Blind Guardian

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Blind Guardian
20160515 Gelsenkirchen RockHard Festival Blind Guardian 0132.jpg
Blind Guardian performing in 2016
Background information
Also known asLucifer's Heritage (1984–87)
Origin Krefeld, Germany
Genres
Years active1984–present
Labels
Associated acts
Website blind-guardian.com
Members Hansi Kürsch
André Olbrich
Marcus Siepen
Frederik Ehmke
Past membersThomas Kelleners
Markus Dörk
Christof Theißen
Hans-Peter Frey
Thomas "Thomen" Stauch
Oliver Holzwarth

Blind Guardian is a German power metal band formed in 1984 in Krefeld, West Germany. [1] They are often credited as one of the seminal and most influential bands in the power metal and speed metal subgenres. [2] [3] Ten musicians have been a part of the band's line-up in its history, which has consisted of singer Hansi Kürsch, guitarists André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen, and drummer Frederik Ehmke since 2005.

Power metal is a subgenre of heavy metal combining characteristics of traditional heavy metal with speed metal, often within symphonic context. Generally, power metal is characterized by a faster, lighter, and more uplifting sound, in contrast with the heaviness and dissonance prevalent for example in extreme metal. Power metal bands usually have anthem-like songs with fantasy-based subject matter and strong choruses, thus creating a theatrical, dramatic and emotionally "powerful" sound. The term was first used in the middle of the 1980s and refers to two different but related styles: the first pioneered and largely practiced in North America with a harder sound similar to speed metal, and a later more widespread and popular style based in Europe, South America and East Asia with a lighter, more melodic sound and frequent use of keyboards.

Krefeld Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Krefeld, also known as Crefeld until 1929, is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located northwest of Düsseldorf, its centre lying just a few kilometres to the west of the river Rhine; the borough of Uerdingen is situated directly on the Rhine. Krefeld is accessed by the autobahns A57 (Cologne–Nijmegen) and the A44 (Aachen–Düsseldorf–Dortmund–Kassel).

Speed metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) roots. It is described by AllMusic as "extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding" music.

Contents

Blind Guardian is a part of the German heavy metal scene that emerged in the mid-1980s. The band was formed in 1984 as Lucifer's Heritage by Kürsch (then also bass guitarist), Olbrich, other guitarist Markus Dörk and drummer Thomas Stauch. Dörk and Stauch both left the following year, and were replaced by Christof Theißen and Hans-Peter Frey respectively, who left as well before the end of the year. In 1987, Siepen joined and Stauch returned; under this line-up, which lasted 18 years (the longest in the band's history), the band changed their name to Blind Guardian and released their first album, Battalions of Fear , in 1988.

<i>Battalions of Fear</i> 1988 studio album by Blind Guardian

Battalions of Fear is the debut album by German metal band Blind Guardian released in 1988. The album is a raw and unpolished speed metal effort that touches on thrash metal. It lacks many of the stylistic flourishes that would mark the band's music in later years, focusing more on speed and aggression. The opening track "Majesty" remains a fan favorite and is often featured in the band's live performances. This album was remastered, remixed and re-released on 15 June 2007, with the whole first demo tape, Symphonies of Doom, of the band as part of the bonus tracks. The album was again re-released as part of the A Traveler's Guide to Space and Time boxset with minor adjustments to the mixing and with new mastering.

Over the releases, Blind Guardian established themselves as a notable successful band and as pioneers of the power metal movement. In 1996, Kürsch stopped acting as the band's bass guitarist to focus on vocals. Various session members replaced him, mainly Oliver Holzwarth. However, in 2005, Stauch left the band, disapproving of Blind Guardian's transition into a more complex progressive sound with a heavy use of backing vocals, and was replaced by Ehmke.

Oliver Holzwarth German musician

Oliver Holzwarth is a German bass guitarist. Oliver is best known as the live/studio bass player for Blind Guardian between 1998 and 2012, and as an official member of Rhapsody of Fire from 2010 to 2014. His brother, drummer Alex Holzwarth, was also a member of Rhapsody of Fire. Moreover, he is a member of the side project Coldseed.

