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Of lumpy feet and kernel obsctructed pooturds... - 88%

BastardHead, June 3rd, 2010

Rhapsody was nothing more than a punching bag for me before I was truly familiar with their music many a moon ago. I knew little about the band, but I knew that they were a ludicrously over the top power metal band with a metric shit ton of symphonic fluff and hilariously bad narration. Now, that's a very easy target for a thrashoholic Borisite like myself circa 2004. Since growing my own pair of testicles and developing my own musical taste as opposed to just taking popular writers' opinions as gospel (I truly was a cretin early on), I've fallen head over heels in absurd love for Rhapsody's signature sound. I find 2000 - 2002 to be the band's peak, encompassing Dawn of Victory, Rain of a Thousand Flames, and the subject of today's discussion, Power of the Dragonflame.

When it comes to the two series of albums, The Emerald Sword is far superior to The Dark Secret, and it's not because the story is significantly better. Honestly, the epic story is essentially just extra fluff that serves little purpose apart from giving the fanfares some sort of backdrop. This is the fourth and final installment of the first series, where our unnammed Warrior of Ice commences in the final showdown with the Dark King Akron after surrendering the Emerald Sword to the dark lord. There's also a Shadowlord by the name of Dargor and some Black Queen but it's all totally useless. Typing out those last two sentences made my genitalia shrivel inside itself and gave me the uncontrollable urge to throw ping pong balls at people whilst yelling "LIGHTNING BOLT!", and that may have something to do with the strong nerd fanbase that Rhapsody carries. These Italians love their fantasy to the point that it's nearly alienating to people who've never voluntarily endured a D&D session or would rather spend their time headbanging and shouting about Satan. If the story is fluff, then the narration is toejam. I don't know if this Sir Jay Lansford character is just Fabio Lione's pseudonym for when he begins his narrator shtick or what, but whoever the culprit, he has one of the most incredibly awkward speaking voices of all time. Thankfully, he only appears on the last track on this album, so you don't find yourself fighting urges to go dunk his head underwater until the bubbles stop like on the Rain of a Thousand Flames EP, but his mere presence makes me roll my eyes and hope that nobody else is listening. He over emotes and strains damn near every word to the point of hilarity. Listen to him say "Guy-Ya" or "Gar-gooyles" and do your best to at least not smirk.

I look at Rhapsody similarly to how I look at Bad Religion. I'm not here for the riffs, I'm here for the vocals and melodies (although admittedly the punk legends have a massive lyrical edge). Most of the riffs rarely evolve past fast palm muting and the drums stick to the power metal standard of double bass with occasional sprinkles of more double bass. But like with Timeless Miracle, the draw is not in the guitars, but in the keys and lungs. The over the top fanfares and soaring keys are, while not nearly as overpowering as many people seem to imply, doubtlessly the instrumental highlights right next to Luca Turilli's excellent, if predictable soloing. The symphonics do more than just play roots and the occasional solo, here they add an epic atmosphere and create their own unique melodies. They aren't memorable for how in-your-face they are, but more for their quality. The choirs also add a great touch to Lione's already great vocals, adding a fantastic backing boom, depth, power, and sense of epicness that would be sorely lacking if they were absent. Of course, this is Rhapsody we're talking about, so worrying about them holding anything back or not pushing something to it's cheesiest extreme would be like Hugh Hefner worrying that his sex life might possibly be weak. Lione's voice is also surprisingly varied for the style. He switches up with some harsher stylings on "When Demons Awake" and, while he never really shows it off, also touts a decent range when he so pleases.

To me, the main draw here is also the main turnoff for most of the band's detractors, and that is the fact that this is cornier than Fat Bastard's shit. This is shameless, over the top, and ridiculous in all the best ways possible. The only time it feels like the band is restraining itself is on the ballad, "Lamento Eroico", which is undoubtedly the low point of the record. The amount of references to ancient powers, swords, heroes, fairies, dragons, and Rapunzel are frequent to the point of childish, but you never find yourself doubting the conviction of the boys. The tough, metalhead badass inside us all will look at the guys and prolly threaten to beat their heads in with our Phallic Christhammer or Satanic Chainsaw ov Doom or whatever and they'll just draw their swords and cast a pussy spell on us. Rhapsody offers an escape into the sprawling lands of vagabond warriors and epic struggles against good and evil as opposed to hellish torment. Their optimism and virtue are, while fairly common for power metal, a welcome alternative to the dark and visceral that most metal likes to dwell inside of. Being one of the biggest names in the style certainly helps them stand out, but they didn't get to this status by accident, they're insanely good at the melodic symphonic style they play.

