Review: Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror

If Blind Guardian are not by now regarded with the sort of reverence generated by Metallica or Iron Maiden, it is a crime against heavy metal. Formed slightly before I was born, they might be the longest tenured band in existence that still carry extraordinarily high expectations. No one realistically expects a band to stay at the peak of their inspiration for thirty years, but Blind Guardian are the exception. They’ve never shown their age or wavered towards mediocrity. Does Beyond the Red Mirror keeps that tradition running strong?

“Yes” is the short answer. A thousand times “yes”, and only a fool would deny it. But when you’re talking about a band that released the unequivocal greatest power metal album of all time, there is still plenty of room for discussion.

Blind Guardian pulled off a pretty tough transition in 2002. They followed up Nightfall in Middle-Earth (1998), their magnum opus by nearly everyone’s measure, with a relatively significant change in style. A move like that has spelled disaster for many great bands, but when Blind Guardian traded in an edgier, crisper production for smooth and seamless symphonic beauty on A Night at the Opera (2002), it totally worked. Their next two albums continued in that direction, and I never had the slightest cause to question it. While A Twist in the Myth (2006) ranks relatively low in their discography for me, that resulted from what I felt was a bit of lackluster songwriting–not pervasive, but present enough to leave the album somewhat diminished in the shadow of its two groundbreaking predecessors. At the Edge of Time (2010) was a grand return to form, definitively proving that this band would not suffer a slow decline as the years caught up to them.

Beyond the Red Mirror opens up with a lot less steam than “Sacred Worlds” lent to At the Edge of Time. The first track, “The Ninth Wave”, kicks off with a pretty typical epic introduction, complete with a professional choir and orchestra, but it’s the sort of sound that really hinges on what will follow. We’re used to a sort of constant rise from symphonics into metal, but “The Ninth Wave” is far more brooding at the outset. “Underwhelming” might be the right word for any other band, and nothing about the lead in really grabs me, but let’s not forget what band this is. I feel pretty neutral–not negative–about the album until the first chorus kicks off. And when that point is reached–“Sail on till you reach the promised land. We all drown in the fifth dimension. The ninth wave.“–you get this big dump of pent-up anticipation that you never knew you had. The five year wait is over. Beyond the Red Mirror is here, and the chorus carries all the grandeur you knew would be coming. It feels so complete and full, so Blind Guardian to the core, that the introduction isn’t sour in retrospect. Instead, the slow motion into glory lets the album creep into you. One second you’re waiting for something to happen, the next you’re in love, and they don’t have to resort to anything jarring or sudden to create the effect.

“Prophecies”, “At the Edge of Time”, and “Grand Parade” follow this trend of paced execution, keeping you wrapped in the warm vibe that is Blind Guardian’s sound while ebbing and flowing along. Not out of place on A Night at the Opera, these four tracks suit the album’s production well and deliver without any misgivings.

“Miracle Machine” serves as the album’s only ballad, and the other five tracks… they’re pleasantly not what I expected. For all the big name orchestras involved in recording Beyond the Red Mirror, Blind Guardian actually get pretty old-school. “Ashes of Eternity”, for instance, is heavily driven by rhythm guitar, and André Olbrich’s tasty solo near the middle is cast far more in the spotlight than it might have been on previous albums. “The Holy Grail”, “Sacred Mind”, and “Twilight of the Gods” follow a similar pattern, while “The Throne” exists somewhere in between. My initial reaction to these songs was not entirely positive, but they’ve almost all grown on me over time. They make for an interesting perspective on Blind Guardian’s career. Hansi Kürsch’s gorgeous vocals still feel fairly well rooted in the A Night at the Opera sound, but Marcus Siepen and André Olbrich are bringing back a lot of the band’s more classic power metal sound. With Hansi still largely dominating the choruses and rhythm and lead guitar being more focal in between, the songs take on a novel sort of vibe that feels like quintessential Blind Guardian but does not point directly to any one previous era in the band’s illustrious history.

