Sound — 6
Somewhere in the realms of adolescent fantasy and media preamble, there is a round table of heavy metal. Sitting around it are all your favourite characters, there to represent all your favourite subgenres. It's a crude, childish image - one that appeals to Pantera fans and people who are really starting to get into Opeth' - but bear with me; doesn't it seem like power metal would need a booster seat? It's accepted, but not often talked about by the truest of the true. And while legends like Blind Guardian have more than earned their status, as a scene' for new music it seems to be in a sort of purgatory. Even the lol epic xD' market has started to ignore it since Dragonforce stepped back from the limelight! Nevertheless, you can count on Italy's Rhapsody Of Fire to be leading the faithful through thick and thin. It's only been a few months since their last full length (The Frozen Tears Of Angels') but they're back with another adventure. At 35 minutes, they could have gotten away with calling this a full length and charged another couple of quid for it, but then that would be despicable considering dialogue accounts for a lot of time. The voice acting is underpinned by orchestral music; suitably dramatic but not spectacular in its own right. Each track is labelled as an act' but everything is wrapped around the 15 minute musical centrepiece, The Ancient Fires Of Har-Kuun'. The strings, the choir and the rock band are only cast members in this story, which is all well and good if you're a follower of the band's fantasy indulgences but as a record, the EP's success is tightly limited. The full band put on a solid performance when they finally move to centre stage though. Rather than reaping the cheese a pretty easy trap to fall into when you're whipping out the harpsichord the booming production brings out the leading melody, which tends to be strong. They capture the essence of the style, however fleetingly, but it seems as if metal was shoe-horned in to somehow validate the release.
Lyrics — 7
For what it's worth, the voice acting is pretty classy. Much like the poor old harpsichord, the novelty (Christopher god-damn Lee!!!!!!!!!!) is played down, so even the cynical and clean-shaven among us can get into the story. In this instalment of the Dark Secret arc (which began in 2004, before their name change) our heroes are on a quest for Erian's Book, a sacred angelic text which contains all kinds of tasty secrets. There are twists along the way, some better executed than others, but The Cold Embrace Of Fear' is a bridge between longer chapters so don't expect an extended narrative. Rhapsody's story is well written, well narrated and good fun to follow so long as you're attentive, prepared to translate the rather pompous Latin passages and...into that kind of thing.
Overall Impression — 5
I guess this is one for the die-hards. It's not a good starting point for a multitude of reasons - the most obvious being that there's not much music for music's sake. The composition is, for the most part, like a score for a radio play, but it's been released as a record and as such it has to be evaluated that way. So, despite the best efforts of Luca Turilli and co, the verdict is: average. Don't bother with this unless you've worn out the full-lengths.