So melt some Velveeta and dunk an ear, let yourself get swept up into the heroic anthems and fantastic choruses and fight against the forces of darkness for an hour. Yeah, the album hits a dead patch with "Lamento Eroico" and the following two songs are pretty pedestrian but the first five proper songs and the nearly 20 minute closing are fucking sublime. "Agony is my Name" and the title track are probably the standouts, but almost everything is as infectious as syphilis and infinitely more enjoyable. Yeah, I feel the need to turn off my natural manilness genes when chanting about vanquishing the Dark Lord of Hargor or whatever, but the power the band conveys completely makes up for it.

Too many fanfares, lack of heavy metal - 58%

_orc_, April 13th, 2007

Rhapsody is one of the 'modern' power metal bands that appeared in Italy on the 90's, inspirated half by Judas Priest ("Painkiller"), half by Iron Maiden ("Seventh Son"), and by other power metal bands like Dio, Rainbow or Helloween. In their beginnings, Rhapsody made some interesting records, but now they turned into an extremely boring and cheesy symphonic band, with tons of fanfaries and keyboards and synths arrangements. And even Luca Turilli's solo project is better.


So, what we've got here? Faerytales, fanfares and something that wants to be metal, but really it's a failure. But still there's good musicians here, Luca Turilli is a great guitar player. His solos and compositions are good, but he fails on riff creations. Holzwarth's drums are OK, but his drum playing in Avantasia is better. Lione's vocals are good, but just on the records. He'll never reach those tones live. Bass playing is pretty unheardable, but it doesn't seems to matter very much. My greatest critic is against keyboards. Are we on a metal band, or in a symphonic? Yes, sometimes symphonic passages are good, but not every second. Those fanfares are very annoying, they turn the metal element into something else, far away from metal. And the sound used to the keyboard's solos, is pretty awful. If they only fix that point, they will play good power metal. At least, better than now.


"In Tenebris" is the intro for the album, as Rhapdsody's habit, a symphonic intro. Very nice one, but it doesn't matter that much. "Knightrider of Doom" is where the record really starts. This song is the summary of the sound of the record, and also of Rhapsody's sound. The band will not offer you very much, the same riffs, with the same fanfares, with the same singing, with the same drum playing, with the same unheardable bass lines. You realize that with the title track. The title track and "Knightrider" aren't different, the title track goes with the same formula. And that goes for "March of the Swordmaster", too. They aren't just original with their own music, they 'steal' some elements used before by other power metal bands, like Manowar or Helloween (the real and greatest bands of that genre)... But, all the 'modern' power metal bands seem to do that... Ahh, fuck modern metal! That's the thing I hate about it, their lack of attitude and quality.


In fact, some stolen elements appear with "When Demons Awake". That base riff and singing are dangerously similar to Manowar's "Wheels of Fire"... The most metal song is a fucking copy! And not just a 'copy', a copy of the Kings of Metal! Fuck Rhapsody is the only thing I have to say. But the album hasn't ended yet... "Agony is My Name" is another song with the same formula. The song isn't that bad, but hearing it after 3 or 4 songs extremely similar is boring. "Lamento Eroico" is a good ballad, nice symphonical arrangements. At least is nice to hear something different. With "Steelgods of the Last Apocalypse", we have another show of the Rhapsody formula, this time with some progressive elements, but still far from convincent power metal. "The Pride of the Tyrant" has a great riff. But, again, there's nothing else to tell about.


Finally, we got "Gargoyles, Angels of Darkness". It's divided into three parts. The introduction is a solo of acoustic guitar, with two main parts, one in mid-tempo and the other in fast-tempo. Then, a summary of all the fanfares, to another solo, this time of electric guitar, very fast and cool, then to an epic narration with more fanfares.


Should I reccomend you to buy this record? No. Only if you like 'modern' metal, you'll like it. But be warned: this is far from a good album (even a good metal album), and also isn't the best Rhapsody album. Better don't listen this one.

A worthy end for a worthy epic. - 94%

hells_unicorn, February 22nd, 2007

One of the most difficult challenges for any author penning a tale of epic proportions is the conclusion, the way he chooses to reveal the fate of all characters involved in the various twists and turns presented in a long and unfolding web of plots and sub-plots. This is no less true for those whom seek to marry the fine art of story telling to the musical medium, where a template of strict organization must be realized in order for the point to get across undaunted. And like any great climactic end, the one observed both musically and lyrically in the final chapter of the Emerald Sword saga proves to be a consistent blend of surprise and familiarity.