Progressive metal is a fusion genre melding heavy metal and progressive rock that combines the loud "aggression" and amplified guitar-driven sound of the former with the more experimental, cerebral or "pseudo-classical" compositions of the latter.

Backing vocalist singer who provides vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists

Backing vocalists or backup singers are singers who provide vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists. In some cases, a backing vocalist may sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist's entry or to sing a counter-melody. Backing vocalists are used in a broad range of popular music, traditional music and world music styles.

Most of Blind Guardian's albums were well received by fans and critics alike: Somewhere Far Beyond (1992), Imaginations from the Other Side (1995), and Nightfall in Middle-Earth (1998), are especially seen as influential works. The music is mostly composed by Kürsch and Olbrich together, and the lyrics, written by Kürsch, are mostly inspired by the fiction of fantasy authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, and Robert Jordan, as well as traditional legends and epics. [4] Over the years a theme has developed which personifies the band members as travelling storytellers, leading fans to refer to the band affectionately as "The Bards".

<i>Somewhere Far Beyond</i> 1992 studio album by Blind Guardian

Somewhere Far Beyond is the fourth studio album by German power metal band Blind Guardian. It was released in 1992 and produced by Kalle Trapp. The cover artwork was created by Andreas Marschall, who drew the artwork for other Blind Guardian's releases. The album saw the band creating its own original sound, while still employing most of their speed/power metal techniques.

<i>Imaginations from the Other Side</i> 1995 studio album by Blind Guardian

Imaginations from the Other Side is the fifth studio album by Blind Guardian that was released in 1995. The atmosphere of this album is darker in comparison to their earlier works, such as Battalions of Fear, which had a relatively light tone. This album also marks the first since Battalions of Fear in which Kai Hansen did not guest on vocals or guitar, and the last album to feature vocalist Hansi Kürsch as bassist. It was also their first album to spawn off any singles, in the form of "A Past and Future Secret" and "Bright Eyes". It was remastered and re-released on 15 June 2007, with bonus tracks and videos.

<i>Nightfall in Middle-Earth</i> 1998 studio album by Blind Guardian

Nightfall in Middle-Earth is the sixth full-length studio album by German power metal band Blind Guardian. It was released on April 28, 1998, through Virgin Records. It is a concept album based upon J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, a book of tales from the First Age of Middle-earth, recounting the War of the Jewels. The album contains not only songs but also spoken parts narrating parts of the story. The cover represents Lúthien dancing in front of Morgoth. It is widely regarded as one of Blind Guardian's most well-known and well-received albums in their discography. It is also the first album with Oliver Holzwarth as guest musician, playing bass guitar instead of Hansi Kürsch. Nightfall in Middle-Earth was the first album by Blind Guardian to be released in the US. The sales encouraged Century Media to release their entire back catalog in the US in 2007, at which point it was remastered and re-released, with an added bonus track.

Biography

Formation as Lucifer's Heritage (1984–1987)

Blind Guardian was formed in 1984 in Krefeld, Germany, by Hansi Kürsch (vocals, bass) and Andre Olbrich (guitar) under the name Lucifer's Heritage, with Markus Dörk (guitar) and Thomen Stauch (drums). The band briefly expanded into a quintet with the addition of a second lead vocalist, Thomas Kelleners. However, after three months Kelleners left the band in a mutual agreement. [5] Lucifer's Heritage first released two demos in 1985 and 1986, despite undergoing chaotic lineup changes: Dörk and Stauch were replaced by Christof Theißen and Hans-Peter Frey, respectively. Finally, in 1987, Marcus Siepen joined and Thomen came back to form the lineup which would stay consistent for the next 18 years.

Hansi Kürsch German singer

Hans Jürgen Kürsch, better known as Hansi Kürsch, is a German singer, songwriter, record producer and former bass guitarist, best known as a member of the power metal band Blind Guardian. One of the founders of the band, he has been its lead vocalist since its creation in 1984, and also acted as the band's bass guitarist until 1996.

Thomen Stauch German musician

Thomas "The Omen" Stauch is a German heavy metal drummer, mostly known for having founded Blind Guardian. He played with them from 1984 to 1986, then 1987 to 2005, claiming dissatisfaction with the direction the band had taken in its latter years. He had previously founded Savage Circus along with Piet Sielck in 2004 and worked in other projects such as Iron Savior and Serious Black. He began his career with the German power metal act Blind Guardian. He was a founding member of the band, playing drums on their 1985 demo, Symphonies of Doom. He remained with the band until April 2005, with his last release from the band being the live album Imaginations Through the Looking Glass, and his last studio album being the 2002 release A Night at the Opera.

A quintet is a group containing five members. It is commonly associated with musical groups, such as a string quintet, or a group of five singers, but can be applied to any situation where five similar or related objects are considered a single unit.

Name change and rise to success (1988–1996)

After Lucifer's Heritage signed a contract with No Remorse Records, the band changed their name to Blind Guardian to avoid any speculations about Satanism (in a bio it was stated that they also wanted to distance themselves from the black metal movement, as their demos were placed in with black metal albums at local record shops). The band's new name was inspired by the Fates Warning album Awaken the Guardian . [6] They released their debut album Battalions of Fear in 1988, which was essentially a speed metal album heavily influenced by Helloween. [7] These two German bands had close ties, and Helloween founder Kai Hansen made a guest appearance on Blind Guardian's second LP, Follow the Blind (1989), where the band revealed some thrash metal influence. [8] [9] Their third LP, Tales from the Twilight World (1990), had a much more melodic and "epic" feeling, with usage of choir and classical music influence.

No Remorse Records was a German heavy metal record label. It was the original record label of heavy metal band Blind Guardian.

Satanism group of ideological and philosophical beliefs based on Satan

Satanism is a group of ideological and philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966, although a few historical precedents exist. Prior to the public practice, Satanism existed primarily as an accusation by various Christian groups toward perceived ideological opponents, rather than a self-identity. Satanism, and the concept of Satan, has also been used by artists and entertainers for symbolic expression.

Black metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. Common traits include fast tempos, a shrieking vocal style, heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, raw (lo-fi) recording, unconventional song structures, and an emphasis on atmosphere. Artists often appear in corpse paint and adopt pseudonyms.

Blind Guardian signed with Virgin Records in 1991, and released their fourth studio album Somewhere Far Beyond in 1992 and the live album Tokyo Tales in 1993. Flemming Rasmussen, former Metallica producer, began working with the band in 1994, producing their fifth studio album Imaginations from the Other Side , released in 1995, and The Forgotten Tales , an album that contained half covers and half original work, released in 1996.

Later years and departure of Thomen Stauch (1997–2009)

Lead vocalist Hansi Kursch Blind Guardian Kursch.jpg
Lead vocalist Hansi Kürsch

In 1998, Blind Guardian released their epic album Nightfall in Middle-Earth . "Complete with anthemic choruses, spoken word story lines, and plenty of bombastic power metal punctuating every dramatic turn", says Allmusic's Vincent Jeffries, "Nightfall in Middle-Earth is perhaps Blind Guardian's most triumphant". [10] A concept album based on J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion , [4] Blind Guardian's music demonstrated some folk rock influence, but also featured heavy use of Queen-style layered backing vocals. Since Nightfall, bass guitar has been played by sessional member Oliver Holzwarth, and Hansi has been able to devote all his attention to singing. Nightfall was also the last Blind Guardian album produced by Rasmussen.

A Night at the Opera , named after the Queen album, was released four years later. On this album, the band's sound lacked almost all influence of their original speed metal. Power and progressive metal abound, with over the top orchestral backing and a consistent vocal and guitar layering throughout. [11] Though not a true concept album, many of the lyrics dealt with the common themes of religion and relations between human and divine powers. It was followed by a live album in 2003 and a DVD, Imaginations Through the Looking Glass , in 2004, which was the last recorded Blind Guardian material to feature Thomen Stauch on drums. He left the band due to musical differences and was replaced by Frederik Ehmke. The first album with Ehmke was A Twist in the Myth , which came out in 2006.

