Nightfall in Middle Earth is the first studio album I’ve reviewed for Grimdark Magazine. It’s also one of my favorite power metal bands’ greatest works. The fact it’s also a concept album based around Middle Earth only makes it a better choice, IMHO. It’s something released in 1998, so we’re not exactly talking cutting edge, but I think that true music lasts forever. That it is based on The Silmarillion only makes it better.
I should note that Nightfall in Middle Earth is hardly going to be something most power metal fans, especially of “heavy mithril” fantasy rock, will need introduction to. It’s easily Blind Guardian’s most famous album in the United States and something that you’re probably going to stumble over if you bother to check out fantasy metal. However, there’s plenty of people out there who probably aren’t as familiar with the power metal or fantasy rock genres so hopefully this will introduce a few new fans.
The album is from the perspective of Morgoth, Middle-Earth’s version of the Devil for you heathens out there, and we get several little vignettes that carry on the story in between the actual song-songs. I happened to like this and while it doesn’t quite reach the point of being a full-on power metal opera, it does move the story along enough that you might be willing to give it a listen all the way through in one go.
The music is hard to describe as it’s not just your traditional power metal sound but there’s quite a bit of melodious, folksy Medieval sounding tunes spread between the fast guitar work. There’s violins, flutes, and other stuff that strangely works well with the harder sound. That doesn’t stop it from being heavy metal, though, and there’s some truly epic sounds here.
If I had to pick the best ones of the album, though, I’m going to have to go with “The Curse of Feanor”, which is my favorite Dark Lord song (as well as inspired my “Wraith Knight” novel). “Mirror Mirror” which I just think rocks. “Noldor” and “Time Stands Still (On the Iron Hill)” that are probably the ones I listen to most. I think they’re fantastic tracks but there’s very little to complain about the work overall.
Blind Guardian is very experimental in this installment and the results of said experiment are a distillation of how fantasy can mix with metal. It is both a beautiful illustration of Tolkien’s world as well as completely badass. Really, the mixture of genres and Medieval instruments with hard rock shouldn’t work but it does.
It’s slightly over an hour to listen to the entire album but Nightfall in Middle Earth is just a fanatic work from beginning to end. I think if you’re a fan of Tolkien and metal, you’re really obligated to pick this one up as it’s a fabulous addition to any collection. It’s worth listening to even if you don’t know The Similarillion but you get much more out of it if you do.