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This album is considered by many people to be Rhapsody of Fire's comeback album. From a power metal point of view I suppose I can understand this point, but to be honest, Rhapsody of Fire has not yet written a bad album and I doubt they ever will. This one was definitely a surprise to me after the slower and more emotive Triumph or Agony; they return with more bombast and more shredding than ever before. I f you look at the two sagas individually you will notice a pattern: the first album is very symphonic, but fast, the second one is even more symphonic, but maybe with a few more ballad type songs in Triumph or Agony's case. The third one is when they pick it up and write some really fast and fun single type songs like on Dawn of Victory. Well here is the third part of the second saga and it is continuing the pattern and improving upon the previous third entry. Dawn of Victory was a solid album, but lacked a bit in the song writing department I felt, and the final epic track ended up being kind of a mess which is unusual for them. But this one has superb song writing and some really heavy material to boot with a really good musical atmosphere that makes you think of heroes trekking over frozen wastelands on a quest.
The highlights on this are Raging Starfire, Lost in Cold Dreams, Reign of Terror, On the Way to Ainor and The Frozen Tears of Angels. Reign of terror, is Rhapsody's attempt to get away from the typical speed metal songs that often make a band like this (such as Stratovarius with Hunting High and Low) and forge their own identity, but still make it accessible to the metal fans. They succeeded, this song forges them as an interesting mix of symphonic power metal and... I guess thrash metal with some heavy screaming and some really dark lyrics. This song is part of what really put this band back on the map for the public and reminded people of why this band is so highly regarded. Raging Starfire is a rather typical speed metal song with some interesting instrumental parts and a great chorus. One thing I love about Rhapsody of Fire is that they manage to make good speed metal songs but they still manage to stay away from the mainstream stuff of this genre and keep their own identity; in other words, they never sell out. On the Way To Ainor would be my favorite of this album if it wasn't for the title track. This song starts off with speed and then slows down for the opening vocals that lead into a powerful beginning of the real meat of the song. This formula is very typical of the band especially in the album after this. The shredding in this song is some of the best Luca has ever done and there is a really, REALLY good guitar solo part way through that I could listen to all day; with of course the customary epic and catchy chorus that Rhapsody is so good at creating. Lost in Cold Dreams is the mandatory slow ballad on this, but it feels anything beside mandatory. In many ways this album reminds me of a Blind Guardian album formula wise. It has a folk semi ballad with lots of flutes, acoustic guitar and other folk elements, then there is a slow ballad that in this case is really good. I really love this song because it's slow and epic starting off slow and then developing into a powerful epic song with a really good chorus. Also it really fits the overall feel and atmosphere of this album, I mean I get cold just listening to this song and shivers down my spine. The title track on this album is definitely the best song off this album. It's an 11 minute epic with a fun, but powerful chorus, lot's of background choir singing in Latin and the customary switching between English and Italian.
While Fabio does a very good job on this album, I would not say that he is truly the star of it. This time around, Luca Turilli is the man. I have always considered him one of, if not the best guitar player in the genre, with classical and malmsteen influences in his work it makes a very interesting style and for some amazing shredding. His solos on this album are stellar and the guitar really stands out in this album unlike the previous album where the vocals really took precedence. Unfortunately Alex Starpolli doesn't really get much of a chance to shine. He gets a solo in Sea of Fate and a couple of tiny ones here and there, but for the most part he is i the the support role. I think that the bass really shines more than usual on this one as well which is unusual for most bands because while still an important part of any band it usually isn't given too much prominence. Patrice Guers really is a great bass player and this is evident on this album. All inall the music on this album is heavier than usual and as fast as ever, but it also really develops and defines Rhapsody as a power metal band, whereas the last couple of albums before this were a little more on the symphonic side (not that it's a bad thing).
