Blind Guardian - Twilight Orchestra: Legacy of the Dark Lands

Genre: Symphonic/Orchestral -

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.

Blind Guardian - Twilight Orchestra: Legacy of the Dark Lands

The only two members of the band present are in fact Kürsch and Olbrich; the former obviously handling the vocals, and the latter arrangements. Thing is, these guys are no beginners and this most certainly is not their first dance. Legacy of the Dark Lands is a well crafted work of art. The melodies, progressive structuring and vocal harmonies are so undeniably Blind Guardian that any fan should find some familiar footing. A lot of the stuff here wouldn’t be amiss on a regular Blind Guardian release; the ominous Harvester of Souls or heavy sounding single This Storm could be tossed into Beyond the Red Mirror (2015) without feeling misplaced. Kürsch, always a master of his trade, gives some of his best performances ever and is the guiding star on the album; daemoniac, deep and growly at parts, heavenly and epic in the overdubbed choruses. As a tie in to a fantasy novel released around the same time - Markus Heitz’s The Dark Lands - which is an entirely new story, this isn’t the easiest task in the world, but in all likelihood rewarding for those prepared to venture there.

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



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