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Symphonic metal taken to its logical extremes - 90%

Agonymph, February 25th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1998, CD, LMP

For everyone involved in the making of the album, ‘Symphony Of Enchanted Lands’ is the pinnacle of their abilities. It was not just a compositional triumph for all the musicians involved, it also established Sascha Paeth and Miro as the go-to producers for symphonic metal. Rhapsody did not invent the genre, but ‘Symphony Of Enchanted Lands’ takes the genre to its logical extremes. An enormous orhcestra, three different choirs, narrators, medieval interludes… And surprisingly, it works. The progressive power metal songs sound full and bombastic rather than cluttered, with the metal elements and the classical elements being in perfect balance.

Two decades after its initial release, ‘Symphony Of Enchanted Lands’ is primarily known for its shorter power metal tracks, specifically ‘Emerald Sword’ and ‘Wisdom Of The Kings’. Both of these songs would end up in almost every live set once the band started touring, which they did not do until about a year and a half after the album’s release. The popularity of these songs is understandable. ‘Emerald Sword’ is a fresh power metal song with a some memorable guitar work and an anthemic chorus, while the verses ‘Wisdom Of The Kings’ harbor one of Fabio Lione’s best vocal melodies.

‘Symphony Of Enchanted Lands’ has more to offer though. The middle section of the album has two back-to-back progressive metal tracks. The dark, threatening ‘Beyond The Gates Of Infinity’ is the better of the two by a hair. The Dream Theater-inspired riff work is offset by horror-style symphonics, an excellent use of dynamics and an unpredictability in the songwriting some of the band’s later work lacks. As its title suggests, ‘Eternal Glory’ is slightly more triumphant in approach, though also ending in darkness. The brass driven intro sets the mood for a proud, somewhat angry metal song.

Another interesting song is ‘The Dark Tower Of Abyss’. Arguably the least accessible song of the record, but it is also the most baroque chamber music oriented song on the record. There are large sections of the song reserved for strings and harpsichord, though the electric guitar driven sections have an exciting amount of tension. ‘Wings Of Destiny’ is Rhapsody’s first piano-based ballad and with a singer as passionate as Lione, it was bound to succeed. Only the closing title track misses the mark somewhat. It does contain a number of great sections, but those would have worked better if they were worked into four separate songs rather than a single long one.

Still, with all its bombast and carefully arranged production, ‘Symphony Of Enchanted Lands’ is an album that sounds as overwhelming now as it did upon release twenty years ago. Rhapsody outdid itself here, as subsequent releases proved. The more metallic approach they would adapt – undoubtedly fueled by their live shows – resulted in a couple of great songs, but never again would they release an album as consistently good as ‘Symphony Of Enchanted Lands’. As a young teenager, I was obsessed with this record and I still don’t see that as a youthful mistake. The music on this album is way too good for that.

Recommended tracks: ‘Beyond The Gates Of Infinity’, ‘Eternal Glory’, ‘The Dark Tower Of Abyss’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog

Flawless music, poor naration - 95%

Caleb9000, August 9th, 2017

Rhapsody is a very unique band in the symphonic power metal genre. Many bands have attempted to emulate their sound, but all have failed, as most of them lack both the musical knowledge and sense of creativity that Rhapsody has. Rhapsody is a band that has a very bombastic, pompous and over-the-top sound with more emphasis on orchestration and keyboards than most bands. However, the guitar is still a very important instrument in their music, and many of their emulators seem to forget that. They often have the guitar and symphonic bliss work hand-in-hand with each other almost evenly. But the album where they do it the absolute most evenly and most perfectly is on their second album, Symphony of Enchanted Lands.

This is one of the most energetic and powerful albums of Rhapsody's whole career, despite the fact that their more energetic releases have more of an emphasis on guitar-work. This is because the orchestration is booming with energy and even fury at times, more on this album than any other in the band's discography. It makes for a highly enjoyable experience that doesn't wear on the memory. I first heard this at age 12, but my copy ended up breaking inside of my player the second time I listened. I wasn't able to hear it again until a year had passed, and in that span of time, the impression that it left on me did. It wear in the slightest. Everything is so creative and beautifully done that it simply cannot be passed off as filler.

What this album does differently from its predecessor, "Legendary Tales" is that it both takes its sound to the extreme and makes its influences far less obvious. The guitar work is more technical and melodically infectious, the orchestration is more complex and creative (and more enjoyable), and the vocals are more operatic and full-sounding. The storyline has more originality as well. "Legendary Tales" was a rather generic way to start a fantasy story. Bad guy gets princess, takes her to castle, good guy who is a mighty warrior has to go and get her, and some other artifact along the way (the Emerald Sword in this case), you know the drill folks. This album is the part of the story where he sets out to get the two. But what he must accomplish along the way is where they get creative, but I won't spoil it for you.

The highlights of this album are some of the absolute best songs that symphonic power metal has to offer. "Emerald Sword" has an enthralling opening neo-classical twin guitar riff, before going into pure greatness, with sharp riffs, some of the most energetic orchestration on the album, along with a violin solo and one of the best choruses of the band's career. There's a riff in the middle that was stolen by a certain British band on a much more popular song of the same genre, six years later. "Beyond the Gates of Infinity" is perhaps the most ambitious track of the album, with very unpredictable melodies that still sound coherent and fitting for the dark part of the story. Fabio Lione at one point is using twin vocal harmonies, one is clean operatic singing, the other is growling, which creates a very eerie and haunting effect.

"Wings of Destiny" is the best ballad that this band has ever written, with beautiful grand-piano work, truly heartfelt vocals, along with a very sorrowful twin-solo between a violin and a flute at the end, creating the single most emotionally impactful and beautiful melody of Rhapsody's entire career. The title track, which is also the track that closes the album, is a song that uses choirs and keyboards so effectively that it rivals the atmosphere of Emperors "In the Nightside Eclipse" (though obviously not nearly as dark). The orchestration doesn't quite hit until a minute in, but when it does, it hits HARD. Hard and very suddenly, but it's perfectly in place, and it is extremely enjoyable.

