is awesome.

Dan
Yeah, I can dig it.
I’m not even going to try to name song parts on this thing because it feels like we’ve had seven or eight different ones so far. Chorus? Pre-Chorus? Pre-Pre-Chorus?

Corey
Who cares?

Dan
But point being…for the most part, they’re solid. Which is what counts.

Corey
That’s enough for me, haha.
Even though I’m equally confused by the structure, it at least seems to flow nicely enough.

Dan
I like those “Whooaaaaaaaa”s in [undetermined part]

Corey
I think that was a pre-chorus? It sounded like a pre-chorus? But then no chorus followed it…

Dan
Right, exactly. This is where my confusion comes in, haha.

Corey
Oh! There’s the chorus again!
I think?

Dan
Oh yeah, the part with “The holy grail is on its wayyyyyyy now” is most definitely the chorus. And most definitely a RIDICULOUS high.

Corey
Yet. another. epic. singalong. chorus.
Ah, and there’s a solo. At least we could figure that much out!

Dan
Yep, sure is.
This thing just keeps introducing new parts. It’s like a middle season of Lost.

Corey
It’s been a six-minute blitz. Not enough time to get bored on this one, even if you wanted to. Not sure why you would? But okay.

Dan
Nah, and anyway, just when you think it’s gonna get out of hand, they bring back that chorus. So it works pretty well. Good stuff here.

— “The Throne” —

Hmm…another decidedly NOT straightforward intro on this thing…

Corey
Borrowing from Dimmu in that intro? Oh wait…never mind.

Dan
LOL Dimmu. I forgot they were a thing.

Corey
They still are a thing, right?
Actually, I don’t really care. Or do I? I just mentioned Dimmu TWICE…I think that shows where I stand on that.

Dan
You’re out of the Dimmu closet.

Corey
I’d like to go back in, I think.

Dan
Nah, man, don’t R. Kelly it.
Okay, so a minute and a half in and this thing isn’t really doing much for me. Oh good, we’ve got six and a half more!
(pauses)
Okay, now we’re three minutes in, and I still can’t really say too much for this thing. Hasn’t really built up a head of steam.

Corey
We’re only three minutes in? Hmm…
Oh hey! Look! A chorus that grabbed my attention again.

Dan
Well, that makes one of us.

Corey
Hahaha.

Dan
I dunno…for me, this one feels like a band TRYING to do a Blind Guardian chorus, rather than the real thing, haha.

Corey
I can see that. And we’ve had plenty of the real thing on this album up to this point.

Dan
Oh well. Even if this one’s a bit subpar in my book, the album’s still batting six for eight—.750, if we’re using baseball stats. That’s a good record.

Corey
Oh no doubt—better than pretty much anything else I’ve heard to this point in 2015. Which is to say, “next to nothing,” but still…

Dan
The hell you been doing? I’ve banged out 22 albums already! Haha.

Corey
I meant from a timeline standpoint. It’s barely February; we’ve still got 11 months to go!
Okay, I’m sensing a little bit of try-too-hardery on this thing.
Hooray for invented phrases from not grammar!

Dan
Yes, that’s the best way to put it. Try-too-hardery, haha.

— “Sacred Mind” —

Slowing things down again on this one, alrighty.
Oooh, I like this harmonized guitar lick.
And now it’s picking up! That was…slightly unexpected!

Corey
I was about to say…was kinda surprised at how much of a slower feel this thing had, but then it really accelerates.

Dan
I like this.
Now they’re saying something about “Xanadu” and now all I can think about is Rush, because of course that’s where my mind turns.

Corey
Isn’t Xanadu a movie or something as well?

Dan
I think? Maybe with Jane Fonda?
(*Googles*)
Nope, Olivia Newton-John.

Corey
Of course it is. Doubt I’ll ever see it either way.

Dan
Oh, I’m sure I won’t.

Corey
Anyway, enough not-Jane-Fonda for one track…

Dan
This song, though…another case of “not-quite-sure-what-it-wants-to-be,” methinks. Definitely a bit underwhelming.