Blind Guardian participated in the soundtrack for the In the Name of the King: a Dungeon Siege Tale fantasy movie (Uwe Boll), which came out in 2008. [12] The band also recorded a theme song for Sacred 2 Fallen Angel role-playing video game, the sequel to Sacred . [13]

At the Edge of Time, Beyond the Red Mirror, and upcoming albums (2010–present)

Blind Guardian in 2009 Blind Guardian @ Gods Of MEtal 2009.JPG
Blind Guardian in 2009

"A Voice in the Dark" was the next single from Blind Guardian, released on 25 June 2010. On 30 July 2010 the album followed, called At the Edge of Time . The band started "The Sacred Worlds and Songs Divine Tour 2010", the European dates featured the opening acts Enforcer and Steelwing. The US dates had Holy Grail and Seven Kingdoms and later they were announced that they would play at Wacken Open Air in 2011.

On 21 July 2011 Hansi Kürsch announced on Blind Guardian's official website that they were working on an orchestral album. [14] [15] On 1 September 2011 Oliver Holzwarth joined Rhapsody of Fire as a full-time member, after 13 years as Blind Guardian's session bass player. [16] On 27 January 2012 the band released a compilation album, titled Memories of a Time to Come , containing re-recorded and remixed songs from the band's entire discography, [17] and almost exactly year later, on 28 January 2013, they released a box set called A Traveler's Guide to Space and Time , which contained all of the bands' studio, live and compilation albums released from 1988 to 2004, as well as some previously unreleased material. [18] On 11 July 2012 Hansi posted on the bands' official website that the band would cease touring after their show at the Rockharz festival in Ballenstedt, which happened two days after the post. Hansi went on in the post to explain that they wanted to really get down to work and focus on a new record before returning to the road once again in 2014 at the latest. He also mentioned that he really wanted to perform songs that they had never played live before when they return to touring. [19]

In October 2013 the band were announced to be headlining the Out & Loud Festival in Geiselwind on 31 May 2014. On 18 October 2013 Hansi announced via a news post on the official website that he expected the new record to be fully produced and finished by May 2014. He mentioned that the production of the album was coming along well, and mentioned nine new songs by name (Irish Hill [now titled Grand Parade], Encrypted Time, Prophecies, Holy Grail, Winter's Coming, The Throne, The Ocean, and Outcast) and two other songs with presumably uncertain titles, Song 9 and Midtempo Song. [20] The tenth Blind Guardian album, titled Beyond the Red Mirror , was released on 30 January 2015, its first single "Twilight of the Gods" having been released on 5 December 2014. [21] On 28 January 2015, two days before the release of Beyond the Red Mirror, Blind Guardian announced on their official Facebook page that Barend Courbois is their new session/live bassist. [22]

They recorded live shows during the 2015 European leg of the Beyond the Red Mirror tour for a new live album, Live Beyond the Spheres, which was released on 7 July 2017. [23] When asked in July 2017 about the next Blind Guardian studio album, Kürsch stated, "We haven't done too much songwriting for the next regular Blind Guardian album, but still, we've made some steps at least, and I can sense a strong change in comparison to what we did on the last album. There's one song called 'Architect of Doom', which is a real heavy song. Very powerful. Very thrashy at points. And there's another song called 'American Goth', which is kind of what you would expect from Blind Guardian, but yet the way we maintained the drums, for example, the way we maintained the orchestra, and that is a song with orchestra, again, it's so different. I'm pretty sure that there will be a significant change when you listen to these two albums and from that point of view, yes, Live Beyond the Spheres is the end of an era." He also stated that they are working on an orchestral album, which was originally scheduled to be finished and released in 2016, [24] but now due for release in 2019, followed by a "heavy album" to be released in 2020. [25]

Musical style

Blind Guardian's first two albums, Battalions of Fear and Follow the Blind , were more in the style of speed metal than their following works. Beginning with their third album Tales from the Twilight World , Blind Guardian gradually began to write more complicated compositions focusing less on speed. As of their sixth album, Nightfall in Middle Earth , Hansi stopped playing bass to focus on singing. At this point the band began to incorporate large amounts of orchestral arrangements, and utilized the technique of overdubbing, heavily influenced by the English rock band Queen. [26]

Blind Guardian's music features the staccato guitars and double bass drumming characteristic of power metal, as well as the use of overdubs and numerous backing vocals to create a dense sound. This proved significant on all albums after the first two but most particularly on A Night at the Opera .

