This year was the first time I'd given either Blind Guardian or Dark Tranquility any attention, as I've tended to avoid the whole Gothenburg thing, or anything German (which is ironic, considering my love of the umlaut). As such, I was most looking forward to this match-up, as I've been happily surprised by both bands. Anyway, without further ado, let's get on with the pseudo-metal.
It's not every day at the Arsies that the listening starts with a solid minute of a full orchestra. And so it goes the first of our bands today, Blind Guardian. Their latest album, "At The Edge Of Time," invites obvious comparisons to Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Fates Warning, and in the process sets a very high bar for itself in terms of sure epicness... epicdom... epicosity. Whatever you call it, this album nails it, and delivers 64 tremendous minutes (or more, if like me you have the deluxe two-disc edition). It's neoclassically anthemic, really, and will make you want to stand up and shout about... something. I'm not entirely sure what BG is all worked up about, honestly, but by god they believe it!
Dark Tranquility relinquishes some of that epictitude in exchange for a more modern gloom. On "We Are The Void", the band delivers something for metal fans of every stripe. Integrating moments of thrash, black metal, and even gorecore (thanks in no small part to Mikael Stanne screaming his best imitation of Jeff Walker from Carcass), the album goes for a seamless blend of old and new flavors, in a way that could easily sound like a kitchen sink coming from anyone else, but just works for them here. The result is a catchy, growly masterwork that doesn't ever feel dated or tired.
While both albums showcase the bands at the height of their powers (indeed, each album coincidentally being the ninth studio album from their respective bands), and both are definitely worth repeated listens, in the end Dark Tranquility rocks a bit harder, nails the darkness more convincingly, and was the album I kept coming back to. The prize goes to "We Are The Void."
And so the first week of the Arsies comes to a close. On Monday, we pick up the action with Deftones and The Dillinger Escape Plan. That oughtta be good!