The production on this album is also much better than on the debut. It isn't as compressed and it is more bass-driven and clear, which gives the already bigger-than-before music much more room to breathe, which allows it to unleash its full potential. Each instrument sounds much more natural, especially the guitar and bass. Those instruments are already used much more often and much more tastefully, as is everything else. Fabio is much more passionate in his vocal delivery, as well as being more technically impressive. He shows a wider range, being able to hit much lower notes, and he sounds more full on each end of his range. He also shows the ability to go from operatic wailing to soft-crooning in half of a second, making it sound perfectly natural in the process, something that he did not really do before.

There is only one flaw with this masterpiece, and that is that the narrator is garbage. His delivery is so poor that it was cringe-inducing to me. I had to pause the album to be relieved of it the first time I heard it. While I did get used to it on further listens, it hasn't exactly grown into something that I even appreciate in the slightest. Fortunately, he isn't used too often, and when he is, it is always very short. He also seems to get more bearable each time he does it, as he would vastly improve on later albums.

This album is definitely the highlight of Rhapsody's career, as well as a milestone in symphonic power metal. It is very unpredictable, even b today's standards, which can't be said as strongly for many other power metal albums of the 1990s. It shows the band at their purest, most inspired and most balanced. The songs are deliciously epic and they all logically flow into one another. I would recommend this album to start with if you are trying to get into the band, unless of course you want to experience the story from beginning to end (which takes nine albums and an ep in all). But know this, the epic reaches its absolute climax in the second chapter.

a work of art - 95%

ijy10152, February 19th, 2012

First let me say that this is my all time favorite album by Rhapsody (of Fire). I love this album because it manages very well to blend orchestral sounds and metal into one album. It also has some of the best writing I have ever seen in a storyline based album. It starts of powerfully with Emerald Sword and Wisdom of the Kings, two speedy, but light metal songs.

While Heroes of the Lost Valley may not be the best instrumental ever, and the voice acting is incredibly cheesy, it gives great scope to what is happening in the story and makes a great prelude to Eternal Glory. At first I didn't really like Eternal Glory, but it grew on me. Choruses are one thing that Rhapsody has always been good at creating, the chorus to this song is extremely epic and inspiring. Lyrics wise Luca Turilli has outdone himself (not for the last time either) the lyrics in this song manage to depict a dark and twisted landscape while the warrior of ice flies on mighty Tharos in search of the Emerald Sword. When writing a story-based album, imagery is everything and when a band can make superb music and tell a story well, that is a rare and incredibly amazing talent and Rhapsody certainly seems to posses this. In beyond the gates of infinity the story and music switches over to a darker place as the warrior fights off demons and twisted creatures of the abyss. Again, the imagery in this song is simply superb and develops the story well. Wings of Destiny moves us out of the dark place the previous song took us to and imagines the warrior flying high above the sky with the moon shining on him as he nears closer to his goal.

Musically this is a decent if not average ballad with excellent lyrics and very good vocals (as usual) from Fabio. My favorite song on this album is The Dark Tower of Abyss. For those of you whom enjoy classical or baroque music and metal will love this song. It is in my eyes the best combination of metal and classical music you will ever hear. The vocals are less present in this song, but they are also less necessary, this is mostly instrumental and the string and guitar solo parts are absolutely phenomenal, this song would have made Bach proud. Riding the Winds of Eternity is another excellent song lyrically and instrumentally. One theme that is present in all the speed metal songs on this album is that during the last two minutes of a song they will lapse into an instrumental solo (by Alex Starpoli) that plays the original theme set in the beginning of the song, the speed and upbeat feel of this song make it an excellent interlude between track eight and ten.

The Dark Tower of Abyss is well… dark, but the transition from that song into the next one is very smooth. Last but not least is the title track of this album; this is one of their best title tracks and their first song to go over ten minutes. The Symphony of Enchanted Lands starts off with a brief narration to explain what is happening in the story and then the music begins with a very operatic solo by Fabio Lione. Then it lapses into the main theme of the song played a little slowly with a solid drumbeat behind it. As the main vocal section comes in the main theme plays but is less present allowing the excellent vocals to take precedence. Parts of this song can get a little boring, but the interlude of the female singer singing softly which builds back into the main theme of the song works very well and freshens it up a bit. The end narration, while a bit corny, offers an excellent wrap up to this album, but also indicates that there is more to come, which after a superb performance like this is more than welcome

Gloriously unfashionable, clichéd but authentic. - 78%

ConorFynes, December 28th, 2010

Endlessly aggravating are the people who wilfully dismiss music of this sort as a bad joke due to the cheese and bombast factor. Power metal, like any other genre of music, isn't free from its share of clichés and tropey expectations, not to mention the brand of imagery the sound is best at conjuring in the listener's mind. Not unlike the Roger Moore era of Bond films, when a power metal gets too self-aware and tongue-in-cheek with the tropes, it usually sounds pathetic-- I'm looking at YOU, Gloryhammer! For a band as shamelessly bombastic and trope-enforcing as Rhapsody, a large part of their charm is due to the fact that they do take themselves and their art seriously. Pair that sincere conviction with a fittingly bombastic grasp of composition and energy, and it's not hard to see why Symphony of Enchanted Lands became a go-to album for me when I was first getting into the genre.

Although it's been years since I picked up this album from a record store in Seattle, my opinion has barely changed. The band's enthusiasm for all things fantastical is contagious. The musicianship is exceptionally biting and tight, and their orchestrations are well-befitting the 'symphonic' descriptor. Although I'm not totally certain I'd call Symphony of Enchanted Lands Rhapsody's brightest-shining moment, it would be the most suitable point for any newcomers to get their first fill of the band. For good and bad, all of Rhapsody's defining traits are here. Orchestral interludes ("Heroes of the Lost Valley") are cut between hyperactive neoclassical metal, set alight by one of the most brilliant voices in power metal from frontman Fabio Leone. Although some of the latter work with epics would take them to even-greater heights, Rhapsody's titular "Symphony of Enchanted Lands" demonstrated the band early on as an act fully capable of earning flattering comparisons with many of the Baroque and High Classical composers that influenced them. And, of course, there is "Emerald Sword"; even as one of the album's shorter tracks, the fusion of aggressive speed and classical elegance make it as perfect and immortal a song as Rhapsody have ever created.

