Rhapsody is a band so gloriously over the top that a new label had to be created just for them – Hollywood Metal. Never before has that label been more appropriate than on their latest effort, the long-awaited sequel to their sophomore effort, Symphony of Enchanted Lands. With a full orchestra in tow, and aided by the narration of one the worlds most distinguished actors, Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars Episode II, among others), Rhapsody delivers an album that is executed to perfection, but may not be suitable for all audiences.
The disc opens up with a narrative piece, with Mr. Lee’s deep, ominous voice introducing the epic saga that is about to begin. In the role of the King, he will guide us through this adventure which, unless you have a lyrics sheet, may be difficult to follow detail-wise. Thankfully, the music takes care of the ups-and-downs. “Unholy Warcry” is full of all the bombast you’ve come to love (or hate) about Rhapsody, at times even taking on a Broadway feel (perhaps another new label they’re working on?). It’s hard not to get swept up in this one, especially when vocalist Fabio Lione delivers the title line. “Forgotten Heroes” continues in this vein, perhaps taking a slight step back in the delivery. The tempo changes entirely for the flute-driven instrumental “Elgard’s Green Valley”. Definitely some travel happening here, and you can almost see the green fields and horses riding the path, leading right into the symphonic ballad “The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream”.
Here we go – an epic-within-an-epic: the 10+ minute “Erian’s Mystical Rhymes”, full of everything you’ve heard thus far: orchestra, dynamic vocals, narration, and of course the as-yet-unmentioned guitar wizardry of primary songwriter (alongside keyboardist Alex Staropoli) Luca Turilli. This leads into “The Last Angel’s Call”, which maintains the Rhapsody effect while taking on a genuine storytelling feel. Then it’s time for another interlude of sorts with the acoustic guitar/flute “Dragonland’s River”, before the next epic, “The Sacred Power of Raging Winds”. Damn.
Well, shoot. The track “Guardiani” is another ballad-type sung entirely in Italian – so much for following THAT part of the story. “Shadows of Death” is both regal and epic, as we near the end of the story. This must be the major battle, like the Battle at Helm’s Deep. “Nightfall on the Grey Mountains” brings us to a close. I think the heroes won this one, as there is a definite victorious feel here.
Whew! What a ride. I think I may go have another.
Rhapsody gets a lot of flak from the metal community for being overly cheesy, or as they would most likely word it, “gay”. OK, so the band is a bit dramatic, but I dare the critics to find a band that can write a better epic saga (or just epics) than Rhapsody. OK, I’ll grant you Ayreon, but that’s all you’re getting from me. The ride does have its bumps, but it’s all worth it in the end.