Released under the moniker Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra, exactly how to go about approaching Legacy of the Dark Lands is a thing of mystery. It is the fruition of Blind Guardian’s age old dream to produce a symphonic album set to a full orchestra, and oft voiced idea since some twenty years ago with the success of Nightfall in Middle-Earth (1999). Even the label seems uncertain how to approach the project, being as how it’s been marketed as would a regular Blind Guardian release when it’s anything but. The biggest game changer – and one that will be the deal breaker for many hardcore fans – is the exclusion of most traditional metal elements; gone are Frederik Ehmke’s bombastic double bass beats and André Olbrich’s furious guitar harmonies. All replaced by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, and joined by Hansi Kürsch’s operatic baritone.
If ones interest in Blind Guardian is strictly with the speed metal days of yore - or if one is strictly a metal fan and nothing else - then Legacy of the Dark Lands is likely to float exactly zero boats. Fans of the more symphonic elements of the band’s music however, will find that much more. Given the ambition, structure and theme, the obvious comparison point would be Nightfall in Middle-Earth, but in truth the album has more in common with the band’s latter day releases in terms of the musical style; they’ve already included many orchestral and symphonic elements - beyond the traditional keyboards - on albums like At the Edge of Time (2010) and Beyond the Red Mirror. Meticulous and powerful in its own right, the album proves very much the versatility of their art, and how their style transcends genres. But it is also an extensive album that will require the listener to immerse themselves into the mythos and the music. Obviously, Legacy of the Dark Lands isn’t easy listening; you need to submerge yourself to appreciate it in full, and for so many - myself included - the lack of metal elements will make the album suitable for an occasional taste rather than overindulgence.
Standout tracks: War Feeds War, Harvester of Souls, This Storm