Rhapsody - Symphony Of Enchanted Lands
Limb Music Products
Symphonic Power Metal
10 songs (55'40")
Release year: 1998
Rhapsody, Limb Music Products
Reviewed by Erik
Archive review

Let's be clear: Rhapsody Of Fire and its undying love of all things Bigger, More Orchestrated, and Massively Epic, is without doubt an acquired taste. Even some fans of somewhat similar music do not necessarily enjoy the latest in fantasy symphonic metal from the Italian giants. Sometimes brilliant and almost always charismatic, one fact of which there is no doubt is that this band has singlehandedly created a sub-genre that has only grown in recent years, and that this event arguably occurred with the release of its sophomore album Symphony Of Enchanted Lands in 1998.

There is no denying the energy and talent of Rhapsody (before they had to tack on the supremely lame "Of Fire" to their name), but it's quite evident that while their debut album was competent and enjoyable, they hadn't quite broken new ground at that point. However, work was already underway to create a new masterpiece, one that would not only redefine orchestrated metal as it stood (nearly non-existent), but elevate the art to a new level. Production on SOEL is amazingly clear and sharp, but with more of a wet, treble-heavy mix than later albums such as Power Of The Dragonflame. Speaking of which, Legendary Tales also began a unique story arc that spanned through POTD, a rarity in the musical world. SOEL continued a fantasy-based narrative -- The Emerald Sword Saga -- over the course of five albums that included everything you'd expect from a J.R.R. Tolkien novel: dragons, dungeons, witches, wizards, and warriors. It really was quite the ambitious undertaking, in retrospect, combining elements of bands such as Manowar and Helloween, opera, Russian/Celtic elements and fantasy film score composers such as Jerry Goldsmith and Danny Elfman.

Alex Staropoli's lush, effective orchestrations alone could warrant their own review, but underlying it all is the guitar virtuosity of Luca Turilli, a classically-inspired axemaster if there ever was one, and when combined with the powerful, passionate vocals of Fabio Lione, created a powerful team that only grew in talent and creativity as time passed. From the first notes of Emerald Sword, the album's first single and indeed a power/speed metal anthem that remains a fan favorite, it is apparent that things have changed. The drumming is exhilaratingly quick and powerful, and it becomes difficult to listen to without having your blood pressure rise a bit. Turilli's intricate riffing and Staropoli's classical interludes and bridges meld so well you'd hardly believe they are only on album number two at this point. By the time the massive choirs join in for the epic chorus that's now so well known, the effect is spine-tingling.

The intensity shown at the beginning doesn't let up for nearly the whole album, giving you a several speedy numbers in a row, including Eternal Glory, Wisdom Of The Kings, Beyond The Gates Of Infinity, and Riding The Winds Of Eternity. Any one of those tracks, while each having their own distinct approach, are a pure exercise in full-throttle symphonic power metal, bringing in a very comprehensive variation of instrumentation, including a great many strings, woodwinds, and even a pipe organ to great effect. Unfortunately, the narration pre-dates Christopher Lee's involvement, who brought these segments from intolerable to almost tolerable, so feel free to skip Heroes Of The Lost Valley and the first full sixty seconds of the long, complex album title track closer. After that initial minute, however, Lione's amazing operatic singing takes center stage and sets up an astounding, epic four-part soundscape that is only ruined by more horrible talking at the very end. At this point in their career, the band is really coming into its own with regard to composition level and interweaving of classical/baroque influences -- the opening and middle sections of The Dark Tower Of Abyss, a fantastic twisting, turning masterpiece by itself is an excellent example. Wings Of Destiny as the sole ballad isn't terrible, but also not a highlight here.

Setting a score for such a project is no easy task. Yes, it was a landmark album in many ways, but is that relegated to only symphonic/power/speed metal, or is there relevance metal-wide? One could argue that Rhapsody was instrumental (oh yes, that was a pun) in bringing symphonic metal back to the forefront, and indeed many bands today can credit this album for their own inclusion of orchestration. Stacking this up against the band's later offerings reveals that for pure melodic perfection, there is nothing better. As the years passed, the orchestrations and storyline simply became more convoluted, until today the album titles themselves are nearly a paragraph long, but Symphony Of Enchanted Lands remains the influential symphonic metal standard by which most others are measured.

Killing Songs :
All except Heroes Of The Lost Valley and Wings Of Destiny
Erik quoted 98 / 100
Other albums by Rhapsody that we have reviewed:
Rhapsody - Live In Canada 2005: The Dark Secret (CD/DVD) reviewed by Jeff and quoted no quote
Rhapsody - Symphony of Enchanted Lands II - The Dark Secret reviewed by Jay and quoted 69 / 100
Rhapsody - Legendary Tales reviewed by Crims and quoted 85 / 100
Rhapsody - The Dark Secret reviewed by Jay and quoted no quote
Rhapsody - Power of the Dragonflame reviewed by Mike and quoted 96 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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