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Go See This Fucking Band

BLIND GUARDIAN thrashes Times Square into Middle-Earth

By Ben Apatoff

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Like most fanatical music dorks, I spend the holiday season listening to my favorite records of the year, in vain hopes of creating the impeccable top ten list. High in rotation right now is BLIND GUARDIAN's At the Edge of Time, which I gained a drastic new appreciation for after seeing Germany's heaviest Tolkien freaks play one of the year's best shows at the newly-christened Best Buy Theater in Manhattan.

It had been about four years since Blind Guardian last rampaged through the US. Each headbanger in the auditorium screamed as if they'd been waiting since 2006 when the lights dimmed and guitarists ANDRE OLBRICH and MARCUS SIEPEN swept in with the propulsive riff to "Sacred Worlds." Singer HANSI KURSCH, no doubt a big BRUCE DICKINSON fan, led the crowd into a fervent screamalong. His theatrical flair and resonant voice carried songs like "Nightfall" with more range than the album versions. He still blew his phonetics on "Time Stands Still (At the Iron Hill,)" but the crowd was happy to mispronounce "i-ron" along with him.

For all of Blind Guardian's extravagance and orchestration on record, there was not a wasted or superfluous note in their entire show. The live setting underscored the tight structure of the band's songs, with impressive but succinct solos and compositions that were grandiose without being indulgent. A blazing take on "Fly" was genuinely (to use an overused word) epic, and older tracks like "Valhalla" and "Imaginations from the Other Side" sounded like classics, rendered unforgettable by Guardian's thrilling performance.

Blind Guardian are one of the only bands that can make the classic metal sound perfected by IRON MAIDEN or JUDAS PRIEST sound fresh. Their incorporation of blast beats, folk-metal arrangements and power metal bombast into their music manages to update their heroes' legacy without treading on it. The difficulty of that task was showcased by openers HOLY GRAIL, a much-hyped Prosthetic signee whose energetic show could not rescue their ultimately indistinguishable songs.

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After encoring with "Mirror Mirror," Kursch thanked the exhilarated audience and promised to be back. Is it 2014 yet?

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