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Enter Dar-Kunor. - 95%

Kyshioku, July 13th, 2007

Symphony of Enchanted Lands II - The Dark Secret was an odd album for the fans of Rhapsody to listen to. This is no different, but as it's similar to The Dark Secret, it shouldn't be as hard to get used to. I've had this album for nearly a year, now, but I feel only now can I write an adequate review on the release.

As is the Rhapsody tradition, Triumph or Agony begins with an opener, a prelude of sorts with a melody you can hear throughout the songs in the album. Dar-Kunor is a dark, very atmospheric and ominous opener, and gives you a decent idea of what to expect from the album - dark music, bombastic melodies, and of course, a live, 70-piece orchestra to go along with it all. What's Rhapsody without an actual symphony, after all?

As a whole, the album is slower and far more orchestral, similar to The Dark Secret. There are, however, new things on this album - the symphonic elements are done even better than before (okay, not exactly new, but Triumph or Agony, Bloody Red Dungeons, and Silent Dream are three choice songs to remember). The general mood of each song is a lot darker than any of their other albums, as well (the opener, Dar-Kunor, sets up the album perfectly). There's even a drum solo which opens a song (Myth of the Holy Sword). Fabio finally wrote a song, too (Il Canto Del Vento), though it's entirely in Italian.

I need to go back to what I said about the album being slow. It is slow, and if you're expecting a fast-paced album, don't expect to get it from many places here. Yes, there are fast moments and fast songs. Yes, even the slow songs may seem fast. As a whole, however, the album is much slower and more atmospheric than previous albums. Old Age of Wonders, Il Canto Del Vento, and Son of Pain are great, great ballads. Possibly the best slow Rhapsody to date, if not trumped slightly by The Magic of the Wizard's Dream. Fabio absolutely shines on these songs. The passion and strength which he uses in his voice is just brilliant.

If you want to pick things up, however, there are some songs for you, here. Triumph or Agony, while having its slow moments, is for the most part an upbeat, epic romp with a memorable prechorus (even moreso than the chorus itself, in my opinion). Heart of the Darklands is a good song with a memorable chorus, too. Bloody Red Dungeons is a mid-tempo, very catchy, and very enjoyable song.

I omitted anything about these final songs for a simple reason: you cannot simply throw these in with the rest of the bunch. The Mystic Prophecy of the Demonknight is a sixteen minute thriller, which, in my opinion, not only sums up this album, but most if not all of Rhapsody's musical/symphonic brilliance to date. It begins with an acoustic intro similar to that of Gargoyles, Angels of Darkness, but is more classical and less folk-song sounding, kicking into several epic minutes of pure Rhapsody excellence. Fabio shines, Luca shines, Alex shines, Staropoli shines, and if you pump it up enough to hear it, Patrice shines on bass. Everybody does a miraculous job, and the amazing chorus makes things that much more enjoyable. About halfway through, the narration begins. Instead of just having Christopher Lee do narration, though, Rhapsody got other real actors to play the parts of the characters we all know and love or have simply heard the names of in previous songs. I must say, the part after this is one of the heaviest Rhapsody moments I have ever heard, and is one of if not Fabio's best performances to date. His rough screaming gives me chills, it's done so well and fits so perfectly.

Leading into the closer, Dark Reign of Fire, we get a final taste of the album. It's very operatic, moreso than the rest of the album, in my opinion, and Fabio has some more great moments. Narration returns again, closing the album, but also setting up more Rhapsody albums. Perfect closure to yet another effort from Rhapsody.

Many people have said this album isn't as good as, say, Dawn of Victory, or the first Symphony of Enchanted Lands. While I agree, I don't think they look at it the right way. I don't view 'good music' as whether or not it's memorable. The songs on this album are not all memorable or catchy, but I'll be damned if a lot of hard work and sweat didn't go into this album. I do prefer albums such as the aforementioned two to this one, but I have to commend Rhapsody (of Fire) on another great release.