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Bom-fucking-bastic - 75%

doomknocker, June 17th, 2010

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!