Gig Review: Blind Guardian, Melbourne

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Blind Guardian + Divine Ascension + Bane Of Winterstorm
Max Watt’s, Melbourne
19 June 2015
Review by Joshua Bulleid
Photo by Roger Brooks

Melbourne’s own Bane Of Winterstorm were the perfect band to start the night. With only one album under their belt, these guys are already one of the finest power metal acts around and tonight’s performance proved that. The only drawback was bassist Chris Themelco’s distracting war-paint (smeared across his cheeks like lopsided pagan sideburns) but this was more than made up for by guitarist AJ Finch’s use of an onstage fan to sweep his hair back during the solos. The newer material performed displayed a heightened symphonic black metal influence, which culminated in the Abbath-style, synchronized, sideways shuffle from the band’s two guitarists during the final number.

Divine Ascension were a different story. They were certainly brimming with enthusiasm but the delivery just wasn’t there. A lot of this was due to sound issues—the guitar was hardly audible and the keytar was actually mute during the instruments’ early duel. Even when it was fixed however, the whole thing was just a bit, well… off. While Bane Of Winterstorm’s campy theatrics added to their set, Divine Ascension only detracted. Their incessant dramatics—Jennifer Borg’s saucy winks at the crowd and David Van Pelt’s overenthusiastic David Bryan impersonation—got the better of the band, who were quite simply outgunned from either end.

Things got back on track with that most powerful of power metal bands, Blind Guardian. Hansi Kirsch’s note-perfect performance and palpable charisma kept the audience firmly in his grip throughout the band’s two-hour long set, which spanned the entirety of their ten-album catalogue, with the notable exception of 2002’s masterpiece, A Night At the Opera—was utterly impeccable.

Blind Guardian are indisputable masters of their craft, and each and every song was a testament to this fact, even if (by the band’s own admission) the newer cuts from their new album, Beyond the Red Mirror, were rather less exciting than the array of speed-metal classics from their early carrier. Highlights included the rollicking Fly, and classic-cuts And The Story Ends and Valhalla—the latter of which’s drawn-out, anthemic, chorus chant continued throughout the night, inspiring an impromptu, acoustic encore. Almost thirty-years since their inception, Blind Guardian remain one of the tightest and most rewarding live acts on the planet.

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