Sunday, December 6, 2009

Favorite Albums: Blind Guardian - Nightfall In Middle Earth

This month I've been revisiting the bands that got me into metal - both originally and my current tastes. I've been listening to alot of Manowar, and Type O Negative, and I'm now getting into Iced Earth and Blind Guardian. While I grew up with Manowar, Type O Negative, Iron Maiden and Metallica (thank you Dad), both Blind Guardian and Iced Earth are fairly recent additions to my musical tastes, only discovering them about four years ago, shortly after my joining of and my discovery of this wonderful thing called 'power metal.' One thing I have noticed over my illustrious music career, is that more often then not the first album I hear by a band becomes my favorite. Manowar's The Triumph Of Steel, Type O Negative's Bloody Kisses, and Iron Maiden's Best of The Beast (greatest hits) all fall into this category. As do Iced Earth's Something Wicked This Way Comes (which will probably become it's own article eventually) and Blind Guardian's Nightfall In Middle Earth.

Coming in at 22 tracks, Nightfall In Middle Earth seems to be Blind Guardian's most detailed work to date - well yes and no. Exactly half of the tracks are spoken, most coming in at under thirty seconds, which takes away from the simply superb music. Not counting the spoken tracks, this album is one of the best in my collection, with all of the musical tracks being of great quality, both in music and vocals. I understand that the album is based off J.R.R. Tolkien's posthumous work, The Silmarillion (think Lord of The Rings), and that they wanted to basically play the soundtrack for the story, but spoken tracks have no part in music. They always, always, take away from the overall project and break up the continuity.
But that's the end of my bitching, as I said before the music here is fantastic, fully capitalizing on the 'power' aspect of power metal. The songs are heavily layered, with a rich, full sound, great blending of guitars and percussion, and some of the best vocals I've ever heard. Truly Hansi Kürsch outdid himself, this is his magnum opus.
Kürsch has stated in interviews that the band Queen is one of his favorite bands (and as I am currently working through their discography, I can see why), and for this release he used them as a huge inspiration. Just like the Queen usage of multi-tracked, layered vocals, Nightfall In Middle Earth sounds like it has a backing opera throughout, but instead of the entire band singing in harmony it is just Kürsch. Listening to the album, it is damn near impossible to imagine that one man could have created such a variance of sounds, he blends with himself perfectly, within several octaves and vocal styles. While the band received some flack for this release, with all that is going on with the songs it comes off a bit pretentious at times, but I love it. This is the way that European power metal is meant to sound.
The biggest example of this orchestral excess is the song "Nightfall," which rivals Queen's "Somebody to Love" for the sheer number of voices present. Every time it comes on my radio/iPod I have to turn it up and sing along as loud as I can. It is just one of those amazing songs that invokes emotion wherever it goes.
While all of the musical tracks are good, a few stand out from the pack, "Into The Storm," "Mirror Mirror," and "Time Stands Still (At The Iron Hill)" are all heavy and quick songs, sounding of war and battle, while songs like "Nightfall" (as was already said) and "The Eldar" show off the more artistic/progressive/symphonic side of the band. A great blend of styles, that works for me.

So obviously, listen to Nightfall In Middle Earth, especially if you like European power metal (power metal with symphonic influences, but not enough to constitute full on symphonic metal) or Queen. It is really an experience, and without the spoken tracks it would be one of the top ten albums in my collection.

Track Listing
1. War of Wrath - Spoken Track
2. Into The Storm
3. Lammoth - Spoken Track
4. Nightfall
5. The Minstrel - Spoken Track
6. The Curse Of Feanor
7. Captured - Spoken Track
8. Blood Tears
9. Mirror Mirror
10. Face The Truth - Spoken Track
11. Noldor (Dead Winter Reigns)
12. Battle Of Sudden Flame - Spoken Track
13. Time Stands Still (At The Iron Hill)
14. The Dark Elf - Spoken Track
15. Thorn
16. The Eldar
17. Nom The Wise - Spoken Track
18. When Sorrow Sang
19. Out On The Water - Spoken Track
20. The Steadfast - Spoken Track
21. A Dark Passage
22. Final Chapter (Thus Ends...) - Spoken Track
*Bold denotes my pic


DPTH International said...

This is one of the earliest albums I bought that introduced european power metal to me. And though I have listened to tons of other bands and albums, this one stands out heads above anything else. I don't even mind the spoken word parts.

When they finally toured Canada, they played mostly this album and little of their back catalogue and new album "Night at the opera" at the time. It was a fantastic show.

The Klepto said...

Yea, as you could guess, this is one of my most played albums. I am currently working through their entire discography right now (never hearing their newest two) and so I will get back to you on the 'A Night At The Opera' Album.
I'm working through alot of complete discographies this month, with almost nothing too new; Manowar, Dream Theater are already complete (working on the articles), Type O Negative and Demons and Wizards will be done within the week, and Iced Earth and Blind Guardian are about half done each. I doubt ill finish it all before the new year but I'm hopeful.
Oh and I'm working on an in-depth on Queen, but that will probably take me a couple months to finish.

Thanks for your continued reading and support.