I definitely dig it, yet I don’t feel like Beyond the Red Mirror will leave quite the lasting impact on me that Nightfall in Middle-Earth, A Night at the Opera, and At the Edge of Time did. The problem, aside from the lack of a really stand-out ‘bard’ track–“Miracle Machine” is nice but has none of the sing-along appeal of say, “Curse My Name” or “Skalds and Shadows”–lies in the production. I can’t help but feel like Olbrich and especially Siepen are getting the short end of the stick throughout. Like the three albums before it, Beyond the Red Mirror sacrifices a lot of crispness to encompass the massive volume of vocals and orchestration. That worked really well before, but here I just don’t know. Lead and rhythm guitar alike rang with crystal clarity on Nightfall in Middle-Earth, and that was a major part of what made the album perfect. If guitar is to play a more central role again, it would be nice if I could properly hear it. My one beef with Beyond the Red Mirror is that, while the band continues to evolve in positive ways, their producer may be failing to keep up.

I think that’s a big issue. This album is awesome, but I would love it so much more if they’d filled the symphonic void with louder, crisper guitar. That goes for about half of the tracks. I just sometimes feel like a few modest tweaks would have made them better. I’m looking forward to seeing some quality live videos of these songs pop up on Youtube, because I think a live venue may do them better justice. For now, Beyond the Red Mirror earns entry into my Blind Guardian playlist with ease, but I’ll not be revisiting it quite so often as Nightfall, Night at the Opera, or Edge of Time.

If you want another song to check out, I think “Prophecies” is my favorite. “The Ninth Wave”, “Ashes of Eternity”, and “Grand Parade” come close.

Song of the Day: Valkyries (by Blind Guardian)

In honor of Ragnarök, here’s a blast from the past in celebration.

Through the Shattered Lens

This pick for song of the day marks the fifth time the “Bards” from Germany has made an appearance. This song marks the third track to be chosen from their latest album, At The Edge of Time. To say that I am a fan of Blind Guardian would be just a tad bit of an understatement.

“Valkyries” is the latest song of the day and it’s Blind Guardian at their most progressive metal. As a band they’ve grown from a German speed and thrash metal band then became one of the progenitors of the power metal subgenre. For the past dozen or so years they’ve evolved their sound to incorporate progressive, melodic, symphonic and orchestral stylings to their basic power metal sound.

This song has lead bard Hansi Kürsch writing about Norse mythology, specifically the concept of the Valkyries who fly and roam above the battlefield to take those…

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Song of the Day: Mirror, Mirror (by Blind Guardian)


The latest “Song of the Day” comes courtesy of one of my favorite bands. Anyone who has been following this site and this recurring feature pretty much knows I speak of the awesome epicness of the German power metal band Blind Guardian. The song from their expansive discography I’ve chosen this time around is the song “Mirror, Mirror”.

This song combines two every epic things together: Power Metal + J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion = epic awesomeness.

The song itself and it’s lyrics tell of Turgon, King of the Noldor and second son of Fingolfin, brother to Fingon, Aredhel and Argon who builds the famed city of Gondolin during the First Age of Middle-Earth. The city was to be a safe haven for Turgon’s people who were in the midst of an age long war against the fallen Valar, Morgoth. It’s a song that tells of Turgon’s decision to build the city with assistance from the Valar and Lord of Water, Ulmo.

It speaks of the long road and desperation of Turgon to try and save the Noldor from the armies of Morgoth. It’s a tragic tale that hints at the ultimate fate of Turgon and Gondolin. A dream that ultimately will end in the ultimate betrayal from within.

I know that there are people who still thinks that metal is all about fast, loud, discordant guitar playing backed up by screaming and guttural sounds that pass off as singing, but Blind Guardian should dismiss such notion. There’s definitely nothing guttural about this song.

Mirror, Mirror

Far, far beyond the island
We dwelt in shades of twilight
Through dread and weary days
Through grief and endless pain

It lies unknown
The land of mine
A hidden gate
To save us from the shadow fall
The lord of water spoke
In the silence
Words of wisdom
I’ve seen the end of all
Be aware the storm gets closer

Mirror Mirror on the wall
True hope lies beyond the coast
You’re a damned kind can’t you see
That the winds will change
Mirror Mirror on the wall
True hope lies beyond the coast
You’re a damned kind can’t you see
That tomorrows bears insanity

Gone’s the wisdom
Of a thousand years
A world in fire and chains and fear
Leads me to a place so far
Deep down it lies my secret vision
I better keep it safe

Shall I leave my friends alone
Hidden in my twilight hall
(I) know the world is lost in fire
Sure there is no way to turn it
Back to the old days
Of bliss and cheerful laughter
We’re lost in barren lands
Caught in the running flames
How shall we leave the lost road
Time’s getting short so follow me
A leader’s task so clearly
To find a path out of the dark

