without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I’ve read through the entire pile of reviews and let me tell you something: all the guys are right. Whether is the walls of orchestra added or the fact that the guitars are going more and more to the background certainly all these reviews put the finger right in the stripe. For me, Rhapsody has been losing the band and I firmly believe it was here where all started.
‘Power of the Dragonland’ was by all means a stellar production with sing along choruses, epic and bombastic sounds and most important: a heavy metal release (whether power metal, symphonic metal, Hollywood metal or any other category you want to box it in). Thus, what is the problem with SOEL II?
Let me explain what I think it is, since it has not been mentioned yet: the complexity of the music has reached levels of undecipherable and unbreakable technical skills that you can barely enjoy it. I am going to rephrase. When you listen to pumping and crushing power metal classical/baroque enhanced sound of ‘Legendary Tales’ you can do a few things: 1. Head bang like back in the day with Helloween’s ‘Walls of Jericho’, ‘Keepers I & II’. The music was speedy, played with balls, fast riffing style and thundering double bass drums by Daniele Carbonera made this an album that you wanted to grab your air guitar and start playing around your living room or bedroom. 2. You could sing along with ‘Rage of the winter’, ‘Warrior of Ice’, ‘Lord of the thunder’, ‘Land of inmortals’ and the sort. In other words, they crafted the album so good that the choruses would stick in your mind for weeks and even today I clearly remember the lines without any problem. 3. Although complex in a way that the rainbow of influences included folk, baroque music, renaissance music, classical music, heavy metal, power metal and opera spiced influenced, the songs were simple and catchy. It was straight forward power metal with some enhancements here and there to create a new sound that was more and less unknown by the time this came out.
So the main problem with SOEL II for me is the extreme complexity of the songs. This is not bad per se but when an album is so complex that you can hardly keep track of the first track to the last one and considering this is one storyline-concept album then it becomes boring and begins to be forgotten in your cd collectors’ shelf. Don’t get me wrong, I love the band and I actually like all their albums except perhaps ‘Triumph of agony’. In other words from ‘Unholy warcry’ to ‘Nightfall on the grey mountain’ I cannot even remember one single line or chorus or anything. The music is that complex that you cannot actually remember one single riff.
Nowadays it is really difficult to come up with something that will appeal to masses because there are too many bands in every single genre that you can hardly pick up a band that sounds original without thinking of the clones that rapidly overcrowd the scene. Thus, this has to do with Rhapsody because they still, in some instances (saying the cinematic scope they focus on) sound different. The matter of the fact is that when they came out, not even Gamma Ray, Hammerfall, Dark Moor nor Sonata Artica had this orchestral sound and they used more the keyboards to enhance the atmosphere of classical music and epic sound. Today, Rhapsody seems to rely solely on this epic and full orchestrated sound. That is ok but permeates the album to be listened as one musical piece for soundtrack or score purposes, more than a heavy metal bombastic experience. Prove of that is the fact that the guitars go more and more into the background and the walls of violins, keyboards, cellos, flutes, trumpets are the actual standpoints and stars of the album.
The speed has been reduced severely and they now play more mid tempo songs with maybe only one or two fast songs. They are including ballads in their native language and more epic lengthy songs. This is the real scientific fact proving the path they are taking forth which is alienating more and more fans with every release.
As far as I am concerned this is a good album but lacks that catchiness that (as of today) only a few bands success to achieve, i.e. Stratovarius, Gamma Ray, Edguy. Even when considering they are not power metal per se today (at least not 100% but more heavy metal and even hard rock) and it lacks that simple formula that makes you enjoy and album from beginning to end. I enjoy a lot but I need to focus (meaning that I need to entirely rely on my mental capabilities) on the storyline and musical concept to enjoy it because sadly, the punch in the guitars, the bombastic anthem qualities and heavy metal are gone. I’d rather enjoy Legendary Tales, SOEL I and Dawn of Victory because they provide entertainment and provide the feel of wanting to grab my air drumming kit and start bashing it out. As for this release the complexity has faded away that entertainment factor that any heavy metal album needs to have. Check Stratovarius ‘Polaris’ for a class of how to do that. Virtuosity in musical composition is hard to achieve and this bands know what they do best and there is nothing wrong with that. I believe that when I want to listen to complex story lines, super complex songs and ultimate musical composition I may go to listen to Dream Theater, Symphony X, Shadow Gallery and yet, they kick ass with fast parts, fast songs, lots of guitar solos and rhythm passages that leave you hyperventilated. As different as the genres and styles of the bands I am comparing to Rhapsody HAD balls to play but lately, the magic is abandoning the enchanted lands.