Nuclear Blast Records
July 29th, 2010
Release length: 1:39:40
Unfortunately not really. While the music does take things back to the album Nightfall in Middle-Earth somewhat, the direction taken finds the album presenting itself in a much more epic and operatic fashion. The madness kicks in right from the start with the operatic sounds that start off “Sacred Worlds”, and continue through the song until the end. While the additional instruments implemented here do up the music significantly, it also takes away from the musicianship of the bands themselves, as it seems that Blind Guardian really focuses moreso on the classical instruments being implemented here moreso then their own musical talents, and when their musical talents do shine through, the additional instruments typically drown it and trump the recording somewhat. The ending of the song is proof of this, as the actual song does come to an end, but does not seem fitting at all, almost as if the band had left their end open and unfinished, while the additional instruments close out the song, and unfortunately it just seems to be drawn out, as if the band were trying to make the song last as long as humanly possible, in which they succeed with breaching a nine minute mark. There is, however, no denying that the vocal performance and the layering of vocals used suit the music very well and present a very powerful performance. Given the band’s previous efforts, a release like this was bound to happen, but one would have hoped for a little more from the band themselves in this attempt. Other then that, the song has enough power behind it to grow on any fan of Power Metal, but it just overly lacks the magic the band has of creating songs that sound fantastical simply through guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards when applicable, as well as the random folk instruments that sometimes adorn their slower tracks. This, however, does not mean the same for the closing song, “Wheel of Time”, where there is a much stronger presence musically by Blind Guardian themselves, and the song doesn’t necessarily rely on the operatic aspects to push forward, but seems to use them instead to enhance the song.
Luckily, the epic and operatic aspects of the album that start it are very minimal. It’s as if “Sacred Worlds” were more of an experimental track, as “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” finds the music solely performed by Blind Guardian, which is the way it should be. Musically, the track brings back the fast, hard hitting music listeners have come to love over the years, and is performed well enough that the song packs as much power as “Sacred Worlds” does, and has it’s own fantastical epic atmosphere that jumps between a beautifully harmonized chorus mixed with intense music everywhere else. The only let down is that, unlike “Sacred Worlds”, this song, and many others to follow, don’t hold the same powerful vocal performance that “Sacred Worlds” had, which is actually a bit of a letdown when coming down from such a vibrant performance as that one. There are hints of that performance through the album, such as the one on “Ride Into Obsession” that seems to really test how high pitched the vocals can get around the half way point of the album.
For the most part, the album really comes at the listener with a heavy, fast pace that will make those who weren’t too happy with the past two albums happy. However, while these tracks dominate the album, there’s no denying that Blind Guardian still can pull off some beautiful, folk atmosphere rich slower tracks. “Curse My Name” is a beautiful track that will transport you back to a fantastic time, leaving the listener with visions of knights and kings with the traditional folk instruments that they use to create the song. This moving track feels right at home with the rest of the album, especially as the song winds to it’s end where these instruments really continue to build up to the climax of the tale associated with the music, making a very fitting end that captures an epic atmosphere that greatly differs from that of the operatic fueled tracks of the album. However, “War of the Thrones” is another slower paced song, but sadly does not carry that same kick that “Curse My Name” has, mostly because of how tame the docile the song itself is. While it’s clearly a ballad, the music isn’t all that great and actually comes off pretty unoriginal and bland at times. Another track that doesn’t quite live up to the quality of the album is “Control the Divine”. The song itself is traditional Blind Guardian, but it’s more mainstream then anything, having a more upbeat feel to it that doesn’t fit with the album and comes off more as a filler track then anything. This doesn’t mean the song is bad. While “Control the Divine” doesn’t necessarily have the same kick as “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” or the album’s single, “A Voice in the Dark”, it’s still an enjoyable track for what it is.
