At last. At long last. A glimpse out of the dark and into something that sparks emotion. Leave it to Blind Guardian to finally bring the light. Seven years since their last full length (everybody knows that Legacy of the Dark Lands (2019) thing doesn’t count) and finally the bards are back with an album to finish all doubt. Described as a back to the roots (if the roots was Somewhere Far Beyond (1992)) type thing - to coincide with that album’s thirty year anniversary - The God Machine is the stalwart outfit’s twelfth full length, and what a show it is. This beast was heralded two years ago at the Wacken World Wide online event, with the unveiling of Violent Shadows which boasted a return to their early ‘90s sound, speed and heaviness. Turns out The God Machine isn’t exactly that entirely, though all the orchestration from the previous few albums is gone entirely.
So if you really hated the bards’ turn to symphonic stuff and long for the days of yore, where massive riffage and speedy harmonies flourished, you’ll definitely get off on some of the stuff here. Violent Shadows and Blood of the Elves are heavy, powerful numbers that - production aside - could well compete for a slot on Somewhere Far Beyond. Meanwhile, opener Deliver Us From Evil is bombastic, boastful and menacingly powerful much like something you might find on Imaginations From the Other Side (1997). The grandiosity of their last few albums has been scaled back, but is certainly still there in elements and moments. Mid album tracks Life Beyond the Spheres and Architects of Doom are bombastic and slower in approach, but still deal mightily in the riffing department, André Olbrich and Markus Siepen both on top of their game. The riffs are fast, powerful and with that charisma the two have always brought to the game; Olbrich on his end with some mighty soloing and badass leads ripped straight from the early ‘90s to boot.
Hansi Kürsch, as always a giant in his field, rips tears in the fabric of time and space with his otherworldly performance on here. Be it the hellish shrieks and menacing tone of the opener or the more tender side that opens Life Beyond the Spheres and Let it Be No More, he nails every note with precision, grace and power. Speaking of, Let it Be No More fills that ballad void, but fails to really engage fully. Unfortunately, closer Destiny - based on H.C. Andersen’s The Ice Maiden - also kind of fails to reach the heights of the rest of the album. Blind Guardian have always existed. They’ve always been part of the origin. And with each album they’ve developed their own style, sound and mythos. As with each release, they’re sounding just a little bit different, a new spin, but the core sound is there. The God Machine fills a void you didn’t know was there and diving into the deep end will prove more rewarding with each consecutive spin. The bards not only prove they’re still on top of their game, but even after more than 30 years of releasing new music one of the greatest bands powr metal has; maybe the greatest. The God Machine is a testament to that.
Standout tracks: Deliver Us From Evil, Violent Shadows, Architects of Doom, Blood of the Elves