Arrving at the infamous Trocadero later than expected, party Decibel—all one of us—found Holy Grail amping up their final song of the night. Aggressive, competent and young, but replete with every leather pants-ed cliché known to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Manowar, the Californians may (some day) evolve into a formidable heavy metal machine. For now, one song of frontman James Paul Luna pouncing like chick on hot coals was absolutely adequate. Perhaps we (I mean me) are getting ancient in our musical world view or just have low tolerance for Red Bull-powered frontmen. Either way, bring on Blind Guardian.
A quick set change, a dimming of the lights, the playing of requisite intro music, and the Germans were off with new track, “Sacred Worlds” from At the Edge of Time. As expected, vocalist Hansi Kürsch hit all the right notes and postured non-threateningly. Guitarists André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen were spot-on as well, but really didn’t feel—based on facial expression alone—stuff until Blind Guardian were a few songs in. The setlist actually surprised, with many songs coming off of breakout (in Europe and rest of world) albums Tales from the Twilight World (“Traveler in Time”, “Welcome to Dying”, “Lord of the Rings”), Somewhere Far Beyond (“The Bard's Song - In the Forest”), Imaginations from the Other Side ("Imaginations from the Other Side", Born in a Mourning Hall"), and Nightfall in Middle-Earth ("Nightfall", "Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)", "Mirror Mirror").
True Blind Guardian dorks relished songs from ‘80s albums Battalions of Fear ("Majesty") and Follow the Blind ("Valhalla"), but from the crowd response few in attendance were familiar with pre-Tales from the Twilight World material.
Speaking of crowds, the Philly kids were into Blind Guardian. Almost Tokyo Tales into Blind Guardian. Participation, normally a Euro trait, was loud and frequent. Master Kürsch did his short-haired best, the result of which prompted stone-faced Siepen to crack rare smile and smack hands appreciatively. “Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)” and “Nightfall”—both from Nightfall in Middle-Earth—received, to me anyway, the greatest response. There’s something about Tolkien-themed albums combined with bombastic heavy metal isn’t there?
All told, Blind Guardian performed for just over an hour. Naturally, after heavy stomping and chants of “Blind Guardian! Blind Guardian!” the Teutonic semi-titans returned for a long four to five song encore. If there’s one thing to be said for new album, At the Edge of Time, is that it fits right into Blind Guardian’s sonic timeline. “A Voice in the Dark”, “Wheel of Time”, “Valkyries”, and “Sacred Worlds” may be 10-15 years newer than most of the material played tonight, but it really sounds like songwriters Kürsch and Olbrich have rediscovered the fire. Not that aren’t neat tunes on A Night at the Opera and A Twist in the Myth.
Power metal isn’t normally Decibel’s strong suit, but on this night the Euros showed us a thing or two. Vielen dank, Blind Guardian.
** All photos copyright and other shit by Chris Dick. Re-use with permission. Admittedly they're pretty blurry.