Blind Guardian - A Night at the Opera (2002)Release ID: 738
This is perhaps Guardian at their most progressive, ambitious and passionate. Tons of studio vocal layering and slightly outdated 90s-sounding choirs and orchestrations give the impression that these songs are, in fact, being performed by the motley group of PC Fantasy RPG musicians on the cover. Some may decry this album for this bombastic shift and pushing father from the band's speed metal roots (which I too love), but these fools are missing out on a brilliant display of diverse and heartfelt musicianship that reveals itself after a few listens to digest.
"And Then There Was Silence" merits special mention as one of the most incredible songs of all time. Over the duration of fourteen minutes, it constantly bombards you with epic vocal melody after epic vocal melody as it tells the tale of the Fall of Troy - horse statue and all. From moments of sorrow ("at the moment of death I will smile"), to moments of love/lust ("she's like the suuunlight, outshines the moooon at night") and even moments of pure circle-dancing bliss ("la la lala la lala la lala"), this song has it all.
The rest of A Night at the Opera is exquisite as well. "Precious Jerusalem" and "Battlefield" with their frantic choirs and soaring choruses, are instant classics. "The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight" is up there with "The Bard's Song" and "A Past and Future Secret" in the pantheon of the best power metal ballads. "The Soulforged" and "Punishment Divine" are two songs more in the ilk of classic heavier Blind Guardian and deserve to be mentioned among the band's best. Even the more pompous and over-the-top symphonic numbers like "Under The Ice" and "Wait For An Answer" eventually grow on you and become favorites.
It is 2002. Your band has just released its two magnum opus' in the last seven years in the shape of Imaginations from the Other Side and Nightfall in Middle-Earth and both records have made you gods of the power metal scene. Where do you go next? Onwards and upwards surely? Or off in a completely different direction? Well, whilst they most certainly did not veer off onto any side road, with A Night at the Opera, Blind Guardian did not quite continue the golden run of albums either. For context here (a you will all know The Guardians is not one of my clans any longer) I am on a mini-exploration of the year 2002 as I refuse to believe that Tsjuder's Demonic Possession (whilst a solid effort) is the best that 2002 had to offer. I do not recall quite why I immediately ventured beyond Nightfall... and straight into At The Edge of Time as my next BG album without stopping to listen to their 2002 or indeed their 2006 effort either, but the fact is that there is nothing awful about A Night at the Opera, it just is not either of the two records that came before it. Whilst the ambition is undeniably there, the delivery is not.
Now, I admit in the same breath that I would not want a simple regurgitation of either of its predecessors on A Night at the Opera. However, I just feel that by way of comparison, the 2002 effort is constantly promising a crescendo that never actually arrives. Although it starts strong enough, it soon fades into a very rock music space with catchy choruses galore still but blunt and unimaginative riffs running alongside. The vocals and the leads all scream what came on the previous two records alright but there are moments on here where it sounds like BG have lost the plot a bit. Cramming verses into timeframes that they are not tailored to fit makes the album sound rushed in places and equally cumbersome to enjoy.
This is not to say that this is a record without high points. Opening track Precious Jerusalem is a triumph, straight out of the Imaginations... playbook in fact. Equally, the dazzling lead work and infectious chorus of Wait for an Answer have legs that run in the memory for days after finishing listening to the record. Blind Guardian have not gone entirely off the boil but overall are on more of a simmer some four years after the red hot Nightfall In Middle-Earth. If I take time to compare with the follow up record, At the Edge of Time then I would have to say that A Night at the Opera is a step down even from that release which seemed to deploy orchestration much more cleverly to beef things up considerably. Tsjuder sit unchallenged in my 2002 ratings still.