Corey
Yeah, six-and-a-half more minutes of “meh.”
He’s really into his Xanadu, though; at least he has that.

Dan
Dude, Hansi just really likes Olivia Newton-John, okay? JEEZ.

Corey
Apparently, haha

Dan
Phew, kinda glad that’s over with…

— “Miracle Machine” —

Corey
Aww, that opener…

Dan
Stripped down, much?

Corey
Just a tad.

Dan
Okay, when’s this one turning into speed metal? I need my fix, dammit!
…psych, this is actually quite pretty.

Corey
It’s only a three-minute track; it’s gotta be in there somewhere.
…or maybe it doesn’t.

Dan
Oooh, I like this refrain
“We must believe in something that i’d call a miracle”

Corey
As do I.

Dan
Nice vocal harmonies on display all throughout here.

Corey
Very nice.

Dan
They really do the slow piano interlude track quite well. I remember “War of the Thrones,” from the last album, which was one of my favorite tracks on the thing. This one’s not bad either.

Corey
I like it, but it has me anticipating a big closing track, not gonna lie.

Dan
Oh it’d better be.
And here we go…

— “Grand Parade” —

Corey
This is starting big. But at the same time, it’s nine-and-a-half minutes long…

Dan
I have to say that again in the Joker / Dark Knight voice. “And here…we….go…” BOOM.

Corey
My curiosity is piqued. Depending on how the rest of this plays out, I think we can say this album is bookended wonderfully.

Dan
Oh god, this is so monumental. Definitely needed this.
AHHHHHHHHH. THAT CHORUS.

Corey
Yes, more absolutely epic chorus work.

Dan
BRB MY ALARM JUST WENT OFF AT CHANGE-PANTS-O’CLOCK

Corey
Dude, just…don’t wear pants.

Dan
True
This thing feels like a real spectacle. It feels like you’re soaring through the air listening to it.

Corey
ON A DRAGON. Because Blind Guardian.

Dan
With a sword in one hand and a maiden in the other.
Yes, I’m keeping this game going.

Corey
Haha, I’m more than willing to participate.
This has been an AWESOME closer, but we’ve still got like six minutes left. That’s significant.

Dan
This is true. Coming up to the halfway point now—how many more twists and turns can this thing have in it?
Ooooh, I like this slow-down—clearing the way for the orchestral side of things.

Corey
Right, it’s definitely a taking a turn.

Dan
Nice minor-major tonal alternation there, with those plucked string instruments.
Gotta say, six-and-a-half out of nine-and-a-half minutes down, and I’m still really enjoying this.

Corey
Yep, I’ve been locked in throughout.

Dan
Eight minutes down and we get another really, really catchy moment. It’s not the same chorus as before, but similarly regal sounding. Really solid little denouement there.

Corey
I’m actually a little sad it’s ending.

Dan
Likewise. But if we’re gonna have to wait another four years for a new album after this, at least they sent us out on a high.
Also, this is definitely another track that makes me wonder what a Hansi / Devin collaboration would sound like.

Corey
It would sound like…I don’t really know. But it would be the BEST.

— (album ends) —

Well, I’m going to need a few more times through before I can properly assess…but overall, that was a treat.

Dan
Yeah. I get the feeling this one’s gonna be a grower. Kinda hard to rank on first impression, but knee-jerk…it’s not the same level as Imaginations, Nightfall or A Night at the Opera.

Corey
I would agree.

Dan
But it’s somewhere in the middle of the pack. Which, given the overall strength of their catalogue, isn’t a bad spot to be in.

Corey
Exactly; middle-of-the-pack Blind Guardian is better than the top-of-the-pack for most other bands.

Dan
Well done, Hansi and Co.

Corey
Yes. I approve.

Dan
Now come to the goddamn U.S. and do a tour!

Beyond the Red Mirror is available now on Nuclear Blast Records. For more information on Blind Guardian, visit the band’s official website.

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

3 thoughts on “Album ‘Review’: Blind Guardian – “Beyond the Red Mirror”

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