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Review: Blind Guardian - Nightfall In Middle Earth
Blind Guardian
Nightfall In Middle Earth

Label: Century Media Records
Year released: 1998
Duration: 65:27
Tracks: 22
Genre: Power Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: August 4, 2005
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
Nightfall In Middle Earth

Rated 4.52/5 (90.48%) (105 Votes)

I was prepared to not like this at all. After all, I have avoided BG for years because I hated Hansi's vocals on the Demons & Wizards album so very fucking much. I decided to stay faaaaar away from his regular band in order to evade the pain I expected. Hansi does this thing, where he doubles his vocals and harmonizes with himself in falsetto, and I want to drill holes in my head when I hear it. Argh. But on this album, he doesn't do much, or any of that. In fact I was surprised by how rough his vocals are here, very far from the stereotypical Power Metal voice. He's not always strictly on-key, but you get used to it. And it is worth getting used to. This is an album that really grows on you with time. I probably would not have given this CD as much attention, but I was determined to give it more than a cursory spin and really listen for whatever it is that makes this such a beloved album. At first blush, I thought the first half was pretty good, and that the second half lost focus a bit, and that there were a few bad songs but mostly a bunch of mediocre ones. But something kept tugging at me, and made me keep listening to this. Of course the opener "Into The Storm" and the following "Nightfall" are catchy with their big choirs, and are the first ones you remember. But given enough time, every song on here gets just really, really good. "Blood Tears", the excellent "Mirror, Mirror", "Thorn" – even "Noldor (Dead Winter Reigns)", which seemed plodding and too-long at first, has grown on me until I like it just as well as the other songs. There is so much stuff crammed into each song that every listen you will hear something you didn't notice before, and that makes this a CD with a lot of replay value. This is not an album you listen to constantly for a week and then never pull down again. This album has staying power.

Now I do have to say I don't care for the in-between bits with the voiceovers and sound effects and shit. The voice acting is good, and some of these little bits are cool, but overall they are pretty pointless. And I think part of the problem with this album catching on is that the mix is not great. This is really pretty complex music, and the mix does not clarify and highlight what it should, and sometimes the cool stuff gets kind of lost in the shuffle. So you have to take time and listen for the cool riffs and the melodic underpinnings that make this a real treat of an album. You might say that an album should not make you dig for the goods, so to speak, but "Nightfall…" more than rewards the effort.

And yes, this is 'another Tolkien album', but this is based on the Silmarillion rather than the more usual stuff, though the lyrics, for all their ambition, are really not that great, and if you don't know the story already, the album won't make much sense. Example: the opening narration is a scene with some servant telling his lord that 'the enemy' is coming and 'all is lost', and the lord telling his servant to go and hide, to serve him 'forever'. Standard, boring crap, right? Except if you pay attention, the scene is between Sauron and Morgoth. It's the ultimate villain of Middle-Earth telling Sauron to go before the Gods basically come and kill him, because they've lost the War of Wrath, and telling him to go be evil on his own, leading to the events of The Lord of the Rings, where Sauron is the ultimate evil. I think that's pretty cool.

So there's a reason this is a classic album. It isn't perfect, but careful attention reveals an epic album with really excellent, memorable songs. I came to this a BG skeptic and now I'm a believer, and I am willing to bet more BG albums will find their way into my collection soon. Recommended.

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