Blind Guardian are one of those bands which you will not have gotten far into heavy metal without coming to know. You will have seen their records in shops. You will have seen their logo on the fronts of t-shirts, on the backs of hoodies, or proudly stitched into a denim vest. You might have heard their music played in rock and metal bars. You may even have caught a glimpse of them performing live from far across a festival-ground somewhere. To many the music and imagery of Blind Guardian epitomises the power metal style, and while it is fair to say that Rainbow and Iron Maiden are the real progenerators of the power metal aesthetic, Blind Guardian certainly codified many of the elements which you might hear in contemporary power metal titans and label-mates Battle Beast, Beast In Black, Rhapsody of Fire and Sabaton – high-register wails, fast and technical musicianship, symphonic layering and a conceptual approach to album arrangement and composition. To fans they need no introduction of course, but in celebration of their thirty-fifth year of making music and the remixed and remastered reissue series now available on Nuclear Blast, it seems only right to tell the chronicle of the Bards’ tales.
Our story begins in Krefeld, Germany (1985) where four young bards – Hansi Kursch, Andre Olbrich, Marcus Dork and Thomen Stauch – have just completed their first work under the name of Lucifer’s Heritage. As though caught under the spell of a premonition, that work was entitled Symphonies of Doom, foreshadowing a grand masterwork to be completed some three decades later by Hansi and Andre – the Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra’s Legacy of the Dark Lands. The opening song ‘Halloween’ would, in time, become ‘Wizard’s Crown’ and feature on the debut album Battalions of Fear. Marcus and Thomen would before long part company with Hansi and Andre – though Thomen would, of course, be soon to return.
A second demo under the name of Lucifer’s Heritage would be put to tape a year later in 1986 – also called Battalions of Fear – in which Hansi and Andre were joined by Christoph Theissen and Hans-Peter Frey. All the songs on the second demo, with the sole exception of Gandalf’s Rebirth (which is now available on the remixed and remastered version), would in due course find their way onto the Bard’s debut album in a rerecorded form. These demos are notable for their musical acuity, in spite of the limited production facilities available to them; listeners today will recognise them as falling within the bounds of a fairly straightforward speed/thrash metal style, quite unlike the elaborate arrangements the Bards are known for today – though there is some indication of things to come amongst several of the high-fantasy themed tracks. Before long, of course, Lucifer’s Heritage would be no more. The Bards, unwilling to succumb to the beckoning evil of Black Metal record sales, cast off their Satanic moniker and – under the inspiration of another wandering troupe of bards, Fate’s Warning, took up the name Blind Guardian instead.