Mirror Mirror on the wall
True hope lies beyond the coast
You’re a damned kind can’t you see
That the winds will change
Mirror Mirror on the wall
True hope lies beyond the coast
You’re a damned kind can’t you see
That the winds will change

Even though
The storm calmed down
The bitter end
Is just a matter of time

Shall we dare the dragon
Merciless he’s poisoning our hearts
Our hearts

How shall we leave the lost road
Time’s getting short so follow me
A leader’s task so clearly
To find a path out of the dark

October Music Series: Смута – Ворон

From the sweeping, epic introduction to the wild guitar solos falling somewhere between power metal and melodic death, Ворон (Voron) is one of those songs that struck me like a brick the very first time I heard it. Смута (Smuta) are yet another band out of Russia, hailing from Rybinsk in Yaroslavl Oblast. I don’t know much about the band, and I’ve been too hopelessly distanced from anything but my (relatively) mainstream folk metal connections to keep up with them lately, but their 2007 debut full-length, Смута Крови (Smuta Krovi), was a surprisingly well-informed album for a band that doesn’t appear to have any connections to the bigger names of the genre.

The death metal vocals are the only consistent factor throughout the album, with musical themes that incorporate Finntroll-esque folk metal, Pagan Reign/Твердь-styled Slavic pagan metal, some power metal and melodic death guitars, and a uniquely tame approach to black metal. It’s got nothing on Falconer’s Armod for perfecting a merger of the myriad metal subgenres, but it’s a worthy effort, and it grants them a unique sound which, with better production and a little more edge, could evolve into something really amazing. They’ve released two albums since Smuta Krovi that I’ve yet to hear, and revisiting the band here has certainly peaked my curiosity.

Voron is definitely the stand-out track of the album, and the intro says it all. It’s the one track in which their lack of an edge can definitely count as a good thing. The brief opening segment is enough to give a solid fantasy essence to a song that really doesn’t fit that bill beyond the thirty second mark, placing it in the odd context of bearing sort of formal, almost royal imagery that you can somehow pull off your best air guitar imitation to.

October Music Series: Tuatha de Danann – The Dance of the Little Ones

“Tuatha Dé Danann” refers to mythological pre-Christian inhabitants of Ireland, and contestedly translates as “peoples of the goddess Danu”. If an entirely appropriate name for an Irish folk metal band, what makes Tuatha de Danann especially odd is that they hail from Varginha, Brazil. The band can, moreover, claim to be one of the earliest-formed acts to perform folk metal, dating back to 1995 (though they quite recently broke up.)

Tuatha de Danann are fundamentally power metal–the definitive metal genre of Central and Southern America (I was in Costa Rica when Iron Maiden played there in 2009 and you’d have thought it was a national holiday). I’ve never been a big power metal enthusiast, so I never had much of a desire to explore Tuatha de Danann’s albums further, but the opening track to Tingaralatingadun, released in 2001, does a delightful (and historically, exceptionally early) job of flawlessly merging power and folk metal in a manner somewhat similar to Elvenking during their finer years. It is a bit more earthy than Elvenking, much to its advantage, and the effect of the constant guitar solo doodling, whistle, and generally airy production creates a lighthearted, mischievous vibe that I would describe as more fantasy than folk–or at least, it invokes a more fairytale superstition of early morning magic. Follow these guys into a cave and you might find a few hundred years have passed on your way back out.

The biggest selling point for me in this song is the tone of the whistle. I cannot sufficiently emphasize my love for whistles. There is no instrument I enjoy more, either to listen to or to play (banjos get a close second, though I’d be kidding myself if I claimed I could play one). “The Dance of the Little Ones” is especially successful in generating a sort of ‘through the fog’ whistle tone which I’ve heard employed by such diverse musicians as Belarusian folk band Stary Olsa (Стары Ольса) and Japanese video game composer Miki Higashino, and which I desperately wish I knew how to reproduce.

necromoonyeti’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2011

I want to hop on the bandwagon. It would be a little silly for me to post my real top 10; for one thing, it would include four Krallice tracks. That aside, nearly everything I’d put on it I’ve either posted on this site as a Song of the Day or included in both my review of its album and my top albums post. So to make this a bit different from my past posts, I’m going to limit myself to one song per band, stick to stuff that I imagine might appeal to people who aren’t interested in extreme metal, and keep it on the catchy side. I’ll list a more honest top 10 at the end.

