The German power metal unit's tenth studio album and first since 2010's At the Edge of Time, Beyond the Red Mirror is being billed as a sequel to 1995's much-loved Imaginations from the Other Side, but listeners need not be versed in that sci-fi/fantasy narrative to enjoy the ride, as per usual, Blind Guardian lets the music do most of the talking. Sparing no expense, the band enlisted two full 90-piece orchestras and three international choirs (Prague, Budapest, and Boston), but unlike some of their symphony-loving peers, the window dressing is integrated tastefully, allowing the veteran band's well-established technical skill set to shine through. Nearly three decades into their career, Blind Guardian still sound like a spinning top at the edge of a very high (and very ornate) table, firing ideas into the ether with the subtlety of a Gatling Gun, while miraculously maintaining their footing. Nowhere is this penchant for frantic, progressive metal fanfare more apparent than on the nearly ten-minute opener "The Ninth Wave, a lavish, electro-tinged, pseudo-Wagnerian epic that feels like a highlight reel of the band's entire career thus far. Like the majority of the ten-track set, it's bold, immediate, and relentlessly melodic, due in large part to frontman Hansi Kursch's robust vocals, whose stacked Dee Snider-meets-Queen harmonies and commanding presence form the basis of nearly all of the group's best offerings. That equation is put to its best use on the rollicking follow-up, "Twilight of the Gods," the closest Beyond the Red Mirror gets to a single, and a prime example of how deft the band is at fusing pop melodies to a backbone of pure metal might. The rest of the album follows suit, making stops at vintage thrash ("The Holy Grail"), Iron Maiden-inspired, guitarmony-laden NWOBHM ("Prophecies"), and opera metal ("The Throne"), before tying things up with the aptly named "Grand Parade," another just-under-ten-minute, neo-classical metal stunner that's as unapologetically ostentatious as it is genuinely goose bump-inducing.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger