Over and hour of fantasy storytelling

How does a bombastic power metal band increase the bombast and pompous nature of their output?  That’s right: they employ a full orchestra and grab a decent slab of source material and get recording. 

I shouldn’t be so blunt, because if you are to believe the press material this is an album that has been on the boil in the background of this German group since 1996.

A story based originally on the character Solomon Kane (originally created by Robert E. Howard in 1928), set during the 30 years war in Germany during the 1600s.  Of course with such a gestation period, it has become something far greater than originally anticipated and ending up with a book written for it to all make sense by German author Markus Heitz.  But enough about a fantastical tale about making an album, shall we get to writing about what the hell is actually going on here musically?

Something that is based in such fantastical settings must start large and 1618 Overture does not disappoint in cinematic scope to the point where you can picture the opening credits as you fly over a war-torn land full of all kinds of unforgettable chaos that builds into the first of many spoken parts. The Gathering sets the scene for what this entire concept holds.  That is, a great story told in audio book like form with musical interludes.  Better yet, like some long forgotten musical that someone recorded after it went on for one night only.

It is worth bearing in mind that the only member of Blind Guardian on the record is vocalist Hansi Kursch as he stretches his vocals passionately throughout like the consummate performer he has proved himself to be time and again throughout the band’s very long enure, with the musical input of his constant sidekick and lead guitarist André Olbrich who never makes a musical appearance here.

Over an hour of fantasy storytelling orchestration won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  And to be completely honest dear reader, I have sat on writing a review on this album for a very long time for just that reason.  But on repeated listens this must be heard at least once so that the sheer scale of the concept gets the recognition it deserves.  From the show tune sounds of Dark Cloud’s Rising and Treason to the heavy metal orchestra of In the Red Dwarf’s Tower or Point of No Return where the writers of this sprawling epic flex what muscle they can in the musical environs they have chosen to show their talents in.

The combination of all its elements make this an album that has to be taken in as a whole on a journey that is well worthwhile once it is over.  Remember that this has been written over the course of many years in between other releases by a band well known for their ability to mix elements of orchestral into an already bombastic sound. Here they have dropped (or upped?) the pretentiousness of their music.  I fcannot get enough of it at this current point, for one because its nature just demands attention, but also because it is so far removed from the kind of thing I would listen to on a regular basis.

Listen to this, if only to say you where there to witness when Blind Guardian finally dropped the shackles of Symphonic Power Metal for the pure power of a Philharmonic Orchestra alone.

  1. 1618 Overture
  2. The Gathering
  3. War Feeds War
  4. Comets and Prophecies
  5. Dark Cloud’s Rising
  6. The Ritual
  7. In the Underworld
  8. A Secret Society
  9. The Great Ordeal
  10. Bez
  11. In the Red Dwarf’s Tower
  12. Into the Battle
  13. Treason
  14. Between the Realms
  15. Point of No Return
  16. The White Horseman
  17. Nephilim
  18. Trial and Coronation
  19. Harvester of Souls
  20. Conquest is Over
  21. This Storm
  22. The Great Assault
  23. Beyond the Wall
  24. A New Beginning