1. Fly 2. Skalds and Shadows (acoustic version) 3. In a Gadda Da Vida
With the release of ‘Fly’, the sprawling, archaic camp of Blind Guardian begins to stir again. 2002’s ‘A Night at the Opera’ was ambitious, in both name and sound, and even though the album reached many top 10 lists, since then the band has taken their longest hiatus between full lengths ever. ‘Fly’ heralds the coming of a long-awaited follow-up. Following the classic single structure of main track, supplement, and cover song, Blind Guardian of 2006 is both businesslike and notably less epic than they have been in the past. Songs such as ‘And Then There Was Silence’ and the entirety of Nightfall In Middle-Earth are brimming with layered vocal tracks, lush melodies, and dense German riffing that take their time to develop. However, ‘Fly’ ranks as Blind Guardian’s shortest ever release, excepting demos and cover songs, at only 12 minutes. It may be, then, that the brevity of ‘Fly’ is all that halts my praises, for it cannot be said that Blind Guardian have ‘lost their edge’, despite the recent loss of longtime drummer Thomen Stauch to new group Savage Circus. From its outset, the title track exudes much more of a rock and roll vibe than is traditional for Blind Guardian, and while Hansi Kürsch is easily one of the most talented and distinctive metal vocalists of all time, his delivery style and tone is not well suited to rock music. However, by the song’s end it flows into a tightly knit and musically evolved power metal anthem, largely through the trademark lead guitar of Olbrich, who demonstrates both flair and tasteful restraint. ‘Skalds and Shadows’ also comes into its own, evoking at atmosphere by its end that is notably absent during the first half. For the last track, the band decided to cover ‘In a Gadda Da Vida’ by Iron Butterfly for the third and somewhat half-hearted cut of this offering. That band not being too widely popular in the modern underground, a significant number of listeners (this reviewer included) will be able to appreciate it on very few levels indeed. It is possible that the cover is worthwhile for its comedic potential, but seeing as it constitutes roughly a third of this release, a more substantial track would have been more appreciated. Not only this, but it sounds as though the abbreviated, rock ‘n’ roll style of the cover track was spread to the rest of the single, giving the title track a bad aftertaste due to a questionable beginning. All together, these criticisms are harsher than Fly deserves. However, for such an prominent and musically talented group, the expectations are always high, and though this troupe have yet a good number of licks and tricks left to deliver, ‘Fly’s first and most lasting impression is one of hastiness.