Published Feb 20, 2015Nearly 30 years after their inception, German power metallers Blind Guardian are looking to the past for their 10th full-length. Not the fictional realms of dragons, bards, Middle Earth and Asgard from which they've drawn lyrical inspiration, but the musical past, specifically their 1995 album Imaginations from the Other Side.
"We worked on the Travellers Guide to Space and Time box [in 2013], which contained Imaginations," vocalist and lyricist Hansi Kürsch tells Exclaim! "So there were some links in the very early beginning of the songwriting, while we were still producing this box set."
The band's new effort, Beyond the Red Mirror (the band's third for Nuclear Blast) flits between whip-fast speed metal and operatic rock, with neo-classical and progressive touches that sidestep the bloated, corset-clad clichés of European power metal. It's also a conceptual and narrative sequel to 1995's Imaginations.
"The atmosphere and the intensity were the first things that got me thinking about Imaginations from the Other Side," Kürsch explains, "because it became clear to us that the production would have to be a little more crunchy and a little more aggressive than [2010's] At the Edge of Time or [2006's rock-oriented album] A Twist in the Myth, for example."
Crunchy and aggressive it is, with a conceptual story line where the protagonist of Imaginations has to find the final passage between two universes.
"When I was reading Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, he revisited one of his protagonists [from] The Shining, and I just thought that might be a good idea to have a character involved that I worked with years and years back. Again my attention [returned to] Imaginations. I had had that boy standing in front of that mirror, to make a decision. And I just figured I left that poor little boy there without even thinking about him for 20 years, so I just thought it would be a good idea to build up a story around him."
Like previous albums, Beyond the Red Mirror amalgamates the band's genre-hopping tendencies, yet is more operatic, driving and bombastic than the previous two records. That said, it naturally fits into their fluid trajectory, with a massive, bombastic sound that is emphasized by two orchestras and three choirs.
"We needed the basic classical approach in the music. It was a very obvious solution for us in the beginning," explains Kürsch. He then adds, "It's a hint to the orchestral album we are working on, so that's one of the reasons we did that."
Blind Guardian are no stranger to epic, classical integrations, but this new orchestral project comes as a surprise. "We started working on it 20 years ago. When we did the songwriting for [1998's] Nightfall in Middle-Earth, there were some songs that just contained orchestral portions and my singing, and we decided it doesn't make sense to have them on the Nightfall album," he explains.
"So we took these songs and put them aside, and ever since, [we've] been working on orchestral arrangements whenever we thought there was a need. And over the years we have gathered 12 or 13 songs of ours, and they are about to be accomplished. We did some of the recordings when we went to Prague and Budapest, so the classical part has been recorded already and it's more about me [recording] the vocals."
This new project should be done after the band's year of touring, which will see numerous North American dates in the fall.
"Probably during this year, if not this year, in the beginning of the next year, and this is going to be released," Kürsch confirms. "And this describes what we've been doing the last 20 years aside from these other albums. I would say the writing is typical Blind Guardian, but with an even stronger classical approach. It will surprise people, because even [the overtly classical] 'Wheel of Time' on At the Edge of Time doesn't even [touch] what you are supposed to find on this album!"