Review: Blind Guardian – Live Beyond The Spheres
Is Blind Guardian’s Live Beyond The Spheres a worthy listen for non-followers of the mighty bards? You can find out with this review (I think)!
A live album is a difficult thing to dissect. On one side, we could agree that it is, most of the time, a collector’s item for the rabid fanatic legions that will definitely enjoy the interpretations and scrutinize all the tiniest of details inside every sound delivered by the musicians.
Metal music has been blessed by wonderful live music an experience that tries to encapsulate the joys of a direct presentation and reflect the true nature of the genre. From the elder gods of the genre, like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, to the underground mercenaries of all sides of the planet, there is honesty always present that oozes on the live album format.
This is, perhaps, one of the reasons why analyzing a live album is such a polarizing task. There is some vulnerability that will be the center of attention to the fans, but, probably, could become a turning point for the casual listeners to completely avoid said artist. I mean, it is understandable why some avid fans avoid live albums for considering them ‘pointless’ or ‘redundant’.
For sure, this introduction is not a premeditated conception on the record we are reviewing today. My intention here, fellow reader, is for you to come with the final answer towards the upcoming Blind Guardian sonic experience, correctly titled Live Beyond The Spheres. What is the purpose behind this new product? It is another worthy addition to the majestic catalogue of the German legends?
Blind Guardian is still considered one of the most known and long-lived bands on this era of metal music. Beloved by many and even respected by the outsiders, these melodic metal maestros achieved a cult status with hard work, artistry and contagious passion.
For your surprise, I must confess that I have a short segment of my life following the ‘bards’ with loyalty. It was around my beginning era as a Toilet ov Hell writer that I, like some of my peers in this humble site, have found the Beyond The Red Mirror release and got in touch with the roller-coaster-like experience of a full Blind Guardian ride that I had to go backwards and be completely immersed on their pioneering progressive inspired music and multi-colored ways to paint the realms of life and imagination.
But, of course, the band’s history is richer than my mundane lectures. Founded in 1984, the core of Blind Guardian stood together until the edge of time, forging their art and technique in the perennial fires of infinity. Hyperboles aside, the mentioned respect towards the Guardians is not only worth for their impressive record output, but their will to express themselves in powerful and moving ways.
“I’m completely satisfied with the songs we’ve chosen and with the way we’ve presented the album in sound and technique” – Hansi Kürsch.
Live Beyond The Spheres was probably crafted carefully to show that union between the history, present and the future of the band; a monstrous project that group their rich catalogue, if you will.
The danger here, coming back again to the introductory dissertation of this review, is that this live piece does not hold back into the painful of ordering a concise track list. On the contrary, the progressive and power metal outfit recorded the best of the best from 30 shows played on the 2015 European tour, coincidentally including rarely played live tracks and the fan favorites.
For newcomers this must be a hard pill to swallow, since Live Beyond The Spheres is displayed in 3 discs that tries to cover the ups and downs of a 33 years old career.
Blind Guardian is not a band to listen occasionally and this live album could show this premise. The idiosyncratic and majestic vocals of Hansi Kürsch is constantly present to command the lyrical attack, a key point that explains the band’s success; meanwhile the instrumentation, always concise, sets the constantly mood and emotive changes between one piece and another. Live Beyond The Spheres toys with those permanent concepts and elevates the songs with majesty and sincerity, stripping down some ornaments, stamped on the studio albums, to update them with some cathartic musicianship.
“We are really satisfied when people sing along with us, have a good time and go back home happy” – Hansi Kürsch talking about their gigs.
Starting with “The Ninth Wave”, the Beyond The Red Mirror tracks are one of the highlights of this live album. Getting rid of the production and mixing errors of their last full-length output, Blind Guardian shed the lights on how those songs are composed, putting the guitar wizardry duos of André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen into the front of the mix, “Prophecies” and “Twilight Of The Gods” are, indeed, way better cuts when the wall of keyboards and choirs are stripped down a little bit. Maybe the drums are the lowest point on this record, since it can sound “plastic” because the heavily triggered choices, but that doesn’t demeanor the always enthusiastic performance of Frederik Ehmke.
Live Beyond The Spheres is not only a testimony of the band’s energetic and emotive presentations. In rarely played songs like the magnanimous “Sacred Worlds”, the epopee represented in “Wheel Of Time”, the obscure thrashing attack from “Tanelorn (Into The Void), or even the festive “Fly” could work as an introduction to the vast body of art from the Blind Guardian wide array of sounds and colors.
The tiny mistakes on the execution of some difficult songs does not discredit the band, but add to the incredible charisma and chemistry these guys have on stage for constantly winning battles on their three decades lifespan. For example, the multi-layered and complex “And Then There Was Silence”, taken from another production-wise problematic album called A Night At The Opera, shows a full working band, a very professional machinery giving their best with an juvenile attitude but with the seasoned experiences that comes from working all those years on the road. And do not get me start on those wonderful guitar leads, the metronome precise rhythm of Marcus Siepen, the bombastic rhythm segments and the inhuman expressiveness of Hansi’s vocal pyrotechnics.
In their defense, nearly all the songs are highlights, but it is understandable that some potential buyers or occasional listeners that want to be part of the loveable following Blind Guardian developed with their immortal charisma could hold back by the long track list. To some people could even be an unfocused product that would hold appeal only to Blind Guardian’s collectors, but if you followed this review very closely I can ensure to you that Live Beyond The Spheres selected songs and hidden gems truly works as testament to the band’s everlasting legacy to both academic connoisseurs or newcomers.
At least, this half-elf approves with a solid 4/5 flaming toilets rating.
You will delve through the Red Mirror into Live Beyond The Spheres this 7th July. Go into Nuclear Blast Records and get the record in the numerous presentations. Remember that you can follow Blind Guardian on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (Pro-rec: follow Marcus Siepen, he’s one of my favorite persons on social media). If you liked this review, you can share it on your favorite social media spaces too (For every click you will help Joe Thrashnkill get a shiny armor with frost protection for his cute companion).