BLIND GUARDIAN / GLORYHAMMER
KENTISH TOWN FORUM, LONDON, UK
22ND MAY 2016
It's around 6.30pm when the lights dim on the half packed Kentish Town Forum and the sound of the otherworldly orchestral chime of 'Infernus Ad Astra' begins. The crowd roaring is a clarion call for the mighty warriors from outer space, known as Gloryhammer, to enter the stage in their full costume and introduce themselves. Let the goblin slaying commence!
In the crowd I can see a fair few Gloryhammer shirts, their wearers smiling or cheering at the top of their lungs as the first notes of 'Rise Of The Chaos Wizards' bring us into Gloryhammer's final gig of the British leg of their tour with Blind Guardian.
It doesn't take very long for even the die hard Guardian fans to get into the swing of things, being swept up in the flow of Gloryhammer's infectious, tongue in cheek enthusiasm. The fun continues as Angus McFife (Thomas Winkler) tells the crowd that they are from outer space and sing songs about hammers. This brings more than a few laughs as he brandishes a warhammer as if it were a cue for the band to break into 'Legend Of The Astral Hammer'. Many horn signs and pints of beer are raised in salute to the band as the crowd are brought into the fray, shouting 'GRAIL!' when Angus McFife shouts 'HAIL!'. This could only mean one thing, and that would be the first major crowd pleaser 'Hail To The Grail'. Sure enough, that's what they play, and what a crowd pleaser it is! I even found myself being swept along in Gloryhammer's wake singing myself almost hoarse.
'Questlords Of Inverness' follows this, and by now everyone in the venue is taking notice and the front standing area fills up to almost capacity. Quite right that they should because Gloryhammer are really on top form, showing no signs of battle fatigue even once. Considering that this is their final show of the tour, it feels like the first with the amount of energy these guys have. We are then treated to a monolog and show of true metal drinking prowess from the bass playing 'King Of California' aka 'Hootsman' (James Cartwright), bringing us into 'The Hollywood Hootsman' and then 'Angus McFife'. The most commercial song of their set, the swaggering 'Universe On Fire' comes next, and the crowd are loving every minute. My personal favourite, 'The Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee' is played next, followed by 'The National Anthem Of Unst' that draws the blistering fifty odd minute set to a triumphant close.
This is the first Gloryhammer show that I've ever experienced, and I must truly say that I was mightily impressed. Despite some misgivings over sound levels that obscured some of Winkler's vocals towards the beginning, he did a grand job of overcoming this hurdle, belting out song after song practically pitch perfect. In fact, everyone in Gloryhammer is on top form, enabling them to give us an amazing and theatrical performance. Every song played is almost identical to the studio version, and they showcase their individual skill in every one. Another plus is their involvement of the audience. They succeeded in making them fell like part of the show, which can be a rare thing these days. Gloryhammer are a band that I will go out of my way to see again. Given the chance and a bigger budget for their shows, Gloryhammer would be absolutely spectacular.
A twenty minute change over is arduously endured as the crowd await the act that they have all been waiting for. Ever dramatic in their storytelling and performance, Blind Guardian appear to the introductory choral chants of 'The Ninth Wave', which is the opening track from their latest full length album "Beyond The Red Mirror".
'Time Stands Still' and 'Nightfall' from the 'Nightfall In Middle Earth' album are next, followed by 'Fly', the single from 'A Twist In The Myth' going into 'Tanelorn' from the "At The Edge Of Time".
"Red Mirror" is revisited with 'Prophecies' which is followed by the first song of the set from "Tales From The Twilight World"; this being 'The Last Candle'. Blind Guardian stay on TFTTW with 'Lord Of The Rings' then jump forward an album to play the Blade Runner themed epic 'Time What Is Time' from "Somewhere Far Beyond". Leaping back to their speed metal roots comes 'Majesty', followed by 'Requiem' and 'Imaginations From The Other Side' taken from full length of the same name.
Now comes the first encore. Everyone in the venue knows that Guardian will be out for at least another couple of songs, and guess what, the audience are bang on as they return to the stage after a dimming of the lights and fake goodbyes. "Nightfall In Middle Earth" is the destination this time with the songs 'Into The Storm' and 'The Curse Of Feanor' being played to the delight of the crowd.
Then what is seemingly the last song, the anthemic 'Valhalla' from "Follow The Blind", the biggest crowd pleaser so far, with the crowd singing it's chorus like a chant over and over, extended the song by at least five or ten minutes to the delight of vocalist Hansi Kürsch. I was thinking to myself at this point about if Blind Guardian were going to play 'Sacred Worlds' or not and feeling a slight surge of disappointment as they left the stage for what everyone in the crowd must of thought was the final time. Blind Guardian once again say their goodbyes and the venue turns into darkness.
With no main lighting being turned on, I begin to anticipate yet another encore, hoping against hope that they play 'Sacred Worlds' or even 'Wheel Of Time'. Sure enough, I totally recognise the beginning of 'Sacred Worlds', and evidently the crowd does too as another cheer goes up and Blind Guardian enter the stage for the final act. This is followed by the two part 'Bard's Song' and finally 'Mirror Mirror' from "Nightfall In Middle Earth" to wrap up the last gig of their tour before heading down to Dover for an early morning ferry en route to their hometown of Krefeld in Germany for a well earned rest.
As usual the German bards do not disappoint. Each track is introduced by Hansi in his understated and passive way, which doesn't detract from the performance one bit. If anything the contrast between song introductions and performance adds to the effect, lending more power to the expertly written material. Blind Guardian know exactly what they are doing on stage, they are experts at their craft with 32 years since their inception of "Lucifer's Heritage". There's not a note or word out of place for most of the set, and when there is a change, they involve the crowd. With the serious mood of a lot of their material, a quiet sense of humour is pervading throughout the set. While this is a different brand of humour to Gloryhammer, Blind Guardian are still a fun and engaging band to see and listen to.
I could feel love coming from the crowd in waves with many fans engaging emotionally with each song while they hung on or sung every word. Seldom do you feel positive atmospheres like this at a concert but this was a night to remember for all the right reasons.
My only gripe with the massive two hour set was that it didn't include 'Wheel Of Time' from "At The Edge Of Time", but this is only a small and very trivial complaint against what was otherwise an amazingly delivered set.