Although "Emerald Sword", the similarly epic "Eternal Glory" and bombastic title piece are certain favourites on the album, Rhapsody's musical output here is wonderfully consistent. Even if by the point of "The Dark Tower of Abyss" the formula begins to repeat itself, that rare feeling of much-sought exhilaration never goes away. Much of Rhapsody's sense of classical impressement is thanks to Alex Staropoli's wizardly keyboard work, but the orchestral arrangements themselves feel full-bodied and epic in their scope. Too often do power metal bands try to get away with MIDI synth pocket orchestras, and very seldom does it ever achieve the epic atmosphere the bands strive for. Even beyond the authentic-sounding orchestrations and choral arrangements, Rhapsody demonstrate a power knowledge of classical composition here, and it makes it feel much more than the afterthought it often is in the genre.

For lack of a less-overused term, the truly 'epic' sound on Symphony of Enchanted Lands has lost none of its effect over the years. Considering the substance behind Rhapsody's music, it's actually disappointing that the execution of the album's concept is so weak. Unlike two-thirds of the reviews for this album that I've read, I don't have any issue with the ridiculous Lord of the Rings knock-off high fantasy atmosphere they're trying to create. The story itself (expanded upon in the album booklet) is autistic and impenetrable and I've given up trying to make any proper sense out of it, but the story doesn't need to make sense. What it does is set up a foundation for a host of archetypal high fantasy imagery. Enchanted swords? Check. Generic heroic chosen one? Check. Dragons? Check. Said hero riding on said dragon to fight monsters? CHECK. Tis' safe to say that Rhapsody will never win any Hugo Awards for their contributions to fantasy fiction, but it's easy to tell from the enthusiasm Rhapsody inject into their music that the story means something to them. Enthusiasm is infectious, right?

By all means it should have been, and there are times where I might care what happens to the Ice Warrior and his overgrown lizard, but the voiceover narration just kills it for me. Even when they're ineffective I don't usually let bad voiceovers get in the way of my appreciation for a concept album, but it's impossible when the voiceover is bad to the point of sounding like a fucking self-parody. For all of its musical merits, Symphony of Enchanted Lands has the worst voiceover narration I have ever heard on an album. I swear, the lisping narrator sounds like every unfavourable stereotype of Dungeons and Dragons players rolled up into one. I hate bands like Gloryhammer for being contrived and ironic, and love Rhapsody for their sincerity, but when I'm listening to this narrator who sounds like he forgot to take his retainer out before lamenting the fall of the mighty dragon Tharos, the lines between sincerity and parody start to blur. I'd be lying if I said the narration doesn't hurt my appreciation of Symphony of Enchanted Lands; it completely works against the rest of the album's atmosphere. Given that they enlisted the extraordinary Christopher Lee for the mandatory narration on Symphony of Enchanted Lands II six years later however, it's safe to say Rhapsody recognized the error in their ways.

People (metalheads included) tend to be pretty cynical in recent years, and in virtually every sphere outside of power metal, Rhapsody's 'justice and love for all' fantasy-laden idealism is horribly unfashionable. Even the high fantasy folks are into nowadays is generally post-modern and 'edgy'. Where does that leave a story about a warrior and his faithful dragon? Where does that leave neoclassical sweep solos and harpsichords? For those who know, Symphony of Enchanted Lands is a pretty great album in spite of the lispy voiceover, though I'd hesitate to recommend it to anyone who regularly mistakes bombast for inauthenticity without first giving the benefit of doubt.

You are not supposed to be this pompous - 52%

extremesymphony, October 29th, 2010

This album sounds too cheesy and pompous even for my standards. Rhapsody's second effort is an epic concept album based on some Tolkienesque fantasy tale about which I won't go in detail. The main problem of the album is that it lacks power. The music is too light even for regular power metal fans.

Among individual performances, the main star is the guitarist Luca Turilli. His neoclassical guitar work is the highlight of the album. His leads are melodic and sound epic at the same time though not as flowing and epic as Lanvall. His riff work in the album is pretty weak. There just aren't enough riffs to keep the listener glued. Whatever riffs are present, they are poor quality, recycled riffs from major power metal bands. The vocalist, Fabio Lione in many aspects sounds like Kiske and it is indeed a great thing.He has a great range and uses his voice perfectly. The drumming is OK in the fast parts, but overall isn't very technically challenging. Keyboards and orchestra play a major role in the album. The keyboards are used in the most cheesy manner which will make even the silliest of Helloween songs wince. The production is bad. The guitar is buried deep in the mix, far underneath the keyboards and one has to struggle to listen to the riffs.

Among the individual songs, Epicus Furor is a little cheesy intro. The opener Emerald Sword starts promising, but when the keyboards enter, the song becomes too fluffy. Overall not a bad song. Wisdom Of The Kings, stars softly, but develops quickly. It has good pace, great chorus and they haven't messed up with the keyboards. Overall this is the best song from the album. Heroes Of The Lost Valley is one the most silly interludes ever made. It contains soft keyboards, narration, sound of birds and animals, sounds of war all in the cheesiest manner. War Of Wrath this is not. Beyond The Gates Of Infinity, Eternal Glory, Dark Tower Of Abyss are silly songs just as their names suggest. They contain all elements a cheesy flower power metal band could think of. High spirited chorus, melodic leads, orchestral elements, keyboards, balladry, narrations all twisted together to sound incoherent in an attempt to make the music progressive. Wings Of Destiny is an ob;obligatory flower power metal ballad, but surprisingly it doesn't sound bad thanks to a great vocal performance by Fabio Lione. Riding The Wings Of Eternity again sounds good. Great riffs on this song, some of the best from the album. Though they throw in some balladry in this song, it doesn't sound too bad. The closer title track is one of the most incoherent songs ever written. The song is divided into 4 sections and yet if the sections were made as individual songs, they still would have sounded incoherent and meaningless. It is one thing to write a long complex song and other thing to keep it interesting throughout it's length. Satan's Fall, this is not.

Overall this album is too much over hyped. The choruses of the songs are good.....well that is the only thing in it. The rest song construction is vomit inducing. even if the songs would have been made compact and to the point, they are too cheesy to be digestible. The lyrics aren't much inspiring either, they don't elaborate the story much. Some would say that this album is fast, melodic and catchy, true, but more than half of the songs from the album are filled with useless keyboards and shit balladry. The pace changes are dull and don't sound great. The album lacks edge. The story doesn't always revolve around glory and great destiny. The music fails to bring the feel out of the album. I can't imagine the story here like I see Agamemnon and Agisthos fighting for their life when I listen to Great Sword Of Flame or imagine high towers and bloody battles when I hear Time Stands Still ( At The Iron Hill ). So concluding, there are only a handful of bands which can make great symphonic concept albums having edge and with output like this, Rhapsody is surely not one of them.

