Album Review: Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra - Legacy of the Dark Lands
Reviewed by Jon Wigg
Blind Guardian; long one of my favourite bands; albums full of storytelling, fantasy, solos, musical ability, fronted by one of the technically adept and distinct vocalists in metal. Epic concerts with thousands of metal heads singing every word of a folk song, sometimes in key. Not everyone's taste but certainly mine.
Blind Guardian have long promised an orchestral album, so 'Legacy Of The Dark Lands' shouldn't be a surprise for fans. For anyone who hasn't read the many articles and press releases about this album, there is no metal here. This is a full orchestra and choir fronted by Blind Guardian's Hansi Kürsch, telling a 17th century tale about a mercenary in the Thirty Years War. No guitars, the bass is of the double variety and the drums are from the percussion section. In between each track is a spoken word section to move the story along.
And yet, this is certainly a Blind Guardian album. Every track feels like it could only be done by Blind Guardian - obviously helped by Hansi's trademark voice. And here lies the conflict. I am a fan of classical music and love Accept's Symphonic Terror which in part adds metal to famous classical pieces. During my first couple of listens of Legacy, I found myself thinking how much better the songs would sound with some metal, almost imagining the guitars and bass in parts. Once I accepted this as a fully classical album, this desire started to fade but I don't think it will ever fully dissipate.
As a classical album, it is a great achievement. Checking in at just over 75 minutes, the tracks take the listener on a journey, aided by the voice acted interludes. The story is taken from German fantasy author Markus Heitz's novel 'Die Dunklen Lande' (The Dark Lands). As a Blind Guardian album, it shares the expected characteristics - massive sound, bombastic music, emotional and masterful writing.
Song highlights for me are playful 'In the Red Dwarf's Tower', tortured 'Nephilim', dramatic 'Harvester of Souls' and epic 'Beyond The Wall'.
I loved listening to this, although I found myself on subsequent listens caring less about the story and more about the music. Due to the format of the album, a playlist without the voice parts is ok, but doesn't line up well as the tracks overlap. A version without the acted interludes is available in the special edition but not as a stand alone.
After living with this album for a few days, I can't help asking myself one question:
"When am I going to listen to Legacy of the Dark Lands again?"
If I want some Blind Guardian, 'Nightfall in Middle Earth' or 'Imaginations from the Other Side' will go on before this. If I want some classical, Mussorgsky, Mozart and Mendelssohn are ahead in the queue. And for metal/classical crossover, aforementioned Accept and Metallica offerings are spinning first.
So the answer to my questions is probably that I'm not sure.
As a musical accomplishment, this is right up there and it's a fantastic album. But there is a large part of me hoping for a version in the future which adds the metal element. Now that would be really special!
Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra - Legacy of the Dark lands is released on November 8th via Nuclear Blast.