Story wise, this is a direct sequel to Triumph or Agony and continues with the heroes having found the seventh black book that is supposed to resurrect the "Demon knight" known as Neckron, an evil war lord who was defeated 5,000 years previously. Having read the book the heroes now know that another book; Erian's white book (an angel who wrote it) is the true key to stopping his resurrection and they decide that they will travel to the town of Ainor where the great library is rumored to contain information on the white book. In Ainor they find said information and discover that it is located in Har-Kuun an ancient fortress of Neckron's. The story is mostly traveling rathr than fighting and slaying dragons and demons, but it is an important chapter to the story and this time it is told with as few narrations as possible, but it is of course well told and well written.
Overall this album is excellent and publicly; a bit of a comeback for Rhapsody, who was loosing the spotlight a little bit with their less heavy two albums before this. But now they have been catapulted right back into place alongside Blind Guardian, Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica as we in North America prepare for their first tour in North America since 2005.
So, after some long years of silence Rhapsody of Fire returned and showed the world they were stronger than ever. Their long legal dispute with their label didn’t prevent them from writing new music. New, not only in the most literal meaning of the word but also meaning that they had made a change in sound compared to the previous album Triumph Or Agony. Not really a bad album, but rather boring. I have got difficulties remembering the music from that album, save for a few songs (the harder and “more metal” ones). The Frozen Tears of Angels was announced as being more riff-oriented, and it turned out to be as the band had said.
Sir Christopher Lee , the main narrator of Rhapsody of Fire’s current story arc, opens the album with his most recognizable voice and is shortly thereafter followed by choir and orchestra. Epic sounds, but the tone of the music is darker and more desperate than before: “Necron’s Black Book” has been found and now it’s time to get “Erian’s White Book”. The music gets some more depth if you follow the story told.
The real opener to the album is indeed more guitar-oriented than most songs on Triumph or Agony. Unfortunately, the song itself isn’t really special; the vocals are not monotone yet rather boring. Maybe not the best opener, but it not the worst the band wrote. Luckily for us, it only gets better! And how!
There are some more aggressive and/or harder songs on this album: Crystal Moonlight, Reign of Terror, On the Way to Ainor and the last song contains traces of this style. Reign of Terror is probably the song the most different than what Rhapsody of Fire did on their previous album. The verses of make this song on of the most fast-paced songs in the discography of the band. The guitars and the vocals (Fabio screams!) draw most of the attention, backed up by equally high-tempo rhythms, but the music doesn’t lose its symphonic elements. The keyboard peeks at certain moments and the choir joins Fabio in singing, and even goes solo. The song is packed full of melodies, tempos and styles and definitely needs several listening sessions before you can contain all of it, at times it might even some overloaded but it’s digestible. Maybe the best way to describe it is a rollercoaster: it starts with a buildup by the choir and the keyboards and evolves into a song with lots of turns, wild and it seems shorter than it is.
Next to the metal songs we get some really melodic stuff. Danza Di Fuoco E Ghiaccio has an electric guitar in the chorus, but the verses are just singing, acoustic guitars and flute. It sounds rather medieval, and it sung completely in Italian. It adds to the diversity of the album, without stopping the flow of the album. Lost in Cold Dreams is less satisfying: a balad with some more bombastic sounding parts but nothing really catchy or memorable.
The last song, The Frozen Tears of Angels is one of those typical Rhapsody of Fire epics. It starts off with a narration and some bombastic choir, orchestra and keyboard moments before changing into a long metal song, with different parts put together to make one coherent song.
Compared with its immediate predecessor Triumph Or Agony, The Frozen Tears Of Angels is more metal, more straightforward and faster, but without losing the symphonic and epic parts. Compared to the first installation of the “Dark Secret” saga, Symphony of Enchanted Lands, Part II this album is a little less bombastic and darker in overall sound. Rhapsody of Fire fans are recommended to buy this one!