Can a Dark Tower really be 'Of Abyss'? Hmmm.... - 70%

Torwilligous, December 12th, 2008

So here we have Rhapsody of Fire (or, as they were known then, Rhapsody), with their best album. Well the best I've heard at any rate; "Power of the Dragonflame" was rubbish, "Legendary Tales" was decent but too twee, and "Symphony of the Enchanted Lands pt.II" was bloated and snoozetastic, but did at least have Christopher Lee on it, saving the album from my Mighty Runic Axe of the Destruction of the Crappy Bullshit. "Symphony..." part one, however, makes it all the way along the tightrope across the Pits of Suckage with only a few moments along the way.

The style on display here is just dandy, melding renaissance/medieval classicism and grandiose film score music with stock standard power metal, and all of it is very slickly and enjoyably composed. Honestly though, without the keyboards Rhapsody would be absolutely diabolical, as the vast majority of their guitar 'riffs' cannot be honestly called such without encountering near-unprecedented levels of factual inaccuracy. Choosing a note and going 'djuggadjuggadjuggadjugga' relentlessly for two bars before changing chords is not a riff, it's rhythmic support to the main players: the sweeping orchestras and totally ludicrous vocals of Fabio Lione. Seriously, this guy has the fruitiest tone you could ever hear, warbling away in a magma-thick Italian accent that somehow botches "Emerald Sword" to "Eemroe Swaow". This, however, has a hilarious effect that makes him rather enjoyable to listen to.

Highlights? There are good musical moments all over this album. "Emerald Sword" is obviously a romping classic that needs no more said about it, while "Wisdom of the Kings" is in a similar vein and to my mind is just as good. "Eternal Glory" is nice, with a crushing opening brass fanfare that is pretty much the best single part of the entire album. There are also a couple of rather interesting, darker and more intricate tracks; "Beyond the Gates of Infinity" and the excellent and also marvellously titled "The Dark Tower of Abyss", which melds darkly shimmering, Bach-esque baroque ornatery with the usual flower metal proceedings.

However, there are moments of transcendent silliness also, fear not! Key among these are the moments of narration. If you thought Fabio couldn't be out-fruited, you were wrong; this narrator guy is absolute comedy gold, packing so much over-emotion into his lisping little voice it's impossible not to at least give a wry chuckle. His "Fly, mighty Thauros!" speech at the beginning of the title track is just... well, words fail me. All standards of cheesiness have just been blown straight out of the window. Congratulations, Rhapsody! This also brings us round to said title track, which is over-long and dull, and which I've never made it all the way through without wanting to go insane. Whenever it's a chore to finish a song, you know you've taken a wrong turn somewhere along the path.

As a serious band? This is an epic failure, due to two major factors; having a silly grasp of English (not their fault), as well doing too much in general to be majestic, and over-egging the cake somewhat. However, the music itself is on the most part extremely enjoyable, intricate and eminently listenable. Just be prepared to accept ridiculousness beyond expectation.

Holy Steel! - 90%

Frankingsteins, July 13th, 2007

The second album from Italian symphonic metal band Rhapsody (recently forced to legally re-name themselves ‘Rhapsody of Fire,’ quite ridiculously) continues the Emerald Sword saga of their debut, ‘Legendary Tales.’ This band, increasingly so in recent years, surely epitomises the nerdy and childish genre of fantasy metal, as their songs take the classic heavy metal form (which was often infused with slightly geeky lyrics to begin with) and introduce folk and classical Medieval influences to strive for what the band themselves deem a ‘Hollywood metal’ sound.

The intention is to create something like an epic fantasy film told in song, making use of spoken word and sound effects when necessary, while also concentrating on producing a high quality heavy metal album. With their early releases, particularly this second offering, Rhapsody achieve an impressive balance, nerdy enough to attract those who would usually be put off by metal, and powerful enough to persuade insecure metal fans that it’s an acceptable thing to be listening to.

The Emerald Sword saga itself is a fairly straightforward fantasy tale (I expect, only being slightly familiar with genre), which sees our hero questing for the fabled Emerald Sword to help the good guys defeat the bad guys who are intent on pillage and destruction of the land. Guitarist and songwriter Luca Turilli claims not to have read much fantasy, instead relying on Hollywood for his influence, perhaps the primary reason the band were so intent on signing up Christopher Lee to narrate their more recent albums after his appearances through the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Instead of Lee, we have here instead a far, far poorer narrator in the form of Sir Jay Lansford, whose emotive commentary on selected tracks, thankfully only three times in this particular album, is excruciating at worst and laughable at best.

The lyrics all concern the events of the plot, but are essentially secondary to the music, at least in terms of my own approach to the album. Nevertheless, the interior booklet of each Rhapsody album contains detailed notes on the evolving incidents and, most incredible of all, a detailed map of the fictional locale of Turilli’s saga. It’s tempting to really get into the story with this much material at hand, and when playing a Rhapsody album once in a while, I always debate whether to put aside a day to listen to the entire saga (five albums of this story, and a further two of the more recent and continuing second saga), but the task would simply be too excruciating, and probably become tedious half-way through the second album as they all sound very alike. Nevertheless, ‘Symphony of Enchanted Lands’ stands out a little above the competition, improving on the fusion style of its predecessor and achieving a greater balance between the classical and modern sounds than the later ‘Dawn of Victory.’

The first noticeable improvement over the debut is the production quality, which is now crystal clear and deep enough that the full extent of orchestration is audible even when the primary instruments are thrashing away at full volume. The first album always sounded quite tinny to me, despite the high quality of the songs the band had been working on and releasing in several demo forms for a number of years. Starting from scratch with ‘Symphony of Enchanted Lands,’ Rhapsody use the same formula as the first album, consisting mostly of fast power metal with sing-along choruses and guitar and keyboard solos, balanced out by the occasional non-metal song in the form of a piano ballad or symphonic interlude, with a couple of longer, more diverse songs towards the end. An excellent balance is struck between the vocals and individual instruments, as there are numerous and generous solos for the guitar and keyboard, ranging from typical Iron Maiden fare to a classical influence, but for the most part the instruments are content to chug along in the background while Fabio Lione sings the silly lyrics with operatic excellence.

