Three years after their orchestra project and seven (!) years after their last proper studio album, Blind Guardian is back. Time What Is Time indeed. Let’s have a look.
When we last saw Blind Guardian, their orchestral album Legacy of the Dark Lands had just been released. I thought it was a bit of a mixed bag then and when I listened to it not long ago whilst preparing to review The God Machine, that opinion hadn’t changed. Blind Guardian’s albums have become increasingly bloated, symphonic and complicated since 2010’s At the Edge of Time, incorporating more and more orchestral elements that finally culminated in their Twilight Orchestra project, and one could only hope that the guys would sort of reset after that and become a metal band again. With The God Machine, they’ve done just that.
The God Machine is what every album since A Twist in the Myth wasn’t: heavy, fast, aggressive, punchy and to the point. The band wastes no time getting to business with album opener Deliver Us from Evil, and it’s hard to imagine this is the same band that brought us stuff like The Dark Parade or And Then There Was Silence. This is more akin to the band’s speed metal days of yore than anything post-Nightfall in Middle-Earth. Fast and furious riffs blast out of your speakers, cascading over one another. André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen are back as the absolute musical centre point, playing off each other brilliantly with masterful harmonies and solos, with Frederik Ehmke driving things with machine gun precision on drums. Hansi, as ever, is great, sounding more aggressive than he’s done for a long, long time. Even the huge vocal choirs in the chorus are dialed down in favour of, well, more metal.
“More metal” is an adequate description for most of The God Machine actually, with especially Deliver Us from Evil, Violent Shadows and Blood of the Elves marking a decided return to the band’s early speed metal roots. It’s amazing that Blind Guardian are still able to pull off material this heavy and immediate after all the increasing bombast from the last years. There are more symphonic moments on The God Machine of course, like the seven- and-a-half-minute epic Secrets of the American Gods, which frankly works a lot better in the context of the album than it did as a single. You’ve got your good but unremarkable power ballad Let It Be No More, which is no The Bard’s Song – In the Forest but it’s not bad at all.
Odd man out here is Life Beyond the Spheres, which sounds to me like something originally left on the cutting floor of the Beyond the Red Mirror sessions. Strangely ethereal and restrained, it also gets quite heavy in the riffing department and oozes a sense foreboding and doom, like it was meant to me a part of Red Mirror’s narrative. The song feels a tad out of place here like it doesn’t really belong and was included at the eleventh hour, but somehow it works and turns into a real highlight after a few spins. The closing track Destiny is also quite good, but still disappoints a little because Blind Guardian tend to end their albums on in a more epic fashion Destiny this is just not that. It’s another perfectly good song just like the rest, but nothing much else.
If there is one single complaint to be had about The God Machine, it’s just that: it lacks distinctive highlights. The God Machine is consistently good from start to finish but never really peaks in its fifty-eight-minute runtime. It’s a very good album, maybe even the best and most consistent they’ve released in years, but somehow you get left behind with this feeling of “is that all?” It’s a weird complaint and not entirely fair because the material on here is nothing if not excellent. The production packs a real punch this time, the musicianship is more than excellent and in a lot of ways the band is aging like fine wine. It’s a highly enjoyable and surprisingly heavy album and a real return to their speed metal roots which I’m sure a lot of fans will appreciate.
Label: Nuclear Blast, 2022
Buy it here: https://www.nuclearblast.de/
- Deliver Us from Evil (05:22)
- Damnation (05:21)
- Secrets of the American Gods (07:29)
- Violent Shadows (04:18)
- Life Beyond the Spheres (06:03)
- Architects of Doom (06:21)
- Let It Be No More (04:49)
- Blood of the Elves (04:38)
- Destiny (06:47)
- Hansi Kürsch – vocals
- André Olbrich – guitars
- Marcus Siepen – guitars
- Frederik Ehmke – drums
Review by Ralph Plug