Rhapsody of Fire
The Frozen Tears Of Angels
posted on 6/2010 By:
I have a feeling my being an American fan of Rhapsody of Fire attaches to me the sort of stigma that fellow Statesider's associate with the kind of dude who spends his Friday nights slumped over a keyboard conjuring spells in WoW or Everquest realms. And while I'd say there's nothing inherently wrong with free time spent in such a manner, you'd probably have a better chance of running into Jeff Foxworthy wearing an Unleashed shirt than you would bumping into me on some digital quest for mana points. Still, I'll admit that I'm at least in touch with my inner LARP'er, despite his being rather tiny and not having the last say on matters such as whether or not I need a chainmail coif in my wardrobe, and I think you at least need that sort of comfort level with "fantastical realms" in order to count yourself a U.S. fan of über grandiose symphonic power metal. Still, I've seen fellow American metal fans in midnight lines for Lord of Rings-styled movies many-a-time, so it makes me wonder why they seem to be able to cross that line comfortably but can't manage to extend the same mentality into the musical realm. Must be the falsetto vocals. Or the lack of beards and sleeve-tattoos. But I digress...
Rhapsody of Fire have returned following their longest break between albums, and I'd have to say the nearly 4-year wait has definitely benefited the band's cause. 2006's Triumph or Agony eventually tipped heavier on the "triumph" side of scale, but it took a long while to get there. That album found the Rhapsody beast losing a good bit of its bite, despite the newly added "of Fire" to the moniker, and it relied too heavily on pushing the story-line through lengthy passages of spoken word from actors, bogging down otherwise epic ditties such as "The Mystic Prophecy of the Demonknight." But all is now forgiven with The Frozen Tears of Angels: the third chapter in the continuing "Dark Secrets"/Emerald Sword saga. Christopher Lee's dramatically deep pontifications are still afoot, although less prevalent, and the band still goes for Baroque like it's the bloody law, but Elric's-red-eyes-be-damned if these guys don't sound like they're having two-tons of fun again with this new record. Everyone gets AMPLE opportunity to shine in playful break-outs throughout the album's near hour length (and I mean everyone: drums, keys, bass, vocals and of course Luca's ridiculously shimmery guitar-work), and the band even manages to outright whoop some ass from time-to-time as well.
Highlights are abundant, but I'd say the album's apex hits with the amazing "Reign of Terror:" possibly the most epically charged tune Luca Turilli's ever managed to forge. All the signature elements of instrumental and vocal wizardry are there, but the overall aggressive approach (including blackened rasps) coupled with the song's sinister and repeatedly crescendoing Latin chorus give it one hell of a surprisingly charged, galloping and combative atmosphere. Definitely the sort of cut capable of enlivening glass-cutter-nipples and motivating one towards victory at all costs (in fact, had Rhapsody of Fire's countrymen piped this tune into their ears during their recent match against Slovakia, they'd probably be moving forward in the World Cup. *ducks and runs*). Apart from that hefty canticle, the album strikes yet another triumphantly epic chord late in the game with the stirring "On the Way to Ainor" -- nearly impossible not to sing along with this song's galvanizing finish. "Danza di Fuoco E Ghiaccio" stands as the record's sole drift into pure minstrel mayhem, and, despite it's title, appears to have nothing to do with Tony Danza at all. It does, however, flit-n-flute about like a bard on 10 hits of ecstasy, and also showcases some of Mr. Turilli's most masterful command of the classical guitar (and I love the added Spanish flavor of the trumpets).
The entire batch piled into The Frozen Tears of Angels is cleanly packaged into one of the more enjoyable power metal records I've heard in some time, but a special tip of the hat goes to the three members who've stuck it out since (nearly) day one. Fabio Lione's voice is as velvety and inspired as I've heard, Alex Staropoli gets liberal spotlight to show just how well keyboards can gallop alongside great power metal (love that break-out 3:15 into "Sea of Fate"), and Luca! My Lord, Luca! The man can literally make a lead sound like eagles fucking and fighting in mid air (2:30 into "Raging Starfire," for example), and with every soaring note and fiery arpeggio he continues to cast, Yngwie's belt continues to expand to yet another hole, and his hair flattens just a little bit more.
As far as I'm concerned, the only kinks in the armor to be found on this record occur when Luca misses a golden opportunity to drop a dirty riff at the 40-second mark of "On the Way to Ainor" (opting instead for another mellow flourish), and also because the album's 11-minute closer ends the story rather quietly. Not that it's a bad tune by any stretch, but I would rather the record end on three exclamation points instead of a simple period.
So, to HELL with you curs who still have issues with melodramatic power metal meant to embolden and fuel your inner Cavalier towards triumph! The Frozen Tears of Angels is heavy metal exultation to the tenth degree! And I for one am obviously quite happy with results of this 4-year wait. I'd also love an opportunity to see this sort of production carried out live on stage, but I suppose I'd have to join my Brothers in Arms across the pond for that vision to come to fruition. Certainly not a bad idea to consider. But until then, I'll simply continue spinning what's likely to be left standing as my favorite power metal album of 2010.
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