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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blind Guardian: Tokyo Tales


1) Inquisition; 2) Banish From Sanctuary; 3) Journey Through The Dark; 4) Traveler In Time; 5) The Quest For Tanelorn; 6) Goodbye My Friend; 7) Time What Is Time; 8) Majesty; 9) Valhalla; 10) Welcome To Dying; 11) Lost In The Twilight Hall; 12) Barbara Ann.

Blind Guardian's first live album is exactly what you'd probably expect of Blind Guardian's first live album — terrific, powerful, energetic, ripping, and completely expendable unless you are capable of putting it on, turning the volume all the way up, closing your eyes, and mentally trans­porting yourself to Koseinenkin Hall in Tokyo, Japan, on the fateful night of December 4, 1992. With several thousand stark-raving-mad Japanese fans accosting you from all sides, singing all of your favorite anthemic choruses in complete unison. Power!!!

But my problem is predictable: there is just no way these here songs could sound more powerful played live than when recorded in the studio. So you get the same mad tempos, the same metal hero vocals, the same super-fluent, intelligently constructed metal-Paganini solos from Olbrich — yes, amazing how they can recreate all that so perfectly-flawlessly on stage and all, but hardly warranting more than one listen. Serious fans will, no doubt, discern and cling on to minor vari­a­tions, yet I have only noticed that they offer a much louder rendition of ʽLord Of The Ringsʼ — electric, with a big drum sound in the climactic finale, and it hardly makes the song any better, though, of course, it is more suitable for an arena setting that way.

The setlist mainly draws upon Tales and Somewhere Far Beyond, with only ʽMajestyʼ retained from the debut album and only ʽBanish From Sanctuaryʼ and ʽValhallaʼ from the second one; it's all okay, although I sort of miss ʽAshes To Ashesʼ and ʽThe Last Candleʼ. Hansi is playing the Big Barbarian Boss for the audience, occasionally encouraging them to join him in his pagan chest vocalising — the effect can be irritating, but that's how you play this game, and at the very least, he does sound like he drinks his enemies' brains right from their freshly cracked skulls at breakfast, so he's a winner at that game regardless of whether you play or not. Nothing to com­plain about in any of those departments, really.

Technically, the album was sewn together from bits of two different shows, so it's a little patchy with all the fade-ins and fade-outs; and the decision to include ʽBarbara Annʼ in their live show might irritate genre purists (I am not irritated, but I do have to remark that if this was a gesture of the «we are really not that serious» variety, it was still a little misplaced — I mean, normally, you either have a sense of humor, in which case it shows up rather regularly in many of the things you do, or you do not have a sense of humor: this «two extra minutes of fun for the sake of proving we can be fun» feels somewhat contrived. Anyway, somehow it worked better in the studio). So these may be minor flaws if you need any. Sound quality, however, is perfect (Tokyo factor strikes again, those Japanese accept nothing less), no flaws here. Oh, and, for the record, if I am not mistaken, the band likes double-tracking their guitars in the studio, so if you dislike that simple trick, here's at least one minor reason to seek out the live versions instead. 

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