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Well, it was bound to happen...after multiple excursions into the symphonic metal scheme of things by way of synthesizer, RHAPSODY finally were able to exude REAL strings and choirs to manifest their "Dungeons and Dragons" obsessive fantasies into some sort of realistic fruition. While I would totally enjoy the usage of orchestral maneuvers (both in and out of the dark) , by the time this little number rolled down the assembly line I was a touch worried that it was all starting to get too normalized. The occasional usage of such was great in small doses, but the onset of consistency threatened a cheapening effect should certain bands with no real symphonic nature attempt it (I'm looking at you, ICED EARTH!).
So it was with trepidation I stepped forth, into the realm of the Dragonlands...
I'll start off with the positive...the whole real symphonic nature WORKS for RHAPSODY, as their music demanded a that natural feel. The keyboard pandering worked for what it was, but its bombastic nature begged for a Philharmonic treatment. And the fact that it's been put at the forefront definately augmented the dramatics and pompacity more than any synth could. Such musical interludes are very rich and engaging in approach, definitely talented in its compositional factor. The band, of course, is a necessary part of the musical stew, where the flagrant guitar riffery/solos (courtesy of Luca Turilli, he of the Metal Mullet), pitter-patter power metallish drumwork and Fabio Leone's air-raid siren wails meet with the pulsing bass lines and underscored synth dabblings into a tight little fist of metal attempting so damn hard to push through the thickening miasma of orchestral madness. It takes a special kind of talent to be able to let 'er rip like that and fit with the overall sound as fluidly as can be, as heard on songs like ""Never Forgotten Heroes", "Erian's Mystical Rhymes - The White Dragon's Order" and the monstrous "Sacred Power of Raging Winds".
But alas, there's still negative aspects to be had. RHAPSODY's take on metal isn't everyone's cup of tea, and any "serious" metal-head just getting into this probably wouldn't be able to handle this without plentiful giggles. Both the musical and lyrical sides of this work are to be appreciated for what they are rather than what they should be, and such an action may not be easy to do given some people's tastes. Also the whole symphonic end, at times, comes off as VERY in-your face, like a proverbial "BOW! RIGHT IN THE KISSER!", and a little too ambitious and pretentious for its own good. It's not hard to hear the obvious talent involved in its creation, but the layers upon layers gets very Velveeta-ish and difficult to digest. This doesn't happen a lot, but they're still notable.
So in the end you either get this or you don't. I did, to a degree. While this doesn't always see the light of day in my CD player there will still be a part of me who could use such stylistic schmaltz.