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Blind Guardian - The Forgotten Tales CD (album) cover

THE FORGOTTEN TALES

Blind Guardian

 

Progressive Metal

3.63 | 48 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'The Forgotten Tales' - Blind Guardian (78/100)

Blind Guardian are one of those bands with a style so unique as to be inimitable. You'll never find someone covering a song of theirs that does the original justice; their music is indelibly tied to a sound only they can provide. Conversely, their grasp of character makes them uniquely predisposed towards performing great covers of their own. It's not just the voice of Hansi Kürsch that really makes their covers truly 'work', nor is it Andre Olbrich's distinctively playful guitar work or even the band's heady rhythm section. A fine part of what makes them so successful with covers is the fact that they choose songs that are perfectly suited to highlighting aspects of themselves that are already present in their own music, even if it's not obvious on paper. The Forgotten Tales has several of these gems and much more. When all the lights go down and I'm looking for something just a bit different from their usual fare, this compilation encompasses their best-loved odds and ends, and shouldn't be dismissed as the sort of 'hardcore fans only' fare that releases of this sort usually amount to.

The Forgotten Tales was released a year after Imaginations from the Other Side was unveiled to the world; as such, I think it allows us to glance into a different side of the band in the midst of their creative peak. For an album essentially cut between curious covers and alternative renditions of existing songs, this release feels remarkably well-sculpted. Although I couldn't quite see myself recommending the album to someone who wasn't already enamoured with any one of their full-lengths, it is really to Blind Guardian's credit that much of the material here is memorable in its own right. A few of the alt versions are potentially even superior to their original counterparts.

It is strange to think that a couple of the cuts here were among my first experiences of Blind Guardian. I remember seeing the video of their "Mr. Sandman" cover and having a good laugh over the heavy metal spookification of an innocent pop standard. Their Beach Boys covers of "Surfin' USA" and "Barbara Ann" (originally by The Regents) are just as silly, but every bit as fun. After the comic dust settles however, it's actually impressive that Blind Guardian managed to take classics from another genre and make them their own. Covering Mike Oldfield's "To France", they make the song their own in such a way that it sounds like they penned it themselves. Hansi Kürsch is gifted with a unique voice that could make Mariah Carey covers potentially enjoyable to listen to, but the entire band inject themselves into these songs. They have substance and thought behind them; call them curiosities if you will, but these covers deserve more than to be tossed away after a single listen.

The alternate versions are even more interesting to me. It's as if Blind Guardian are covering themselves; the essence of each song remains intact, but each carries a different mood. In most cases (their more elaborate arrangement of "Black Chamber" notwithstanding) this entails the song getting softer, but not 'unplugged' as it were. The orchestral and folky instrumentation that tends to get sidelined in their full-length material takes centrestage on these versions, and it sounds just as thoughtfully arranged as something you might hear on one of their more substantial releases.

Compared to a lot of the money grabbing shitstreaks that usually pass for fan comps, The Forgotten Tales is pretty incredible. It doesn't leave anywhere near the mark of Imaginations from the Other Side or another of their full-lengths, but it does dare to be listened to and enjoyed as much. Put simply, this is a collection of well-crafted outcasts; few of them would have rightly fit on a real album, but placed together they're pretty endearing, and should be experienced by anyone who calls themselves more than a casual fan of the band.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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