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Interviews   

Guardians Of The Temple


As we were saying a few days ago : Blind Guardian are among the last guarantors of good taste in the world of heavy metal. Consequently, ever one of their releases deserves our undivided attention, all the more because they’re rare. After keeping their fan in suspense for months with studio videos and pictures, the band finally deliver their new album, entitled At The Edge Of Time. And as usual, quality is the order of the day.

Blind Guardian even dared to offer a less catchy, but denser and richer album. At The Edge Of Time is the kind of album that not only should be listened to several times to assimilate all its subtleties, but also that can be listened to several times without becoming tired of it.

André Olbrich is one of the masterminds behind Blind Guardian, as well as a talented guitarist, with an easily recognizable sonority. He’s nothing less than one of the guarantors of the band’s personality. For all these reasons, André was summoned by the higher authority of Radio Metal and asked to yield all his secrets.


« We contacted Peter Jackson’s secretary many years ago because we thought we could offer our music for the movie. Unfortunately Hansi did not have time and if we wanted to, we had to deliver demo within a week which was impossible to do. Besides, decisions for the soundtracks were already done. So we did not keep in touch. Finally, it was a good thing, we needed time to create in the best possible way, those ten years were important to compose something very special. I am sure that as soon as it is released, everybody will understand why it took so long. »

Radio Metal : You have more or less disappeared from the media soon after the release of A Twist In the Myth. Then, in order to prepare your fans for the release of At The Edge Of time you have communicated a lot through your myspace and official website with videos and photos of the recording process. Did you fear being forgotten by the press and fans?

André Olbrich (guitar)
: No, after A Twist In The Myth we did a very big and successful tour which lasted 18 months. We did not fear to lose our fans. Today, the Internet becomes more and more important and we know that our young fans only use this media to get informed. We thought it was the right time to start using this tool to bring information to everybody.

‘Sacred Worlds’ and ‘Wheel Of Time’, respectively the opening and closing song on At The Edge Of Time, are really bombastic and contains certainly the most grandiose and rich orchestrations of any Blind Guardian song. How important was it for you to include these orchestral components on the album?

It was very important. In the past, we always wandered with a program orchestra.. The dream to work with a real orchestra was always in our minds but this project was really too expensive to carry out. This time we had the chance to work something out so we realised this dream. It was a test to see how we can produce our next album just with an orchestra and Hansi’s voice. Now that we are sure of the whole set up of the orchestra’s recordings, it will be easier for us to produce the Orchestral Project.

For some years now there are talks of this Orchestral Project. Is the whole album going to be recorded with an orchestra?

Yes, but without a metal band, it will not be a regular Blind Guardian’s album. In reality it will be a side project. Hansi and I have been working on it for ten years and we finally produced it. We already started recording the album so if everything works well we will be able to release it in two or three years.

It has been said in the past that this project will be based on the Lord Of The Rings trilogy…

Nothing is fixed yet, it would be a dream to do it like this, but we don’t know how far we would be allowed to go. Another option would be to work on the Hobbits. Different stories are possible but even if we are J.R.R. Tolkien’s fans, copyrights prevent us from writing what we would like to.

Do you think that Tolkien would have liked your albums?

I think he would have been very happy with our compositions. If you heard the music we wrote for Orchestral Project you would immediately believe that you were in Middle-Earth, you would hear & feel it. Every single note is the best music ever coming from Middle-Earth!

Have you ever been in contact with Peter Jackson or The Lord of the Ring’s actors?

We contacted Peter Jackson’s secretary many years ago because we thought we could offer our music for the movie. Unfortunately Hansi did not have time and if we wanted to, we had to deliver demo within a week which was impossible to do. Besides, decisions for the soundtracks were already done. So we did not keep in touch. Finally, it was a good thing; we needed time to create in the best possible way, those ten years were important to compose something very special. I am sure that as soon as it is released, everybody will understand why it took so long.

Some of the actors of the movie have a link with the metal world. Elijah Wood acted in the latest Danko Jones video clip. Viggo Mortensen has collaborated with Buckethead. Maybe you could contact them…

Yes, it could be interesting!

