Sound — 10
Among all metal bands in the world (and even by progressive metal standards), the Italian band Rhapsody is definately the near-flawless band ever, alongside perhaps Symphony X. Rhapsody are one of the very few bands out there that don't screw around with sounds of modern trends. They are a neo-classical metal band in their extremity, and they've got that familiar power-metal sound of fast guitars, soaring symphonies, double-bass kick drums and operatic, warcry/gang-chorus vocals. However when I compare them to other power-metallers such as Hammerfall or Blind Guardian, my personal opinion is that Rhapsody is far more interesting because Rhapsody seems to think "classical" instead of just "heavy metal", yet consequently turns out to have so much metal than all else put together. During the long interval of time I wasn't in UG, I'd been discovering the brilliance of neo-classical progressive metal and have been thinking hard on my true musical identity, and Rhapsody is one of the very few bands whose music personally helps me find it. I am currently free of any music that involves a sort of blues/hard-rock sound. Some people think they are "cheesy like all power metal bands" or "pure power metal and by no means progressive". Well, Rhapsody in my opinion perfects the dungeons and dragons themes while completely avoiding the cheese factor. And with all these symphonic intricacies, virtuostic guitarwork, classical interludes, operatic guest singers, guest classical instruments and strong vocal range, tell me, how can they not be progressive? Keyboardist Alex Staropoli is an unbelievably talented musician and musical composer and has a nearly flawless sense of melody. Too bad the bass is nearly inaudible though. Some galloping Iron Maiden-style bass riffage would have been perfect.
"Symphony Of Enchanted Lands" is Rhapsody's second album and second chapter of guitarist Luca Turilli's "Emerald Sword Saga" which extends to 3 more albums after this, ending in "Power Of The Dragonflame." Rhapsody can sure make a great concept album without screwing up the music. It's almost criminal they don't get enough recognition.
Lyrics — 10
Fabio Lione's extreme clean and forceful vocal range makes modern grunge bands' singers tone have the talent of a fly. The choruses are usually accompanied by choirs, warcry-style chants and baroque-style vocal talents. It's a complete shame that Fabio contributes almost nothing to the songwriting (the lyrics are done by guitarist Luca Turilli for his Emerald Sword Saga). There is also narration here and there to explain where the story is at.
01. Epicus Furor - over a minute long, it is a passionate classical introduction of choir vocals in Italian and leads into "Emerald Sword."
02. Emerald Sword - if you have the edited single version of this, you'll notice the beginning on the album version is different far more interesting and even stronger, for the sound continues from "Epicus Furor" undivided. This is a fast heavy tune and tells of the Warrior of Ice who opens the Ivory Gates with the third key of wisdom. Fine masterpiece full of thrashy double kick beats and symphonic talents.
03. Wisdom Of The Kings - intro with classical guitar here, then a combination of fanfare and metal kicks the song in gear. Very good singing in the chorus. I loved the solo on this song. At times you can't distinguish the guitar leads from a violin lol. Guitarwork done right.
04. Heroes Of The Lost Valley
I. Entering The Waterfalls' Realm - fine clasical interlude with harpsichord and flute (or is it piccolo? Sorry I'm not sure).
II. The Dragon's Pride - narration that tells the Warrior of past fallen heores who ended their quest tragically, and their pride now rides with him.
05. Eternal Glory - fine vocal melodies and more creative intricacies in the music. Most excellent classical breaks and you cannot deny the overall track's quality in songwriting.
06. Beyond The Gates Of Infinity - the Warrior travels the valley when the monsters of hell attack him. The music here has plenty of mood changes to signify the effects in circumstance, often dramatic even. I thought it was entertaining to hear Fabio imitating the dark lord in low tone and the part when he says "your body impaled of shit will be full." I like how after the chorus the sounds decrescendo from heaviness to soft classical harmony. Had a fine synth solo by Alex Staropoli.
07. Wings Of Destiny - there's still the softness from where the last track left off as this is a harmonious ballad. Lyrically it gives me the impression of a person who must fight and possibly die to fulfill his destiny, but he misses the mother nature and where his soul feels at home, and he wants to go back, yet he must carry one with what he must with an extent of sorrow.
08. The Dark Tower Of The Abyss - this is one of my best favorites off the record. I love the classical beginning and middle interlude with fast Beethoven like orchestration and speedy, articulated harpsichord/string melodies. This part of the story is depicted on the album cover with the Warrior On Tharros the red dragonflying near a dark tower and on the back of the booklet there is the risen dead on black-winged demons (also the art of the "Emerald Sword" single disc). Listen to the verse after the narration; it features one of the most passionate, unforgettable vocal melodies in the disc. This song features a synthesizer solo courtesy of Alex Starolpoli.
09. Riding On The Winds Of Eternity - the first 20 seconds are sea water wave sounds, then an orchestral intro that leads into the metallic area. The chorus, although done only two times, has a great blend of beautiful melody and thundering rhythms. A personal favorite.
10. Symphony Of Enchanted Lands
I. Tharos' Last Flight - narration that tells that the dragon Tharos had died in battle and the worrior, with tearful eyes, carries on to fight the dark lord. What follows is a tranquil, harmonious sound of strings and piano.
II. The Hymn Of The Warrior - loud organs accompany a forceful singing by Fabio expressing the Warrior's gratiutude to mother nature, the people of the Enchanted Lands, and for all those dead, and his proclaimation that "The Emerald Sword is now mine!"
III. Rex Tremende - here's a great combination of folk-inspired music and some serious neo-classical metal instrumentation. As a climactic song of the album, the singing seems to have a already-present accompaniment of choirs. The classical interlude takes you back to the melody of track 1 "Epicus Furor," slightly. After that, there is baroque female singing solo that reminds me of Titanic. Then we're back with the same melodic rhythm in the beginning of this Part III, except it's acoustic and fiddle to begin with and becomes metallic again. You just gotta love that chorus.
IV. The Immortal Fire - narration that calls to the warrior to ride on the wings of wisdom bravely to defeat the dark lord in the name of eternal justice, peace and love. The heavy parts conclude in a marching rhythm which is followed by a duet of classical guitar and flute which fades away into the end of the record.
Overall Impression — 10
Every time I listen to this album, I listen to it from beginning to end without skipping. Not only all of their work deserves a full listen, but it sounds so awesome that it deserves a full listen anyway. Rhapsody is currently THE amazing band of today alongside Symphony X, Adagio, and Luca Turilli's solo band. I got this particular album for "Emerald Sword," but I'd found out that not only every track was good, it gave the near-ultimate musical impression that is now unbreakable in me. And please don't take this the wrong way, but after repeated listens of this disc, it made other bands I've praised in the past (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, etc) into complete, insignificant pedestrians in my ears. Rhapsody is succesful in making intricate and beautiful music at the same time and is by no means boring or cheesy or "pure power metal" or whatever you call it. Who needs The Great Kat when you can hear creative original, and catchy neo-classical metal like this? Highly recommended is this album along with their other works. Rhapsody deserves at least one moment of your listening.