Ah, RHAPSODY…uh, I mean, RHAPSODY OF FIRE…the finest example of Dungeons and Dragons metal the musical world has ever seen. Taking the power in power metal to an nth degree of pomposity, symphomania, and patience-stretching, it’s no secret that these Italian whack-jobs are adept masters of instrumentation and compositional ability, albeit drowned in miles-thick layers of cheese. Thankfully, though, those skills and added bouts of heaviness keep them from becoming TOO laughed-at, and on my end I’d consider them one of my biggest guilty pleasures, worth the occasional listen but too crazy for me to enjoy whole-heartedly.
And after being screwed by two different labels (shame on you, Joey DeMaio…I thought you were one of us!), their first release under their newly-inked Nuclear Blast contract is upon us…so, we have to ask, is it any good?
As the last part of an epic trilogy of events that started with “Symphony of Enchanted Lands 2: The Dark Secret”, it’s no surprise that this new album’s sound is very much akin to the overtly symphonic madness that’s given the orchestral movements top billing lo the past few albums, which took some getting used to. I’d always felt that the increase of the string usage and the downplay of the core band’s metal elements was detrimental, as though the guitars, drums, and bass were tossed in with no other reason than to keep these guys within the metal spectrum, but thankfully such a feeling isn’t as flamboyant this time around. “The Frozen Tears of Angels”, while keeping the orchestral sound fully in check, puts more emphasis on the central band, where the crazily melodic solos/leads of guitar, keyboards, and (surprisingly) bass, Luca Turilli’s crushing metal riffs, double-bassing-to-hell percussion and Fabio Leone’s tropospheric operatic wailings poke out through the thick fog of strings, brass, and woodwinds with a thankfully necessary increase in speed, while at the same time working with them to evoke that “Hollywood Metal” sound they’d been shooting for. It’s hard to ignore the obvious compositional ability and playing skill these guys have, as they’re able to cram so many ideas into singular songs with arrangements that make them flow seamlessly, making for a more-than-simply enjoyable listen. So good are they that you’re able to ignore all those cheesy-as-shit lyrical themes of dragons, trolls, mystical battles, and the like (Luca may have a vivid imagination but I can’t say he’s the best lyricist out there, not by a long shot) and take in the complete scope of the musical work, as the likes of the straight-forward rocker “Crystal Moonlight”, the dark and epic “Reign of Terror”, and the powerful “Lost in Cold Dreams” shine as the brightest crimson flames, illuminating charred and bloody battlefields via the mirrored edges of so many tempered, holy blades…oh dear god, they’re getting to me!
In the end RHAPSODY OF FIRE again unleash a platter of fantastic metal tunes disguised as pure orchestral music. Maybe as a result I’ll be more well-versed in their Italian wares and pick up all those earlier works should I feel that completes urge. Guilty pleasures ahoy!
Rhapsody basically disappeared from metal during four years, leaving the fans with a huge hunger of their traditional epic symphonies, along with the eagerness of listening to any news. The reason for their absence, well, none other but Joey DeMaio's quirky nature. Anyways, it was known that Rhapsody already had composed the music for a new album and was only in need of recording it and mixing it for the album. As soon as the album was announced, there was a huge outrage among Rhapsody's listeners, having big expectations on it, and they come up with this, "The Frozen Tears of Angels".
Starting off, this album is much more aggressive than their two previous efforts from The Dark Secret saga. There is a bigger spotlight on the guitar in here, having it with a higher volume than before and with Turilli playing some nice, churning riffs, keeping the atmosphere of the album being heavier and somehow even chaotic. Considering the fact that it's Rhapsody, I must not avoid mentioning the symphonies and heavy choirs in here. Actually, all the fanfares and strings in here do not play a big role, as they did in previous albums, but are just in there backing up the guitars or whatever is on the lead in the moment. The choirs, well, they do perform a pretty important task, considering some of the most important songs in here would not make any sense or would not be any fun without them, just like in the case of "Reign of Terror", one of the audience favorites.
