Blind Guardian – Beyond The Red Mirror


“Impact” is a difficult concept to define in terms of music, but an extremely important one. The effect that a given piece of music has on any listener is always going to be extremely personal and subjective, of course, but to some extent it is possible to measure how much impact an album is able to make to its listeners through its emotional accessibility – the extent to which it is prepared to “let us in” to its world.

Blind Guardian are one of the founders of what we now call Symphonic Power Metal, and still one of its principle exponents. As you’d expect from a band who’ve been putting out albums for over twenty-five years now, their recorded output is not without its ups and downs, but across ten studio albums and numerous singles and live recordings they’ve maintained an admirable consistency in professionalism and power.

Beyond The Red Mirror (Nuclear Blast) is a technically flawless album, there’s absolutely no denying that, and at times genuinely beautiful. “Symphonic” is a much-abused word and concept in Heavy Metal, often translating to “our riffs are boring so we’re covering them in keyboards” or “I secretly wish I was Enya”, but Blind Guardian have always been one of the few exceptions to that rule, and age has seemingly broadened their skill with the symphonic elements of their sound. Likewise, they have always been masters of the catchy chorus and soaring hook, and there’s plenty of evidence for both of those things throughout BTRM.

Given the unreserved praise so far, you might be wondering why the mark at the end of this review isn’t higher – and I’m sure there are Blind Guardian fans out there sharpening their internet knives right now – but the answer comes back to that thorny quality “impact”. BTRM is beautiful like a painting, or a landscape observed through a window – intricate, masterful and distant. There’s no attempt to communicate with the audience, no invitation to join the band in their world, and as a result the experience seems cold and clinical, more a soundtrack than a Heavy Metal album.

Let there be no doubt – Beyond The Red Mirror is a beautiful, technically flawless album full of masterful song-writing and symphonic arrangements, and if that’s all you want from the band you won’t be disappointed. Those of us who miss the times when Blind Guardian found space for real blood and thunder in their music, however, will likely find it a cold and somewhat uninviting proposition.


Blind Guardian on Facebook