At long last, an ambitious project that began over 20 years ago finally will be released. Originating in the period of time just before the release of “Nightfall in Middle-Earth,“ the once fabled Blind Guardian orchestra project in its final form draws more than just inspiration from that seminal album. A few of the voice actors from “Nightfall” return for “Twilight Orchestra: Legacy of the Dark Lands,” which tells the tale drawn from German fantasy author Markus Heitz‘s novel “Die Dunklen Lande” (“The Dark Lands“), the album’s backdrop and prequel (Note: the English edition of the book just hit digital platforms on October 23, 2019).
If your initial thought to an album that features Hansi Kürsch and the army of musicians from the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra was “basically it’s the bonus orchestral CD of the album I really wanted” – then you nailed it. However, the more you listen with some imagination (from the other side), it suddenly hits you that this is the actually the best Blind Guardian album in decades. Plus, we all knew what this was going to be forever even if it comes across like the movie score version of “Nightfall.”
“Twilight Orchestra: Legacy of the Dark Lands” sports a movie like time of just over one hour and fifteen minutes and features 11 full songs, an overture and 12 voice acted intros. Some familiar “Nightfall” voices have returned for the album, namely Normal Eshley and Douglas Fielding, the latter of whom sadly passed away back in June. The concept story is set during the 30 Years War, which consumed central Europe in the 17th Century as a religious revolt by the Protestants against Ferdinand II and the Holy Roman Empire. The main protagonist is Aenlin Solome Kane, the daughter of Solomon Kane, the famous fictional hero character conceived by Robert Howard (who also created Conan). Aenlin is on a quest to find her father’s treasures, which were stolen and kept around the area of the Austrian Habsburg Empire (encompassing Germany, Austria, parts of Poland and Hungary).
There is no doubt that “Legacy of the Dark Lands” is bombastic, gigantic, thrilling, glorious and brilliant. The concept, the story, the masterful orchestrations… it is arguably be one of the band’s best, if it weren’t a conductor’s baton movement away from Van Canto. The frustrating fact is that it feels like the novelty CD from an album’s special edition, an “orchestral audio book” for the album this fan has been lusting for since “Nightfall.” If it not for the presence of vocals and choirs and the fact that this collection of songs only exists in this form, the CD would be relegated to the shelf, only to be pulled out for rare occasions. But even while you imagine what it is like hearing Andre, Marcus and Frederik, one cannot deny just how great these songs are.
“This Storm,” “Point of No Return,” “In the Red Dwarf’s Tower” are all timeless Blind Guardian classics as if converted to a cinematic score by Howard Shore. Arm and neck hair raise in unison at the thought of hearing metallic versions. “Treason” is as cheerfully sweet and singable, a “The Bard’s Song – In the Forest” for a new age. “Point of No Return” recalls the layered round singing style of the versions of “Bright Eyes” and “Black Chamber” on “Forgotten Tales.” The album favorite is far and away “Nephilim,” one of those slow stunning building tunes with a roller coaster of vocal tracks.
Through the songwriting, style and melody, “Legacy of the Dark Lands” is the first Blind Guardian album that has completely immersed and captivated your author since “Nightfall.” 2015’s “Beyond the Red Mirror” was a great step back to the power metal that got many into the band, but it was still missing that overall feel that albums like “Nightfall,” and earlier, had. Once cannot fault the band for progressing the sound with “A Night at the Opera,” “A Twist in the Myth” and “At the Edge of Time,” but there was a gaping hole longing for that full on epic power metal fantasy return.
“Legacy of the Dark Lands” has ingredients to rank up there with “Somewhere Far Beyond,” “Imaginations From the Other Side” and “Nightfall,” but it’s akin to a virgin martini. However, hearing the familiar majestic layered vocals and those bright gleaming melody staircases that crescendo with such passion, it’s impossible not to love this album with each successive listen. Though difficult, when judging “Legacy of the Dark Lands” purely in the context of what it is, and what we all knew it would be for decades (the longest and worst kept secret), it is nearly perfect, if only half there. One could dream of a secret bonus metal version of the album…and THAT would truly be the “twist in the myth.”
Released by: Nuclear Blast Records
Released Date: November 8th, 2019
Genre: Power Metal / Symphonic Metal
- Hans Kürsch / Vocals
- The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra / Orchestra
“Twilight Orchestra: Legacy of the Dark Lands” Track-listing:
1. 1618 Ouverture
2. The Gathering
3. War Feeds War
4. Comets and Prophecies
5. Dark Cloud’s Rising
6. The Ritual
7. In the Underworld
8. A Secret Society
9. The Great Ordeal
11. In the Red Dwarf’s Tower
12. Into the Battle
14. Between the Realms
15. Point of No Return
16. The White Horseman
18. Trial and Coronation
19. Harvester of Souls
20. Conquest Is Over
21. This Storm
22. The Great Assault
23. Beyond the Wall
24. A New Beginning
We all knew it was coming for decades and now Blind Guardian has finally unleashed the orchestral album. Even fully aware of what to expect, one cannot stop wondering just how this would sound in full power metal glory. The struggle is real and the desire for guitars and drums is unmistakable, but only Blind Guardian could pull off creating a direct follow up to "Nightfall in Middle-Earth" that sounds only half there. Soaring, building melodies, rich layered vocals, masterful orchestration - everything is there but the damn guitars!