2002 was probably the most musically ambitious year for Luca Turilli, as he toiled with his guitar to place all of the classic riffs and solos found both on this musical colossus and it’s more musically innovative sister “Prophet of the Last Eclipse” from his solo project. Much like the passion, intrigue and tragic poetry that had been poured into that rather innovative story of love and loss, “Power of the Dragonflame” puts forth a tower collection of songs that emphasize speed, riffs, and a consonant and syllabic approach to melody both in the vocals and the various instrumental themes and counter-themes. However, unlike the Sci-Fi concept album that coincided with its release, this album is the darkest and heaviest creation that Luca has yet to put out.

Evidence of the oncoming storm of drama and heavy riffs is immediately observed in “In Tenebris”, the ominous prelude featuring one of the more memorable chorus lines ever put forth in the genre. What follows are two towering fanfares in “Knightrider of Doom” and the title track, both of them featuring memorable main riffs at blinding speed and triumphant choruses fit for the opera house. “Agony is my name” and “Pride of the Tyrant” also are drawn from the fanfare fold, but the riffs are even more technically advanced while still friendly towards memory retention. Each one of these features concise yet riveting guitar solos, as well as plenty of bombastic orchestral work that puts Wagner to shame.

“Steel Gods of the Last Apocalypse” also relies heavily on speed, but the true charm of this one is the rather heavy amount of orchestra presence, particularly the first theme in the violins, which almost sounds like it has some Spanish influences in it. “When Demons Awake” has a rough as hell vocal delivery, almost sounding quasi-Thrash at times, although the orchestra behind it makes for an unusual blending of sounds that is quite unique. The chorus on this one is almost like an extension of the song, never really resolving itself and simply ascending until a fall at the end back into the blistering speed riff of the dark verses.

“The March of the Swordmaster” is a bit more folk driven, but still is a great deal heavier than anything found previously in Rhapsody’s repertoire. Fabio’s vocals are also pretty rough on this one at times; making me contemplate just how much rough edge can you put into a song and still be able to pull off those clean operatic choruses. “Lamento Eroica” is our first offering by the band sung entirely in Italian. It’s the only ballad on here, but unlike previous ones, the atmosphere is quite unsettled and even a bit gloomy. The chord progression in the piano and the wandering flute melody intentionally avoid any sense of cliché, as it would bring light to what is clearly a dark point in the story.

Our final point of closure is the longest and most formally complex mammoth of Rhapsody’s compositional career, throwing standardized approaches to writing a heavy metal song clean out the window and letting the story take over the game of notes. The vocal delivery is flawless, the rapid changes in the various themes and sectional devices are both artful and methodical, and above all the mood fits the triumph and agony that is this tale’s end. Luca’s magnum guitar solo at the center of this near 20 minute palace is astounding, matching Malmsteen’s technical virtuosity and still maintaining Luca’s own signature approach of motive development and sequential structure in the Bach invention approach, rather than the more asymmetrical model of a toccata which is what Yngwie employs. “Gargoyles, Angels of Darkness” alone makes this album a worthy purchase, hands down.

Naturally as the story is one of the most important and defining aspects of this band, it is necessary also for the listener to reflect upon what has transpired within the various lyrics and narrations. The redemption of Dargor and the mercy of the Warrior of Ice are quite powerful themes that carry very valuable, yet not very subtle messages. The ultimate truth is that no person is lost from goodness unless he chooses not to see it, and that for any good to come from those enslaved by evil, the superior nature of the good must be communicated. Many would ask why the Nordic Warrior had to die and why Dargor would survive, but the answer is only found by measuring the worth of each character. From the start, the former was always stoic and stalwart, never changing despite what came, while Dargor’s character proved to be the most dynamic of all involved. In the end, Dargor still has much to struggle for and it is only natural that his quest for redemption would continue while a seat high in the ranks of Valhalla would be the worthy end for a hero who weathered so many horrors to save the Enchanted Lands.

Although I don’t have the heart to say that this is better than “Symphony of the Enchanted Lands”, part of me almost wants to. If you have only enough money on your person to buy one album, I’d still say get that one, but then I’d tell you to get off your ass and save up more to get this one. No Rhapsody fan should pass this up as part of their collection, and fans of speed metal and classical music are encouraged to give this a try, even if you think it’s only half of what you want to hear. Whenever I play it, words such as classic and timeless often come to mind.

