Friday, January 18, 2013

Blind Guardian - Imaginations From The Other Side

I was swamping for a veterinarian supplies warehouse when I met Driver Nick. For those of you who don’t know “swamping” is when you tag along with a driver and help make the deliveries. After listening to his iPod and talking about music for a while Driver Nick made the recommendation of Blind Guardian - “Nightfall in Middle Earth” to me. After listening to the album a few times I gave Driver Nick this commentary;

“Remember in the end of “The Silmarillion” when the two remaining sons of Feanor finally obtain the two remaining Silmarils and they decide to take one each. Maedhros, being the elder, chooses first, and as he chooses the red Silmaril of earth, the earth opens up and swallows him, leaving poor Maglar alone with the blue Silmaril of the ocean. Maglar being the sole surviving member of his family is overcome with grief and discards the blue Silmaril into the ocean and wanders the coast in sadness and apparently his sorrowful song can still be heard. I thought the album should have probably ended with some interpretation of Maglar’s song.”
Maedhros falling into the earth.
Maglar casts the last Silmaril into the ocean.

To which Driver Nick responded, “You have a good memory.”

Thank you Driver Nick.

At my high school reunion the first thing anyone said to me was my old friend Jeremiah, who jumped out his seat yelling “Blind Guardian rules!” or something similar to that. I had recently written my Music In Review for Blind Guardian – “War of Thrones” and Jeremiah had read it and was excited to talk at length about the German power metal band. Jeremiah is a pretty cool guy.

I was in a t-shirt store in Kensington when I noticed they had shirts for Edguy and Blind Guardian. I purchased an Edguy - “Vain Glory Oprea” and a Blind Guardian – “Nightfall in Middle Earth” t-shirt. I also started a conversation with another patron who was wearing a Blind Guardian shirt for the 2010 tour. All in all it was a pretty good day.

At the Black Label Society concert, before the show, some enthusiastic drunk kept yelling at me how awesome Blind Guardian is because I was wearing my Nightfall t-shirt, which was nice. He seemed nice. After the show a security guard with a Germen accent came up to us and rambled something about not hanging around too long since they were closing the concert hall (the show had been over for a total of five minutes) he then complimented me on my good taste in regards to my shirt. It is clear to me this gentleman only spoke to us as an excuse to talk about Blind Guardian. In fact everywhere I go people have been complimenting me on my Blind Guardian shirt. When I was buying mead for new years with my friend Mr. Johnson another stranger was half introducing himself to me through the t-shirt.

I am starting to realize that Blind Guardian has become something of a cult band over here in North America. Not a lot of people know about Blind Guardian but those who do absolutely love them, so much so whenever they identify another fan they are forced to exclaim their love in one form or another. I am a little late to the party since I only discovered Blind Guardian a little over a year ago but I get it. I really do.

I think the primary reason Blind Guardian is so loved because they dared to be what they are. They dared to be nerds... sort of. I have never considered being well read a characteristic linked to “nerdiness,” but whatever. Evidently the song writers behind Blind Guardian are rather well read especially in regards to fantasy literature, I have already made that point clear talking about J.R.R. Tolkien’s work reference in “Nightfall” and George R.R. Martin’s in “War of Thrones.”

But Blind Guardian go far beyond just referencing the two greatest fantasy writers ever, they reference just about damn near everything!

People who are passionate about art, in whatever form it may be, love connecting that passion to other mediums, in this example literature to music, and Blind Guardian more than any other band ever has supplied fans with a soundtrack to their favorite books. This is seen perhaps best in the song “Imaginations from the Other Side” from the 1995 album of the same name.

Corum Jhaelen Irsei
“Do you know if Merlin did exist?
Or Frodo wore the ring?
Did Corum kill the gods?
Or where's the wonderland?
Which young Alice had seen,
Or was it just a dream?
I knew the answers,
Now they're lost for me.”

In just this one verse we get mention of the magician Merlin from Arthurian lore, Frodo Baggins the hobbit from “The Lord of the Rings,” Corum from the fantasy series of the same name written by the gentleman who gave us the “A Princess of Mars” and the rest of the John Carter saga (I had to look that one up), and of course Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” and “Beyond the Looking Glass.” The rest of the song makes references many other works some of which I can identify and others I am not so sure. 

The song “Imaginations from the Other Side” as far as I am concerned is about growing up and losing the beautiful illusion that such stories are more than just mere tales. As we grow up there is an uncomfortable growing disconnect from the powerful emotions these stories give us, because the truth is, as strange as it may sound, there is something very real in fantasy. There is a reflection of reality in every well written fantasy, no matter how farfetched the concept. The ideas of what could be, would be, or should be, resonates in all of us. Though many may never realize it, often because of we want to appear all grown up, we identify with wizards, hobbits, sword fighters, scarecrows, tin men, and cowardly lions. A part of us is in our imaginations.  A part of the self is captured in fantasy. 

Blind Guardian has drawn upon this seemingly without effort. They dared to be what they are, and what they write about is the very human element in the multiple worlds of mythology. This is way Blind Guardia is so loved by their fans they have drawn a parallel from their art directly to their inspiration, it is something we all do all the time only Blind Guardian had the courage to run with it. Anyone who loves what Blind Guardian loves ends up loving what they are doing, for nearly every song is a double dose of mythology, the inspiration and the expression co-existing in perfect harmony.

“Out of the dark,
Back to the light,
Then I'll break down,
The walls around my heart.
Imaginations from the other side.”

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Remix from "Memories of a Time to Come"


  1. I know exactly what you mean. My Blind Guardian shirt has drawn more attention and started more conversations than any other. I fell in love with the band when I was young, I shared it with my group of friends and for the longest time I thought we were the only people in Michigan that listened to this band. I was in my early teens, so such a naive belief is to be expected.

    Finally, in 2010 I had my chance to see them at a venue a few hours away. Away my friends and I went and hundreds of people from around the state were there. No longer 13, I was not surprised by the amount of people there. However, I was surprised that I wasn't the only person singing the entire damn concert word for word. Blind Guardian is still one of my favorite bands of all time. In any given list, they will be in the top 3. I have never in my life seen a more dedicated fan base.

    One thing I think is unique to them is that they can write power metal without getting cheesy. I think a lot of power metal bands in their lyrics can get into cheesy territory but it can get overlooked by a great band backing up those cheesy lyrics. Blind Guardian never gives off that cheesy feeling. All that is conveyed is pure passion.

    Also, as you mentioned with their references. I often joke that a Blind Guardian tour is also a travelling book club and that Hansi Kursch probably tells his children the best bedtime stories.

    Thanks for writing about one of my favorite bands!