Sound: Blind Guardian's fourth album, Somewhere Far Beyond, is a good one. This time around the boys of BG have decided to play in a style more akin to traditional power metal as opposed to the speed metal styling of their previous 3 works. The quality of the music does not suffer at all because of this slight stylistic change. It should also be noted that the album is not all power metal mastery. There are a large amount of speed metal parts that will satisfy any fan of Blind Guardian, old or new.
The songs can only be described as purely concentrated epic blasts of glory from the speakers that makes listeners go back in time, become medieval warriors, and grow beards or something to that effect. This album should come with a warning label. May cause unwanted facial hair. I know. I didn't know there was such a thing as unwanted facial hair either. Each song on this album stands out and is clearly discernable from the other songs, unlike on other album where all the songs seem like a mass of uniformity. Since each song sounds different from the rest, listening to the album is never boring. Despite each song being recognizable, some tracks standout more than others. These include both of The Bard's Songs (In the Forest and The Hobbit), the title track, and the amazing Theatre of Pain. These songs alone justify purchasing the album. Theatre of Pain is four minutes and seventeen second of musical bliss. The song is flawlessly orchestrated. Go listen to it. Right now.
Another great thing about this album is it frequently utilizes acoustic guitars. There is even a beautiful classical guitar solo in Time What is Time. These acoustics add a nice variety to the music and prevent it from being bogged down by repetitiveness. In short, this album sounds great. // 9
Lyrics: Two words: Hansi. Kursch. Hansi is an amazing singer. His talent is incredibly evident on all of the tracks, whether he be softly singing or yelling harshly (yet beautifully) at some ridiculously high note that no one with a voice box that hasn't been bitten by a radioactive musical note could possibly reach. Blind Guardian is one of the few bands that I listen to mainly due to the singer skills. This is one of Hansi's best performances, rivaling that of Nightfall in Middle-earth and (insert your favorite Blind Guardian album here [note: this doesn't work if that happens to be Somewhere Far Beyond]). For vocal highlights check out The Bard's Song - In the Forest and Theatre of Pain (as well as the rest of the album).
The lyrics themselves are also pretty solid. They are all based on fantasy such as Stephen King's The Dark Tower and J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit (The tracks Somewhere Far Beyond and The Bard's Song - The Hobbit respectively). Knowing the stories behind the lyrics makes them somewhat more enjoyable, yet it does not adversely effect one's listening experience if the stories aren't known. ... the vocals Oh my god, the vocals // 10
Overall Impression: Somewhere Far Beyond was one of the few Blind Guardian albums that I really got into upon my first listen. Despite my love of Blind Guardian this did not happen with such highly regarded albums as Imaginations from the Other Side and A Night at the Opera. Somewhere Far Beyond is truly an immense achievement for Blind Guardian. The album over all is great. Two tracks however, could have done so much more for me: Ashes to Ashes, a song of the more speedy style that feels as though it greatly over stays it's welcome; and The Piper's Calling, a filler track, that despite my love of bagpipes, I can't seem to enjoy. These songs are just kind of boring. The other songs more than make up for these lackluster songs however. Also the album art is ridiculously incredible. // 8