Live Beyond the Spheres is Blind Guardian’s first live release since Live back in 2003, and it is most assuredly worth the fourteen-year wait. As the culmination of thirty years (so far) of Power Metal brilliance, the album showcases a band at the pinnacle of musicianship. Compiled from a collection of recordings over the entire first leg of their recent European tour, this album will stand as a landmark of the Blind Guardian corpus with its career-spanning setlist. Spread over a massive 3 CDs, this is a must-have for the collection.
While it may be hard to believe, if anything Hansi Kürsch’s vocals are even stronger on this live release than on the band’s studio albums. You can absolutely hear the frontman’s stage presence. The vocals are crisp, clear and where necessary, aggressive. The rest of the band aren’t to be upstaged however, with guitarists Marcus Siepen and André Olbrich, and drummer Frederik Ehmke demonstrating beautiful precision, for example in the wonderfully executed solo in ‘The Ninth Wave’ early in the album.
The gruelling speed of faster tracks such as ‘Banish from Sanctuary’ and ‘Lost in the Twilight Hall’ are seemingly effortless, belying the extreme talent of the band. With several songs including ‘Banish from Sanctuary’, the singing and cheering of the crowd is clearly audible.
Despite the fact that Blind Guardian are intensely loyal in representing their songs as they were recorded, there are notable standouts that are even more stirring than the originals in this live setting, including ‘Nightfall’. Another of the more powerful elements of the album is when the intro to ‘The Last Candle’ absolutely rips into the set. The solos in this song are particularly impressive, and the crowd once again rewards the band with a massive singalong to the chorus.
Kürsch makes his presence strongly felt throughout the album, whether it be his ability to carry the audience along practically on his own during ‘And then there was Silence’, or with the onstage banter following massive adulations from the crowd for The Lord of the Rings. Kürsch wryly observes, “This is what I call a tough audience! We take up the challenge. We’ll get you sooner or later. Maybe with the last song.”
The energy is absolutely pumping in ‘And the Story Ends’ and ‘Sacred Worlds’, two tracks where the live performance has translated particularly well to the album, with ‘Sacred Worlds’ coming across very raw and emotional.
As anyone who has been to a Blind Guardian show will know, audience participation is a huge part of the experience, and this is definitely captured with the typical two and half minutes of the audience singing the crowd pleaser and live mainstay ‘Valhalla’ on their own.
The album wraps up with the superb encore of ‘Wheel of Time’, the classic ‘Majesty’ and ‘Mirror Mirror’. ‘Majesty’ is the highlight, an earlier Thrash-influenced track that has stood the test of time.
Overall, it can only be said that Live Beyond the Spheres is a practically flawless release. Having attended two Blind Guardian shows myself, this album captures the energy as fully as any recording could. If you’ve been to a show, it’ll bring back plenty of memories. If you haven’t, it’ll certainly encourage you!