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Rhapsody (of Fire) - Legendary Tales CD (album) cover


Rhapsody (of Fire)


Progressive Metal

3.73 | 130 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Baroque

The sheer idea that an Italian Power Metal band could ever capture my attention, let alone win my respect and even admiration, was rather foreign to me before I discovered Rhapsody's 1997 debut Legendary Tales. This proves that having an open mind is important in music. The truth is that Rhapsody is much more than a (sophisticated) European Power Metal band. If one looks beyond the most superficial aspects - like the cover art, song titles, generic genre categorizations etc. - something altogether more interesting, and dare I say progressive, is unveiled. Legendary Tales is heavily rooted in Neo-Classical Metal and it also has many Folk influences. The lyrics are admittedly hard to take seriously, and I have never bothered to get into the story behind the album, but the musicianship is of the highest calibre. Both the instrumental and vocal talents and the compositional skills are highly impressive. I am always worried upon hearing a non- English person singing in English, but I'm happy to hear that there is hardly a trace of Italian accent in the superb vocals of Fabio Lione.

Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force is an obvious influence on Rhapsody, not only in the virtuoso guitar work of Luca Turilli, but also in the equally impressive keyboard work of Alex Staropoli (which is partly similar to that of Rising Force's Jens Johansson). Another aspect heavily inspired by Rising Force is the lovely Baroque interludes. The cautious use of a smaller string ensemble (violin, viola and cello) instead of a full-blown symphonic orchestra keeps the sound from becoming too bombastic. But what makes the music of Rhapsody really stand out for me is the very tasteful use of harpsichord, lead violin, recorder and mandolin, all perfectly incorporated into the arsenal of instruments found in more conventional (Prog) Metal. The use of these unconventional elements gives the music a wonderful medieval feel that is omnipresent. It is not the case that these unusual instruments are used only in interludes between wholly conventional Metal songs - no, they constitute a fully integrated part of Rhapsody's sound. There are also some occasional female backing vocals and male choirs. The key to success here is that keep everything to just the right level, never allowing the sound to become bloated. The end result is a strongly measured album full of drama and excitement without ever sounding overdone.

Another strong characteristic of Legendary Tales is its variation without ever compromising coherence. There is a very good balance between ballads and quieter passages on the one hand and fast paced songs on the other, an equally good balance between acoustic and electric instrumentation and also between vocal and instrumental passages. The songs are full of tempo changes and dazzling twists and turns. The compositions are all strong and there is not a single weak moment. There is a very appealing sense of urgency throughout and they never waste a minute but always get straight to the point.

Many would dismiss this music as cheesy (which I suppose I did myself in the past), but I think that this is done with a certain charm and originality that eliminates that problem on this occasion. Later albums by the band would, however, get things wrong in several ways. Together with Kamelot's The Fourth Legacy and Symphony X's The Divine Wings Of Tragedy, Rhapsody's Legendary Tales is my favourite album this vein and highly impressive in its own right.

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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