Other elements also take a big role in this new, aggressive sound. Lione's vocals, for example, are still as good as before, but he does not goes up to high when singing, while he even surprises with new stuff, like the growls he did in "Reign of Terror". The drums, being played a bit faster than usual is just perfect for the mood. Bass lines are much more technical than before, this being proved by the various interludes the bass gets along the album, as well as a few solos that keep impressive every time I listen to them. Keyboards are actually as important as all the symphonic stuff in here is, so that would be... not much. But this adds certain darkness and coldness to the sound overall.
Solos on the album are quite a topic to talk about. Turilli has, in my opinion, never been much of a showoff; he just played some short solos that actually were quite technical but not extremelly memorable like, say, an Angra solo. But, as this is pretty much a new Rhapsody, this changed a lot. Turilli (yeah, again) is the spotlight on the album. During the solos, you will here some extremelly awesome sweep picking (in every single solo, probably). His scale changing between pentatonic and the normal scale is almost unnoticeable, as he knows how to do it properly (with the only exception of "Sea of Fate", but that was intentional). Now, on the Staropolli side, I must say I am almost disappointed. He only plays a few solos, and vaguely doing the song's main melody, a bit of bending and some, but really just a few, of fast playing. At times he repeats what Turilli played. I thought I would never say this, but actually the bass solos are my favorite thing in this album (considering it is Rhapsody and their bass was almost unaudible before). Patrice Guers does an excellent performance in here, showing himself off for the first time with some tapping and fast shredding on the bass. I must say he really impressed me.
Overall, I must say this is a pretty solid album by Rhapsody. A style change implied, they didn't failed at doing it, and still sound the way they used to sound (a bit). If you are expecting something good from this, you won't be disappointed, unless you wanted something filled with exaggerated symphonies, then I wouldn't recommend you this at all. If you are looking for that Rhapsody that didn't existed, with great riffs and permanent aggressivity, this is definitelly for you.
Highlights: "Sea of Fate", "Reign of Terror", "The Frozen Tears of Angels", "Raging Starfire", "On The Way to Ainor".
Fresh off a 4 year period of sheer musical limbo not all that different from what befell Helloween in the late 80s, Rhapsody Of Fire have returned, and unlike the former band, in full form to boot. The slowly developing “Dark Secret” story that has seen the band putting pomp before punch has now received a good shot in the arm, culminating in a more streamlined, but still wickedly elaborate opus of high flying, classically inspired power and glory. The storytelling has been scaled back a little to make room for more music, and likewise, the music resembles the old days of the “Emerald Sword Saga” where metal came first and the symphonic element was a potent flavor additive rather than the main course.
The principle change that has brought things back up a notch is that Luca Turilli’s obsession with synthesizers ala his Dreamquest side-project and the slow atmospheric half-ballads that culminated in his failure of a 3rd solo studio album has cooled off a bit, making room for a fresh yet all too familiar barrage of Kai Hansen meets Beethoven riffs and blurring Malmsteen inspired leads. The solos tend to walk a line between being catchy and being pretentiously elaborate, and surprisingly tend to focus almost exclusively on the guitar, leaving Staropoli mostly in a support role. The songs are generally meatier with guitars and all of the large scale orchestra and period instrument additions to the arrangement have been scaled back to make room for a plainer keyboard accompaniment.
In general terms, “The Frozen Tears Of Angels” sounds like it’s reaching back to the highest point in this band’s and Turilli’s career circa 1999-2002, particularly when looking at the character of the listen. While this carries with it a wide gap between the heavily formulaic “King Of The Nordic Twilight” and the aggressively complex “Power Of The Dragonflame”, this wide compositional array is fully represented at various points of the listen. It is tempered a bit by a darker mixing job that almost resembles something heard out of Children Of Bodom in their earlier days, or perhaps one of the darker sounding power metal bands out of Finland, and the melodic contours lend themselves to a somber character, even more so than the most chilling moments heard on “Rain Of A Thousand Flames”.
