BLIND GUARDIAN
"A Twist In the Myth"

(Nuclear Blast)

01. This Will Never End
02. Otherland
03. Turn the Page
04. Fly
05. Carry the Blessed Home
06. Another Stranger Me
07. Straight Through the Mirror
08. Lionheart
09. Skalds and Shadows
10. The Edge
11. The New Order

RATING: 8/10

BLIND GUARDIAN started on a mighty quest with the "Nightfall In Middle Earth" record, going ever more overboard with layers upon layers of choirs, keyboards, and overdubbed sonic madness. A band that once parlayed its unique power metal with a manic, thrashy energy grew gradually more encased in technological bloat, taking their love of QUEEN to an unhealthy extreme that culminated in the impressive, but practically unlistenable, "A Night At the Opera". It was a majestic achievement, sure, like watching a guy down dozens of hot dogs at an eating contests, but it left everyone involved feeling a little queasy. It didn't rock.

"A Twist In the Myth" brings back the fun and the spark that made early BLIND GUARDIAN so awesome, without losing the bombastic heft that characterizes their later work. It starts off with an ass-kicker of a riff, a simple and defiant declaration that things are gonna jam this time out. And they deliver, too – "This Will Never End" boasts a heart-stirring chorus, energetic riffing, and hooks galore.

And the rollicking ride never stops — put it this way, if you didn't like the manic energy and fun of "Fly", the title track from the teaser EP released earlier this year, you're probably not gonna dig this album. And even the most tolerant BLIND GUARDIAN fan might raise an eyebrow at "Another Stranger Me" — a very uncharacteristic song based more in a straightforward hard rock style, it sounds more like some obscure 1980s cover than part of the band's work. Give it a few listens, though, and its urgent tone will put it over.

This streamlining doesn't affect the whole album — the soaring majesty of ballad "Carry the Blessed Home" will go a long way to soothe the jangled nerves of traditionalists. And it's not always effective — "Lionheart", for example, is a fairly pedestrian song that doesn't evoke much of a reaction. But when the band is firing on all cylinders, as on the medieval-flavored "Turn the Page" or the insistent stomper "The Edge", it all makes sense. BLIND GUARDIAN anno 2006 can still transport the listener to faraway lands and transcend drab reality; the band simply does it in a different way, no less awesome for their more direct approach.

If there's a band in metal that deserves the benefit of the doubt, it's BLIND GUARDIAN. They've never steered you wrong before, and they know what they're doing now — they're arguably the most important band in power metal right now, making their way one masterpiece at a time to the hallowed level of the genre's all-time greats. "A Twist In the Myth" finds them more relevant than ever, twenty years in, and making some of the best, most stirring music of their career.

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