Heavier, worse and a lot of fanfares. - 56%

Corimngul, March 7th, 2005

So this is the final "chapter" of the "saga". Well, it was about time. The concept has gradually become more and more conform, watered-out and boring. Power of the Dragonflame is compared both to the EP and the last real "chapter" less powerful, less aggressive, less atmospheric, less majestic but happier. Describing the closing track, Gargoyles, Angels of Darkness would be more than sufficient seeing it's a third of the album's length and that it makes quite a cross section of the album.

It has the same dynamics, if we may call tempo switches preceded by out-faded guitars or depresses keys for dynamics, as well as many of the elements. It starts with acoustic guitars alone, and then a female does oh:s and ah:s in the background. And I dare say it's not in a dirty way. More like practicing scales. Then some heavier guitars kick in and Luca delivers the greatest Rhapsody riff - and about the only that isn't just the melody played over and over. We have the usual piano and keyboard strumming, the only spoken parts on the album and a short period with video game soundtracks.

But as usual the keyboards do the melody job, being prominent but not too prominent if you see what I mean. Many depressed keys, much tremolo picking and sweeping ends of the current melody in order to slow down before the chorus that has to be emphasized. There are less bells than before, just a few, as well as there are fewer distracting sound effects just a fire and an explosion.

There's a part featuring drumming, and vocals repeated by the choir, just like Majesty uses to sound like, but the keyboards are there too. They conceal way too much but do occasionally flower and shimmer like rings on the water. Overall it's happy. The vocalist can try to sing sadly even though the music is as happy as it is but then comes the chorus and he seems to forget all about emotions again. Except for happiness, I mean. The many fanfares and the frequent double bass make every song sound the same, making everything to feel like a long, long time. Oh, and another thing. Females doing scales, fast switching between two shrieky keys, some cashing cymbals and a few depressed keys and later also "raw" tremolo picking isn't the only way to depict demons in music. I'd really like to hear another approach in the future. And shouting vocals when the channels keep switching places is generally a bad idea. There’s a short period in which we hear some really raw tones - well for Rhapsody at least that sadly turn into a new melody immediately. For a moment it sounded like real power metal.

Its meh... but its always Rhapsody - 83%

Manu_SwordMaster, July 16th, 2004

Rhapsody´s 4th Album is the closing of the now famous Emerald Sword Saga written by Luca Turilli. In my opinion this is not Rhapsody´s best, but I don´t agree when most reviewers say that they are stuck in the same formula and never change. Rhapsody music has changed, but I prefer the sound on Symphony of Enchanted Lands. Anyway this album is a kickass album. There are some characteristics that makes it different than the previous albums:

It has the best intro – IN TENEBRIS, probably the most symphonic, and with best choirs.

The best ballad – LAMENTO EROICO, with an astonishing performance by Fabio with opera-like vocals and excellent choirs backing him.

The Epic Closer of the album – GARGOYLES, ANGELS OF DARKNESS, is divided in 3 parts: ANGELI DI PIETRA MISTICA (angels of mystic stone) it has a cool riff, a weak verse, and a chorus in Italian which is normal, but it really lacks some incredible chorus, sort of the SYMPHONY OF ENCHANTED LAND chorus. The 2nd part is WARLORD´S LAST CHALLENGE, an incredible instrumental part with an excellent long guitar solo by Luca, combined with a very cool orchestration, the violins start and stop suddenly, very cool. The last and closing the saga is …AND THE LEGEND ENDS… with a long hymn, the kind of song that make you want to grab the sword and ride in a dragon through an enchanted valley. But then it gets very bad when the narrator start the talking, which is very long, I liked it more when he just said one or two sentences. All in all is an excellent way of closing the story.

Then in the category of the more medieval inspired songs we have THE MARCH OF THE SWORDMASTER, which is the best compared to the others songs of this style, with a very sing along chorus over a melody which is a traditional melody in Italy.

WHEN DEMONS AWAKE is already pretty famous thanks to the harsh voice Fabio uses, very aggressive, and the song goes well with the lyrics and singing style.

The rest are usual power metal hits with Rhapsody orchestration and in this point is where this album is weaker than the others: The first one, opener is KNIGHTRIDER OF DOOM, which is the worse compared with WARRIOR OF ICE, EMERALD SWORD, or DAWN OF VICTORY, even RAIN OF A THOUSAND FLAMES is better. POWER OF THE DRAGONFLAME is nice, but doesn´t deserve to name the album after it. Then AGONY IS MY NAME, STEELGODS OF THE LAST APOCALYPSE and THE PRIDE OF THE TYRANT, are cool songs, but any of them have an outstanding chorus or something to be distinguished with.

