This week’s pick is a tour back to the mid 1990’s and an early sign of what would become an explosion of European power metal.
Blind Guardian – Imaginations From The Other Side
Released April 4, 1995 via Century Media Records and Virgin Records
My Favorite Tracks – Mordred’s Song, Imaginations From The Other Side, Bright Eyes
By 1995 Blind Guardian were gearing up for their fifth album release. The German group had started in speed metal and thrash territory but had been slowly morphing into a power metal outfit. Some of the hallmarks of their early sound would remain in their arsenal, setting their sound apart from the typical power metal fare that was on offer.
Blind Guardian were out to improve their sound on their next album and in doing so recruited producer Fleming Rasmussen to helm the effort. Rasmussen had come to prominence by producing Metallica’s second through fourth albums. The influence of an experienced producer, combined with the decision to only take the best parts of songs to the next step, set up Blind Guardian for a triumphant release.
Imaginations From The Other Side comprises nine tracks at a near-50 minute runtime. Two songs were released as singles – A Past And Future Secret, and Bright Eyes, marking the first single releases in Blind Guardian’s career.
Imaginations From The Other Side
The title track opens things and is an epic song that showcases both power metal leanings and the heavy-hitting instrumentation of the band’s early days. The song laments the loss of fantasy worlds as their magic power fades when one reaches adulthood. Many direct references are made to fictional institutions, such as The Wizard Of Oz, The Narnia series, The Lord Of The Rings, Peter Pan and many more.
This fast-paced track recalls the earlier days of Blind Guardian and their speed metal attack. The song is based off of a book The Sunset Warrior by author Eric Van Lustbader. I’m unfamiliar with the book but the song is a great example of the band expanding their musical pallet while retaining their heavy metal feel.
A Past And Future Secret
A ballad that is one of two to center around the story of King Arthur. It is a haunting lament told from the viewpoint of the wizard Merlin, who prophecies that King Arthur will return to rule after his mortal death.
The Script For My Requiem
The pace comes back up for this twisted tale of a knight returning from the Crusades. The knight is haunted by the atrocities committed in the name of the holy and returns a broken shell of himself. It is one of many songs from the album to be a frequent staple in live sets.
The second of two ballads about King Arthur, this track hits heavier than the first and would likely fall into power ballad territory. The song centers around its namesake Mordred, the illegitimate son of Arthur’s incestuous relationship. Mordred would come to wreak havoc on Camelot and eventually fight a battle with Arthur that would claim both.
The song does a fantastic job of painting the despair of Mordred’s life and the hollow feelings that would lead him to his history-altering course of action. The tragic tale could only end one way and this song provides the rationale for and perhaps even justification for Mordred’s brutal actions.
Born In A Mourning Hall
This scorcher of a tune mostly leaves behind the fantasy world and examines the real-world consequences of people living without any viable chance of moving upward in life. The struggle to live and cope with being a disposable tool of the higher class is a picture painted vividly on this song.
The next song is one that has become one of Blind Guardian’s signature offerings. It is another haunting tale of a young man abused and neglected who is now ready to wreak havoc on the world. While the song bears thematic similarities to Mordred’s Song, it was apparently based off of The Neverending Story but is mostly an original story spun by singer Hansi Kursh. The song is one of the band’s most played live and is a favorite of many Blind Guardian fans.
Another Holy War
This song could be seen as a companion to The Script For My Requiem, as it again involves the waging of holy war. It is told from the perspective of a messianic figure who will be crucified and kick off yet another religious war. It’s another song that preserves the thrash elements of the band’s early days.
And The Story Ends
The final track seems to pick up the story of Bright Eyes, though that is unconfirmed and there is speculation that this song might have something to do with The Wheel Of Time fantasy series. I tend to think it’s the first one, as there seems to be an occasional ongoing story told through various Blind Guardian songs over the years and a mirror is involved with them. The song still maintains a heavy feel but does slow things down at points to allow it and the somber album as a whole to settle in.
Imaginations From The Other Side would mark another notch in Blind Guardian’s belt. The band were already breaking through before this and would see their fortunes rise as power metal would become a resurgent genre in the latter half of the 90’s. Blind Guardian were among the standouts of the new wave of power metal groups and have remained a viable force in metal all this time.
Many of the songs from Imaginations… are staples of live sets to this day. Several tracks have been played a few hundred times in concert and the entire album was aired out as part of anniversary celebrations a few years ago.