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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.