Will the next Blind Guardian’s album be also recorded with an orchestra?

I don’t know, we don’t have written a song yet. Nothing is planed so we leave everything open.


« Most of the bands choose a very easy way. They compose metal songs and ask an orchestra to play them. In my point of view, it can work but it is not very creative. »
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What was the purpose of opening and closing with these long orchestral pieces? Is there a link between these two pieces?

There is not really a link, it came up naturally. We only wanted to make Sacred Worlds even more epic. Everybody agrees with the fact that this song is important and it worked so well on the opening position! That is the reason why we put it there. Sacred Worlds will also be on the opening position of our new live sets.

A lot of symphonic metal bands use intros of one minute for their albums. Do you feel the need to write a real song and not just a sample in keyboards for your albums?

Yes, I don’t like when you just play somebody else’s music before you start. We wanted to create our own orchestral parts and to see the orchestra playing Blind Guardian’s music. It was not typical for them to play those ‘Blind Guardianish’ melodies. It asked them a lot of hard work to succeed in. However we really wrote the music for the orchestra and that’s why it finally worked so well. I think this is the main difference with other productions.

Actually the bombastic aspect of ‘Sacred Worlds’ and ‘Wheel Of Time’ echoes the incredible richness and complexity of the song ‘And Then There Was Silence’ from A Night At The Opera. Did you have the feeling there was some unfinished work to resume here?

No, And Then There Was Silence worked perfectly, it was the highest level to achieve but, since we had the chance to work with a real orchestra, we thought we could compose a more epic song. That was the point with Wheel of Time. We have been able to go in a different direction. What we did in the middle section when it completely breaks and when the percussions pop up was something we never did before. The structure of the song itself is completely new. We were so satisfied! I think that thanks to the orchestra and this big quiet in the end it turned even more bombastic than Silence.

At the time of A Night At The Opera, I remember you saying that with « And Then there Was Silence » you had reached a limit and that it was probably the last time you would try to do a song that much over the top. What are your feelings now about that?

When we did it we thought we could not go any further. We did not even try to do something like this on A Twist In The Myth. However, I knew that with the real orchestra it would come out differently and better than using a program orchestra. It was a sufficient reason to do it again.
It was such a blast to work with 90 people orchestra! Now I can’t wait to do something like this again!

So after And Then There Was Silence you were just very tired. Is it why you did an album like A Twist In The Myth which is more catchy? Did you need to rest?

No, we just don’t like to copy ourselves. When we reach a limit with an album why would we do the same thing again? We searched new elements to bring in, for example, in A Twist in the Myth we used more rhythmical elements and basic orientated songs while we chose different directions for At The Edge Of Time. You cannot compare the new one with A Twist in the Myth, we did everything we could with this album so there was no need to copy it. In reality we tried to combine the things we learnt through older albums and we brought back Blind Guardian’s classic and traditional trade marks. This new album is a balance between all these elements. That’s what Blind Guardian is all about!

‘Sacred Worlds’ and ‘Wheel Of Time’ are the only songs on the album that feature such prominent orchestrations. Is it because you didn’t want to fall in the orchestral exaggeration we see in many metal bands today?

Most of the bands choose a very easy way. They compose metal songs and ask an orchestra to play them. In my point of view, it can work but it is not very creative. Since we had the possibility to compose orchestra we tried to go in completely different ways. I think you can hear the difference in our compositions, it sounds better. We leave a space for the orchestra, you can really pay attention to their rhythmical and dynamic approaches.

Do you plan someday to play these songs with an orchestra and the full instrumentations it contains on stage?

That would be a dream but it is very expensive! We are thinking about a solution such as organizing a festival where we could bring in a real orchestra and maybe play those songs and some of the orchestral album when it is released. Another night we could play Blind Guardian’s epic songs. It would be a cool event!

What would be the bands you would invite for such a festival?

We have a lot of friends and bands we like but we have to find the ones who would be available.

A Twist In The Myth was clearly on the catchy side. Most of the songs on Twist In The Myth had immediately riffs, melodies and song structures which were easy to memorize. Whereas At The Edge Of Time is much more complex and difficult to apprehend. These albums almost sound like two opposites. In retrospect, did you feel that Twist In the Myth lacked ambition compared to your previous work and especially A Night At The Opera?

