Rhapsody of Fire – Dark Wings of Steel – AFM Records – Release 22-11-2013

Rhapsody of Fire – Dark Wings of Steel – AFM Records – Release 22-11-2013

Mention Italy and power metal in one sentence and chances are high that Rhapsody (of Fire) will be the first band that people think off and with good reason. Since releasing their first album “Legendary Tales” in 1997 this band has been on the forefront of symphonic power metal, crafting a giant fantasy story that has spanned a lot of albums. In 2011 the band dropped a bombshell on their fans when they announced an amiable split between the two main writers of the band, Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli. Both would continue with their own version of the band, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody and Rhapsody of Fire. Luca released his “Ascending to Infinity” last year and now it’s Alex’ turn.

 

Rhapsody of Fire is:

Alex Staropoli – Keyboards
Fabio Lione – Vocals
Alex Holzwarth – Drums
Oliver Holzwarth – Bass
Roberto de Micheli – Guitars

Dark Wings of Steel
dark-wings-of-steelThe big question after the split is whether or not the sound of the band would drastically change. The intro song “Vis Divina” starts off with female chants and dramatic keyboards to ramp up the expectations. What is it that will await us when the band starts? “Rising From Tragic Flames” takes away all doubts, this is still the Rhapsody of Fire we have known and loved for so many years! We get shredded with furious guitar riffs in the same way as the band has often done before and as soon as the keyboards start blaring we are immediately taken back to the Enchanted Lands. Fabio Lione’s expansive vocals paint the canvas laid by the instruments. It’s Rhapsody of Fire through and through.

Even though Luca Turilli is gone and Tom Hess quit earlier this year the guitar parts are played by someone highly familiar with this style of music. Roberto de Micheli actually played in the band’s past when it was called Thundercross. He delivers great work, although I have to say that his skill in solos is below that of Luca, but that might just be the Luca-fan in me talking. How different is the style when “Angel of Light” starts off. This one starts off with more of a heavy metal vibe, followed by the soft and emotional vocals of Fabio before overwhelming us with a massive keyboard-created wall of sound. Then it continues in the symphonic heavy metal vein with slow guitars, the occasional choir and a drapery of keyboards. With a length of seven minutes this is the second longest song of the album. Rhapsody of Fire take their time to create musical visions of an enchanted world on this album, as there are quite a few songs that go over the five minute mark. No twenty minute epics this time around though.

“Tears of Pain” has a darker sound than before, yet does not keep this up all the time as the band often goes for the bombastic sound that they’re known for. Again we notice a clear change in guitar playing when compared to older albums. I would really like the band to explore their darker side more, like they did “When Demons Awake” from the “Power of the Dragonflame” album and “Aeons of Raging Darkness” from the previous album. Following this is “Fly to the Crystal Skies” which again starts off with more of a symphonic heavy metal vibe. I wish they’d taken that sound all the way through, but it continues on in typical Rhapsody of Fire fashion. The soft guitar and keyboard solo section is a nice breather. Calling it ‘typical Rhapsody of Fire’ would make it seem that it’s a very boring song, yet the opposite is true for me. The band is still great at what they deliver and I love the new music a lot whereas they have disappointed me in the past when they went for too much of a soundtrack type of sound. It’s just that when they do stray from the usual path, they sound a lot more interesting.

“My Sacrifice” sets a medieval vibe with the acoustic guitar and the subdued keyboard intro, coupled with lamenting vocals. But as soon as the lead guitar kicks in the song gains more and more of a dramatic sound. It has quite a diverse structure as if several songs have been cut up and put together. Rather than sounding schizophrenic it actually makes the song more interesting and enthralling. Finally we get up to speed when “Silver Lake of Tears” starts. I always found that the band excelled in its faster songs. Fabio gives slight hints to the more raspy side of his voice here and it would have been great if he used more of his broad range of singing. One of the reasons that I like the faster songs more is because the solos have a lot more energy and fire in them. The effect is even bigger here because two sections get broken up by a more subdued part with vocals. Of course it wouldn’t do to create an album without a song sung in Italian, which is what we get with “Custode di Pace”. I have no idea what’s being sung here, but I love the full emotion with which Fabio sings. Despite it being a very slow and soft song there’s enough to be listened at in the guitar sections which spice up the song. Following up is the up-tempo song “A Tale of Magic” which wakes you up right away. Like I said before, I enjoy the faster songs of the Rhapsody of Fire and they deliver great work with the title-track “Dark Wings of Steel”. It’s clear that we’re nearing the end of the story because the music has become a whole lot more dramatic here. While this song is perfect the way it is, I wonder if it could have benefited from being expanded upon. The dramatic and heavy sound is continued in the final song “Sad Mystic Moon”. While it is one of the slower songs on the album, it still manages to give the album good closure. The overall change in the guitar style seems even more apparent here than before. Perhaps these are signs of what the band will sound like on the next album?

Conclusion:
All doubts about the band can be laid aside. Under Alex Staropoli’s guidance Rhapsody of Fire have managed to create an album that is at the same time unmistakably Rhapsody of Fire, yet also manages to feel fresh and new, with a lot of things that might hints at how the overall sound could change for the next albums. I had expected there to be a lot of focus on the keyboards, but they are actually rather subdued as if Staropoli didn’t want to get flak for hogging the stage light. Despite that, it really is one of the band’s stronger albums.

The question on everyone’s mind will probably be who made a better album, Luca or Alex? While I highly prefer Luca’s guitar play to Roberto’s, he has also played it rather safe with his “Ascending to Infinity” by not straying from the beaten path at all. While “Dark Wings of Steel” also stays close to the classical sound, the seemingly simple change of guitarists has given the album a different feel in several places. So who has won? I could say that I slightly prefer this album, yet in all fairness it is the fans who have won. Now they have two great bands born from one and both have shown their right to exist with great albums. Recently Luca Turilli announced his new album… It’s a great time to be a fan of Rhapsody (of Fire).

Track list:

  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 Di Pace
  9. A Tale of Magic
  10. Dark Wings of Steel
  11. Sad Mystic Moon

Score: 4.4 out of 5

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www.rhapsodyoffire.com

Tekst Robert Popovic

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