The Power Metal legends have returned under an ever so slightly different name. BLIND GUARDIAN have presented themselves as the Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra on this go around and appropriately so… They’ve written an orchestra… with the sun just slightly below the horizon. Does make sense as the band has incorporated more and more elements of this kind. This should be quite the experience!
Let us give this thing a spin then draw some conclusions…
First off, it’s worth mentioning you literally have to search “Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra” to find this thing through some retailers and streaming services. Once you hit that play button it’s a night at the orchestra (we already had “A Night at the Opera” with Blind Guardian after all).
“1618 Ouverture” comes in with a mirage of whispers, war, and an eerie, churning atmosphere. This slowly eases in more instruments before a STAB then it compounds from there. This builds and builds before truly crashing in with a grand display of weaving percussion. It sounds like entering some fantastical martial arts arena before more and more layers come crashing in… Look, I could give you a play by play on this beast but you should really just listen to the damn thing – especially if you consider yourself to be a Blind Guardian / Power Metal type fan… Preferably with closed eyes next to a good sound system or with a solid pair of headphones… also really good driving music I’ve noticed.
There’s clearly a narrative at play here which is set into motion by further voice acting on “The Gathering” – this is a trend that persists throughout the record. In that sense, it’s like listening to a dramatic audio book / album which effectively makes this somewhat of a unique experience among the metal related album releases this year.
This thing is epic! There’s no slack on the scope of these tracks which are all fantastically produced while utilizing an impressive variety of organic instrumentation. It’s a shifting dragon of a fireworks display wrought from the minds of these seasoned veterans from the metal field.
It’s also worth noting that Hansi Kürsch is sounding as brilliant as ever among the shift of instrumentation. Where some vocalists struggle to maintain their chops over time, he’s been killing it for decades now and delivers quite the potent performance – despite having lived over half a century.
Despite traditional metal instruments being largely absent for the majority of this record, there are sections where one can still FEEL the metal in the composition which makes for a treat given the approach of this whole project. Though, given the orchestral approach on this record, there’s a wide dynamic range to the compositions along with a broad spectrum of emotion.
It should be noted that they worked with The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra to make this all a reality.
Blind Guardian effectively created a fantasy world based off human mythology and painted it on a canvas which your ears can live on if you choose to let them. It’s a cinematic approach which can easily conjure images in the listener’s mind. Speaking of which, the thing is basically the length of a movie, clocking in at well over an hour’s worth of music.
It’s also worth noting that Blind Guardian are letting listeners pick their poison with this one. There are essentially 3 different versions of the orchestra so it can be enjoyed from multiple angles. There’s the standard version, the instrumental version, and the no interlude version. The choice is yours.
Truthfully, I have no ills to spare on this record. Sure, objectively speaking, not everyone will like the shift. They might find it a bit cheesy at times or be turned off by the length but… In reality, Blind Guardian set out with an incredibly ambitious goal and accomplished it. In fact, as I understand, they’ve had the vision of making this particular record for well over a decade now. So, in a way, it’s like the stars finally aligning for their creative vision… and it turned out pretty damn good. Some might even say it’s a triumph for the band as they fully explore a key element of their sound in a way they’ve never done before. It’s just another beautiful root holding up the tree of their discography.
So, just to reiterate, if you like Blind Guardian and just Power Metal in general, this may very well be up your alley. For what it is and how well it’s executed, I have no qualms with giving this one a perfect score. That’s all there really is to say about that.