In spite of the somewhat innovative presentation of the band’s sound, it should be noted that this is a much more formulaic album that what has been the trend since 2004. The plurality of epic songs has been peeled back to a singular closing number bearing the album’s title, which is more in line with the band’s roots, and in this case, proves to be a rather impressive hybrid of the keyboard heavy title track of “Legendary Tales” with that of “Kings Of The Nordic Twilight”. There is a more elaborate folk number in “Danza Di Fucco E Ghiaccio” that brings the period instrument heavy approach of “March Of The Sword Master” in harmony with a upper tempo dance feel somewhat akin to “New Century Tarantella”. The token ballad “Lost In Cold Dreams” is noteworthy for a more acoustic guitar oriented approach to a restful sound between the triumphant yet troubled sounding louder sections. And between it all, scores of fast paced power metal with a set of unforgettable riffs and soaring vocals.
Everything on here is basically top notch, but for the first time in a while this band actually outdoes themselves and offers up 2 classics that will keep their fans buzzing even after the next chapter of this current series. Although occasional ventures into extreme metal have been popping up in this band’s work for several years now, “Reign Of Terror” takes it just shy of Wintersun territory between Lione’s toneless shrieks and the misty exchanges of keyboard and lead guitar flash. Likewise, occasional dabbling into progressive shred work is not unheard of insofar as these guys are concerned, the spellbinding instrumental bonus track “Labyrinth Of Madness” shows a very Avant-garde approach to neo-classical composing out of Turilli that would probably leave the likes of Petrucci and Vai with question marks floating around their heads.
The now cliché quote “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” does seem to apply hear, as Rhapsody Of Fire definitely got something back in them that hasn’t been heard in quite a while. Perhaps anyone who is able to go into the arena of legal jousting with the likes of Joey Demaio can rekindle their creative flame, although I wouldn’t want to anyone any ideas as I’m sure the courts of the world have enough legal struggles to preside over. Many have come and gone since the resurgence of power metal in the mid 90s, but Rhapsody (Of Fire) has been one of the few to keep it together and not lost their identity in the process. So let the kings of metal shout their prayers to the 4 winds, but in between we can also find some time to get in some good dragon slaying.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com on May 10, 2010.
Rhapsody do what Rhapsody do, it’s pretty much a fact of life by this point. In one sense they could be commended for their consistency, but this consistency can also be seen as predictability, and it speaks volumes that I could’ve written a lot of this review before I’d even heard the album. Incidentally, I found the album cover for this a little different (though they still manage to squeeze a dragon in), so part of me wondered if that would indicate a musical change too. Upon listening though, that part of me was swiftly given a slap and sent back into the tiny remaining optimistic part of my mind.
The sound remains firmly the same: Malmsteenian guitar chops meet Manowar-grade epicness, coming together to sound like the perfect metal score for a grand fantasy film (or possibly a night of Dungeons and Dragons, but somehow that just doesn’t create quite such an epic image). All the boxes are ticked: the spoken word/choral intro leading into the blistering explosion of metal; the jig where you’ll have to suppress a slight snigger at first; the sweeping ballad around track seven; the epic-length finisher with all of it rolled together; and all the basic Rhapsody tracks in-between.
All that’s really changed since their early days is the addition of Christopher Lee as their narrator a few albums back, a very wise move. His sections also form the only real parts where the story comes out, most of the time it falls by the wayside and is lost amid the music. Although on the plus side this does prevent the music getting bogged down in story-telling, Rhapsody stick firmly to crafting quality power metal with the tale as the backdrop.
The only songs I’m really compelled to go back to/keep are Reign of Terror, where the band go a little Children of Bodom on us with some harsher vocals mixed with very effective use of the choral chanting, and Lost in Cold Dreams, if only because I’m a sucker for the band’s ballads.
