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Accessibility has never been a problem for bands like Rhapsody, despite the fact that they utilize such a wide array of instrumentations and draw from some unconventional influences for the greater metal genre. Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli are good enough technicians at their instruments to wow even some of the more musically savvy fans out there, but the secret to their success has been the simplicity of both their melodies and the structures of the bulk of their songs. This compilation is essentially the simplest of the simple, containing only one song that flirts with the 6 minute mark.
I am not a fan of compilations in general, but I make a large amount of exceptions for releases that contain perks for the fan base, such as newer or less common versions of the material included. One of these shows itself on here in the form of a shortened version of already an short song, which naturally annoys me as these edits will more likely than not ruin the general flow of the song, and in the case of this song (Riding the Winds of Eternity) it is entirely unnecessary as the song is already short. But we have some remixes on here as well that will play well with core Rhapsody fans.
Most of the songs of interest on here are from the first two albums, the best of these being the remakes of the Legendary Tales material. It is probably the most processed and synthetic sounding of all of their albums, and tends to clash with the more real instrument oriented sounds that are to be found on all the subsequent releases. The biggest improvement is the symphonic version of “Rage of the Winter”, which sounds so triumphant and powerful with the changes in instrumentation that it sounds more fit for a slot on the second album, which was my personal favorite. Likewise, the remix of “Land of Immortals” gives the balance of instruments a greater sense of continuity, not to mention a slightly more metal edge to the guitar harmony at the intro.
However, the principle function of this compilation is not that of a collection of rarities, but as a stepping stone to the albums they’ve come from. It is a good buy for someone who is into both Classical music and Metal but is unsure of whether or not they will like the two mixed together (particularly after seeing the results of Metallica trying it). If you like Power Metal and you like Yngwie Malmsteen’s music, but you don’t have a lot of money to invest, this will probably be a good buy. But if you have the money, it would be better spent picking up a copy of either “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” or “Power of the Dragonflame”, which is where the bulk of the best material on here is from.
It’s understandable to cynically sneer at the release of best of CD’s, especially when the artists hardly been around long enough to deserve such a luxury of reaping the rewards of past material, but with such an expansive back catalogue we can give Rhapsody the benefit of the doubt. And boy does this collection of songs hammer it home how talented and diverse the band are and why they’re head and shoulders above most over symphonic power metal bands of recent years.
Straight from the offset, the thunderous drums and chanting of 'Warrior Of Ice' jump right out at you and draw you in. Tales From The Emerald Saga runs through over 70 minutes of some of Rhapsody’s greatest and most varied work and in a chronological order - although you still obviously miss out on the whole story of the fictional world of Algalord (but perhaps the lack of narrative is a blessing in disguise to some). Following that is 'Rage Of Winter', which differs in pace from some breakneck guitaring matched by the keyboards, only to be broken up by the vocals and soothing orchestral parts. However, I feel the unedited version catches the feel of the song much better, and that's a minor criticism throughout the album as I’ve become too accustomed to the original versions to be swayed by the newer remixes.
After the cringe worthy backing vocals of 'Forest Of Unicorns' and 'Land Of Immortals', we have the classic that is 'Emerald Sword' (or Eeeeeemrald Sword going by their bad pronunciation). Throughout the album are most of the great songs from each of their releases, and including one of my favourites, the blistering 'Dawn of Victory'. The orchestral parts are used to great effect and fit in perfectly in complementing the bands sound throughout - such examples of this being the intro's to 'The Village of Dwarves' and the chorus chanting 'March Of The Swordmaster'. Overall, this best of album really does make a great place to start with Rhapsody, better than most others, although perhaps it fails to truly show how epic their music can be (see Queen of the Dark Horizon for such an example).