10. Powerwolf – Son of a Wolf (from Blood of the Saints)

As such, my tenth place selection is about as metal as it’s going to get. Powerwolf’s Blood of the Saints might be simple and repetitive, but it’s about the catchiest power/heavy metal album I’ve ever heard. It indulges the same guilty pleasure for me as Lordi and Twisted Sister–two bands that inexplicably pump me up despite being entirely tame. It also offers some amazing operatic vocals and Dracula keyboards, the cheesiness of which can be easily forgiven. Son of a Wolf might be one of the more generic tracks in a sense, but it’s the one most often stuck in my head.

9. Alestorm – Barrett’s Privateers (from Back Through Time)

The only thing I love more than traditional folk and sea chanties is folk punk and metal. When the latter covers the former, I’m in bliss. Alestorm are emerging as the sort of Dropkick Murphys of metal with all their covers lately, and I hope they keep it up. I loved Barrett’s Privateers before what you’re hearing ever happened, and the metal version delights me to no end.

8. The Decemberists – Rox in the Box (from The King is Dead)

The Decemberists really toned it down this year. Where The Hazards of Love could be described as an epic rock opera, The King is Dead sticks to simple, pleasant folk. But Colin Meloy thoroughly researches pretty much every subject he’s ever tackled, and The King is Dead pays ample homage to its predecessors. Rox in the Box incorporates Irish traditional song Raggle Taggle Gypsy with delightful success.

7. Nekrogoblikon – Goblin Box (from Stench)

With a keen eye towards contemporary folk metal like Alestorm and Finntroll, melodic death classics like In Flames and Children of Bodom, and much else besides, former gimmick band Nekrogoblikon really forged their own unique sound in the world of folk metal in 2011. At least half of the album is this good. Stench is the most unexpected surprise the year had to offer by far.

6. Korpiklaani – Surma (from Ukon Wacka)

Korpiklaani almost always end their albums with something special, and 2011 is no exception. The melody of Surma is beautiful, and Jonne Järvelä’s metal take on traditional Finnish vocals is as entertaining as ever.

5. Turisas – Hunting Pirates (from Stand Up and Fight)

I couldn’t find a youtube video that effectively captured the full scope of Turisas’s sound in such limited bitrates, but believe me, it’s huge. Go buy the album and find out for yourselves. Unlike Varangian Way, not every track is this good, but on a select number Turisas appear in their finest form. Adventurous, exciting, epic beyond compare, this band delivers with all of the high definition special effects of a Hollywood blockbuster.

4. The Flight of Sleipnir – Transcendence (from Essence of Nine)

Essence of Nine kicks off with a kaleidoscope of everything that makes stoner metal great, while reaching beyond the genre to incorporate folk and Akerfeldt-esque vocals. A beautifully constructed song, it crushes you even as it floats through the sky. I could imagine Tony Iommi himself rocking out to this one.

3. Boris – Black Original (from New Album)

From crust punk to black metal, there’s nothing Boris don’t do well, and 2011 has shown more than ever that there’s no style they’ll hesitate from dominating. I don’t know what’s been going on in the past few years with this popular rise of 80s sounds and weird electronics. I don’t listen to it, so I can’t relate. But if I expected it sounded anything nearly as good as what Boris pulled off this year I’d be all over it.

2. Tom Waits – Chicago (from Bad as Me)

Bad as Me kicks off with one of my favorite Tom Waits songs to date. It’s a timeless theme for him, but it feels more appropriate now than ever, and his dirty blues perfectly capture the sort of fear and excitement of packing up and seeking out a better life.

1. Dropkick Murphys – Take ‘Em Down (from Going Out in Style)

In a year just begging for good protest songs, Flogging Molly tried really hard and fell flat. Dropkick Murphys, another band you’d expect to join the cause, released perhaps their most generic album to date (still good mind you, but not a real chart topper). Take ‘Em Down is kind of out of place on the album, but it’s DKM to the core, and as best I can gather it’s an original song, not a cover of a traditional track. If so, it’s probably the most appropriate thing written all year. (The video is fan made.)