Another definitive feature of Blind Guardian music is frequent use of folk tunes and instruments, especially in power ballads such as "Lord of the Rings", "The Bard's Song", "A Past and Future Secret", "Skalds and Shadows" and "Curse My Name", among others.

Influences

The band was initially inspired by their fellow countrymen Helloween, and in its early releases also showed some influence from Iron Maiden and Metallica. [27] According to guitarist Marcus Siepen, during the songwriting for Follow the Blind , they also used to listen to Bay Area thrash metal bands, such as Testament and Forbidden, resulting in a somewhat heavier sound. [27]

Starting with their third album, Tales from the Twilight World , through Somewhere Far Beyond and Imaginations from the Other Side , Blind Guardian gradually incorporated more influences from progressive and classical music. Queen became a huge impact, in particular concerning the choir arrangements and harmonies, an effect most notable on A Night at the Opera . [27]

Singer Hansi Kürsch expressed the band's attraction to 1970s progressive rock, for example early Genesis, Gentle Giant, and ELP. However, with regard to the genre, he sees the more direct influences in progressive metal bands, in particular Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, and Savatage. [28] The folklorist influences on Nightfall in Middle-Earth came mainly from British rock band Jethro Tull. [27]

Side projects

Along with Jon Schaffer, the leader and founder of Iced Earth, Kürsch is a member of Demons and Wizards, where he is the lead singer.

Frederik Ehkme was a founding member of the band Sinbreed, in which Marcus Siepen was a session member. Later on, during 2012, Marcus became a full member of the band.

After the tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011, Blind Guardian worked with their former record company, EMI Music, and auctioned off an exclusive studio session for two in the Twilight Hall Studio in Grefrath, Germany for charity. All of the proceeds were donated to the tsunami relief efforts. [29] The auction ended on 22 April 2011 with a final bid of £1,171.00. [30]

Trivia

In 2019, the Power/comedy metal band Nanowar of Steel released the song "The Quest For Carrefour", openly inspired to the style of the Bards.

Band members

Timeline

Blind Guardian

Discography

Related Research Articles

Demons & Wizards are a power metal band conceived as a side-project by vocalist for Blind Guardian, Hansi Kürsch, and the guitarist for Iced Earth, Jon Schaffer. Schaffer writes the music and Kürsch writes the lyrics. The band's line-up during the recording of their first album in 1999 also featured Mark Prator, who was the drummer on a few Iced Earth albums, and Jim Morris doing most of the guitar solos, Morris also having worked with Iced Earth in the past. The personnel for the second album, released in 2005, included Morris at lead guitar and Bobby Jarzombek on drums.

<i>A Night at the Opera</i> (Blind Guardian album) 2002 studio album by Blind Guardian

A Night at the Opera is a 2002 album by the German power metal band Blind Guardian. It is named after the 1975 Queen album of the same name, which is itself named after the Marx brothers film of the same name.

<i>The Forgotten Tales</i> 1996 compilation album by Blind Guardian

The Forgotten Tales is a compilation album by Blind Guardian. It was published in 1996. The cover artwork was created by Andreas Marschall. "'The Forgotten Tales'" contains several cover versions of popular songs, including "Mr. Sandman", "Surfin' U.S.A.", and "Spread Your Wings" as well as alternate versions of the band's previous works. Remastered and re-released on 15 June 2007, with bonus tracks and videos.

<i>Tokyo Tales</i> 1993 live album by Blind Guardian

Tokyo Tales is the first live album by the German metal band Blind Guardian. It was remastered and re-released on 15 June 2007, with the same Japanese bonus track.

