PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Blind Guardian: At the Edge of Time

When it comes to power metal, nobody does it better these days than Germany's Blind Guardian.

Blind Guardian

At the Edge of Time

Label: Nuclear Blast
US Release Date: 2010-08-17
UK Release Date: 2010-08-02
Artist Website

Any of metal's myriad subgenres is perfectly enjoyable if the music is written capably and performed with passion, but it seems power metal is the one style that's toughest to perfect. The music walks such a thin, precipitous line between garish fun and complete self-parody that it's easy for a band to slip into the latter category. As of late, especially, top-notch power metal releases have been few and far between. This past year, we've been privy to a startling number of misfires by such bands as Rhapsody of Fire, Avantasia, Gamma Ray, and most disappointingly, the perpetually devolving progenitors Helloween. Power metal was never a "cool" genre to begin with, but with the quality of so many bands slipping, it's enough to make you wonder if the sound has finally played itself out completely.

As Helloween continues to sound more like an embarrassment with each new release, it's up to its fellow German peer Blind Guardian to fly that power metal flag proudly: Not only does Blind Guardian do so on its ninth studio album, but the group comes along and shows everyone just how it's done. Brimming with Wagnerian orchestral flourishes, Queen-inspired vocals, staccato riffs, and thrash-infused beats, the ten fantasy tales on At the Edge of Time are delivered with verve, and most importantly, a completely straight face. There's no winking at the audience here; either you buy into it or you don't. If you choose the former, however, you're in for a real treat, as Blind Guardian has strode on the well-worn power metal stage and classed the joint up with a sweeping, epic -- in every sense of the overused word -- piece of work. When these guys are on, no one can top them, and this record sees them in full command of their craft yet again.

2005's very good A Twist in the Myth was a rousing return to form after 2002's wildly unfocused A Night at the Opera, and, although it's unlikely the band will ever top 1998's classic Nightfall in Middle Earth, the new album works to all the band's strengths especially well. Founding members Hansi Kürsch and guitarist Andre Olbrich have stepped up with ten tracks that don't exactly break new ground for Blind Guardian, rather showcasing every aspect of the band's versatile sound. In fact, the streamlined, hard rock sound of A Twist in the Myth singles "Fly" and "Another Stranger Me" has been done away with, as the band focuses more on grandiosity than accessibility, which will only thrill power metal sticklers even more.

Granted, when Blind Guardian is in full frilly mode, it can be a very tough pill to swallow at first, like when Kürsch and Olbrich throw literally everything at the listener on opener "Sacred Worlds", nine minutes of frenzied, up-tempo riffage along with orchestration so gaudy you'd think Michael Kamen had risen from the dead. As always, though, it's Kürsch who makes it sound so convincing in the end. Possessing a commanding tenor voice that fits perfectly between Yes's Jon Anderson and Styx's Lawrence Gowan, he's an unusually expressive singer in a genre that too often uses operatic singing as a crutch; no matter how busy "Sacred Worlds" gets, his presence makes it all palatable. He plays the role of storyteller brilliantly, and he's got our rapt attention.

Thankfully, the rest of the album settles down after that flamboyant start. The comparatively stripped-down "Tanelorn (Into the Void)" centers on some scorching tandem riffing by Olbrich and Marcus Siepen, a wonderful return to the band's heavier side. The keyboard-driven "Road of No Release" gallops along at a stately, controlled pace. "Curse My Name" dives headlong into medieval melodies and arrangements, while the blistering speed metal of the superb "A Voice in the Dark" hearkens back to the band's earlier incarnation.

A departure from the band's famous preoccupation with all things Tolkien, At the Edge of Time is all over the map as far as lyrical inspirations go, with Kürsch drawing from John Milton, Michael Moorcock, and George R. R. Martin, and that lack of a cohesive storyline suits this particular album perfectly. It's a bit of a mish-mash of sounds, right down to the Middle Eastern influence that dominates the closing track "Wheel of Time", but Kürsch and his bandmates create it with absolute expertise, never for a second letting the album spiral out of control. As an added bonus, the lavish artwork by Felipe Machado Franco is something to behold, especially on the glossy deluxe Digipak version. While other power metal bands these days might compel listeners to roll their eyes or even chuckle, Blind Guardian has come along and outclassed its peers in one fell swoop.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.