If you’re interested in my actual top 10, it runs something like this:

10. Falkenbach – Where His Ravens Fly…
9. Waldgeflüster – Kapitel I: Seenland
8. Liturgy – High Gold
7. Endstille – Endstille (Völkerschlächter)
6. Blut aus Nord – Epitome I
5. Krallice – Intro/Inhume
4. Liturgy – Harmonia
3. Krallice – Diotima
2. Krallice – Telluric Rings
1. Krallice – Dust and Light

And that excludes so many dozens of amazing songs that it seems almost pointless to post it.

My Top 15 Metal Albums of 2011

The years I most actively indulge my musical interests are the ones I find most difficult to wrap up in any sort of nice cohesive summary. December always begins with a feeling that I’ve really built up a solid basis on which to rate the best albums of the year, and it tends to end with the realization that I’ve really only heard a minute fraction of what’s out there. I’m going to limit this to my top 15. Anything beyond that is just too arbitrary–the long list of new albums I’ve still yet to hear will ultimately reconfigure it beyond recognition.

15. Thantifaxath – Thantifaxath EP
Thantifaxath’s debut EP might only be 15 minutes long, but that was more than enough to place it high on my charts. The whole emerging post/prog-bm sound has been largely a product of bands with the resources to refine it, and it’s quite refreshing to hear sounds reminiscent of recent Enslaved without any of the studio gloss. That, and I get a sort of B-side outer space horror vibe from it that’s not so easy to come by. (Recommended track: Violently Expanding Nothing)

14. Craft – Void
This is the straight-up, no bullshit black metal album of the year. It doesn’t try anything fancy or original. It’s just good solid mid-tempo bm–brutal, evil, conjuring, and unforgiving. Hail Satan etc. (Recommended track: any of them)

13. Turisas – Stand Up and Fight
Stand Up and Fight doesn’t hold a candle to The Varangian Way, but I never really expected it to. As a follow-up to one of my all-time favorite albums, it does a solid job of maintaining that immensely epic, triumphal sound they landed on in 2007. It lacks their previous work’s continuity, both in quality and in theme, but it’s still packed with astoundingly vivid imagery and exciting theatrics that render it almost more of a movie than an album. (Recommended tracks: Venetoi! Prasinoi!, Hunting Pirates)

12. Endstille – Infektion 1813
Swedish-style black metal seldom does much for me, and it’s hard to describe just what appeals to me so much about Germany’s Endstille. But just as Verführer caught me by pleasant surprise two years ago, Infektion 1813 managed to captivate me in spite of all expectations to the contrary. Like Marduk (the only other band of the sort that occasionally impresses me), they stick to themes of modern warfare, but Endstille’s musical artillery bombardments carry a sense of something sinister that Marduk lacks. The dark side of human nature Endstille explores isn’t shrouded in enticing mystery–it’s something so thoroughly historically validated that we’d rather just pretend it doesn’t exist at all. The final track, Völkerschlächter, is one of the best songs of the year. Stylistically subdued, it pummels the listener instead with a long list of political and military leaders responsible for mass murder, named in a thick German accent over a seven second riff that’s repeated for 11 minutes. It’s a brutal realization that the sensations black metal tends to arouse are quite real and quite deplorable, and it will leave you feeling a little sick inside.

11. Nekrogoblikon – Stench
Nekrogoblikon released a folk metal parody album in 2006 that was good for laughs and really nothing else. The music was pretty awful, but that was intentional. It was a joke, with no presumption to be any good as anything but a joke. They’re the last band on earth I ever expected, a full six years after the fact, to pop back up with a really fucking solid sound. But Stench is good. I mean, Stench is really good. It’s still comical in theme, but the music has been refined beyond measure. Quirky, cheesy guitar and keyboard doodles have become vivid images of little flesh-eating gremlins dancing around your feet, whiny mock-vocals have taken the shape of pretty solid Elvenking-esque power metal, pretty much everything about them has grown into a legitimate melo-death and power infused folk metal sound. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not meant to be taken seriously, but they’re now of Finntroll caliber. (Recommended tracks: Goblin Box, Gallows & Graves, A Feast)

