Germany’s Blind Guardian are unarguably the forerunners of the German power metal scene, and indeed quite possibly the preeminent flag-bearers for the genre as a whole. From their humble beginnings as a slightly bombastic traditional thrash metal outfit, the years have seen the band evolve into a very different beast. Beginning with the band’s seminal third album Tales from the Twilight World, the band began incorporating increasing use of classical arrangements, choirs, strings, and multi-layered compositions to create a larger than life sound. Hot on the heels of their most recent full length At the Edge of Time, the German maestros have recently released their first compilation album, Memories of a Time to Come, a tell-all album containing material from the band’s entire career, from 1987 to the present. For fans of the band, this is a superb arrangement of many of the band’s best material, and for newcomers, and excellent introduction to a veteran band who continues to be as relevant now as they were 25 years ago.
As a rule, compilation albums tend to pass by my radar largely ignored, and it seems the band had this notion in mind when setting out to put together this release. Unlike many bands with a large amount of material to draw from, Blind Guardian did not merely piece together a “great hits” release and slap a new cover and title on and feed it back to the fans. In an age where a few clicks of a button you can put the same songs onto a playlist and move forward, compilation releases are trickier than ever. The bards (as die hard fans have so lovingly referred to the group since antiquity) decided to remix every song on the album, giving a smooth, uniform sound to the proceedings. Even vintage songs such as “Majesty” and “Follow the Blind” sound revitalized, with crisper edges and more power. Fan favorites “Valhalla” and “Bright Eyes” sound immense, and in many ways, provided the listener can shake the bounds of nostalgia, even better than their original versions.
The inclusion of slightly lesser known songs “Traveler in Time” and “The Last Candle” were pleasant surprises, particularly since pretty much every Blind Guardian song has its outspoken fans and has been played live at some point or another, thus there is little “obscure” material to draw from so to speak. These songs sound fantastic. The high point of the remixed tracks is without a doubt “Mirror Mirror,” my absolute favorite song from the game changing release A Nightfall in Middle Earth. They spent a lot of time bolstering the sound and the result is a version with much more punch and less airiness (an issue the entire release suffered from).
The remixes are less obvious with newer songs such as “Sacred Worlds” and “Ride Into Obession,” but there are some subtle differences, namely a slight increase in crispness of the bass, and slightly more attack in the percussion. With all of this said, the crowning jewel of this release is the rerecording of “The Bard’s Song – The Hobbit,” and the staggeringly massive, and to this listener’s ears, finest Blind Guardian song of all “And Then there Was Silence.” Both songs retain their original feel, but vocalist Hansi Kursch definitely alters some of the higher notes to accommodate his changing voice. “And Then there Was Silence” is the more interesting of the two, as there are significant orchestral changes and, despite the enormity of the original, a sense of scale that literally blows everything else they’ve done out of the water. All in all this feels amazingly fresh, with pleasing remixes and tasteful re-recordings of songs from two drastically different eras. Highly recommended!