Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Music Review - Blind Guardian - A Night at the Opera

Following the brilliant and (in my mind) genre-defining Nightfall in Middle-Earth, Blind Guardian produced what is possibly one of the (if not the) most overdone, pompous and generally over the top albums of all time, A Night at the Opera. The band really fired on all cylinders with this one, with hundreds of vocal, guitar and keyboard tracks being used to create an enormous and dare I say, epic atmosphere. The result is nothing short of amazing.

Blind Guardian basically took the formula from NIME (huge vocals, prominent keyboards and a focus on atmosphere as opposed to speed and heaviness) as far as it could be taken here . There's nothing frugal about this album at all; if there's singing, its a chorus of hundreds of voices. If a guitar plays, its complicated and leads and huge chords. The production is a big part of this and is definitely a step up from the previous album, and is some of the best production I've heard in a metal album. Every voice and instrument is crystal clear, loud but not obnoxiously loud and perfectly balanced with the other instruments.

The band itself is in top form here. Drums are fast, technical, bombastic and flawlessly played and one of the highlights of the album, full of ultra fast rolls and fast double bass work; I'd go so far as to say this is one of the best drumming jobs in all of metal. Guitars are melodic, fast and layered for a very full sound. Keyboards are used a LOT here, and with amazing results. The orchestration and choir work is second to none, and like the keys there is a ton of both. The choirs were really unleashed on this album, which I love, since the choirs are one of my favorite things about Blind Guardian. As I said before, everything in the mix compliments each other, and makes for a good tight sound.

Every song here is a brilliant piece in its own right, but there's 3tracks in particular that draw my attention. Firstly is the insanely catchy The Soulforged, which could have easily been included on NIME, and is much more of a traditional song with a verse/chorus pattern. One of the catchiest songs Blind Guardian have ever written in my opinion. Secondly is the ballad The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight, a seemingly calm ballad that explodes into a massive arena-rock styled power ballad. Lastly is the 14 minute epic And Then There was Silence, based on the fall of Troy. Every second of this song is absolutely amazing, with constantly changing rhythms, beats and speed; the vocals on this song are simply astounding. Listen to And Then There was Silence and you'll know the true meaning of an "epic" song.

All told, this is probably Blind Guardians most complex and pompous album, and one of my all time favorite albums. Regardless of what styles of music you like, this is an immensely entertaining album that I highly recommend everyone listen to at least once.

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