Name the last time a heavy-metal single — make that a 14-minute heavy-metal single — entered the U.S. Billboard charts. The mere fact that “And Then There Was Silence,” the last track on Blind Guardian’s stunning new epic, A Night at the Opera, cracked the charts at No. 171 is either a sign of the apocalypse or an indication of metal’s undying willpower. Either way, it looks (and sounds) as if Blind Guardian may finally be metal’s next big thing.
Almost two years in the making, the German quartet’s ninth studio album is, quite simply, stunning. This record gets in your face with enough bombast, chaos and classical overtones to make Blind Guardian sound more like the bastard love child of Queen and Iron Maiden than ever. Such complex and melodic tracks as “Precious Jerusalem,” “Wait For An Answer” and “Punishment Divine” expand the realms of metal and move beyond simple genre classification. Throughout much of A Night at the Opera, Hansi Kürsch sings over layer upon layer of vocal tracks — 50 alone on “And Then There Was Silence,” which also includes
30 guitar tracks from André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen. While Kürsch’s gravelly and often shrill voice may take some getting used to for the uninitiated, it plays an integral role in the drama that unfolds within each of these 10 majestically orchestrated songs (11, if you count the North American bonus track, "Mies Del Dolor").
Already huge in Europe and Japan (with impressive sales of four previous albums issued in the United States: Nightfall in Middle-Earth, Imaginations From the Other Side, Somewhere Far Beyond and Tales From the Twilight World), Blind Guardian stand on the brink of North American domination. Granted, some of the subject matter on A Night at the Opera won't appeal to everyone — "The Soulforged," for example, pays homage to a character in the Dragonlance fantasy saga. But with no other metal band currently creating music this exciting, diverse and over the top, the ladies and gentlemen at Century Media are putting their faith in the U.S. headbanging public to make Blind Guardian truly a worldwide sensation. And if A Night at the Opera doesn't do just that, I'm afraid no record will.