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Rhapsody (of Fire) - Symphony Of Enchanted Lands CD (album) cover

SYMPHONY OF ENCHANTED LANDS

Rhapsody (of Fire)

 

Progressive Metal

3.74 | 132 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Italy's Luca Turilli and Alex Starapoli pioneered the new subgenre of symphonic power metal in creation on the 1997 RHAPSODY debut "Legendary Tales" which set their mystical medieval folklore laden lyrics to a unique mix of symphonic classical and baroque music, power metal and Celtic folk that was drawn out to epic scopes and to which the band RHAPSODY has always referred to as film score metal for its high fantasy polished and hard driving operatic sound circus. The band returned the following year to deliver the stellar sophomore release SYMPHONY OF ENCHANTED LANDS which fine-tuned the melding alchemic musical principles into a greater cohesive whole.

One of the main complaints about the debut was that the metal was only intermittent as sprawling classical tinged folk laden symphonic marches swallowed up vast amounts of real estate with only partial metal satisfaction for head banging pleasures. SYMPHONY OF ENCHANTED LANDS more than corrects that and offers a much greater presence of the power metal elements in the vein of classic Helloween augmented with the tighter control of the classical symphonic prowess that makes this second offering a much more energetic listening experience as it traipses through the mystical musical worlds of dragons, orcs, mages and Middle Earth sensibilities.

While RHAPSODY's style may sound cliche by today's standards, this Italian band was the one that kicked off this epic over-the-top symphonic power metal thing. So true that power metal does have its share of cheese and RHAPSODY is no exception with the strident operatic vocals of Fabio Lione wailing over the soaring neoclassical guitar shredding, power metal hooks and Celtic jigs meets J.S. Bach musical interludes but the stellar performances of the musicians pretty much blew everyone else away in the scene during the 90s and with a whopping sixteen guest musicians playing everything from mandolins, balalaikas, oboes and violins to marching drums and harpsichord, it's almost as if this entire performance was done by a group of classical trained musicians moonlighting to their favorite metal style.

The saga begins with the epic soundtrack intro of "Epicus Furor" which not only introduces a Carl Orff sort of classical bombast but displays one of the most epic elements of the entire album, namely the outstanding choir sections that build up the momentum and lead to the metal fury of "Emerald Sword." Different tracks focus on different musical genres as the lead musical flavor. While the "Emerald Sword" rips through the metal orotundity, the following "Wisdom Of The Kings" breaks out the folk melodies that incorporate stellar baroque keyboard stabs into the mix and flawlessly weaves the magic of pastoral lands, metal power angst and classical nights at the opera. Both Starapoli and Turilli trade off with virtuosic neoclassical soloing and Lione delivers a soaring vocal charm that despite being the strongest element of the band's sound somehow fits into the larger scheme of things.

Despite some of the best tracks of RHAPSODY's career such as the thirteen minute progressive closing title track which summarizes the entire album in a mystical amalgamation of the disparate genres presented, the album has its moments that don't quite work so well. While the baroque meets folk interlude "Heroes Of The Lost Valley" starts off as a sweet soiree of a folk meets baroque encounter of the days of yore, the narrative part brings out all the cheese with some contrived poetic prose that sounds like an intro to a video game tutorial. However despite a few moments where the cheese factor is turned up to ridiculousness, for the most part it's tamped down in favor of some intricate melodic interplay of the main instrumental prowess of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums with the army of supplemental sounds mainly serving the introductory parts.

Despite more emphasis on the power metal, by no means was this at the cost of the symphonic classical elements nor does it mean the folk and other instruments have been diminished one bit. It's just that things had been integrated into a much larger picture that fits into the grandeur of the epic tale at hand. RHAPSODY were the masters of alternating between heavy bombastic metal and lush classical passages and back again with elements of folk, vocal choirs and even symphonic prog that keeps the music interesting enough for repeated listens as it chugs along and then at the drop of a hat smoothly drifts around like a feather on a zephyr breeze. RHAPSODY developed their unique style early on but on SYMPHONY OF ENCHANTED LANDS, the band created a more mature version of it and would remain amazingly consistent in their run of albums that followed. Better in many ways than the debut but a few speed bumps keep it from being perfect as well.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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