I don’t think so, Twist In The Myth was more complicated and progressive than the new one. I think it is a question of taste and how you feel music. In fact, I do what I like in the moment working with the ideas that are coming out. I don’t make my mind too much on what I want to do. We write some parts and see what kind of song we can create.

In an interview you gave at Bloodstock 2009, you revealed that the new material is of a similar style to Nightfall In Middle Earth. When listening to the album now, this is not something that is really obvious. Do you still feel the comparison relevant?

Yes, I think you can hear some things from Somewhere Far Beyond, some from Imagination From The Other Side or from Nightfall In Middle-Earth. Nevertheless, if you listen to the whole album it becomes like a movie. It keeps on arousing interest going up and down. It has a very strong dynamic and intensity. I made this comparison because the emotions that it creates are very close to what I feel listening to Nightfall, it is very strong! The songs in a album like A Night At The Opera have their own identity while there is this ‘story telling’ side on At The Edge Of Time.

What actually does echo your past albums are the riffs which are more in the traditional Blind Guardian vein that fans know from albums such as Imagination From The Other Side Or Nightfall In Middle Earth. Do you feel you’ve moved away from your identity with A Twist In The Myth?

Absolutely not, we are an experimental band; we always wanted to have the freedom to remain so. We have the spirit to create as many different colours in our music as possible. To compose an album dealing with new themes after seven or eight past albums is a challenge. However, if we had written too similar albums we would not exist anymore. I believe we would have been bored to death! Of course there is still the risk that some fans do not like what we do but we don’t care. It is not our purpose to fulfil fan’s expectations. Our aim is to achieve new music and to create something which fits ourselves and which comes close to what we see as a perfect album.

Could we say that At The Edge Of Time is the perfect mixture of old and modern Blind Guardian?

Yes, that’s exactly the feeling I have, we have mixed traditional elements with new elements and you can feel a little influence from what we did during the past ten years. It works perfectly together and we are very proud of the result.


« However, if we had written two similar albums we would not exist anymore. I believe we would have been bored to death ! Of course there is still the risk that some fans do not like what we do but we don’t care. It is not our purpose to fulfil fan’s expectations. »
On At The Edge Of Time there’s a ballad called Curse My Name which sounds typical of Blind Guardian. With the success of The Bard’s Song, do you feel somehow constrained to include that type of ballad on each Blind Guardian album?

No, we like to work with acoustic guitars. We try every time to write something new, we don’t want to compose the Bard’s Song Two. We try to see how far we can go with acoustic guitars. When we started to write this song it was completely different, it changed during the production. Now there is this folkloric almost Irish sound. You will not find this kind of mood in any of our other acoustic compositions. Curse My Name has its own identity.

There is a song called War Of The Thrones which is present in a piano version whereas it appears in it’s normal form on the single for A Voice In The Dark. Why did you choose to include this alternate version for the album?

It’s a strange thing, I first wrote this song on the piano and then on the acoustic guitar because I preferred it this way. Then Charlie came with the idea that we could let the piano play the song. He did not know it was the original idea. So we had those two versions, since the guitar one was already recorded. We like both of them very much, they express different feelings. We thought it would be a shame to get rid of one of them. Consequently, we looked for an opportunity to give the acoustic guitar version to the fan. The single was the best solution. I think it is interesting to discover how the song has been developed.

The guitar sound in Blind Guardian is immediately recognizable and is an integral part of the band’s personality. How hard have you worked on your sound and were you actually looking forward to give it a personality at first?

I was looking for a new sound. The rhythm guitar really did something good on the new album; we did not have such awesome rhythm guitars for many years. The thing is that I am always fighting with Marcus about what we could do with the guitar sound. If the guitar becomes too present, the vocals lose because of close frequencies. We finally succeeded in finding the right balance. It took some days to test various combinations, it was hard but now we are really satisfied.

Interview contucted by phoner in june by Spaceman & Metal’o Phil
MySpace Blind Guardian : myspace.com/blindguardian




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