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BLIND GUARDIAN The God Machine

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Wednesday, September 7, 2022 @ 9:01 AM


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BLIND GUARDIAN
The God Machine

Nuclear Blast Records




BLIND GUARDIAN took its symphonic aspirations as far as it could possibly go with 2019’s Legacy Of The Dark Lands. After employing orchestration to a greater degree over releases dating back to the late ‘90s, the band – or at least creative directors vocalist Hansi Kürsch and guitarist André Olbrich - went all in with Legacy for a full-blown orchestral work performed by the PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA. Only Kürsch appeared on the finished product, a 75-minute magnum opus under the BLIND GUARDIAN TWILIGHT ORCHESTRA moniker.

It was a project Kürsch and Olbrich had had brewing for nearly 25 years, and it had developed an almost mythic air, so it must have been a great relief for both – and the band – to finally get it out of their systems. Unfortuntately, the coronavirus came along in its wake to steal a bit of its thunder, and any plans there might have been to present the album live and on a grand scale had to be back-burnered - which may have been a relief was well, given the potential effort and logistics of such an undertaking.

That also meant there was plenty of between time to contemplate new material and sort out what direction the band might want to head in next, after taking things about as far away from metal as one can. In the end, the quintet opted to do something of a 180 and head in a mostly opposite direction, shedding much of the window-dressing and opulence and going more back to basics, relatively speaking anyway.

While still undoubtedly intricate and epic, The God Machine, the first full-band release since 2015’s concept album Beyond The Red Mirror, is BLIND GUARDIAN’s most direct, intense effort in quite some time and definitely puts the “power” back in its signature power metal sound. You can hear it right off the bat with the ripping opener “Deliver Us From Evil”. The slashing riffs have a distinctive crunch and bite and the generally propulsive rhythms provide plenty of heft as both the band and long-time producer Charlie Bauerfeind opt for punch and aggression over atmosphere and drama. This follows suit on the genuinely fearsome “Damnation”, which comes next, and holds true over the bulk of the album.

That’s not to say the band has stripped things to the bone and abandoned grandiosity or extravagance all together. The rousing, choir-like choruses that are a BLIND GUARDIAN staple remain and are as glorious as ever, even on the feistiest tracks, as are Olbrich and Marcus Siepen’s soaring twin-guitar solos and lush, layered harmonies.

The slower, more restrained “Secrets Of The American Gods”, the hook-laden closer “Destiny” and the power ballady “Let It Be No More” boast prominent keyboards and synthesized orchestration – to go along with the bombastic choruses and solos - befitting their epic nature. Yet they are all pretty darn heavy to boot, at least in parts, and provide a natural ebb and flow amid the thrashier “Violent Shadows”, “Blood Of The Elves” and the menacing “Architects Of Doom” or the “Kashmir”-like thump of “Life Beyond The Spheres”.

The God Machine is a typically heady but unusually grim BLIND GUARDIAN work with its nine tracks drawing inspiration from everything from Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods” and Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ice Maiden to The Witcher series and Battlestar Galactica. And after nearly three years of COVID, with witch-hunt paranoia, strife, death/loss and dread as the prevailing themes, there is an overall sense of timeliness to the material, even if the songs don’t speak directly to the pandemic – and the “Architects of Doom” are, umm, Cylons.

The music is a reflection of that, to a degree, as well, as the band releases the pent up angst, frustration and despair of the pandemic while at the same time moving on after the vast digression of Legacy Of The Dark Lands - which was arguably more of a vanity project than anything else, anyway - and getting back to what made BLIND GUARDIAN such a powerhouse in the first place. So describing The God Machine as the “dawn of a new era” is a bit of an overstatement – especially as the band approaches its 40th anniversary. Instead, it is more a return to form, or at least a re-establishing of the foundation of BLIND GUARDIAN. And, as such, The God Machine is probably just what the band needed.

4.0 Out Of 5.0


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