Friday, March 29, 2024

Blind Guardian - The God Machine (2022)

I consider myself a punctual person in general. I get the kids to the bus on time, I pick them up on time. If I'm coming for you, I'll be there on time. If you're picking ME up, I'm already waiting when you drive up to the curb. It's likely an obsessive compulsive thing for me, and just something I feel shows the proper amount of respect to other people, be they family or friends or acquaintances. I tell you this because Blind Guardian's 11th proper studio album The God Machine made me late for work. I'd heard a track or two in advance, of course, who hadn't? But I got the CD in the post before a shift, fired it up en route, and when I arrived at the parking lot, I just could not stop listening. I could not get up out of my seat, and promptly forgot where I was until I happened to see a customer wave to me out the rear view mirror. It was then I realized that, through the miracle of technology, I could actually stream the album OUTSIDE of my car and CD player.

But yeah, The God Machine is THAT fucking good. It totally encapsulated me with the charging fury of the unique Teutonic power metal machine, in a way that hadn't really happened for me since the 90s. Now, mind you, I like EVERY album that the band has ever produced, and there's nothing necessarily novel about this one if you've heard the rest, but it just kicked my ass over and over again and I felt a magic to the musicianship that might have been in slightly shorter supply on A Twist in the Myth, At the Edge of Time and Beyond the Red Mirror. The amazing Peter Mohrbacher artwork seemed to hint that there's a song here based on possibly kaiju or Evangelion or something, and even though that doesn't seem to the be the case, there are plenty of subjects here to nerd out about...Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive gets a tune. Great series. The Witcher novels. Good stuff! Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Fantastic. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss...well, that one started out pretty good until it devolved into the author's self-insert fantasies about shagging a fairy queen and a village of hot ninjas.

But I digress. It's all here...André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen's riffs are more inspired than they have been in forever, and what's more, they've's got a great, heavy tone on the rhythm tracks that really drives it all home, while you still get a lot of those popping, squealing little processed melodies, they just blend in better with the overall force of the production. Frederik's drumming is also fire, he's definitely one of those modern power metal drummers who can bring to bear the muscle of extreme metal, but also helps fill in all the gaps. Hansi doesn't sound he's aged a single day since the 90s, his throat still delivers that grittier personality which sounds like absolutely nobody else in his field. The leads are intense, the Queen-like choruses are as involved in their arrangement as you've always loved (another of their distinct features), and this is a 51 one minute album across which I skip absolutely nothing. All nine tracks have something to offer, whether it's the lyrical approach to their varied subjects, or the hooks around every corner, the tasty riffs waiting in the depths, or the freakout leads that catapult its magnificence into the stratosphere.

Even the slow jam, "Let It Be No More", which only gets heavy for a few seconds, is engrossing, with the scintillating acoustic guitars, backing vocals and a little of the orchestration left over from Hansi's total 2019 nerdfest Legacy of the Dark Lands. It's all as well-plotted as any of their previous albums, and Charlie Bauerfeind and company make sure to make this sound like one of the slickest power metal recordings this side of the millennium shift. This thing just explodes out of my car speakers, my PC speakers, my tinny little iPhone, and the surge of energy in "Blood of the Elves", "Deliver us From Evil", and "Damnation" takes complete control of me. The God Machine is not the most progressive of their albums, and it might not be the most ambitious either, but in 2022 when I heard this, it was exactly what I needed, and dozens of spins later I am proud to say it's become one of my favorites in the band's catalogue along with Imaginations and Nightfall in Middle-Earth. Worth being late for work, even, but just make sure you've got an alternate excuse when your boss listens to Taylor Swift and 90s butt rock and doesn't know the Guardian.

Verdict: Epic Win [9.5/10]

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