After a shaky start that features the sort of ‘chorus line’ ensemble vocals you might expect from a West End or Broadway show, German behemoths Blind Guardian get right into it with righteous thrasher Deliver Us From Evil. They follow this up with the double-kick fuelled mayhem of Damnation, leading the listener to start suspecting this might be a very different sort of Blind Guardian album. A direct, stove-your-head-in Blind Guardian album in fact. And that would be a great thing, right?

It probably would, but, alas, that’s not what you’re in for should you decide to give The God Machine a test drive. Ninety seconds in to Damnation you’re presented with an archetypal Blind Guardian chorus, stately, magisterial and melodic in equal part. So, although this is a darker, heavier record – some of the riffs churned out by André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen are what my colleague Michael Stronge might describe as ‘downright filthy’ – it remains an album that is demonstrably made by Blind Guardian.

The main reason behind this fact is, of course, the immutable vocal presence of Hansi Kürsch; as soon as he opens his word hole you know what you’re in for, and neither modern mores, the passing of time or your own personal views on that voice are going to change that. On standout track Secrets of The American Gods, of course, there’s simply no need for change, as Kürsch emotes in grandiose style over a track that kicks off sounding like Nightwish at their most spritely before coshing the listener about the ears with one of the best choruses Euro metal has thrown up in many years; Similarly, on the superb Let It Be No More, the voice and the music achieve such perfect synthesis you’d find it hard to believe anyone could actively find it a bit annoying; On other tracks, however – particularly the raging Violent Shadows – you do find yourself wondering whether just a little bit of experimentation mightn’t have gone amiss.

Still, Blind Guardian isn’t about progress, per se – certainly when there are still songs to be sung about Elves – and in the final washup I have to admit that, slight quibbles aside, I haven’t enjoyed a Blind Guardian album as much as The God Machine since 2002’s A Night At The Opera; You know what you’re going to get, yes – but, on this record, what you’re going to get is bloody good. Well worth some eartime…

The God Machine releases on September 2nd.