Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: September 2nd, 2022
Genre: Power Metal
Hansi Kursch – Vocals
André Olbrich – Guitars
Marcus Siepen – Guitars
Johan van Stratum – Bass
Frederik Ehmke – Drums
1. Deliver Us from Evil
3. Secrets of the American Gods
4. Violent Shadows
5. Life Beyond the Spheres
6. Architects of Doom
7. Let It Be No More
8. Blood of the Elves
It’s been a busy time for power metal bands, with many favorites in the genre releasing new albums over the past couple of years, including one of the main inventors of the genre, Helloween, releasing their best album in ages, while another major genre pioneer, Stratovarius, is set to release their first new album in seven years next month… However, one band that will never get lost in the mix is the German power metal band Blind Guardian, another innovator within the genre, and one of the most talked about, widely praised bands in all of power metal. They’ve always been known to take their time in between new albums, but the gap between Beyond the Red Mirror and their upcoming release, The God Machine, is even longer than normal, in part because they released a long-awaited orchestral album in between. Now that The God Machine is here, though, it’s obviously one of the most anticipated metal albums of the year, and as always, the band has lived up to all expectations, and then some!
Blind Guardian has evolved quite a bit over the years, initially starting as a mix of speed metal and very early-sounding power metal, with an emphasis on aggressive riffs (though even back then they had stronger vocal melodies and more creative songwriting than most of their contemporaries), but over time their music has become a lot more complex, with an emphasis on deep vocal layering, symphonic arrangements and some progressive elements from time to time. Every once in a while, their past few albums would throw in some nods to their classic sound, but for the most part, they’ve continued steadily evolving, becoming more grand and complex with each album.
Listeners avoiding any pre-release tracks may be in for a surprise with The God Machine, the first album in a long time to NOT follow this trend, instead being their most classic-sounding album since Nightfall in Middle Earth, at the very least. Of course, that isn’t to say the album feels outdated, or lacks any new ideas whatsoever: Instead, it feels like a perfect combination of old and new, bringing back a lot of the speed, aggression, and more straight-forward songwriting of the band’s early days, while still maintaining the complex vocal layering, symphonic arrangements and occasional prog tendencies of more recent releases. Needless to say, though, fans wanting to hear more of that thrashy, speed metal sound of the band’s early albums will have plenty to look forward to here, unlike past releases where you’d be lucky to get maybe one or two such tracks, I’d say roughly half of The God Machine falls into that style, with just enough modern enhancements to keep everything feeling fresh and new. I find the heavier tracks here to be some of the band’s absolute best to date, striking a perfect balance between speed, aggression, and some outstanding choruses, with everything coming together absolutely perfectly, for an ideal blend of everything the band has ever been.
Songwriting ranges from more straight-forward, all-out power metal tracks such as the opener “Deliver Us From Evil” and “Damnation”, mixed with more complex, modern-sounding tracks like “Secrets of the American Gods” and “Life Beyond the Spheres”, as well as of course one ballad in “Let it Be No More”. A couple of tracks took some time to grow on me, but over time I’ve fallen in love with the album as a whole and can say it’s easily my favorite release by the band since my personal favorite, Imaginations from the Other Side.
Performances are outstanding across the board, with André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen leading the way with excellent guitar work that offers a perfect blend of heavy and melodic, along with excellent drumming from Frederik Ehmke, who constantly changes tempo with perfect precision and rhythm, and of course longtime vocalist Hansi Kursch still sounds as strong and dynamic as ever, delivering his most fiery performance in quite some time. One concern I had going into the album was the production, which was surprisingly weak on Beyond the Red Mirror, hampering my enjoyment of some of the more experimental tracks. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here. While things occasionally sound a bit flat (especially on some of the busier sections, with lots of symphonic elements and vocal layering), for the most part, everything sounds crisp and clear, with the more guitar-heavy parts especially sounding excellent.
Another complaint I had about the previous album was its rather disappointing opening track, which took a bit too long to get going. Most fans will already know that certainly isn’t the case with the lead single “Deliver Us From Evil”, which opens up with some rather sinister guitar notes and vocals before quickly picking up the pace and turning into the kind of classic power/speed metal assault fans have been waiting to hear from the band for a long time. The verses move along at a frantic pace, with excellent riffs and vocals, and the solo section is excellent, but the chorus brings it all together, maintaining the furious pace of the rest of the track, while mixing in the epic vocal layering and huge vocal melodies fans have come to expect on more recent releases, resulting in an instant classic of an opening track. Next is “Damnation”, which opens up rather calmly with some Maiden-infused guitar melodies, and a fairly quiet vocal section, before the guitars fully kick in and it once again turns into a thrashy, up-tempo power metal assault, with epic choral vocals mixed in. The tempo drops off for the chorus, which has a darker feel to it, but it’s also very epic and has some fantastic vocal melodies. The track does a great job of alternating between these more complex symphonic sections and the classic, speed metal riffs, blending the two fluidly, helping to make it another standout.