10. Týr – The Lay of Thrym
I thought By the Light of the Northern Star was a fairly weak album, and because The Lay of Thrym maintains some of the stylistic changes they underwent then, a part of me keeps wanting to say it can’t be as good as say, Land or Eric the Red. But of all the albums I acquired in 2011, I’ve probably listened to this one the most. Týr have one of the most unique sounds on the market, and it’s thoroughly incapable of ever boring me or growing old. Heri Joensen’s consistently excellent vocal performance alone is enough to make them perpetual year-end contenders. (Recommended track: Hall of Freedom)

9. Waldgeflüster – Femundsmarka – Eine Reise in drei Kapiteln
This is some of the most endearing black metal I’ve heard in a while. Intended as a musical reminiscence of Winterherz’ journey through Femundsmarka National Park in Scandinavia, it’s a beautiful glorification of nature that takes some of the best accomplishments of Drudkh and Agalloch and adds to them a very uplifting vibe. Someone made an 8 minute compilation of the album on youtube which does a good job at previewing without revealing all of its finest moments. (Recommended track: Kapitel I: Seenland)

8. Ygg – Ygg
Ygg is an hour-long trance, evoking ancient gods in a way that only Slavic metal can. You could probably pick apart the music and discover plenty of flaws, but that would miss the point. I think that a lot of these Ukrainian and Russian bands are true believers, and that the purpose of music like this is more to create an experience in the listener than to be good for its own sake. This is a spiritual journey, and if it fails to move you as such it will probably come off as rather repetitive and generic, but I find it impressively effective. (Recommended track: Ygg)

7. Blut aus Nord – 777: Sect(s)
I don’t know where to put this really. I could just as easily have labeled it second best album of the year. Dropping it down to 7th might seem a little unjustified, but eh, this is a list of my top albums, not of the “best” albums of the year. There’s no denying Sect(s) credit as a brilliant masterpiece, but it’s an ode to madness. I mean, this music scares the shit out of me, and if that means it’s accomplished something no other album has, that also means I don’t particularly “enjoy” listening to it. (Recommended track: Epitome I)

6. Altar of Plagues – Mammal
I never did listen to Mammal as actively as I would have liked. I never sat down and gave it my undivided attention from start to finish. But it’s served as a background piece for many late nights at work. It zones me in–stimulates my senses without ever distracting them from the task at hand. I don’t feel like I can really say much about what makes it great, because that’s not the sort of thing I’ve considered while listening to it, but I absolutely love it. It’s a big improvement from White Tomb, which was itself an excellent album, and more so than most other releases of 2011 I will probably continue to listen to it frequently in years to come. (Recommended track: Neptune is Dead)

5. Primordial – Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand (track: No Grave Deep Enough)
Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand is by no means perfect. It’s got a few sub-par tracks detracting from the full start to finish experience, but when it’s at its best all else can be easily forgiven. Call it folk metal or call it black metal, whichever you prefer, but first and foremost call it Irish, with every good thing that might entail. The vocals are outstanding, the music rocks out in folk fashion without ever relenting from its metal force, and while the lyrics don’t always make sense, they always hit like a fucking truck. Where they do all come together, delivered with Nemtheanga’s vast and desperate bellows, the result is overwhelming. O Death, where are your teeth that gnaw on the bones of fabled men? O Death, where are your claws that haul me from the grave? (Other recommended tracks: The Puritan’s Hand, Death of the Gods)

4. Falconer – Armod (track: Griftefrid)
Prior to 2011 I’d largely written Falconer off as one of those power metal acts that were just a little too cheesy to ever excite me. Maybe it was bad timing. Maybe I just happened to hear them for the first time while Kristoffer Göbel was filling in on vocals. Or maybe Armod is just their magnum opus–a spark of genius they’ve never neared before. Flawless if we ignore the “bonus tracks”, Armod takes that early folk metal sound Vintersorg pioneered with Otyg, merges it perfectly with power metal, and offers up 11 of the most well-written and excellently produced songs of the year. Mathias Blad’s vocals are absolutely phenomenal. (Other recommended tracks: Herr Peder Och Hans Syster)

3. Falkenbach – Tiurida (track: Sunnavend)
A lot of people might voice the legitimate complaint that Tiurida, Vratyas Vakyas’s first studio album in six years, sounds absolutely indistinguishable from his prior four. For me, that’s exactly why it ranks so high. Vakyas landed on a completely unique, instantly recognizable sound which, alongside Bathory, defined viking metal as a genre, and he’s refused to change it one bit. I fell in love with this album ten years ago. (Other recommended tracks: Where His Ravens Fly…)

