Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Blind Guardian: The Bard’s Song lives on in Manchester

After an eight year wait, the mighty Blind Guardian made their way to our shores, armed with a brand new album, The God Machine, and some of the greatest power metal anthems ever forged by greater powers and handed to man… or something like that, I don’t know Lord of the Rings very well. 

The Night Eternal opened the show with a very 80s-tinged collection of modern heavy metal in the style of Accept and Scorpions. While some may argue I’m only connecting these bands because they’re all German, you can quickly tell they’re European just by looking at them. They all have the same 80s American TV aesthetic that many German metal bands of the 80s had. Everyone was wearing leather jackets and sporting flying Vs, it was pretty cheesy from a cursory glance but they had fantastic music to back it all up.

The Night Eternal

Their set featured a wealth of classic 80s German heavy metal-inspired bangers like ‘Shadow’s Servants’ which sounded vaguely similar to ‘Bark at The Moon’ by Ozzy Osbourne. Speaking of Ozzy, they paid tribute to one of the all-time greats of metal with a doom-laden rager entitled ‘Prince of Darkness’. This track had a Candlemass vibe to it which makes a bit of sense when you start thinking about where doom metal came from and Ozzy’s involvement in it. 

The Night Eternal

The Night Eternal gave a brilliant performance and hopefully, they’ll appear in Manchester soon for a headline slot. They’d most certainly be welcomed back with open arms. 

Accompanied by an ominous orchestral overture, Blind Guardian made their way quietly to the stage and began to prepare for battle. They opened with ‘Imaginations from the Other Side,’ a masterful track with a tense buildup that eventually punches you square in the face with the dual guitar attack of Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen as well as the monstrous fills of Frederik Ehmke. 

Blind Guardian

It didn’t take long for the man himself to take his rightful place as the king of power metal, Hansi Kursch. Despite dressing like a history teacher, he could be one of the best metal frontmen to ever take the stage. His stage presence and mobility is amazing, he makes use of every inch of the stage and the control he has over the audience matches the likes of Bruce Dickinson. 

Blind Guardian

The power he exudes on tracks like the punishingly heavy ‘Violent Shadows’ and the glorious anthemic power metal masterpiece of ‘Nightfall’ is awe-inspiring and the glorious Queen-inspired guitar work pushes it to brilliant new heights. 

Hansi has such versatility and can even accommodate soft acoustic tracks like ‘Skalds and Shadows’ which featured beautiful guitar work and soft melodies that are omnipresent in Blind Guardian’s back catalogue. 

Blind Guardian

It’s worth noting that Blind Guardian’s guitar solos all feature prominent use of “Wah” which makes them stand out from the studio versions and gives them that extra bit of kick. Tracks like ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ still have all the same power and melody the studio versions have but there’s enough going on with the effects to make you feel like you’re experiencing something fairly new without feeling lost or alienated. Change is hard but you still know where you stand with Blind Guardian. 

Blind Guardian’s ability to tell stories is legendary and their ability to craft beautiful melodies works in tandem to create some absolutely breathtaking scenes that are truly magical to witness live. “Let’s imagine we are all gathered in a forest, dark and gloomy” says Hansi as Andre and Marcus take their spots with their acoustic guitars as Hansi asks “Let me hear you sing the bard’s song in the forest”. Hansi barely sang a word of this song and it was all the more special for it. Nearly 2000 people joined in unison to sing tales of magic and wonderment of days long past that were first penned almost half a century ago and it was wonderful. 

Blind Guardian

The Iron Maiden influence has been prominent throughout much of Blind Guardian’s career and that’s best exemplified on tracks like ‘Majesty,’ a song that starts with an unsuspecting circus-style keyboard riff before breaking into the breakneck riffing. The Maiden influence is largely referring to the harmonised guitar parts which are fairly simplistic but they’re incredibly effective earworms that stick with you long after the song has ended. 

Blind Guardian

The encore began with one of the greatest power metal openers of all time: ‘Sacred Worlds’. This song spans a colossal nine minutes and makes use of every weapon in Blind Guardian’s formidable arsenal: glorious orchestral overtures, blistering guitar work, choruses that could be turned into war cries with very little alteration, drums with unmatched power and precision and of course, Hansi’s blood-curdling shriek that you’d likely only hear from creatures of myth and fantasy. 

Blind Guardian

This was just the beginning of one of the strongest encores any band has ever concocted. They continued with the almost progressive-sounding ‘Bright Eyes,’ a track that sounds like Queensryche at times with its stomping pace, dark tone and infectious melodies.

The band continued with ‘Valhalla,’ a furious track from their speed metal days. It’s easy to forget that Blind Guardian started out making some incredibly fast and heavy music before they began incorporating Orchestral elements but ‘Valhalla’ is easily the best representation of this era. This song is still beloved by Blind Guardian fans and power metal fans all over the world and even inspired a chant that likely rang clear in the minds of all who heard it long after the show had ended: “Valhalla, Deliverance, why’ve you ever forgotten who me”.

Blind Guardian

Finally ending with the quintessential Blind Guardian song, a titanic display of technical wizardry that hit as hard as the forces of Mordor: ‘Mirror Mirror’. Pretty much everything about this song is perfect, it’s supremely heavy, fast, features gigantic choruses and shows everyone in peak form even after a nearly two-hour-long show. There are very few bands that could keep up this energy for so long at the stage Blind Guardian are at their career which just goes to show just how special they are of a live band. 

Blind Guardian

Blind Guardian have only played Manchester twice in their 40 years of existence which is an issue they’re working on rectifying as Hansi says “It’s not going to be with a new record but expect us very very soon”. Blind Guardian are a band worth travelling to see, they’re a band that still works to create glorious pieces of art that they can replicate live with just enough imperfections to give it a human touch. 

For anyone reading this and thinking all of this is pure exaggeration or fanboyism, go buy a ticket and see for yourselves. 

Blind Guardian
Lamestream Lydia
Lamestream Lydia
Self-proclaimed journalist, Progressive rock enthusiast and the most American sounding person you're ever likely to meet in the North of England

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