Review

BLIND GUARDIAN Nightfall in Middle-Earth

Album · 1998 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Modrigue
Epic in Metal-Earth

What an evolution from their thrashy debut "Battalions of Fear"! With "Nightfall In Middle-Earth", BLIND GUARDIAN found at least the magic formula they were searching for. This sixth studio album is the achievement of the symphonic epic/medieval metal style the band has been crafting during the 90's. The compositions are now complex and refined, with magnificent choirs, majestic soli and powerful orchestrations. The theatrical impression has been enhanced too, with multiple different atmospheres and instruments. Some early fans can regret that the initial rage and direct approach present in the band's first compositions were left aside in favor of more polished sonorities and arrangements. Nevertheless, the music is like no other and still remains impacting.

Instead of "Lord on the Rings", from which most Tolkien's fan musicians draw their inspiration from, "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" is based on the complex "Silmarillion" collection. Each track relates an episode from the story of Middle-Earth, during a particular age. The record alternates songs and short spoken passages, sometimes with a discrete instrumentation. For this review, I will only focus on the "true" songs.

The thundering "Into The Storm" is gorgeous and haunting, it nearly touches perfection. Beginning softly, The medieval ballad "Nightfall" possesses an enchanting melody, whereas the dark "The Curse Of Feanor" contains fulminating guitar interventions. "Blood Tears" alternates calm, sad and violent moments, and is followed by the best track of the disc, "Mirror Mirror". A brilliant evolving song, catchy and powerful, with a slight medieval flavour. Mindblowing!

In contrast, "Noldor" is rather sad. Not the most remarkable track, but nonetheless pleasant. The theatrical "Time Stands Still" is also enjoyable, while "Thorn" is somber and melancholic. Then comes the piano ballad "The Eldar". Original, however a bit cheesy and out of place. Back to life with "When Sorrow Sang", an energetic and slightly gothic song that rocks! The ender "A Dark Chapter" has a middle-eastern feel but is a little hard to follow and finally uneven.

So, is "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" the ultimate symphonic / epic metal album? To be honest, it has a few flaws and I'm not a big fan of repeated spoken interludes (half of the track-list!). Nonetheless, the music is on par with the superb cover art: majestic, elaborated, heroic, complex... Some songs are just breathtaking. More theatrical, less direct than the former opuses, this disc may not instantly appeal to early 80's fans, but what the band lost in spontaneity has been gained in refinement. Unique.

"Nightfall In Middle-Earth" is an essential album of the genre, as well as BLIND GUARDIAN's summit. A treasure in the land of symphonic epic metal!
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