Rhapsody of Fire - Triumph or Agony
SPV
Symphonic Epic Music
11 songs (62'37")
Release year: 2006
Rhapsody of Fire, SPV
Reviewed by Alex

First admission. As people age they generally become mellower in their music taste. I seem to be moving in the opposite direction immersing myself more and more in extreme and experimental metal as my hair get grayer. However, I own just about every Rhapsody album as a tribute to their first two, sweeping me off my feet at the time of their release. I am not ashamed to tell you this. Somewhere around Rain of the Thousand Flames (2001) I made a mistake and committed Rhapsody overdose. I thought it would be a good idea to entertain myself with a Rhapsody retrospective by listening to all of their albums I had in my possession at the time non-stop, while going on a car trip to Chicago and back (4.5 hours from where I live). After that plunge I had hard time ever playing Rhapsody, but, again as a tribute to the band, I did purchase Power of the Dragonflame, The Dark Secret EP and Symphony of the Enchanted Lands Part 2. I listened to all of them exactly once, forming an opinion quickly that Part 2 could not possibly compare to the original leaving a lot to be desired. The batteries were in a bad need of a recharge.

Two more years, forcible name change to Rhapsody of Fire and we now have Triumph or Agony hailing the New Saga and the New Age of Rhapsody. Let me share with you then the opinion of a once-fanboy-now-disenchanted-respect-paying-listener on how this New Age is starting to unfold for the band.

Somewhere in Italy Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire got bitten by the bug of “epicness”. Apparently, they are not going to recover from it anytime soon, as the fellas seem to be enjoying the disease. Triumph or Agony is a big testament to that. Dar-Kunor intro announces the album similar to an orchestral intro during the live show when the lights go down and the band is about to take the stage. This intro adds little to the album in my opinion, but signifies the Rhapsody trademark with its overture quality, bringing in orchestration and choirs. Not blazing fast, but quite rocking nonetheless, the title track brings back the now familiar epic panoramic sound hinting more of a staged Hollywood drama than real tragedy. Heart of the Darklands is full of fast riffing, tinged with folk melody, double bass and killer choir set to a rolling snare sound. The band even weaves in a little bit of a tango rhythm. If you can accept a little pomp with your metal, you could be digging these two tunes. Orchestral and light variety, this is nevertheless metal, Rhapsody style.

After that the album takes a significant Hollywood turn. Seriously, anybody ever tried to play Rhapsody to some big-ass movie producer? If yes, the Italians should be given at least one crack at a movie score. Old Age of Wonders leads the way with its half&half clavichord interlude – elfish dance slant where Fabio Lione sings a duet with a female vocalist. The Myth of the Holy Sword is a perfect example of where Rhapsody intends to go with Triumph or Agony. Slower, mid-tempo, almost storytelling, soundtracky music, which desperately needs some heavier bottom end support, but it is not coming. Fabio’s voice has a hint of anguish, but it never gets the oomph from the rest of the crew (Bloody Red Dungeons and lots of The Mystic Prophecy of the Demon Knight). Instead we would be entertained to larger than life choirs and every drum hit will sound like an orchestral explosion. I love Italian language, it is beautiful, and does not need rhyming to be set to a song, but Il Canto Del Vento is practically a San Remo festival. I can tell by recently catching my wife enjoying some old Al Bano and Pupo songs. If Silent Dream gives some glimpses of breaking up the trend, then Son of Pain completely buries the hope. That song, if not for male singing, could just as well be written for Celine Dion. The song’s name is practically a misnomer. My bold prediction is that you will either love or hate this album based on your attitude towards this block of songs nestled right in between Heart of the Darklands and The Mystic Prophecy of the Demon Knight 16+ minute marathon.

Second admission. I never liked Rhapsody’s long songs. No, narration never bothered me, and there is a little going on here as well. Some of it is still Christopher Lee (read - good), but somehow my interest could never be still during a Rhapsody >10 min song, and I am even talking about the albums I cherish. The Mystic Prophecy of the Demon Knight has a lot of the previously described soundtrack character to it, lively but no vigor, and slips into the album’s most metallic moment somewhere around Nekron’s Bloody Rhymes subpart, where riffing is furious and vocals aggressive.

I certainly do not want to make an impression that if the album was all metal, then I would be on my knees. I just simply did not feel the energy of old emanating from this opus, be it the slower ballads or faster cuts. The only beneficiary of this deliberate and mid-pace style is Fabio, who has a lot of chances to shine. And he does, having developed into an excellent vocalist, now a lot less mechanical, having both strength and warmth in his voice. I almost wish he would not be obscured by the multitude of choirs.

The production of Triumph or Agony is still top-notch, musician quality of Turilli – Staropoli team unmatched, the album should find its way to the hearts of many still dedicated fans. I just find it a little ironic that in the time when “of Fire” is added to the band’s name, it is exactly the FIRE that is missing.

Killing Songs :
Triumph or Agony, Heart of the Darklands
Alex quoted 70 / 100
Ken quoted 65 / 100
Other albums by Rhapsody of Fire that we have reviewed:
Rhapsody of Fire - Into The Legend reviewed by Joel and quoted 91 / 100
Rhapsody of Fire - Dark Wings of Steel reviewed by Joel and quoted 90 / 100
Rhapsody of Fire - From Chaos to Eternity reviewed by Kyle and quoted 80 / 100
Rhapsody of Fire - The Cold Embrace Of Fear reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Rhapsody of Fire - The Frozen Tears Of Angels reviewed by Erik and quoted 87 / 100
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