Compared to the other albums its probably the worse (well not compared to ROATF), I miss the long instrumental parts such as WARRIOR OF ICE and RAGE OF THE WINTER, or THE DARK TOWER OF ABYSS. I am filled with hope for the next album since it won´t be about the emerald sword saga, so they are more free to compose (without following the story line).

Close to perfection.. - 94%

Orion_Crystal_Ice, January 30th, 2003

...................



Right about here there's a gap in my thinking.

It's not that I'm uncapable of coming up with a proper opening statement or descriptive for this review. It's simply that listening to Rhapsody's fourth full length album, the conclusion to their Algalord chronicles, tends to render me dull of any sense or desire for anything but grabbing a sword, jumping on a huge black stallion, raising my fist, and riding off to lay the smackdown on the evil forces of abyss like never before.

Rhapsody has always been one of the best - if not the leading band - in the symphonic power metal arena, but Power of the Dragonflame is where everything really comes together for them and should help launch them into the stratosphere of greats. Every song here, while not all flawless, is at least excellent, and there is a great sense of maturity and passion to be found in the playing and songwriting, surpassing that of their already classy past work. Neither is this album just another over the top power metal outing - no, this recording has the subtle, elusive feeling that some of the best classic metal releases share...that mixture of a flawless balance of audio aesthetic and dirt-tough songwriting, a deep rooted feeling of majesty and purpose, and a fresh, vigerous enthusiasm. Something special is to be found here.

At a solid hour in length, and completely epic in nature, Power of the Dragonflame can make for an exhausting, but addictive listen with little low points to be found. The journey starts with intro In Tenebris, which is standard Rhapsody intro fare - gigantic Latin choir, semi sinister atmosphere, and plenty of orchestral pounding - only, this is without question the most powerful one they've done. Without passing the 2 minute mark it crashes into Knightrider of Doom, one of the faster songs on the album, highlighting a nice pre chorus in Latin - which is used to spice up various other lyrics throughout the album - and an ultra melodic and memorable guitar solo by Luca Turilli. The meat keeps coming, with the title track opening up with a truly killer reverb-laden riff and blowing up into more melodic speed metal. The March of the Swordmaster comes next and is one of the album's ultra high points. The superb, Irish-inspired chorus melody is beyond gigantic, the strings underneath the verses are perfectly placed, and a mindblowingly majestic, yet simplistic solo by Luca only puts the mid-tempo battle hymn right through the roof, as does Fabio Lione's closing verses, his vocal intensity matching up with the orchestration smoothly.

Speaking of vocals, if anybody is truly the star of this album, it is Mr. Lione. While he was always good simply staying put in the wide-vibrato filled, tenor style always used (and sometimes overused) in Rhapsody's music, on Power of the Dragonflame he also explores a strong middle register, blackened thrash influences, and an Italian operatic style. As a pleasant surprise, he pulls everything he does here off with ease, and moves leaps and bounds over many other Euro-metal vocalists and most vocalists in general. The greatest contrasts of his - and the rest of the band - can be found in When Demons Awake and Lamento Eroico. The former is the heaviest song on the album and employs a thrashy, somewhat gruff vocal style in the verses, melting into Lione's more melodic style near the end of them and into the choruses. Almost gothic-sounding Italian chants can also be found, as well as an interesting keyboard solo from Alex Staropoli.
Lamento Eroico is the simplest, and lightest song on the album, but even it is intense, with Fabio effortlessly belting out the sorrowful chorus in a deep, operatic style that does no less than bring chills upon hearing.
After Lamento Eroico the pounding begins again - literally, with war-ready timpanis opening up Steelgods of the Last Apocalypse, one of the songs where Rhapsody's classical influence shines the most, with well composed and tension filled violin and piano parts sprinkled throughout. Not to overshine the heaviness, however, as when Fabio shatters the calmer moments of the verses, screaming "VIOLENCE CALLS!!!" and the double bass drums start galloping, the statement is definitely believable, and more than headbangable.