The first slower track on the album is the second single “Secrets of the American Gods”, which feels somewhat similar to “The Ninth Wave” from the previous album, in that it largely relegates the guitars to the background, instead leaning on keyboards and symphonic arrangements throughout the verses, which are very epic yet also fairly subdued. The tempo picks up in bursts as the track goes along, especially in the second half where things get incredibly epic and intense, but the highlight is the chorus, which is fairly understated, but quite epic and full of excellent melodies. Unlike “The Ninth Wave”, the production here is much stronger, and the song itself is much better paced, flowing nicely from highlight to highlight, while still having plenty of room to breathe. It’s one of the more modern-sounding tracks here, but it’s also one of the best.
Before releasing any singles, the band had performed a new track live, titled “Violent Shadows”, and of course clips of that track quickly ended up on Youtube, and fans were instantly excited by the more heavy, speed metal-infused sound it promised. Thankfully, the album version does not disappoint in the least, with the aggressive guitar sound coming through with full power, and the simplicity and energy of the track combine to make it one of the most engaging, pure fun tracks the band has released in quite some time.
One track that took some time to grow on me is “Life Beyond the Spheres”. If this album has any oddballs on it, this track would be it. I initially wondered if it would be a ballad, due to how softly it begins, with a very dark, more subdued opening sequence that leans heavily on the keyboards and symphonic arrangements, using choral vocals to further add to a very atmospheric sound. The track does get a bit heavier as it goes along, with bursts of riffs that have more of a classic heavy metal feeling to them, but overall it’s a more progressive, symphonic-sounding track, with a slightly calmer chorus, which still proves to be a winner, thanks to some excellent vocal melodies. The track gradually builds up momentum as it goes along, becoming more intense and epic in the second half, with one instrumental sequence, in particular, blowing me away. As a whole, though, it’s one of the band’s more experimental tracks, and one I’m sure not everyone will love, but I can also see it being a potential favorite for people with certain preferences.
On the opposite side of things is “Architect of Doom”, which begins with a brief intro section that feels like a calm before the storm, after which it immediately switches to pure thrashy speed metal territory, moving at a relentless pace with pummeling riffs and intense drumming. This is one of the tracks that best showcases how well the band has managed to blend their old and new sounds, with verses that are some of the heaviest and most intense the band has had in ages, while the chorus slows things and down and places the focus on Kursh, with huge vocal melodies, and an ever amazing vocal delivery. Drummer Frederik Ehmke also shines, being asked to constantly change tempos, between going full blast, slowing down, and sometimes staying somewhere in between, and he manages to do so seamlessly, helping ensure everything comes together fluidly. It’s an absolute stunner of a track, and one I’m sure will become a fan favorite.
Unsurprisingly, the band follows up a heavy hitter with a ballad, that being “Let There Be No More”. I wouldn’t quite put it up there with the likes of “Nightfall” or “A Past and Future Secret”, but it’s an excellent track, moving along nicely during the verses, before giving Kursh a chance to showcase his voice during the chorus, and of course the big guitar solo in the second half is fantastic. I’d say it’s slightly better than “Miracle Machine” from the previous album, which was already a great track. Next is the third single “Blood of the Elves”, another very speedy, energetic track with some thrashy riffs, fun verses, and an excellent, very catchy chorus. It’s one of the more simple tracks on the album, but it’s extremely fun and hard-hitting, so it does its job perfectly.
Closing out the album is “Destiny”. Out of the more mid-paced tracks on the album, this is probably the easiest one to get into right on the first listen, since it places a strong emphasis on heavy guitar work, as well as some excellent melodic leads, and instead of being overly symphonic or progressive, it has more of a classic heavy metal feel to it. The riffs are heavy throughout, mixed in with some very nice soft passages here and there, as well as yet another excellent chorus, and some fantastic instrumental passages, especially in the second half. It’s an excellent track and closes out the album nicely.
Blind Guardian is a band that always has the full attention of power metal fans across the world whenever they release a new album, and they always deliver greatness. The God Machine is no exception, striking a wonderful balance between the band’s speed metal origins, along with the more symphonic and progressive elements they’ve picked up over the years. Fans of any of the band’s previous works should find a lot to love here, while any fan of the genre who somehow hasn’t discovered the band yet would do no better than to start with this album, as it’s one of the band’s finest efforts to date!
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.