For those who follow Blind Guardian closer then the casual fan, as well as video gamers in general, they will be away that Blind Guardian not only appeared in the video game Sacred 2, but also donated a track for it, called “Sacred”. For those who heard this track, then the digipack edition is a must have. Not only does this version contain seven bonus discs, but there are also versions out there with a bonus piece of paper that includes a link and code to download additional material not on the second disc. Why it’s not there is confusing, but either way there’s more to this release then meets the eye. First of all, you get a bonus disc with seven additional songs that are actually worth it. You have “Sacred Worlds (Extended “Sacred” Version)” which is an extended version of the song “Sacred” that appeared on Sacred 2, and later was placed on this album at the starting track and, once again, extended further. It retains the orchestral elements of the original, but relies a lot more on Blind Guardian‘s musicianship then the version that comes on disc one of this release. “Wheel of Time (Orchestral Version)” is just that, the music to the song and no vocals, which is a very interesting song to listen to. These two are the only tracks that really would be considered original, as “You’re the Voice (Radio Edit)” is just that, a radio edit of the song already available on the original disc of this release, and it’s a much more mainstream sounding version then anything that really focuses more on an eighties electronic radio friendly style that makes the song pretty much sound like a joke, and three demo versions of the songs on this album, but these are the most interesting to listen to out of all the tracks here, as it shows how the songs evolveed from being presented to the label prior to recording, to what the final product is on the album, though there isn’t much of a difference between them outside of “Curse My Name (Demo Version)” which sounds more like a straight forward acoustic track then the final version that appears on the album.
Atop of all of this, included in some earlier versions is a card to go to the label’s website and access exclusive material, and this was easily one of the more frustrating things about this release. On the day of At the Edge of Time‘s release, this page was not available and wound up going live the next day, so fans who were dying to get everything out of this addition had to wait an additional twenty four hours or more pending time zone and if they acquired this early somehow. It doesn’t necessary contain anything all that major, but still some nice additional materisl. Of course, there’s the traditional pictures of the band, but they are to be updated as time goes on with new photos, and there are some really nice wallpapers for your desktop available as well. However, the site’s main reason to go would be the two music videos and bonus MP3. The videos available are “A Journey to the Edge of Time” and “Sacred”, and are also downloadable. However, at the time of this review, these pages do not work for me, and even when downloaded, the videos will not play, even on the most updated versions of the file’s respected players, so unfortunately I cannot comment on these videos. Both are in different formats as well, “A Journey to the Edge of Time” being MP4 and “Sacred” being AVI and of a live performance and came up with an error for the video, but the audio was still playable, and sounded good for a live recording.
Outside the video files not working, there’s two other interesting elements here, and one that boggles the mind. Another link you have on this page is called “Your Opinion”, which actually doesn’t really ask for your opinion, but just some general information about you, how you found out about the release, etc. Whether or not this will amount to anything in the future is unclear, but if you get the chance to fill it out, why not take a few seconds. Who knows, maybe you’ll get a free MP3 out of the deal later on down the road. But, while you can give your “opinion”, and that term is used very loosely, you can also download an additional bonus MP3. The site contains the demo version (though it doesn’t say so) of the song “Valkyris”. This part boggles the mind though, as the second bonus disc features three demo versions of songs already, so why not include this song? At the time of this review it’s unclear it the site is a limited time thing for those who buy the first run of the digipack, but either way, for those who did, it’s an inconvenience. It’s also an inconvenience how you log into this site. When you activate the code, one would think you’d just have to keep using the code in the future, right? Well, unfortunately no, you have to use your activation code, as well as the e-mail you used when you activated it, further making no sense and causing more work for the fans that could have been avoided, but luckily it’s just a stupid miner inconvenience there. With all that aside, this demo track is just like the other three on the bonus disc, and is interesting to hear how that version stacks up against the final version.
For a Blind Guardian release, At the Edge of Time has it’s ups and downs. While the band seems to have gone backward and expanded on the formula that made Nightfall in Middle-Earth such a fantastic release, some of the operatic elements on the album cause it to lose some of it’s magic, regardless of whether the songs were originally composed for this release or not. The initial full-length is still a fantastic listen, despite “Sacred Worlds” not really retaining the magic that Blind Guardian brings to the table, as well as the two tracks mentioned that feel more like filler then anything. But, if you want the most band for your buck, the digipack version, with or even without the bonus card, is the way to go, as there is just so much more that you get with it to justify the extra money. As far as a digipack goes, this is just about the way it should be done, just next time, hopefully the digital aspect will be left behind and all that material just put onto the bonus disc in the first place.
Disc One (Initial Pressing):
01. Sacred World – 9:17
02. Tanelorn (Into the Void) – 5:58
03. Road of No Release – 6:30
04. Ride into Obsession – 4:46
05. Curse My Name – 5:52
06. Valkyries – 6:38
07. Control the Divine – 5:28
08. War of the Thrones – 4:55
09. A Voice in the Dark – 5:41
10. Wheel of Time – 8:55
Disc Two (Digipack):
Bonus Digital Material (Digipack):
|Initial Score: 7.5/10
Digipack Version: 8.5/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.