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Fits the title perfectly - 90%

ijy10152, April 27th, 2012

This album is considered by many people to be Rhapsody of Fire's comeback album. From a power metal point of view I suppose I can understand this point, but to be honest, Rhapsody of Fire has not yet written a bad album and I doubt they ever will. This one was definitely a surprise to me after the slower and more emotive Triumph or Agony; they return with more bombast and more shredding than ever before. I f you look at the two sagas individually you will notice a pattern: the first album is very symphonic, but fast, the second one is even more symphonic, but maybe with a few more ballad type songs in Triumph or Agony's case. The third one is when they pick it up and write some really fast and fun single type songs like on Dawn of Victory. Well here is the third part of the second saga and it is continuing the pattern and improving upon the previous third entry. Dawn of Victory was a solid album, but lacked a bit in the song writing department I felt, and the final epic track ended up being kind of a mess which is unusual for them. But this one has superb song writing and some really heavy material to boot with a really good musical atmosphere that makes you think of heroes trekking over frozen wastelands on a quest.

The highlights on this are Raging Starfire, Lost in Cold Dreams, Reign of Terror, On the Way to Ainor and The Frozen Tears of Angels. Reign of terror, is Rhapsody's attempt to get away from the typical speed metal songs that often make a band like this (such as Stratovarius with Hunting High and Low) and forge their own identity, but still make it accessible to the metal fans. They succeeded, this song forges them as an interesting mix of symphonic power metal and... I guess thrash metal with some heavy screaming and some really dark lyrics. This song is part of what really put this band back on the map for the public and reminded people of why this band is so highly regarded. Raging Starfire is a rather typical speed metal song with some interesting instrumental parts and a great chorus. One thing I love about Rhapsody of Fire is that they manage to make good speed metal songs but they still manage to stay away from the mainstream stuff of this genre and keep their own identity; in other words, they never sell out. On the Way To Ainor would be my favorite of this album if it wasn't for the title track. This song starts off with speed and then slows down for the opening vocals that lead into a powerful beginning of the real meat of the song. This formula is very typical of the band especially in the album after this. The shredding in this song is some of the best Luca has ever done and there is a really, REALLY good guitar solo part way through that I could listen to all day; with of course the customary epic and catchy chorus that Rhapsody is so good at creating. Lost in Cold Dreams is the mandatory slow ballad on this, but it feels anything beside mandatory. In many ways this album reminds me of a Blind Guardian album formula wise. It has a folk semi ballad with lots of flutes, acoustic guitar and other folk elements, then there is a slow ballad that in this case is really good. I really love this song because it's slow and epic starting off slow and then developing into a powerful epic song with a really good chorus. Also it really fits the overall feel and atmosphere of this album, I mean I get cold just listening to this song and shivers down my spine. The title track on this album is definitely the best song off this album. It's an 11 minute epic with a fun, but powerful chorus, lot's of background choir singing in Latin and the customary switching between English and Italian.

While Fabio does a very good job on this album, I would not say that he is truly the star of it. This time around, Luca Turilli is the man. I have always considered him one of, if not the best guitar player in the genre, with classical and malmsteen influences in his work it makes a very interesting style and for some amazing shredding. His solos on this album are stellar and the guitar really stands out in this album unlike the previous album where the vocals really took precedence. Unfortunately Alex Starpolli doesn't really get much of a chance to shine. He gets a solo in Sea of Fate and a couple of tiny ones here and there, but for the most part he is i the the support role. I think that the bass really shines more than usual on this one as well which is unusual for most bands because while still an important part of any band it usually isn't given too much prominence. Patrice Guers really is a great bass player and this is evident on this album. All inall the music on this album is heavier than usual and as fast as ever, but it also really develops and defines Rhapsody as a power metal band, whereas the last couple of albums before this were a little more on the symphonic side (not that it's a bad thing).

Story wise, this is a direct sequel to Triumph or Agony and continues with the heroes having found the seventh black book that is supposed to resurrect the "Demon knight" known as Neckron, an evil war lord who was defeated 5,000 years previously. Having read the book the heroes now know that another book; Erian's white book (an angel who wrote it) is the true key to stopping his resurrection and they decide that they will travel to the town of Ainor where the great library is rumored to contain information on the white book. In Ainor they find said information and discover that it is located in Har-Kuun an ancient fortress of Neckron's. The story is mostly traveling rathr than fighting and slaying dragons and demons, but it is an important chapter to the story and this time it is told with as few narrations as possible, but it is of course well told and well written.

Overall this album is excellent and publicly; a bit of a comeback for Rhapsody, who was loosing the spotlight a little bit with their less heavy two albums before this. But now they have been catapulted right back into place alongside Blind Guardian, Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica as we in North America prepare for their first tour in North America since 2005.