Blind Guardian – “Battalions Of Fear” (1988)

Blind GuardianGermany’s Blind Guardian became one of the premier Euro power metal bands in the mid to late nineties.  The genre experienced a sort of Renaissance at the time, with Blind Guardian leading the charge with classics such as 1998’s Nightfall In Middle-Earth.  Heavily influenced by fantasy writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Blind Guardian captured the imagination of heavy metal listeners who liked their metal with a flair for the epic.  Blind Guardian have always been storytellers — spinning tales by firelight about elves, wizards, and all things Middle-Earth.

Blind Guardian’s debut was 1988’s Battalions Of Fear.  While it lacks the epic grandeur of their later material, Battalions Of Fear is still a strong album for its time.  If Battalions Of Fear had been Blind Guardian’s one and only album, I would probably appreciate it more as a stand alone piece.  Unfortunately, I can’t help compare this album to later albums such as Nightfall In Middle-Earth — an album that exhibited more dynamic songwriting and meticulously arranged vocal choirs.  Though Blind Guardian were very good from the start, they would get much better.

Battalions Of Fear finds Blind Guardian wearing their Helloween influence on their frilly blouse sleeves.  That’s not a complaint.  I loved the music Helloween was making at the time, and I welcome all those bands that tried to emulate the masters!  The same year that Battalions Of Fear was released, Helloween released their masterpiece Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II.  While Battalions Of Fear doesn’t exactly measure up to Keepers Of The Seven Keys Part II, Blind Guardian put themselves in the same zip code as Helloween, and that’s an accomplishment.  Their aggression may have got the best of them here though, as Battalions Of Fear rarely strays from a full-on speed metal attack.  This approach reminds me of earlier Helloween (circa Walls Of Jericho) as well as the German speed metal of Rage.  Nevertheless, one gets a taste of future greatness on tracks such as Majesty and Wizard’s Crown.  My score: B

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