Blind Guardian is a German power metal band formed in 1984 in Krefeld, West Germany. They are often credited as one of the seminal and most influential bands in the power metal and speed metal subgenres. Ten musicians have been a part of the band's line-up in its history, which has consisted of singer Hansi Kürsch, guitarists André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen, and drummer Frederik Ehmke since 2005. Blind Guardian is a part of the German heavy metal scene that emerged in the mid-1980s. The band was formed in 1984 as Lucifer's Heritage by Kürsch (then also bass guitarist), Olbrich, other guitarist Markus Dörk and drummer Thomas Stauch. Dörk and Stauch both left the following year, and were replaced by Christof Theißen and Hans-Peter Frey respectively, who left as well before the end of the year. In 1987, Siepen joined and Stauch returned; under this line-up, which lasted 18 years (the longest in the band's history), the band changed their name to Blind Guardian and released their first album, Battalions of Fear, in 1988. Over the releases, Blind Guardian established themselves as a notable successful band and as pioneers of the power metal movement. In 1996, Kürsch stopped acting as the band's bass guitarist to focus on vocals. Various session members replaced him, mainly Oliver Holzwarth. However, in 2005, Stauch left the band, disapproving of Blind Guardian's transition into a more complex progressive sound with a heavy use of backing vocals, and was replaced by Ehmke. Most of Blind Guardian's albums were well received by fans and critics alike: Somewhere Far Beyond (1992), Imaginations from the Other Side (1995), and Nightfall in Middle-Earth (1998), are especially seen as influential works. The music is mostly composed by Kürsch and Olbrich together, and the lyrics, written by Kürsch, are mostly inspired by the fiction of fantasy authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, and Robert Jordan, as well as traditional legends and epics. Over the years a theme has developed which personifies the band members as travelling storytellers, leading fans to refer to the band affectionately as "The Bards". It was announced that they were currently recording their live shows during the 2015 Beyond the Red Mirror U.S. tour for a then-upcoming live album. The new live album, Live Beyond the Spheres was announced to be released on July 7, 2017. When asked in July 2017 about the next Blind Guardian album, Kürsch stated, "We haven't done too much songwriting for the next regular Blind Guardian album, but still, we've made some steps at least, and I can sense a strong change in comparison to what we did on the last album. There's one song called 'Architect of Doom', which is a real heavy song. Very powerful. Very thrashy at points. And there's another song called 'American Goth', which is kind of what you would expect from Blind Guardian, but yet the way we maintained the drums, for example, the way we maintained the orchestra, and that is a song with orchestra, again, it's so different. I'm pretty sure that there will be a significant change when you listen to these two albums and from that point of view, yes, Live Beyond the Spheres is the end of an era." He also stated that they are working on an orchestral album, which was originally scheduled to be finished and released in 2016, but now due for release in 2018, followed by a "heavy album" to be released in 2020. Blind Guardian's first two albums, Battalions of Fear and Follow the Blind, were more in the style of speed metal than their following works. Beginning with their third album Tales from the Twilight World, Blind Guardian gradually began to write more complicated compositions focusing less on speed. As of their sixth album, Nightfall in Middle Earth, Hansi stopped playing bass to focus on singing. At this point the band began to incorporate large amounts of orchestral arrangements, and utilized the technique of overdubbing, heavily influenced by the English rock band Queen. Blind Guardian's music features the staccato guitars and double bass drumming characteristic of power metal, as well as the use of overdubs and numerous backing vocals to create a dense sound. This proved significant on all albums after the first two but most particularly on A Night at the Opera. Another definitive feature of Blind Guardian music is frequent use of folk tunes and instruments, especially in power ballads such as "Lord of the Rings", "The Bard's Song", "A Past and Future Secret", "Skalds and Shadows" and "Curse My Name", among others..