Monday, 2 December 2013

Review; Rhapsody Of Fire - Dark Wings Of Steel

Track Listing;

1. Vis Divina
2. Rising From Tragic Flames
3. Angel Of Light
4. Tears Of Pain
5. Fly To Crystal Skies
6. My Sacrifice
7. Silver Lake Of Tears
8. Custode Fi Pace
9. A Tale Of Magic
10. Dark Wings Of Steel
11. Sad Mystic Moon

Rhapsody Of Fire, previously known simply as Rhapsody, were once among the highest echelons of the Symphonic Power Metal subgenre. Their first five records, released between 1997 and 2002, collectively known as 'The Emerald Sword Saga', formed an impressive concept series that boasted great song writing and instrumentation. They once called their genre 'Hollywood Metal', a tag which fits the band when one takes note of their almost ridiculous bombast and over-the-top flair. Theirs was a pompous yet sincere take on the Symphonic Power Metal sound that may have not gotten as much kudos as it deserved back then.

Unfortunately, the albums since then have been poor, or worse. Neoclassical orchestration gave way to by-the-numbers use of the symphonic elements that failed to set the band apart from the increasingly overpopulated pool of bands taking orchestral elements and blending it with metal. On this album there are two new members on board; guitarist Roby Di Micheli and bassist Oliver Holzwarth. With the departure of Tom Hess last year, Di Micheli stands as the only guitarist on this album. The band has not had only one guitarist since before the year 2000, when Luca Turilli was the stand-alone guitar player. This reshaping of the band might lead some people to hope that the band may get a new lease of life. Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

An overly long intro track leads into 'Rising From Tragic Flames', with a rather uninspired and understated speed metal riff at it's backbone, the over exaggeration of the keyboard elements immediately comes across as being self indulgent on the part of composer, keyboardist and last remaining original member Alex Staropoli. The singing voice of Fabio Lione, while clearly accomplished, lacks the kind of flair or impact to leave a lasting impression and is far too often interrupted by a choir assembly to really take flight or show off any flamboyancy.

'Angel Of Light' does offer Lione opportunity to sing more freely, but it's an opportunity that's wasted, and during the chorus of this song, the second on an hour long album, the cheesier-than-a-gorgonzola-factory choir becomes the element of the album that makes me roll my eyes every time I hear it. Guitar leads seem too often to be staying in a comfort zone, playing it safe with every note to the point that you could almost predict how it will sound before you hear it. It's a shame, because Roby Di Micheli is clearly a talented player, but in the confines of this album I feels that his input has been sterilised.

'Tears Of Pain' starts with a slightly more promising riff, but it's not too long before the orchestration puts a stranglehold on it; taking the spotlight and thus the punch out of the song. The same is to be said of 'Fly To Crystal Skies', which differs only that the Metal elements of the song are minimalized even further. 'My Sacrifice' starts as a typical ballad for the genre, but lacks anything to really make you remember it. At eight minutes long, that's a real problem. You'd think the band could've fit something in to grab your attention or imagination.

Speaking of unimaginative; 'Silver Lake Of Tears' and 'Dark Wings of Steel', as well as 'Angel Of Light' and 'Fly To Crystal Skies' all begin with the same bloody guitar slide. Unimaginative doesn't even begin to cover it. 'A Tale Of Magic' may stand as a stronger song, but that's not saying much, and it's largely down to a slightly faster pace and a pretty good guitar solo. It's

The sheer (and ironic for a Power Metal band) lack of power is really unfortunate. Any and all potential for demanding bombast is either drowned by the damn keyboards or is watered down by depressingly boring vocal melodies. Personally I found it rather difficult to force myself to listen to this album straight through, even after a couple of listens. As a whole, I find 'Dark Wings Of Steel' tiresome, dull and bland. Sure, the album cover is pretty neat, but that doesn't change the quality of the musical output. It's a real shame, but this definitely isn't a return to form; instead it just seems like a reminder that Rhapsody Of Fire just aren't the band they used to be.

Rating: 2/10

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