Newcomers to extreme metal genres like power metal may be a little intimidated by the speed at first, but the focus is more on creating upbeat adrenaline than the aggression of death metal, and the high speed combo of drums and guitars racing in time with each other soon fades into the backdrop intended during the verses. The incorporation of orchestration can seem a little clichéd today, as pretty much every band has done it at some point in their career, but this album strikes, as stated earlier, a perfect balance, much like its predecessor. The symphony is used only when necessary, and never imposes on the simple enjoyment of the songs unless it is being particularly highlighted, in which case it is well worth paying attention to. The ‘Hollywood’ focus means that this is the typical orchestration found in all film soundtracks all the time, from blaring horns to sombre violins and male and female choirs. The arrangements aren’t going to impress any classical buffs, but the execution is flawless, and when given the chance to really perform at his peak, Fabio Lione proves himself to be a superb tenor, especially when pitted against Constanze Vaniyne in the finale. Despite the arguable delusions of grandeur, Rhapsody aims to be more accessible than intimidating, and it’s obvious on first listen which tracks were selected as singles.

The album begins, as usual, with a short introductory track of orchestra led by a male choir, sounding very much like Basil Poledouris’ excellent score for ‘Conan the Barbarian,’ but probably influenced more generically. ‘Emerald Sword’ is soon upon us, which along with ‘Wisdom of the Kings’ and the penultimate ‘Riding the Winds of Eternity’ is fairly standard power metal fare in the wake of Helloween and Blind Guardian; lightning-fast riffs dominating and a rip-roaring, highly memorable chorus which repeats twice later on, signalling the end. There’s nothing unexpected in these songs at all, and although the first two are perfectly positioned to inaugurate listeners into the fold by being accessible, they pale in comparison to the more complex offerings. On the other hand, metal fans looking for a quick fix will probably rate these more highly. ‘Emerald Sword’ particularly is the strongest of the lot, and has been a live favourite ever since, the perfection of this side of Rhapsody’s music.

Things become more interesting, though not necessarily better, with the slower pace of the fourth track, which acts as more of a short introduction (despite the extended title) to the excellent second section of the album. ‘Heroes of the Lost Valley’ begins with a very pleasant flute and harpsichord (or at least, keyboard made to sound like a harpsichord) section, before galloping sound effects reminiscent of Bathory lead into the first inadvisable piece of narration. Such things are inevitable, and thankfully it’s brief and to the point, but the narration is my major gripe with this album, intruding on the listening experience of those like me who are content to enjoy the music with only the vaguest notion that there’s some kind of plot occurring between the notes. ‘Eternal Glory’ is the start of the album’s bolder direction, beginning with happy 80s keyboards in the style of Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ and succumbing to a more solemn drum march that is slowly joined by the other instruments, culminating in an excellent main guitar riff. There’s a section allotted towards the end of this lengthy track for orchestration, as will become the norm for most that come after, and the song ends much as it began.

Despite its unfortunate position in the overlooked middle of this ‘epic’ section of the album, ‘Beyond the Gates of Infinity’ does an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and manages to exceed even its illustrious predecessor (and its disappointing follow-up. The metaphor breaks down soon after this however). It begins very eerily, in contrast to the usual optimism that can get a little tiresome, with horror film keyboards leading into some fantastic verses and riffs that possess all the force of ‘Emerald Sword’ and all the symphonic grandeur of ‘Eternal Glory.’ The guitars are at their most impressive in an instrumental section towards the end, as Luca Turilli wisely opts to show off his skill as a musician over that of a writer. ‘Wings of Destiny’ is the first song in some time to approach a more standard four and a half minute length, which will be relieving to some, and is a necessary soft breather between the more energetic offerings, in some ways letting off the pressure of the tightly restricted ‘quiet’ sections fitted between verses in the previous two songs. This is where Fabio Lione gets his first chance to really shine as a tenor, as the piano (or at least, keyboard made to sound like a piano this time), drums and guitar all play more softly in the background. The fade at the end indicates something of a climax for this second, most impressive phase of the album.

Things threaten to become repetitive with ‘The Dark Tower of Abyss,’ but thankfully Rhapsody still have some tricks up their billowing sleeves and offer a harpsichord introduction (or at least,... etc.) that competes with the guitar in a very Stratovarius-like way, sounding more like Finnish metal in general than Italian here. Some male choral vocals can be heard behind the main riffs, but this song essentially reverts to the usual formula thereafter, with another excellent instrumental section. Unfortunately, the narrator makes an unwelcome second appearance at the end over the music, making the song seem to last a lot longer than it does. The afore-mentioned ‘Riding the Winds of Eternity’ is perhaps the least remarkable song on here, simply for offering nothing new aside from some relaxing wave sound effects before the song goes all fast and spoils it, but this is partly due to impatience at the approach of the epic titular finale, ‘Symphony of Enchanted Lands.’

It was inevitable that the most ambitious song would feature heavy use of narration, and he really does spoil things, wasting no time in hamming his way through the first minute and returning at the very end. Fortunately, all the stuff in-between is pretty excellent, although essentially a re-tread of all the most successful elements from previous songs. Fabio reaches for the high notes again as he did in ‘Wings of Destiny,’ this time against a solitary church organ (or at least – yes), and the more customary instruments take their time getting off to a nice slow start. The keyboard handles lead duties in a self-consciously epic introduction, before an ominous pause returns things to normal, Rhapsody playing in their safety zone, and playing less dangerously fast than usual. The guitar remains in the lead for a while, until the whole thing reverts back to the organ and Fabio gets to sing along with Constanze Vaniyne in one of the album’s most successful classical experimentations. There are some nice violins that tackle the main riff, unfortunately not quite as memorable as others on the album which acts against the song slightly, and the song ends as you hit the eject button before the narrator can fill you in on the tense cliff-hanger finale that I’ve never paid enough attention to to remember. It can’t be too promising, as the next two albums are dominated by violence and bloodshed rather than waterfalls and dragons.

