Album Review: Memories of a Time to Come by Blind Guardian

Often with ‘best of’ compilations, fans of the band releasing the set usually have little to no reason to purchase the record.  With stuff like digital media players and their playlist feature, a fan can easily recreate the ‘best of’ album with ease from all the albums they already own.  And while some bands will toss an unreleased song onto the compilation, more often than not, there was a reason that the song was never released, so it’s a throw-away.  When it comes down to it, ‘best of’ albums are good for those just getting into an established band and those who just want to dabble in a certain band but don’t want to make a full monetary and time commitment to listening to the whole catalog a group has to offer.  But sometimes a ‘best of’ collection comes along that is able to appeal to newbies, casuals, and the hardcore fan offering something of quality for all.  Blind Guardian’s Memory of a Time to Come is one of those albums.  And I write this from the perspective of the hardcore Blind Guardian fan that I am.

What Memory of a Time to Come gets right is that is less of a ‘best of’ record and more of a retrospective on the bands 25 year and counting metal career, even going back to before Blind Guardian hit the metal scene with their debut record, Battalions of Fear.  The package includes 2 completely packed disks that contain carefully selected songs that highlight specific moments and songs that shaped the future of the band and shows a great curve of progression the band made since their speed metal days.  As a bonus, and the part that will be most appealing to established fans, is the fact that all but 1 of the songs was remastered, remixed, or completely re-recorded from scratch to breathe new life into the songs that you know and love to death (“Sacred Worlds” off their latest album, At the Edge of Time, was the one song left untouched.  And if you’re familiar with it, its recording is already perfect).  Each remix and remaster sounds great, and I’ve been going back and forth between the originals + the songs off the remastered re-releases of the classic albums the songs are from, and can say with confidence that the songs in this package are the definitive versions excelling with superb sound quality and absolutely perfect levels and mixes.

The real treat for fans on this compilation comes the way of the re-recordings.  Hearing a live orchestra backing the iconic “The Bard’s Song (In the Forest)” brings the fan favorite to a whole new level and doesn’t sacrifice any of the intimacy the original version has.  Its counterpart, “The Bard’s Song (The Hobbit)” receives a harder punch with the re-recorded guitar tones and noticeably superior drumming.  “Valhalla” also received a much needed do-over.  The original version has always irked me, mainly due to guest singer Kai Hansen (of Gamma Ray) and his voice sounding so unrefined and underpowered on such a driving and bombastic song.  Kai returns for this re-recording and his years of experience served him well as he gives one hell of a performance finally making the song sound exactly as it should.  But the best of the re-recordings goes to “And Then There Was Silence”.  If you thought that song couldn’t reach levels any more epic, be prepared to be wowed.  Beyond just sounding altogether sharper and cleaner, the guitar and bass tones are more prominent and the drums are brought more to the forefront really adding some heavy impact to the song.  It’s amazing how a little bit of tweaking can really make such a huge difference. When the ‘la la la da la la’ part kicked in, man, chills down my spine.

For those who purchase the special edition, which I bought and highly recommend to fans, you get a third disk filled with early demos.  Often times demos are pretty throw-away for me, but here you get to hear how drastically some songs sounded before they reached their final version.  There is also music from when the Guardians were called Lucifer’s Heritage, so you finally get a chance to hear them during their really early years (man did they sound like Killers-era Iron Maiden).  All of it is very interesting and worth investing in.

The special edition also comes with extended digi-pack packaging in a 4 gatefold cardboard case.  Here I was a bit disappointed.  Seeing the amazing work that went into recent special editions by Nuclear Blast like the amazing packaging of Testament’s Dark Roots of the Earth and Symphony X’s Iconoclast (and many others) I was hoping this would get the glossy hard cover and expanded size lyric booklet like those did.  I mean, Blind Guardian has to be one of their biggest cash crops, why not invest a little more on them?  In the end it’s not a bad package, the structure is bit flimsy, and the larger cover art is nice but the choice of paper dulled the art a bit, but I have other special editions that are assembled a lot worse (Metal Blade, I’m looking at you!).  The liner notes booklet is the same one that is included with the standard jewel case 2-disk release and it is packed full of cool photos of the band through the years, old and new artwork, and words by Hansi on each song in the collection talking about what the song means to him, the band, and the re-recording process.  All in all, it’s a very well done liner notes booklet.

So there you have it.  A must buy ‘best of’ album for fans and newbies alike.  There’s something for everyone here and it is immediately apparent the Guardians put a lot of love and work into this set instead of just slapping a bunch of songs together and calling it a day for a quick buck.  They even paid special attention to the ordering of the songs to create an excellent listening flow as it all plays out like an album instead of a bunch of singles.  If you’ve yet to delve into the world of Blind Guardian, I cannot recommend them enough (especially if you’re a fantasy/sci-fi/bookworm/history/gaming nerd).  Enjoy!  Peace Love and Metal!!!


About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on September 19, 2012, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The band that brought me to Metal. I never got a big interest in music until I heard the song Battlefield from A night at the opera on the discman of a friend. It was the first Metal song I ever (conciously) listend to. I borrowed the album and heard it – without exageration – several hundred times.

    I nearly like all the music they’ve made and its the only band I’ve bought all kind of stuff like the Maxis, Singles etc. I met Hansi in 2006 and he is a friendly, down-to-earth kinda guy (as I expected).

    Blind Guardian will always be one of my favourite bands.

    • Hail the Bards! One of my all time favorite bands too! One thing I love about BG is that they have such a wide appeal. I know many metalheads that are into some of the most extreme metal that adore BG. And man, a BG live show, simply epic!

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