I recent;y spoke with Hansi Kürsch (BLIND GUARDIAN) about the orchestral album he and André have been working on (on and off) for the last 23 years. It will see the light of day on November 8th. It's a fascinating chat. Have a listen below.
If you'd prefer to read the interview, click here.
Some things just need time. Rome, for example, wasn’t built in a day. Also a certain professor Tolkien didn’t write »The Lord Of The Rings« over a weekend in Oxford. BLIND GUARDIAN are very well aware of this fact. Known for their tendency to brood over their refined concept albums like a dragon over its treasure, they manage to surpass themselves in terms of bombast, depth and grandeur every single time. Thus, if such a fantasy metal icon is announcing a gargantuan project of unseen proportions, we had better be ready for a storm.
A storm, mind you, that has been brewing for 20 years. Now it’s here and is carrying a new era with it. This is their Rome, their »The Lord Of The Rings.« A watershed moment. BLIND GUARDIAN TWILIGHT ORCHESTRA has awakened, and the world of symphonic metal will never be the same again.
This is rather remarkable for a record that is not even a metal album in the classic sense. Heedful BLIND GUARDIAN experts will long have divined what this is all about: »Legacy Of The Dark Lands« indeed is the fabled, long planned monumental orchestra album of one of Germany’s most successful, most legendary and most influential metal bands ever. Hard to believe, yet true: one of the most ambitious, most elaborate and quite possibly most megalomaniac projects in the history of heavy metal has become a reality. “I am more than relieved that we finally finished this album,” guitarist André Olbrich states, obviously feeling very much at ease. “I have been waiting for this moment for many years.”
23, to be precise: the first notion of a purely orchestral album dates back as far as 1996. “When we started working on it we never would have guessed that we would be working on it for such a long time,” Hansi Kürsch says. Needless to say, he lends his distinct vocal force to this larger-than-life project. “We started out rather innocently and very unaware of what to expect - and suddenly, the project turned into this huge monster.” A monster, one might add, that never outplayed them. “I was hooked at an early point, as soon as we had finished the first song,” Olbrich remembers. “I sensed that this was something new. There was and is nothing that compares to it.” This of course triggered the two, but it was also a nice repose from their daily business. “When I got stuck during writing a BLIND GUARDIAN record, I would simply work on the orchestra project, and it cleared my mind fairly quickly.” A classic win-win-situation, as he explains: “A lot of things we learned for this album were used on the last BLIND GUARDIAN records. A song like 'And Then There Was Silence,' for example, would never have been possible without this project.”
Finally, »Legacy Of The Dark Lands« has arrived, and is rendering the world utterly speechless. Recorded with the unleashed omnipotence of the soundtrack-experienced Prague Filmharmonic in Prague’s Rudolfinum, BLIND GUARDIAN are raising a hurricane that does not need to shy away from fantasy’s biggest soundtracks. Created and conceptualized with German fantasy overlord Markus Heitz, this album is the direct sequel to his bestselling novel »Die dunklen Lande« (“The Dark Lands”), telling the story of an apocalyptic secret in the dark times of the Thirty Years’ War. Monumental, saturnine, touching, full of anthems and unforgettable choruses: this is purely BLIND GUARDIAN, without any electric guitars.
Some would argue that a career-defining record like this was only a matter of time. Formed in 1984 in Krefeld and known as BLIND GUARDIAN since 1987, the band coined the genre of German speed metal both musically and as regards content. They were the first to succumb to Middle-earth and the mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien in their lyrics - many years before the film adaptations! Come the nineties, more and more orchestral and symphonic elements sneaked into their bombastic sound, peaking in 2015’s »Beyond The Red Mirror,« a masterpiece continuing the saga begun on 1995’s ground-breaking »Imaginations From The Other Side.«
Scores, conductors, dozens of famed musicians: »Legacy Of The Dark Lands« is another level even for a band like BLIND GUARDIAN. “To fully capture the grandeur of the orchestra in the mix was quite the nut to crack,” Olbrich confesses. Hansi Kürsch had his own challenges to master. “Singing with a huge orchestra is an entirely different thing than singing with a metal band,” he says. “I embarked on a lengthy process in which I sung every song on the album in three different versions. From archetypical BLIND GUARDIAN to a very classical approach. I dived deep down into this world and experimented with different lyrics to see which words would sound best.” After all, the right words at the right time, as someone like Hansi Kürsch is well aware, can change the world.
It must have become fairly obvious by now: all of this cost a huge amount of time, toil, money, sweat and nerves. But in the end, they did it! Crowned by a deliciously dark story that calls for a monumental blockbuster adaptation, this is the pinnacle of a 20-year-long expedition. The project of projects, an accomplishment adding a particularly shiny jewel to BLIND GUARDIAN’s radiant crown. A record, animated by the spirit of BLIND GUARDIAN, executed as an epic fantasy soundtrack and recorded by voice actors that have also been heard on the legendary »Nightfall In Middle-Earth,« arching a beautiful bow from the present to the roots of this project. And even though this past and future spectacle, as one might call it, is only about to be set free - Kürsch and Olbrich are far from done with this project. Film adaptation? Stage adaptation with full orchestra and live reading? A metal version even? “Let’s put it that way,” Olbrich says with a wry smile, “we already have far more ideas than time.” And that’s alright. The foreseeable future will be dominated by »Legacy Of The Dark Lands« anyway.
Metalhead who hates bad parking.