<i>Follow the Blind</i> 1989 studio album by Blind Guardian

Follow the Blind is the second full-length album from the German metal band Blind Guardian. It was released in 1989 and is more in the vein of speed metal, compared to the style that would later define the band's unique sound. According to guitarist Marcus Siepen, "When we were doing Follow the Blind we were listening to a lot of thrash metal bands like Testament or Forbidden, and that's why Follow the Blind was a bit heavier". The album was remastered, remixed and re-released on 15 June 2007, with the whole second demo tape, Battalions of Fear, of the band as part of the bonus tracks. The album was again re-released as part of the A Traveler's Guide to Space and Time boxset with minor adjustments to the mixing and with new mastering. "Banish from Sanctuary" was released as a single to promote this album.

<i>Live</i> (Blind Guardian album) 2003 live album by Blind Guardian

Live is the second live album by the band Blind Guardian. It was recorded during the Blind Guardian World Tour 2002/2003 in Tokyo, Stockholm, Lichtenfels, Venice, Düsseldorf, Milan, Florence, Barcelona, San Sebastián, Avilés, Madrid, Granada, Valencia, Bremen, Moscow, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart.

<i>Imaginations Through the Looking Glass</i> 2004 video by Blind Guardian

Imaginations Through the Looking Glass is the first DVD from German Power Metal band Blind Guardian. The cover art is painted by Leo Hao.

Mirror Mirror (Blind Guardian song) 1998 Song by Blind Guardian

"Mirror Mirror" is a single by the German power metal band Blind Guardian, released in 1998. Cover art was painted by Andreas Marshall. The song was composed for the 1998 album Nightfall in Middle-Earth. Lyrics of "Mirror Mirror", based on J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, recount how Turgon, in view of inevitable defeat, builds the city of Gondolin, aided by Ulmo.

And Then There Was Silence 2001 single by Blind Guardian

"And Then There Was Silence" is a song by the German power metal band Blind Guardian. It was released in November 2001 as the lead single from their album, A Night at the Opera.

The Bards Song (In the Forest) 2003 single by Blind Guardian

"The Bard's Song " is a single by the German power metal band Blind Guardian, released in 2003. It contains five different versions of this track, one of their most popular songs, which originally appeared on the album Somewhere Far Beyond.

Fly (Blind Guardian song) Blind Guardian song

"Fly" is a single by Blind Guardian from their 2006 release, A Twist in the Myth. Two of the songs are from the album, "Fly" and "Skalds and Shadows", with the latter being an acoustic version only available on the single. The single also includes a cover of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", also available only on the single.

<i>At the Edge of Time</i> 2010 studio album by Blind Guardian

At the Edge of Time is the ninth studio album by the German heavy metal band Blind Guardian. A two CD version of the album was released, with the second disc containing 8 tracks. The artwork for the album was created by Colombian artist Felipe Machado Franco. The album was released in Europe on July 30, 2010. A music video for "A Voice in the Dark" was released on August 3, 2010.

"Banish from Sanctuary" is a song by the German power metal band Blind Guardian. It was released as the only single from their 1989 second album Follow the Blind. The single was pressed on 7 inch, 45 rpm green vinyl and includes "Hall of the King" as a B-side. Only 500 copies of the vinyl were pressed.

<i>Tales from the Twilight World</i> 1990 studio album by Blind Guardian

Tales from the Twilight World is the third studio album that was released in 1990 by Blind Guardian.

<i>Beyond the Red Mirror</i> 2015 studio album by Blind Guardian

Beyond the Red Mirror is the tenth studio album by German power metal band Blind Guardian, released on January 30, 2015 through Nuclear Blast. It is the band's first album since 2010's At the Edge of Time, marking the longest gap between two studio albums in their career. It is also their first album without former session member Oliver Holzwarth on bass guitar since 1995's Imaginations from the Other Side, with Barend Courbois replacing him. "Twilight of the Gods" was released as a single to promote this album.

Twilight of the Gods (Blind Guardian song) 2014 single by Blind Guardian

"Twilight of the Gods" is a single by the German power metal band Blind Guardian, released in 2014. It was released as the first single from their 2015 studio album Beyond the Red Mirror.

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