With all the splendour of the first 9 songs, it's almost all forgotten upon hearing the closer, Gargoyles, Angels of Darkness. This is the climax of the album, the Emerald Sword saga storyline, and perhaps even of Rhapsody's whole career up to this point. 'Gargoyles', is 19 minutes of a more traditionally structured, yet completely breathtaking epic that does more than justice to the scale of the project and shines fresh, brilliant light on Rhapsody's creativity and ability to compose. The song is divided into 3 parts story wise, but functions as one living, breathing organism with no problem keeping itself interesting. Rather than bombarding the listener with complexity at every turn - which can be incredible itself when done right - the band opts for a more subtle approach, providing a perfect amount of buildups and releases within roughly the same structuring before finally erupting powerfully and simmering down just as tactfully, leaving one's hair and facial expression looking as if they just grabbed a 10,000 volt fencing for kicks.
Beautiful, acoustic Spanish guitar phrases combined with soft, angelic voicing make up the first 2 minutes before launching into a massive electric riff, backed up by a hooky drum and bass line hitting like an anchor of bricks. Fabio Lione's normal clean tone, his operatic leanings, and his middle range all make appearances, pulling off an initially awkward sounding verse melody wonderfully and shifting smoothly into a higher gear making room for the massive Latin choir that makes up the latter part of the chorus. After repeating the acoustic buildup into the heavy part once more, and after the following chorus, the song segues into another Latin chant before settling down just a moment with some light orchestration, then striking with an intense, extended Luca Turilli solo that could just as well have fit to a violinist. Around the 12 minute mark, Rhapsody's dreaded narrator - Sir Jay Lansford - makes his annual appearance, but surprisingly does not butcher the song at all (!) and paves the way for an amazing and impassioned vocal bridge from Fabio that must be heard to be believed in it's anthemic textures. Following is a repeat of the Latin sang chorus section and a somewhat extended narration from Lansford - which again, somehow manages to actually sound kind of cool. While the storyline isn't quite of professional quality, we learn here that it doesn't end with the typical good-guy-kills-everyone-never-gets-hurt 'climax', which Luca Turilli should be given credit for. Rather, the main hero dies, but only after one of the main evil characters sacrifices himself to destroy the evil forces. A nice twist. With Sir Lansford's last words, "Believe it..It's the dragonflame", In Tenebris is played again and brought up to a loud explosion, ushering in silence except for some low moans, or screams, apparently signaling the end of the evils in the story.

Although the drumming on Power of the Dragonflame can be dull at times, and there are a couple of generic moments within the faster songs, there are really nary any bad qualities within this album. Perhaps Alex Staropoli should have had some more and varied keyboard parts, but that seems minor as well in relation to the rest of the music presented here. Power of the Dragonflame is power metal of some of the highest quality, and is completely recommended.

Best Rhapsody album to date - 90%

Hattori, July 25th, 2002

One look at the artwork, the title and the tracklisting of this album and you can already expect this new disc to be Rhapsody at their cheesy best. Last year's "Rain of a Thousand Flames" EP was good, but a somewhat disappointing follow up to 2000's stellar "Dawn of Victory." Luckily, "Power of the Dragonflame" picks up right where "Dawn of Victory" left off, and we see the band take a faster, more aggressive direction with their new songs.
"When Demons Awake" is, by far, the most brutal song Rhapsody has ever recorded. Even the most discerning black metal fan might enjoy this track.

Aside from its heavier edge, this album contains all you would expect or want from a Rhapsody recording: pompous orchestration, full choirs and over-the-top dungeons and dragons lyrics. The guitar and keyboard solos of Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli, respectively, complement each other well. The production really accentuates these solos, showcasing both player's virtuoso-like musicianship.

The "Rain of a Thousand Flames" EP featured the band's first use of Italian lyrics. “Power of the Dragonflame” continues this trend. In addition to being the album's only ballad, "Lamento Erioco" is the first Rhapsody song sung completely in Italian. Fabio's delivery here borders on operatic, and the track itself is a resounding success; I find myself singing its Italian lyrics at work, at home and at -- well, I don't really go anywhere else.

Other highlights on this album include "Agony is My Name," "Knightrider of Doom," and "March of the Swordmaster." The only song that has yet to completely click with me is the twenty minute epic: "Gargoyles, Angels of Darkness." Not coincidentally, it's also the only track to feature Rhapsody's horrible, lispy narrator. "Power of the Dragonflame" is supposed to be the last chapter of "The Emerald Sword Saga," so perhaps he won't appear on future Rhapsody releases. I'm praying to the steelgods that he doesn't.

In spite of its mediocre, album-closing epic, "Power of the Dragonflame" is my favorite Rhapsody release to date. I'm eagerly awaiting their next effort, tentatively titled "Sir Prancelot and the Templars of the Olden Joust." Just kidding.