Sound — 10
Before this album was released, German power metal greats Blind Guardian have already been reputed to be excellent songwriters and musicians, and creative ones at that, incorporating intricate arrangements and style. For this 2002 release, they had decided to make an absolutely bombastic, powerful album. The production reaches the peak (so far) of Blind Guardian's songwriting arrangement capabilities. According to their website, 50% of the production was spent on the 14-minute epic "And Then There Was Silence", which despite being the longest song on the CD (and as far as I know, their whole discography), became the album's single. Now why can't the American radio play something as amazing and beautiful and actually well-composed like ATTWS, if they're just going to keep on broadcasting "singles"? This is not to say that the rest of the album is underwritten or underperformed. This album is a gathering of epics. No filler, every song on the CD is listenable (and enjoyable). I am quite fond of the guitar-style of the 2 axeweilders of the band, Andre and Marcus. A wah-like sound distinguishes them from other power metal guitarists, or at least it establishes them as the originals in a modern world of mimics and followers. I'm convinced that they quite frankly don't care that every metal song has to have a blistering neoclassical solo all the time, it's the songwriting that counts. I admire that.The drums are intricate and powerful especially on this CD. On this CD I dare compare his work to the great Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. The ironic part is, it is after this album (and the Live album that came after that) that the Drummer Thomen "the Omen" Stauch left the band because he wished to play music in the thrashier style of BG's old sound (and so came his new group Savage Circus, actually a real amazing band as well). And one can get worried that because the production is so dense, the bass guitar is drowned out. However, the bass actually shines in my opinion on the ballad "The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight". And I'm sure bass enthusiasts/experts can point out the bass in Blind Guardian's most bombastic, most orchestrated songs.
Lyrics — 10
Ah, the great Hansi Kursch. Already he's been a strong singer that can sing the most powerful choruses to the most heartfelt ballads. It's like a 1000 people are singing on this CD because of Hansi's overdub upon overdub wall of sound to create the illusion of a gang of warriors, goblins, elfs, dwarves, etc. joining along in the fun. Hansi Kursch describes himself as a "critical Christian", and so he has songs influenced by Christianity, first most evident on "Precious Jerusalem". Also, though not explicitly sung, it can be implied that "Sadly Sings Destiny" has a Christian theme as well. Then "Battlefield", I suppose is a classic battle song, though if there's a specific reference or topic, I admit my inablility to decipher it hehe... "Under the Ice" is supposed to contain references to the Trojan War, while the epic "And Then There Was Silence" is a direct telling of the Illiad told though amazingly orchestrated metal music. When I heard "Maiden and the Minstrel Knight", I thought it was a reference to Romeo and Juliet, but I later found out it was close to "Tristan and Isolde". I should get to reading that (assuming it's a book lol... forgive my ignorance). Crazy metal musicians, teach me a lesson every song. I know of no real direct topic on "Wait For an Answer", but it sounded like a reference to current world events especially Bush's "War on Terror". From my observation, the singer's position seems to be on a skeptical viewpoint but nevertheless the insurgents must be apprehended... or something like that. If someone implies otherwise, please inform me. "The Soulforged" is an interesting song about the character Raistlin from a series called Dragonlance, which I should get to reading sometime. And finally a more familiar topic on my part, "Age of False Innocence" is a song about Galileo Galilei, and his expulsion from the church because of his astronomical discoveries and how they contrasted with then-church dogma. I can relate to that very much because I too object to the church and their teachings, in favor of scientific discovery. "Punishment Divine" is another relateable song for me, the lyrics being a reference to the great philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche. Hansi screams: "Nature's law instead of God in Heaven!!!" The bonus track "Mies del Dolor" is a spanish version of their song "Harvest of Sorrow", which can be found on the ATTWS single. Such intelligent and creative lyrics. I can't point out a flaw if I looked for it for days. What really gets me is that they truly know what they want to do. The music reflects the lyrics so hand-in-hand. A bit of trivia here, allegedly this album contains the fewest references to Tolkien from any album of theirs, and instead of issues such as the Christian Bible, war, the Illiad, philosophy, among others.
Overall Impression — 10
This is a one-of-a-kind album. I've let people who normally would not listen to metal music hear this CD, and they've enjoyed it quite as much as I did when I first heard it (one of those people is my French teacher =D). I honestly cannot point out anythign I hate from this album at all, all is what the band had intended and I accept it for what it is and enjoy it to the fullest. Blind Guardian are reputed as well to be the kindest musicians to their fans, and the most soulful in the power metal community. They are the kind who will not submit to music critics (those like our arrogant Mr. Psycho somewhere here), and will continue to do what they wish no matter what, and it's for that reason that their fans love BG so much. Thank you Blind Guardian for some hope in this music industry and your incredible contributions. BG are an inspiration to my keyboard playing, though they have no official, leading keyboards necessarily in their music. All the same, they've impacted me deeply. Enthusiasts of music in general should give at least one shot of this album in their CD player. They're sure to find something they would enjoy.