Rhapsody have a deserved reputation of being one of the more over-the-top bands out there, but this mockery is beaten by a greater admiration of their music. Although the narration makes it impossible to ignore the fantasy theme, should that prove a problem, the whole notion is intriguing enough that no amount of cheese is going to put me off. The fusion of metal and classical elements has been done more impressively elsewhere, but not for such a sustained period as an entire discography, which has only started to collapse in on itself with the most recent release. Here, the balance is perfect, and while it’s unsurprising Hollywood metal all the way, the heavy metal skill of the guitars, drums, keyboards and vocals is what holds it all together. The follow-ups ‘Dawn of Victory’ and ‘Rain of a Thousand Flames’ will perhaps be more suited to metal fans whose experience with fantasy-themed metal is limited, as these releases are more geared towards guitar riffs and a more rasping vocal delivery, although those in such a situation would be much better off getting used to more approachable and enjoyable power metal acts such as Blind Guardian (though not Dragonforce, have some respect for yourself).

Despite the imitations, Rhapsody still stand out in the combined realm of power, symphonic and folk metal, occupying their own well-earned position on its far-too-detailed map. Thankfully, although later releases would be increasingly less impressive, the quality of the cover art would steadily improve after this pitiful effort.

An Enchanted Listen. - 100%

hells_unicorn, February 21st, 2007

2 years after succeeding in superimposing the operatic/film score side of common practice music with the Helloween style of Speed/Power Metal, Rhapsody perfected the unique hybrid that has now become quite widespread in the metal realm. “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” is precisely what its name implies, a 10 movement symphony of sound that transcends the game of notes and transports the listener into the mystical realm that it depicts.

In many ways this album is similar to its predecessor, be it the large collection of fanfare tracks with catchy choruses and riveting background music, or the longer epics that combine the elements of classicism and metal to perfection. However, the production has been improved so that we have a clearly defined guitar texture, as well as a solid overall production that makes for a more refined listen. A drastic increase in the role of acoustic and orchestral instruments is found particularly in the album’s epic closing track, which flirts with upstaging such well known film score pieces such as the main theme of “Last of the Mohicans” and some of the stuff found in the Lord of the Rings movies that would follow a few years later.

Rather than utilizing the haunting church organ sound for the album’s prelude, we instead get a full blown orchestral number with an even more drastic crescendo of sound that segues perfectly into the famous album single “Emerald Sword”. Both this single and the following track “Wisdom of the Kings” are powerful speed metal fanfares, featuring amazing choruses and catchy guitar riffs and keyboard themes. Rather than following up with a full length Renaissance number similar to “Forest of Unicorns”, “Heroes of the Lost Valley” is a brief harpsichord driven instrumental followed by a rather dramatic narration by Jay Lansford, whose presence on subsequent releases has been derided by some as being cheesy. New flash people, this is a High Fantasy style concept album, if you think such things are to be made fun of maybe you should think twice about supporting it with your money.

From here on the songs are mostly longer and full of intricate structures and a few musical surprises, departing from the stricter approach taken on the debut album. “Eternal Glory” is the quintessential epic power metal number, emphasizing speed and atmosphere, while making time to showcase the accomplished playing abilities of Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli. “Beyond the Gates of Infinity” showcases a somewhat progressive approach, utilizing some mixed meter and an unusual intro theme more reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s creepy sounding horror themes. “The Dark Tower of Abyss” is the most overtly Neo-Classical of the bunch, having almost as much orchestral string sections as it does metal moments.

We still get a fair number of shorter tracks that are more comparable to the last album in the latter half of this rather brilliant opus. “Wings of Destiny” is a better produced version of “Echoes of Tragedy” without the huge male chorus, plenty of serene piano work and a more measured vocal display by Lione. “Riding the Winds of Eternity”, formerly known as Holy Wind from the original demo, is the fastest yet simplest number on here. We don’t get a guitar solo, but we do get plenty of amazing moments and a solid keyboard display.

The true highlight of this album, the one song that culminates all of the strengths that appeared on here before it, as well as succeeds in being one of the best examples of musical storytelling I’ve ever heard. The first 3 minutes of the song flow like a Requiem, meant to articulate the sadness felt by the story’s hero at the soon death of Tharos the red dragon, his one time enemy whom he spared and who, in turn, saved his life at the cost of his own. The best moments of any Fantasy story have always been the moment of redemption, and often it coincides with the death of a principle character. This would be revisited in “Power of the Dragonflame”, but something about this moment in the story is different, probably the relationship between Tharos and the Nordic Warrior being more sympathetic than the one the hero had with Dargor. Anyhow, there is a large number of contrasting themes and developed idea, varying in tempo and texture, but not at the cost of a coherent structure. It’s an instant classic, pure and simple.

Although there is a bit of dispute over whether Blind Guardian’s “Nightfall on Middle Earth” or this album is the stronger example of Epic Power Metal, (I like them both equally, though acknowledge that they are quite different) this is definitely the album to get if you want to hear Rhapsody at its absolute best. It is not quite as hard edged as subsequent releases and may not sound as metal as a result, but musically it towers well above most of the other offering put out by this outfit. If you can only get one studio album by this band, this is the one to get.

An Epic Album - 98%

ThousandLakes, September 4th, 2005

I never listened to a sample of Rhapsody till just recently, as many people have given them a bad label, calling them "Flower Metal" and Power Metal Pussies. But once I finally saw one individual praise Rhapsody (and this album in particular), I dropped all of the bad advice I had listened too, and gave them a shot. Sure enough, I found "Symphony of Enchanted Lands", but its price tag was a shocking $27.99 Canadian. Before putting the album back in its spot due to the very high price, I said 'What the Hell' and went over to the listening booth...

...The opening track, "Epicus Furor" is a classic Power Metal intro, just an orchestra sounding piece, common in many albums. But following, "Emerald Sword", is one of the best Power Metal tracks you'll EVER hear period. It was my first full Rhapsody experience, and sure it may be a bit cheesy sounding, and symphonic, but the song is pure EXCELLENCE!! Next up, "Wisdom of the Kings" begins with a very peaceful sounding guitar interlude, followed by more Top Notch Power Metal. "Heroes of the Lost Valley" is basically an instrumental, and I'd soon find out later it's something Rhapsody does often in all of their albums. There always fine to listen to, but I was really anxious to hear more of this albums Strong music, and sure enough, the next track did it perfect....

