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Class 6(66)

Blind Guardian: Somewhere far beyond

20/04/12  ||  BamaHammer

Introduction

If power metal is your game to any extent, you know Blind Guardian. You have to. They’ve been one of the foremost authorities on the classic Teutonic power metal scene for roughly a quarter of a century. Say what you will about their nerdy image, love for Tolkien, and ball-less sound, but there is no denying the impact they’ve made on power metal.

Their 1992 release, their fourth and first truly great album, “Somewhere far beyond” is a classic in not only the realms of mighty power cheese, but also in a sense of metal as a whole. This was the album where they firmly cemented their identity and their niche and performed at their highest level for the first time en route to becoming one of metal’s best and most well-known bands.

Songwriting

8. Before BG got just a tad carried away (in my opinion) with the fantasy themes and lutes ‘n’ flutes and whatnot, they actually performed some pretty impressive and aggressive speedy power metal. Don’t get me wrong, they still tried to sneak in the bard’s greatest hits from time to time, but the real meat of the material was impressive as hell. “Somewhere far beyond” is probably the best the songwriting ever got for the Guardian as far as the metal side of things is concerned. There is so much more energy and actual metal to be found on this album than anything they’ve produced since. Songs like “Time what is time” (in all its grammatically incorrect glory) and “Ashes to ashes” are classic power metal speed-burners that just don’t come along anymore.

Production

7. As good as it could be, I suppose, given the overabundance high-end. Also, for 1992, it sounds fairly solid. The production doesn’t have the fine polish that most of their more recent offerings have boasted, but because of that, “SFB” sounds a little meaner and more aggressive. Everything that needs to cut through the mix, whether it’s vocals or a good guitar lead, is given ample strength to shine

Guitars

8. Though they didn’t abuse the “octave above” effect like they do now, the guitars still have that distinct Blind Guardian sound. The riffing is executed with great tightness and even reminds me of good thrash from time to time. Also, the pinch harmonics are done with class and precision and never overused. Even when the band resorts to high speeds, everything is performed well and sounds very tasteful. Power metal bands of today should take notes from André Olbrich and Armin Siepen on this one. They played fast. They played tightly. They played as a unit. They played together. You couldn’t ask for more really. The solos, while nothing that would puzzle Steve Vai, are also very tasteful and catchy. This album definitely boasts some of the best and most underrated guitar work the genre ever had to offer.

Bass

2. I guess it’s there, and Hansi is credited with playing it, but I seriously doubt it’s doing anything noteworthy at all. Glenda Benton and Tom Araya are probably better players than Kürsch anyway. Every now and then you can hear some semblance of a super-simple bass line if you listen really hard. Two albums down the road, the band took the “damn a bass guitar” approach on “Nightfall…” and stopped using it completely. I don’t think anyone really noticed or cared. I believe that a big bottom end would do this band more harm than good anyway. Moving on.

Vocals

9,5. Hansi. That’s really all I need to say. The guy can wail. He’s one of the most instantly recognizable voices in metal, and his presence alone can make a terrible album sound marginally acceptable (See Demons and Wizards). His freakish range and airy, yet powerful sound has become a trademark of Blind Guardian’s sound through the years, and I love hearing the guy sing.

Drums

7. Thomen “the Omen” Stauch. You’re seriously going with that nickname? Seriously? Good thing you’re decent or I would long for a rabid cave troll to find it’s way to you. Stauch served as skinsman for BG for a long time, and his strength was obviously an ability to play very tightly at some pretty terrific speeds. On “Somewhere far beyond,” Stauch sounds like a fine-tuned machine that relentlessly drives the music at a breakneck pace when necessary, and he still maintains total control over where everything in the music goes. We’re talking about a pretty good drummer, as far as power cheese is concerned.

Lyrics

6,5. They range from straight-up Tolkien worship:

So, I am trying to find a way,
Blind in the dark dungeon’s night.
Then darkness comes from the northern side,
And Thorin clears his mind.

To D & D roll-for-initiative dorky:

The legions of the lost
Wait in the old mine.
They try to stop me.
The battle it has begun.

+1 to Speech. In all honesty, if you know Blind Guardian, you know what they like to write about. The lyrics aren’t necessarily great, and quoting them definitely won’t get you (proudly) laid or anything, but they do the job and fit the overall image and atmosphere they create and do so well to maintain even today.

Logo

8,5. A classic logo, gallant, golden, and strong as steel. And completely legible. I’ve always felt that the best logos are ones that reflect the band’s character and sound, and Blind Guardian’s logo does just that. The shining gold looks great on the prevailing blue color on the cover as well.

Cover

9. A boatload of Robert Jordan characters and the guy from the cover of every Ensiferum album (seated, second from left) sit around a large, mysterious helium atom in a glowing blue forest whilst trading stories of battle and their travels. One plays “Ashes to ashes” on a lute. Fucken A, man.

Booklet

5. Just a boring, run-of-the-mill booklet really. There are some good images of the guys that just reek of 1992 and a German order form to get their other albums, but that’s really it.

Overall and Ending Rant

If you ever liked power metal, even a little bit, you can’t really go wrong with “Somewhere far beyond.” Blind Guardian has made a career out of playing the nerd card over and over again, but they do it so well on this release that you can’t help but be impressed by the quality of the music. If you’ve never heard this one, you owe it to yourself to check it out. If you have heard it, you probably know what I’m talking about. This album is pretty excellent.

8,5

  • Information
  • Released: 1992
  • Label: Virgin
  • Website: www.blind-guardian.com
  • Band
  • Hansi Kürsch: vocals, bass
  • “Magnus” Armin Siepen: guitars, vocals
  • André Olbrich guitars, vocals
  • Thomen “The Omen” Stauch: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Time What Is Time
  • 02. Journey Through the Dark
  • 03. Black Chamber
  • 04. Theatre of Pain
  • 05. The Quest for Tanelorn
  • 06. Ashes to Ashes
  • 07. The Bard’s Song – In the Forest
  • 08. The Bard’s Song – The Hobbit
  • 09. The Piper’s Calling
  • 10. Somewhere Far Beyond