BLIND GUARDIAN — Imaginations From the Other Side (review)

BLIND GUARDIAN — Imaginations From the Other Side album cover Album · 1995 · Power Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Imaginations From The Other Side is Blind Guardian’s fifth album and the last to date that contains any substantial traces of their speed metal origins. It is also the last (again, to date) that Hansi Kürsch played the bass himself. Many fans consider this Blind Guardian’s last decent album (and yeah, it comes before Nightfall in Middle-Earth), and although I say otherwise, all the following albums are pretty solid, I would personally consider this Blind Guardian's best album, the last in a trio that I think makes up the best of Blind Guardian, the others being Tales From the Twilight World and Somewhere Far Beyond.

Like the band’s previous album, Somewhere Far Beyond, Imaginations From The Other Side does not entirely fit into any one style of metal. There have been hints of progressive and power metal since Tales From the Twilight World, which began to really show on Somewhere Far Beyond. Here those styles have been allowed to take a front row seat, with the opening title track showcasing both these genres. At just over seven minutes it’s the longest song on the album. Hansi’s vocals vary a lot and the song has a strong melodic feeling in its rhythm. Though fast and heavy, it’s not speed metal at all. Despite its length it keeps me interested throughout with plenty of interesting sections. There’s lots of lyrical references in the song, including Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, Corum and The Chronicles of Narnia. This song is the first part of a three song story arc, with the next being Bright Eyes is very much focusing on power metal, though it includes some of the album’s harsher vocals in a couple of places. The ending of the song slows it down but is in no way anti-climatic. The final part of the album’s final track And the Story Ends (and being the last track indeed it does). Some almost creepy, if energetic leads begin the song, which like Bright Eyes is much more of a power metal affair, with some folksy acoustic guitar in the background in some places. At one point these acoustics are more akin to flamenco music. There’s a line in the song “At the Edge of Time”, which just happens to be the name of their (at the time of writing), latest album.

I’m Alive harks back to their speed metal roots in places, but throws some impressive acoustics and slower sections into the mix as well, which come as something as a surprise judging by the song’s main speed metal direction, hinting at the genre hopping style that some progressive metal bands tend to do. I’m Alive is an extremely epic song because of these shifts in speed, but when topped off by a very fine performance from Hansi it becomes a highlight of the album. It’s the sort of song that is that good you barely notice its five and a half minutes go by and want to hit repeat. A similar speed metal type song, though on a lesser scale, is The Script For My Requiem. There’s a particular epic moment in this where Hansi screams ‘Crucify’ twice, before lowering his tone again for the rest of the verse and when the chorus next hits it’s like an epic lead in to the guitar solos, which as usual are excellent. Born in a Mourning Hall follows this example in a no less epic fashion, though it includes a chorus which is delivered in an almost chant like style and some progressively inclined moments are naturally present.

A Past and Future Secret, the album’s third track is a complete shift from I’m Alive. It is a ballad, akin to The Bard’s Song: In the Forest from the previous album, and is very much a folksy piece of music. I can imagine Hansi singing this in a medieval tavern with his accompanying musicians while the patrons drink their ale. It is songs like this that prove just how genius Blind Guardian are, it is beautifully written and showcases their versatility after I’m Alive and Imaginations From The Other Side.

Similar to what I’ve Alive did, Mordred’s Song includes a mix of acoustic and electric guitar, while throwing a twist akin to A Past and Future Secret on it in that the song has a slight folk feel in the way the acoustics are played and the vocals delivered. The lyrics fit with this style as well. Generally though the metal element of the song may be considered power metal. Hansi draws out the final vocal line into an outro of acoustics and lead melody. Great stuff.

So that leaves us with Another Holy War with the only song not yet mentioned. This one’s about the last days of Jesus Christ and features what may be my favourite Hansi performance of the album, though with him on such fine form here, it’s really difficult to pick. The style here is crossed between speed and power metal.

It is worth noting that this is the first Blind Guardian album since Battalions of Fear which does not feature Kai Hansen either on vocals or guitar. It is also, to date, the last.

On the 2007 remastered version there are demo versions of three of the songs. They are, in order of appearance; A Past and Future Secret, Imaginations From The Other Side and The Script For My Requiem. Interesting listening for the die-hard fan but this time around that’s all the bonus content is.

Overall it is yet another exceptional album and is definitely my personal favourite Blind Guardian album, yet I must confess that this was one of the few Blind Guardian albums that took a bit of time for it to grow on me. It was several months before it overtook Somewhere Far Beyond as my favourite Blind Guardian album, and were I writing this review then I may have only given it an 8/10, and even later, I did toy with only giving in a 9/10 when I got around to do my review, but I'm glad I waited, because now all that growing is done, I realise that there is only one score than I can fairly give it.

(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)
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