Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror
Nuclear Blast
Power Metal
10 songs (1:04:56)
Release year: 2015
Blind Guardian, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Nearly five years since the release of 2010's excellent At the Edge of Time, Blind Guardian are back, and they're armed. Three classical choirs, from Boston, Prague, and Budapest, and not one but two 90-piece orchestras aid and abet Hansi and co in creating another complex symphonic opus, following in the footsteps laid by their previous album but harking back to 1995's Imaginations from the Other Side and continuing the story started in songs like Bright Eyes. Almost a guaranteed fanpleaser, then, and after two years' of work Beyond the Red Mirror is indeed a masterpiece, albeit not one without flaws.

Let's get the criticism out of the way, then; the production for Beyond the Red Mirror is poor, poorer than At the Edge of Time, closer to the criticised A Twist in the Myth. Flat, muddy, and undoubtedly disappointing on first listens, this has been the topic of a lot of debate online since the release of single Twilight of the Gods last November. I have seen some saying that releasing lower-quality songs digitally is a sales trick to get people to buy the physical media – which is shitty from both a capitalist and a fan viewpoint – but unless Nuclear Blast are actually releasing lower quality promotional MP3s (which would be a first to my knowledge) this seems to be the final product.

The good news is that a few listens to the album and you get over the production, because the songs are that good. This is the heaviest that Blind Guardian have been in a while, seeming to lean back to their faster roots in places, although not without reducing the progressive complexity of latter years. (Choosing a genre tag for this review was tough – 'Progressive Symphonic Power Metal' is the closest to what we have here, but it's a mouthful.) Fans will be overjoyed – nine-minute opener The Ninth Wave alone is terrific, a proggy epic that moves from initial choirs and electronic beats to well-structured power metal, driven by guitars as much as vocals with the orchestration providing solid backing. Hansi is excellent, of course, sounding raw and natural, almost harsh at moments, but the guitars are very impressive too, André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen two of the underrated members of the band.

Each track has something to offer. First single Twilight of the Gods is more straightforwardly power metal, as you'd expect, toning down the proggy complexity in favour of a chorus that will stick in your head for hours. Prophecies makes full use of the theatrical vocal stylings the band are famed for, while At the Edge of Time focuses more on the symphonic elements, The Holy Grail throws in speed metal tempos and appropriately wild soloing (of which there's plenty elsewhere on the album); it's all hugely impressive stuff, and although some will prefer the more metallic side of Blind Guardian to the symphonic side, everyone is catered for in an album that combines the band's considerable strengths.

Highlights come every minute, so good are the band at composing interesting and entertaining metal, and you're never bored despite the hour-plus running time – even traditional ballad Miracle Machine is wonderful, coming as a brief interlude before nine-minute finale Grand Parade. It's that track which really puts the argument for this album, however, as it's truly excellent, one of the best songs I've heard from Blind Guardian; as huge and bombastic as the title would suggest. So production issues aside, this is terrific power metal from a band now nearly as old as I am who could be excused for phoning it in. All respect to Blind Guardian however, they continue to push onwards and upwards, and Beyond the Red Mirror is an hour of prog-power magic that was well worth the five-year wait.

Killing Songs :
The Ninth Wave, Twilight of the Gods, At the Edge of Time, The Holy Grail, The Thone, Grand Parade
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Blind Guardian that we have reviewed:
Blind Guardian - Somewhere Far Beyond reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Blind Guardian - At The Edge Of Time reviewed by Kyle and quoted 86 / 100
Blind Guardian - Follow The Blind reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Blind Guardian - A Voice In The Dark (CD Single) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
Blind Guardian - Imaginations From The Other Side reviewed by Ben and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 16 reviews click here
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