For a city with such a vibrant music scene, Chicago has surprisingly little to offer the metal fan--Milwaukee Metalfest seems to be as close as many influential or up-and-coming acts get--so seeing this bill listed at Metro was particularly startling and refreshing. Then again, this German quartet is startling and refreshing in its own right: it has evolved slowly and contentiously from a fairly straightforward power-metal band into a more formidable progressive unit, at last reaching its current state of absolute fearlessness, incorporating choruses, keyboards, and multilayered guitar complexities. Five years elapsed between the Tolkien-based song cycle Nightfall in Middle-Earth and the group's latest album, A Night at the Opera (Century Media), but, cognizant of fans' appetite, Blind Guardian released the 14-minute prologue "And Then There Was Silence" last year as a sort of teaser. The band has shown a predilection for goofiness in the past (its 1996 album The Forgotten Tales included covers like "Mr. Sandman" and a "Barbara Ann"/"Long Tall Sally" medley), but its unabashedly melodic, drinking-horn-swinging, high epic style, equally steeped in ancient lore and state-of-the-art studio geekery, requires a prodigious sense of focus from both the musicians and the audience. Blind Guardian successfully summons this focus every time. Twelfth Gate and Symphony X open this all-ages show. Saturday, December 7, 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Axel Jusseit.