"A Night At The Opera" for sure has been one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the year 2002, almost four years after the release of their last album "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" and BLIND GUARDIAN are amongst the most acclaimed Metal-bands worldwide by now.
The first thing to strike is (just as with the single "And Then There Was Silence") that the cover isn't Marschall. Paul Raymond Gregory surely is a great artist, but this artwork just doesn't fit BLIND GUARDIAN, sorry, not bad, but it just doesn't fit, no, no, no…
Anyway, the music. I have only read great reviews so far and as long-time BLIND GUARDIAN-fan I had been quite anxious to hear what the quartet has conceived for their by now seventh album. Basically they have continued down the way that the last albums already had paved and there is more of everything. More complexity, more bombast, more heaviness (in a certain way), more choirs, more playing time, just more…
Opener "Precious Jerusalem" appears pretty bulky at first listen, because of its rhythmic complexity and a few countering vocal/guitar-lines, which gets more and more accessible the more often you listen to it, but once you are in (and no, it is no "work" getting there) you'll be rewarded with a song that is so multi-faceted and layered and contains more elements in one song than some bands have on half an album. And still BLIND GUARDIAN manage to remain comprehensible. And the choirs - they always have been a trademark of the Krefeld-based band, but here they are fatter and bigger than ever. To describe BLIND GUARDIAN as "progressive" is not completely out of question.
After that "Battlefield" comes along a lot straighter, with a vocal duel between Hansi and the (biig) choir, classical BLIND GUARDIAN, just like "Under The Ice", which's guitar-line lends the song a pretty unusual note. Also rather atypical for the band is "Sadly Sings Destiny", which is surprisingly "rocky" in structure and guitars, just to culminate in the typical grand choir in the chorus.
"The Maiden And The Minstrel Knight" then has this certain medieval flair, which the band already is known for, starting out calmly, then rising in cadence and intensity, will be a live-favourite, I am sure, really good one! The following "Wait For An Answer" then again breaks out a little from the typical BG-sound, with the choir opposing Hansi's vocals in the choir. After that we get another killer in the typical BLIND GUARDIAN-vein: "The Soulforged", straight, with very strong chorus, would have fit on "Imaginations From The Other Side" as well. Also "Age Of False Innocence" hits into the same vein, maybe with a few calmer parts.
With "Punishment Divine" the pedal is put to the metal again, classical, fast, bombastic BLIND GUARDIAN with big choir, another reminiscence to "Imaginations…". And at the end we still have the more then 14-minute epos "And Then There Was Silence", I spare me the details and simply refer to my review of the single-CD…
Some might accuse BLIND GUARDIAN of having too much "more", that the album is over-produced and whatever else, but if you take the time for "A Night At The Opera", then you have to admit that the Germans once more have managed to reach their own set damn high standard within their very own style (if anybody tries to tell you the opposite, don't believe him!).
Get "A Night At The Opera" and give it a little time, because just like good wine this album sets free its class only with time and thanks to the many layers you will still discover new details and parts after the tenth listen, just like it should be! No matter what Wes will say, "A Night At The Opera" is another classic of the band's history, period!