Monday, March 25, 2024

Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra - Legacy of the Dark Lands (2019)

Legacy of the Dark Lands is a vanity project, perhaps misbranded under the Blind Guardian moniker, in which Hansi Kursch gets his fantasy nerdery on in an even more hardcore manner than he ever did with his mainstay. Granted, there's a pretty huge crossover audience for this stuff, with lots of Blind Guardian tunes devoted to various fictional universes, some of which probably brought new fans over to the band and to the power metal genre in general, so it's not all that unusual to tie this in with the band. There's also some orchestration involved with some of their heavier albums, but nowhere near this level of overt, pompous cheese. Hansi drafts up the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, who seem to appear on a lot of metal or metal adjacent works, and a whole slew of guest vocalists to join him in exploring his epic fantasy milieu, his 'Twilight Orchestra'. It even features narration!

Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings this is not, but more of a serious if a bit generic fantasy saga like you'd find on a string of Rhapsody of Fire albums. It's certainly not intentionally stupid or silly, and there's a dark tone to the 24 tracks and 75 minutes, which range from intros and interludes, with the narrators telling the tale, to epic symphonic tracks in which Hansi flexes his pipes against the choir. If you enjoy opera or glorious Wagnerian compositions, these will probably have some appeal for you, between the calmer and whimsical flights and the sweltering belligerence. Despite the vocal presence, Kursch really lets the symphony itself shine, and they get in a lot of time and for my dollar many of the better moments on the album like "War Feeds War" and "In the Red Dwarf's Tower", the title of which does make me crack up, as much as I love the vertically stunted fantasy race in a number of IPs. The tunes have wonder, they have magnificence, they have conflict, and if you find some of the narration and chorus parts to be too dweeby or cringeworthy, you can always put on the instrumental side, which would be a far better accompaniment for your night of fiddling with your...Baldur's Gate 3, or as a soundtrack to your D&D session.

You MIGHT even hear a little of the reflection in how Hansi contributes to the Blind Guardian writing process, because there are more than a few points where I'm just imagining one of Olbrich's charging, squealing, processed guitar lines ringing out, and I was a little surprised that the tunes weren't more metalized, or that a version like that wasn't included on an extra disc. Some of the instruments and key tones (like in "Point of No Return") even feel like they might have appeared on A Twist in the Myth or something. There are also versions of this without the interludes, or an 'audio book' approach which I'm assuming must have more of the narration at the forefront with the music taking on a backing role. The production is pretty nice, and it's all pretty pro...the conductor is obviously great, as are most of the guest roles, a few of which are metal guys used to these sorts of massive projects. Does the music stir me as much as proper fantasy soundtrack? No, and it's not something I get absorbed into as much as Blind Guardian proper, but it's clearly a labor of love for Hansi and I don't mind an occasional spin.

Let's put it this way, if your inroads was "Sacred Worlds" and you dug the Sacred tie-in but thought the metal stuff was too heavy, this has your name written all over it. Otherwise, if you're a metalhead, just know what this is, and if you're not into the same sort of epic fantasy fiction and the hilarious pretentiousness of the whole thing, it's probably one to avoid at all cost.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

No comments: