Blind Guardian - Battalions of Fear (1988)Release ID: 731
The first time I heard of Blind Guardian was in 2002, when I'd bought Iced Earth's 'Dark Genesis' collection and they were mentioned a number of times in the biography section. It wasn't too long after that I was in a music shop, coincidently in the bands home country of Germany, where I saw a double pack of 'Battalions of Fear' and it's follow-up album 'Follow the Blind' pretty cheap. Didn't even have to think about what to do.
By this point, I was no longer the young, metal whippersnapper that I was when I'd first heard of Blind Guardian. I had a good sense of what I was into, and, to be blunt, I found this album to be pretty boring and dull.
Fast-forward a couple more years, and MySpace is suddenly booming and it's easier than ever to discover bands. THAT'S when I really got into Blind Guardian! I can't remember which song I heard, but it was big! It was epic! It was bombastic! It was full of metal riffs and glorious orchestrations... it was incredible! How did I not get into this band the first time around?!
I swiftly snapped up most of the groups back-catalogue, then set to work familiarizing myself with their discography...
And that leads me right back to square one; this album is still pretty bland.
There's just nothing really exciting going on here... y'know what I mean? 'Majesty' is an okay song, but most of the tracks are pretty basic power/speed metal. The production leaves the music feeling empty of life, and a lot of the melodies, both musical and lyrical, are just boring and uninteresting.
It's not a terrible album, but if you're looking for some generic and bland 80's power metal, there's much better stuff out there.
Blind Guardian weren't always a symphonic/power metal band. This mighty evolving beast of a band started as a melodic speed metal outfit named Lucifer's Heritage. The band changed their name to avoid association with Satanism and black metal, but kept their original style while foreshadowing their famous power metal. Honest admission: I find the recent albums too over-the-top and bombastic, and that's why I'm up for the simplicity of their debut (and why I'm no longer into a lot of power metal).
Their debut album Battalions of Fear is a well-polished speed metal album, in line with their peers back then, Rage (which also evolved into theatrical power metal) and Scanner. Some tracks were re-recorded from the band's Lucifer's Heritage demos, with some notable changes.
Odd carnival intro aside, the opening track "Majesty" is a majestic anthem with a melodic chorus of vocal layers. "Guardian of the Blind" is perhaps the most memorable highlight here and what inspired the band's new name. "Trial by the Archon" is an early Iron Maiden-like interlude. Lead guitarist André Olbrich knows how to do some shredding lead melodies like Maiden's Dave Murray.
It segues into the excellent song "Wizard's Crown", originally titled "Halloween" but they probably changed it because Helloween released a song with that title. "Run for the Night" is a little more average, sounding inspired by classic heavy metal. Same with the less powerful "The Martyr". Nothing filler here though.
The title track has a heavy bridge, with the leads sounding so excellent. The lyrics somehow reminds me of the epic space film franchise Star Wars, though it's about Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. The excellent outro "By the Gates of Moria" is based on Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9. Great, now I feel the urge to sing out loud the chorus of Rhapsody's "The Wizard's Last Rhymes". The CD's bonus outro "Gandalf's Rebirth" has OK leads and melodies, though it's not too necessary.
The lyrics in most songs involve fantasy and mythology, an aspect they would expand on in later albums. Battalions of Fear is good, but I guess the band's classic era of the 90s still reigns. There's clear production for an 80s debut album with searing leads and rhythms in the guitar. This is the kind of sound I prefer nowadays rather than the over-the-top layers of their 2000s albums. While not as catchy nor in wide range as their later material, the vocals of Hansi Kürsch show such a wild young lad that he was. Blind Guardian, one of this century's most titanic power metal bands started with an underrated power/speed metal album. Quite a fun beginning....
Favorites: "Majesty", "Guardian of the Blind", "Wizard's Crown", "Battalions of Fear"