..."Eternal Glory" seconds this album as my favorite track only to "Emerald Sword". Its long 7 minutes never get tiring to listen to. Definitely one of my favorite choruses done by any band in any genre! "Beyond the Gates of Infinity" is a track I find similar to "Eternal Glory". Very close in length, and very close in song structure, maybe not quite as good though. Still, a fabulous song to put into your CD Player. Following, "Wings of Destiny" is a slow epic piece of music. One to listen to when a loved one dies I'd like to say. Kind of lame, but hey, there's plenty of other songs to fulfill it. "The Dark Tower of Abyss" is another phenomenal tune on this album. Not much else to say, it's full of great all-around solos though! Next up, "Riding the Winds of Eternity", reminds me of "Wisdom of the Kings" a fair bit. A good track, but there's better on the album, including "Wisdom of the Kings".

The album is concluded with a 13 minute song, the album title, "Symphony of Enchanted Lands". It's a very fun tune to listen too, so many different sections. It's basically several tracks put into one, but it's all tied together very nicely. Once you see its lengthy 13 minutes, you probably won't want to sit through the whole song, but trust me, it's worth it.

So never listen to anyone's opinion of an album, unless you know you agree with it. I'm deeply grateful I found myself listening to Rhapsody, because they've been one of my Power Metal gateway groups, and they top my Power Metal lists. Fabulous band, and a Phenomenal album!

A Masterpiece difficult to be repeated by anyone - 98%

arkbath, April 16th, 2005

The first time I heard this album was in a friend’s rehearsal room. I was attracted by the cover artwork (I know that is a little bit awful, but it has something on it that attracts everyone) and listened because I was just too curious about how would it sound like. I got impressed immediately because of the originality and the complexity of the compositions throughout the album. Then I bought it and listened to it more carefully. I recognize it stayed in my stereo for quite a long time but then I listened to it occasionally. It passed a long time before I listened to the album again. I picked it up for writing this review and I remembered how great this release is. But let’s talk about the music…

When we talk about Rhapsody we can’t talk of one song in particular, because the meaning of their music is the album as a whole. Yes, there are great songs and others with nothing special, but the turnover that Rhapsody gave to metal music is much important. Just listen to the hundreds of new bands trying to sound as symphonic and powerful as Rhapsody. Some have managed great achievements, but no one will sound like Rhapsody. The highlight of this album is the fusion between classical music and power metal. There is no metal music followed by classical atmospheres, it is metal music composed with classical patterns and rules. Turilli and Staropoli are trying to immerse us in their fantasy world and they had great success. The best way to get someone interested is music haha. And the best part is that it there’s a strange link between the music and the story. I don’t know if the story fits the music or the music fits the story. Talking about some of the tracks: Epicus Furor is the best Rhapsody intro and so is Emerald Sword as an opening track; the main chorus are simply great and have impressing choir parts, and the guitar and violin solos gives this song a special taste that makes you enjoy it every time you hear it. Wisdom of the Kings follows with more violins and choirs. The closing track, Symphony of Enchanted Lands, is too long from my point of view but deserves a special mention because it flows from spoken parts, piano breakdowns, dramatic church-like singing to the classical metal with folkish riffs between amazing and before unheard arrangements in metal history. In fact, it resumes what Rhapsody is. Other songs to be heard and that complete this album and make it the best from the entire Rhapsody career are Eternal Glory, epic and powerful, with one of the most speedy and hard drum patterns I’ve ever heard; and of course, The Dark Tower of Abyss, which includes a unique baroque-metal fusion; this one must be one of the best remembered songs from Rhapsody.

If you’re disappointed with the lack of originality that has possessed this band within their following (accept it, Dawn of Victory still was good, but with for the last two albums everybody knew how they were going to sound like), go back for a while and remember the glorious times of Symphony of Enchanted Lands; and if you haven’t heard this band, this is the best and the ONLY way to get into their music. Enjoy it.

Slower and more symphonic. - 77%

Corimngul, March 7th, 2005

One could listen through all Rhapsody full-lengths and EP:s in sex minutes and four seconds. The one that’d stand out as the best is Symphony of Enchanted Lands. All fell to places on this one and the band even tried to return to this release musically over and over again. They’ve even recycled the name. This very light, melodic, symphonic album show that no matter how much skills you have in composing or playing the instrument you can fail. It has its charm, however. The vocalist should avoid his spoken parts as he obviously sucks at them. They’re nothing other than jokes. And Rhapsody proves that they don’t know what atmosphere is. They could have a tragic spoken part, sad vocals and everything, but the music remains as happily pumping, as catchy as ever.

At a first listen it might appear like there are less keyboards on this second coming than on the first. That is however a mistake. They’re just not as prominent. The album is slower than its predecessor, and doesn’t strive to sound so extremely power metal on this one, they explore the boundaries of their symphonic possibilities. They’ve left many of their patterns behind them to go more for a symphony than anything else. Granted, the Latin track is still here.

They’ve dropped the stupid jumping between symphonic metal and power metal hidden by keyboards in favour of extracting as much as they can from every element. Except for the guitars that hide below layers of strings, keyboards and whatever. The guitars only surface for the opening riff of Emerald Sword – a riff that any Gamma Ray listener is bound to have heard before, and an occasional lead. When they surface they’re nice but it isn’t very much to discuss really.
Rhapsody’s dropped the stupid tempo changes around choruses as to magnify them and make them more majestic. The change of pitch is still here but the songs seems to circle less about the choruses and more about the music – and unfortunately the spoken parts. The music is rather majestic, epic, bombastic or whatever word suits you.

Overall this is more of a ballad album than a fist in your face. Even when they pace it up, it seems too soft… More beautiful, fragile than any actual power. People afraid of violence should like this one. On Wisdom of Kings they sing the chorus in harmonies and overall the music is harmonious. If you like harmonies, twittering birds, audible bass this would be easily digested. People in love only with riffs will obviously hate it.

As usual I dislike their sound effects, be it wolves, horses or birds. They’re unnecessary distracting moments with few or points to them. The flutes have been moved into the songs, fitting as interludes instead of opening every third song. Got to be grateful of that. In a sense I like this but it isn’t really a great album. It has many flaws, many spoken parts, many long songs, many crappy sound effects, many moments one doesn’t remember – yet I like it. It’s the symphonic feel that I adore. That broad front of melody that just invades the ears, no matter the cheese, who am I to defy it?

