The Power Metal album that unleashed a beast.
Many fans consider BLIND GUARDIANS’ 1990 album ‘Tales of the Twilight Wood’ their turning point. However, it’s 1995’s ‘Imaginations from the Other Side’ that ushered in the glory of what GUARDIAN could be. Shedding much of their 80s Speed for something more beautiful, melodic Power Prog.
Fleming Rasmussen’s weighty production, the intricate, more spacious song-craft, and the epic performances of this Germanic four-piece ensures ‘Imaginations’ a place in Metal folklore. Earlier albums glimpsed what was coming. But, their lighter themes and dependence on Speed kept those works from reaching full force impact.
From this album’s start we hear a simmering rage under the melodies of T/T, “Imaginations from the Other Side”. No longer content at being just another European Power Band, BLIND GUARDIAN was making their “do or die” stand.
Layered vocal diversity, grinding tower riffage, and destroy the world rhythms. Listening to the choral chant “Imaginations from the other side…” still sends a chill down my spine, 20(!) years later.
Prior to 1995, BLIND GUARDIAN had focused on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien for inspiration. As a Tolkien fan, I appreciate the obsession. However, ‘Imaginations’ is 100% (more like 99%) Tolkien free. The thematic expansion adds variety and a much welcomed darkness.
Picking up where 80s METALLICA died off “I’m Alive” stirs brimstone rage into a wonderfully macabre folk whimsy. While the killer “Born In a Mourning Hall” ploughs in with an ultra-heavy, be damned chorus. As close to Death/Thrash as BG would ever get.
“The Script For My Requiem” hearkens back to their 80s Speed Metal roots, while retaining this album’s heft and immediacy.
Hansi Kürsch never sounded better than here on ‘Imaginations’. In full-on “British” mode Kürsch lords over a regal, mostly acoustic “A Past and Future Secret”. And the ballad-y “Bright Eyes” demonstrates his many hats: graveled-scream soar, English folksy, and cross-harmonizing overdub chorals.
Trading in three minute songs for five minute songs gives the melodies width and breath. The more evolved, more complex production and performances help cement BLIND GUARDIAN’s now trademark sound.
The Arthurian “Mordred’s Song” gleans Symphonic while evoking a sorrowful, noble warrior resilience.
Outside the devoted, Guitarist André Olbrich is a virtual unknown. His talent deserves recognition. Along with Rhythm Guitarist Marcus Siepen, the playing here scars. “Another Holy War” offers up the ideal shredder resume: solos from hell; intense harmonizing; crushing riffs; and heavenly hooks.
This would be the last time Kürsch played Bass on a BG studio album, choosing to lead future projects from the mic alone. But, here with Drummer Thomen Stauch they craft a sublime, tightly-built tower of temponic beatdowns.
Epic, Prog closer “And The Story Ends” marks the end of the beginning. Bridging this groundbreaking album into a more formidable future.
‘Imaginations From the Other Side’ is pioneering and arguably the purest Metal accomplishment of BLIND GUARDIAN’s 30-year career. Future releases would, at times, get bogged with over-production and QUEEN level pomp. GUARDIAN, circa 1995, still sound eager and fresh. Attacking each song with fervor and controlled impatience. Easily one of my top ten 90s Metal albums and A Must Listen.
P.S. The Japanese version adds a nice cover of URIAH HEEP’s “The Wizard”–reinforcing the idea that BLIND GUARDIAN was always meant to be a Prog band.