Once again, we stand on the precipice of a new full-length Blind Guardian release, and once again, the band and their following are hyping this up through the roof. Whether this is deserved due to the band's veteran status and financial success, or the rabid 'Beatles for nerds' obsession, I can only guess, but one would think the fans would not have such high expectations after the previous effort, A Twist in the Myth. While a good enough album, it was certainly the weakest they've put out to date, with some fruity lyrics and inconsistent writing quality. The 'lead-off' single is nothing new to the German mainstay, and A Voice in the Dark comes conveniently to fuel the fan reaction and perhaps ensure some additional sales of the full-length.
It's fortunate that we have had access to clips of all the album tracks from the band's official website, because I've heard some promising snippets in various tunes. What's not fortunate is that none of those tunes are here on this single, so putting their best foot forward here is really out of the question. This contains both of the album songs centered on George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire, and another of the band's unceasing parade of cover songs. From a production standpoint, the tracks are flush and clean, and though highly processed as per the last few albums, they feel a little glossier and more coherent, and I daresay the title track is a little heavier, returning to the Imaginations from the Other Side era and before.
"A Voice in the Dark" focuses on the tragic character of Bran Stark from the Martin novels, and this is a pretty interesting idea. The riffs are aggressively thrashing speed like old school Blind Guardian, but sadly they're just not very memorable, with the one exception of the uplifting sequence first arriving around 1:20. The multi-vocal tracking is fairly tight, the musicianship competence, including a thundering volley from Frederik Ehmke, but it's hardly as emotionally inspiring as a "Bright Eyes", "Time Stands Still" or "Journey Through the Dark". The other original is an acoustic version of "War of the Thrones", which is a fairly typical Blind Guardian ballad with somber guitars, soaring and soothing vocals, and as much orchestration as can be packed in. A few of the escalating vocal segments are satisfactory, but the actual gist of the piece feels rather samey, as if the band has been down this road before and there's not a lot of distinct qualities.
The cover track is an interesting choice, and though I didn't care for it, it seems to suit Blind Guardian's style fairly well. It's a pop song called "You're the Voice", which I assume is supposed to fit in here due to its similar title to the single track. Although I've been a fan of Australian pop for decades now, fawning over such cheesy and disposable, but catchy artists as Wa Wa Nee or Pseudo Echo, I've never cared for the Johnny Farnham original. The guy could sing, and Hansi does a fairly predictable interpretation of his chorus here, but I simply never found the notes or melodies all that interesting, nor the all too typical 80s anti-war hippie lyrics. Thus, though curious to behold how the band converts the cover straight into the power metal format, its pretty fruity and I felt no compulsion to play it repeatedly.
Probably the real sinker to this single is that almost ALL of the material here is available with the limited edition of the full-length, including an edit of the cover song. The one exception is the 'acoustic' version of "War of the Thrones", which is probably not as good as the album cut anyways. So unless you like flushing your cash down the toilet of Hansi and the boys' pants' pockets, or you absolutely must be the first dork on your block to own the new Blind Guardian single and be that much less likely to get laid, you should save your purse for the full-length, since some of the other tracks are vastly more intriguing than these. I'm all for George R.R. Martin metal. I've read the books for many years, and eagerly anticipate the TV version. It's the right time to strike lyric-wise into this territory, but the songs are not that great otherwise, and there is little else of value to this single except maybe the unique cover art.
Verdict: Fail [3.5/10]