A victory for substance over style

In scaling back some of the overt histrionics that were threatening to turn them into a parody of themselves, Blind Guardian’s vision on At the Edge of Time has somewhat crystalised.

The folk and orchestral elements are still present but they’re not overdone to the point where they become the whole focus of the music. The same can be said for Hansi Kürsch, who has reined in his overbearing vocals so they work with the band and not against it, as we were beginning to witness on A Night at the Opera. The result is a solid and enjoyable album of catchy power metal that is perhaps their most consistent since the end of the 90s, almost attaining the heights they enjoyed on Imaginations From the Other Side or Nightfall on Middle Earth.

Using the science fiction and fantasy works of people like Jordan and the peerless Moorcock as inspiration, Blind Guardian don’t exactly take their listeners anywhere they haven’t been before. That’s true about the music itself also: At the Edge of Time isn’t exactly full of surprises. What it does have though, as noted above, is focus. They’ve kept what works and ditched the rest. Coupling Kürsch’s Freddie Mercury-inspired vocal arrangements with a real orchestra gives their more elaborate, epic numbers a true sense of depth and the songs that bookend this collection, “Sacred Worlds” and the magnificent “Wheel of Time”, perfectly embody Blind Guardian’s creative ethic. In between is a series of cuts like “A Voice in the Dark” and “Ride Into Obsession” that combine speed, hooks and heaviness in perfect proportions, and the balladic “Curse My Name” incorporates strong Celtic folk elements. Then right in the middle is “Valkyries”, a multi-layered, melodic progressive metal mini-saga that could be among the best songs the band has ever done, and there’s barely any real cringe-worthy moments to be had.

Perhaps realising that they were getting a little bit too clever and self-indulgent for their own good, on At the Edge of Time Blind Guardian appears to have finally got the balance right once again. It’s a victory for substance over style that other bands should note.

  1. Sacred Worlds
  2. Tanelorn (Into the Void)
  3. Road of No Release
  4. Ride into Obsession
  5. Curse My Name
  6. Valkyries
  7. Control the Divine
  8. War of the Thrones
  9. A Voice in the Dark
  10. Wheel of Time