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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.