There’s not really a whole lot to say beyond that. You know what Rhapsody sound like (if you don’t, go and get Symphony of Enchanted Lands and Power of the Dragonflame, then come back), so you already know exactly what this will sound like. If you want more of that, then Frozen Tears shouldn’t disappoint. If you feel you’ve had your fill, don’t bother. Rhapsody know what music they want to make and keep on churning it out, and that itself is to be commended, but it’s not going to get me to buy any more of their albums.
Rhapsody (of Fire) are finally back after a few tortuous years of legal mumbo jumbo getting in their way. (Up yours, Joey DeMaio.) I remember a couple of years ago the band saying this album was finished being written and just had to be recorded, so I'm not sure exactly how much time was spent refining this one, but it certainly sounds polished, strong, and (most importantly) interesting. This was well worth waiting a couple extra years.
Unlike Symphony of Enchanted Lands 2 and Triumph or Agony, The Frozen Tears of Angels brings the guitars back to the spotlight and scales back the orchestrations to something less chaotic. Again, unlike those two albums, this album is mostly speed, the only slow tracks being the ballad Lost In Cold Dreams and the folky, Village of Dwarves-ish number, Danza Di Fuoco E Ghiaccio (Dance of Fire and Ice). Fortunately, it's not sheer wankery, a la Dragonforce.
Funnily enough (and of course unintentionally), now that I think about it, it does look like Rhapsody started to get pushed back in the shadows around the time Dragonforce spiked in popularity. Well, thankfully, they haven't returned with songs that are nothing but wank. That signature Luca Turilli sound is still there with tasteful speed, wonderful melodies, and some different things (the soft solo in Dance of Fire and Ice is great fun to listen to). The other instrumentalists of the band do a wonderful job here, especially Alex Staropoli, shining in many places on the album. While the orchestrations are scaled back, all of the songs would be very empty without him. This is what real power metal should sound like.
The lyrics are no more than typical Rhapsody fantasies, but for those keeping track, this is the third chapter of The Dark Secret Saga, taking place right after Triumph or Agony, where the heroes of the Rhapsody world entered Dar-Kunor and stole the seventh black book, blablabla. The Frozen Tears of Angels is an equally dark journey through a cold and evil world, with some of their strongest material to date. Fans of the band who have shown disdain at the stylistic changes of other power metal bands over the past few years (Kamelot, Sonata Arctica, Avantasia, etc.) will be pleased with this album. It's as if Rhapsody were never on hiatus - some narration is still there (though not overdone), the lyrics range from English to Italian to Latin as usual, and there is an abundance of cheese.
My favorite thing about this album is Fabio Lione. His vocals are, simply, kickass. The vocal melodies don't try to be over-the-top and obnoxious, and there is variety in his singing. Danza Di Fuoco E Ghiaccio has some wonderful softer, Italian singing, and Reign of Terror is one of the best performances he's given in Rhapsody's entire career, opening with a skull-crushing scream and keeping that same energy through equally strong and catchy verses. He's a signature sound in power metal and he doesn't disappoint here.
My only complaint would be that there isn't a song nearly as ridiculous and cheesy as The Mystic Prophecy of the Demonknight. There is a noticeable lack of voice acting on this album (the intro, Danza Di Fuoco E Ghiaccio, and the title track are the only songs with narration, and it all lies at the beginning). Fans who grew bored with things like MPOTDK should enjoy the return to form on the title track here, which stays strong and upbeat for most of the song.
I have to say this was well worth the wait. I was afraid the band had broken up some time ago, just before they announced this album's release, so hearing this album brought me great joy. It's been impossible for me to turn this album off; the only skippable track would be Lost In Cold Dreams because I'm not always in a ballad mood and the intro - it's not bad, but it's no Lux Triumphans. This album has thoroughly cleansed my mouth of the bad taste the new Avantasia left in it, that wannabe ego-filling rock opera, and has claimed the throne of best album of 2010 so far. Also, it's great to hear such the bassist get a few quick, interesting solos. On that note, up yours, Joey DeMaio. Rhapsody's back with a vengeance.