Being a huge fan of both Iced Earth and Blind Guardian, I have been very eager to get this album. Well, it is definitely a great album, but perhaps not quite as good as I thought it would be. Either way, it is quite amazing. Jon Schaffer’s riffing is, as always, godly, and Hansi’s over-the-top vocals add a melodic twist to the crunching heaviness. “Fiddler on the Green”, “Blood on my Hands”, and “Path of Glory” are my favorites. The transitions from acoustic melody to thrashy heaviness is killer. Mike Prator hits us with some incredible kick-snare drumming, the likes of which we heard on “The Dark Saga”. Oh, and I had no idea that Jon could play bass, not that he’s all that great at it. Why didn’t Hansi just do it, he is a bass player! As great as this album is, there’s something about it that’s just…off. I don’t think Hansi’s voice quite matches the dark and heavy nature of the music, whereas Blind Guardian is more anthemic power metal, which suits him better than the thrashiness of Iced Earth. It just seems like he’s trying to comform to the sound, and he doesn’t shine quite like he does in BG. Sometimes, it appears he’s even trying to sound like Matt Barlow, and the attempt falls flat. Another thing is that the lyrics are kind of weird, and at times surprisingly violent. For instance, “Poor Man’s Crusade” ends with the line “Let’s kill them all”, and “Fiddler on the Green” is an eerie tale of a little girl being murdered, with the line “her body smashed, her beauty’s gone”. It doesn’t feel like Blind Guardian or Iced Earth. But, maybe that’s better.It may sound like I’m putting this album down a bit, but it is really great, although I think there should have been a bit more soloing in it. It was one of the best albums to come out last year, along with Iron Maiden’s “Brave New World”, Nevermore’s “Dead Heart in a Dead World”, and Jag Panzer’s “Thane to the Throne”. I recommend checking out stuff from Iced Earth and Blind Guardian before you pick up this, but a fan of either band should not be without it.