So the hat trick is completed. After previous reviews of The Infinite Wonders of Creation and Lost Horizons by guitarist Luca Turilli’s eponymous and Dreamquest projects respectively, here is the latest full-length from his primary outfit, Rhapsody of Fire. I initially thought my lack of reaction was due to a bad case of Turilli overkill, but it was more than that. While Triumph or Agony easily surpasses his two solo efforts, it fails to live up to the band’s musical legacy, and is a more than lackluster follow-up to 2004’s amazing Symphony of Enchanted Lands II.
What is wrong with the album exactly is a matter of debate, but since this is my review, you get my take on it and can debate me later. First, there is no real powerhouse track here. Previous efforts always had that one track that would inspire you to sing along while striking glorious metal poses from note one (“Unholy Warcry”, “Holy Thunderforce”, “March of the Swordmaster”), but here even the title track fails to inspire much. The band comes closest on “Silent Dream”, but it’s far enough down the tracklist that by then you’re willing to accept mediocrity.
That’s a good way to sum up the album as a whole, actually: mediocre. The whole thing is very formulaic, moods and tempos changing as they always do (plus a third gripe of too much mellow/symphony-based material and not the over-the-top grandeur they do so well) which makes for a great lack of surprises. On the plus side though, there is the 16+ minute epic “The Mystic Prophecy of the Demon Knight”, complete with the return of Christopher Lee on narration. It’s the highlight of the disc but not enough to carry the weight of an album.
I don’t know if Triumph or Agony is a product of primary songwriter Turilli burning his engines out on outside projects or simply a band that is weary from a losing battle to retain their name (if they wrote a song about it, it would be the first battle they’ve lost). My first reaction to the change was complete denial, but as I think about it now, if this is a sign of things to come, I’ll be more than willing to accept Rhapsody of Fire as a new moniker and keep my memories and opinions of the two eras completely separate. But I truly hope that whatever follows from the purveyors of film score metal will be so grandiose that it makes me forget this album. It’s not that it’s bad, its just disappointing to hear a band capable of doing so much doing so little here.