2. Liturgy – Aesthethica (track: Harmonia)
Yes, Liturgy. It’s immature, childish, and imperfect, but it’s uplifting in a completely new way. No matter how far Hunt-Hendrix might go to embarrass himself and his band mates, behind all of his pompous babble there just might be some truth to it. (Other recommended tracks: True Will)

1. Krallice – Diotima (track: Dust and Light)
More than the album of the year, Diotima is one of the greatest albums ever made. I can’t fathom the amount of skill it must take to perform with the speed and precision that these guys do, but if they battered down a physical barrier to metal in 2008, they finally grasped hold of what lies beyond it in 2011. They claim that the songs on their first three albums were all written at the same time by Mick Barr and Colin Marston, before their self-titled debut. If that’s the case, then it must be the experience of performing together and the creative contributions of Lev Weinstein and Nick McMaster that raised Diotima to a higher level. It’s not just that they’ve improved in every way imaginable; the songs themselves are overwhelming, breathtaking, and chaotic to a degree they’d never before accomplished. Krallice perform an unwieldy monster that took a few albums to thoroughly overcome. Now they’re in complete control, and their absolutely brilliant song-writing can shine through. With the exception of the dubious Litany of Regrets, this is possibly the greatest album I have ever heard. (Other recommended tracks: Inhume, Diotima, Telluric Rings)

Song of the Day: Sacred Worlds (by Blind Guardian)

The latest “Song of the Day” comes from those metal gods who make up the power metal band, Blind Guardian. It’s a song which begins their latest full-length album, At The Edge of Time, and also a reworking of the song the band created for the console rpg title, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. The song I’ve chosen this time around is “Sacred Worlds”.

The song was originally titled “Sacred” and was introduced in the game the band made it for during a quaint sequence where virtual, fantasy versions of the band do headbanging show in your typical fantasy inn populated by orcs, goblins, trolls and other find gentle creatures. While the original song was great on its own when the band reworked it with a brand new orchestral intro and outro the song took on a more epic sound.

It’s a pretty long song at a running time of 9:17 and is one of the better songs in Blind Guardian’s latest album. It’s also one of thew songs in my Skyrim playlist which I listen to nonstop while playing in Bethesda Softworks’ latest epic rpg title.

Sacred Worlds

The realm’s bleeding
It suffers
Old and weak

No further arguing
There is war at hand
The system’s failing
Engines running

Then after all
I sense the end is dawning
These lunatics deny the truth

I know I will not fail
There’ll be

War it’s now or never
We shall stand together
One by one
This world is sacred
(I’m coming home)
War it’s now or never
We shall stand together
One by one
This world is sacred
I’m coming home

Coming home

You chase in twilight
And you know
You will be on your own
On your own

The misery shown
I’ll be alone in this hour
I’ll face the unknown
Witness the end

I’m bleeding, I’m fading
Here in my final hour
When long-lost memories return
And a voice keeps calling
“All dead and gone
It’s out of hand
Life is in motion”
I’m wishing, I’m fading
“Time to wake up
Face the truth”

I’m sinking
I’m drowning
There’s no doubt, no regret
“Time to reveal now”
This is no illusion
It is real
Carry on the flame
It’s not over now
Watch me, I will rise
Time to reveal now

I know I will not fail

I’ll go on forever
All that really matters
Blessed realm
This world is sacred
(I’m coming home)
War it’s now or never
We shall stand together
One by one
This world is sacred
(I’m coming home)

Yesterday’s gone
There’s no today, no tomorrow
I’m raised from the dead
The ritual failed

There at the gates
I’m left alone in this hour
Driven insane
I am left alone

And now I drown in deepest shadows
While the golden hall is sealed
I’m wishing
I’m fading
And I’m part of the machine

My eyes are the eyes of a dead man
And I feel the unholy stream
The source of my power
I’m in control

I will live forever
All that really matters
Find the one
This world is sacred
(I’m coming home)
War it’s now or never
We shall stand together
One by one
This world is sacred
I’m coming home

I spread my wings
But keep on falling
I should have known
I can see it coming
The war is over
There’s whispering in the wind
Just let me out of here
There is no way
There’s no end
While all the suffering goes on
All that I know
Is that I’m not insane
It’s not over