Feces of Enchanted Asses. - 31%

Nightcrawler, May 16th, 2004

I think I’m gonna have to say that this album sucks beyond belief nearly all the way through. Their completely over-the-top, huge and epic power metal relies on two things: Catchiness and atmosphere. The songs on their debut album “Legendary Tales”, such as “Land of Immortals” and “Warrior of Ice” had some really memorable vocal lines that truly managed to stick to your mind, and that were just a blast to sing along to.
And then songs like “Rage of the Winter” managed to build up some great atmospheres with the well-done orchestrations, standard but very good power metal lead-and soloing, and catchy keyboard melodies fused together into a very interesting style of music, that when done right can be quite effective. And most of the times on “Legendary Tales”, it was done right. However, on their sophomore album “Symphony of Enchanted Lands”, everything went to hell, really.
The songs are just incredibly boring and forgettable, and gone are those big, catchy singalong choruses, and the atmospheres just come off as really forced and uninspired, and the cause of all this is quite easy to spot- they were going for a darker mood. And with bands like Rhapsody, a dark mood over an entire album just does not work. The songs also get quite drawn out, apparently to enhance the atmosphere. But the constructions and orchestrations and huge vocal lines are all blended together into one big mess, and the longer the songs get, the more hideously bored I get. “Beyond The Gates of Infinity”, “The Dark Tower of Abyss” and the ten-minute epic “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” are the songs that are more boring than anything else.
Oh yes, those and the godawful ballad “Wings of Destiny”. Urgh.

There are, however, a few moments that stand out on here – the song “Eternal Glory” ain’t all that bad, with a very memorable, pompous keyboard intro, and the same melody is used for a rather effective guitar riff, which is pretty rare with this band, as most all the riffs sound exactly the same, and those are pretty damn crappy.
Later on in the song, a pretty nifty, epic chorus is found, which leads into a very strong slowed down section. And then it descends into shit when the song suddenly goes ballad on all our asses. But still, they have some nice ideas going on in this song.
The highlight of the album however, is the opener (after the obligatory intro) “Emerald Sword”, probably the most well known Rhapsody tune. They do what they were meant to do, and they do it well. A huge and incredibly catchy chorus is to be found, along with a pretty nice instrumental section. And most importantly, it’s happy – this is The anthem to dancing and prancing in an enchanted forest of elves, which is something few bands could accomplish and actually sound good while doing it. Rhapsody is one of those bands.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t hold the same quality, and the high points in “Eternal Glory” and “Emerald Sword” only slightly drag up the rating of this rather horrible album. Uninspired, dreary, boring, overlong, and just generally crappy, this album is, and not worth getting even for the most fanatical power metal freak, unless orchestrations completely make you cream your pants. Cause there are loads of orchestrations in here – the problem is, that they’re just not any good, at all. Nope, this is crap.
Paul Baloff will rise from the fucking dead and eat Luca Turilli's cunt if he doesn't start sucking less. I'll have to get the later Rhapsody albums to see whether Luca's cunt will live or not.

Rhapsody: The Musical! - 89%

OSheaman, July 12th, 2003

Another fruitcake band. Here we are singing about the epic fight to save the Enchanted Lands. Doesn't anybody live in the real world anymore? I swear, if Bob Dylan were still . . . well, never mind.

Actually, this is good stuff. The riffs are strong, the vocals are nice, and the blending with the background orchestra is fantastic. The album opens up with the Symphonic/Choral introduction of Epicus Furor, which then proceeds via a seamless segue into Emerald Sword. Rather than completely dropping out as soon as the guitars hit the first power chord, the orchestra continues a back-and-forth with the band for a good 15-20 seconds, until the drum finally comes in in earnest. It's fantastic; it strikes me as odd that more Symphonic Metal bands don't take full advantage of their symphonies. Anyway, the opening riff repeats, and then . . . A VIOLIN SOLO! Yes, after all this long waiting, a cool violin solo in the middle of a Power Metal song . . . I'm in love.

The rest of the album is pretty good as well. The entire album plays out like the forgotten third album of Avantasia, with the mighty warrior questing for the powerful sword, combing the valley of death, and allying with a mighty but doomed dragon to fight the Black Lord and save the Enchanted Lands.

Or maybe you'd rather go play some Napalm Death.

Seriously, there is a good sound behind all this cheese. The guitars make a nice transition between riffs in their songs, and the rhythm is varied enough between songs to keep the album interesting. The bass is present and strong (always a good sign, but never a given in Power Metal, unfortunately), and the keyboards are not as overdone as they are in other bands *coughAngracough*. The faster songs are prime candidates for some serious headbanging, and while the ballads aren't extraordinary, the final epic song (about 13 minutes long) is a great, sweeping symphonic piece with plenty of gusto, perfect for closing out this Broadway-act-turned-metal. Overall, solid sound and good, consistent songs make up for the much-overused and oft-abused fantasy setting of the Symphony of Enchanted Lands.

Flower metal STILL sucks - 32%

UltraBoris, December 30th, 2002

Now this isn't as bad as Sonata Arctica, but it is still horrible in that the guitar work is drowned out by the endless layers of keyboards upon keyboards. Not always, just too often.

For example, the all-hailed intro song, "Emerald Sword". Nice intro riff (total Gamma Ray worship) but then the keyboards take over and it gets so light and fluffy and yes, the guitars are there but the riff they play are mediocre. Then, under the verses... Helloween called, they instruct you to use the "Ride the Sky" riff sparingly, otherwise it loses its powerful effect...

Kai Hansen, you people aren't. The songs just move along very overfast for the most part, without being particularly memorable, except maybe in the choruses, which are nice and epic but not nearly enough to save the hideosity of the verses. See "Blind Guardian" for how to do European-styled epic metal correctly without losing the edge.

The next problem is - too much balladic filler. Is there really anything to be gotten out of "Heroes of the Lost Valley" for example? It does little but to break up flower metal song after identical flower metal song. That's really it - because they couldn't come up with some good DIFFERENT (non-Freewheel-Burning-ripoff) riffs, they had to overtly change the tone of the album every once in a while with a crappy ballad.

Exercise skip button. Well, exercise not getting this CD, first of all!

One highlight... maybe... "Riding the Winds of Eternity". Somehow the riffs under the verses are decent. Or, just louder in the mix. And the leads are pretty cool... there is no mistaking that there is a good sense of melody, but it shouldn't entirely dominate the songwriting so much that the poor riffs are lost.