Released: 2006, SPV
Lets get right to it. On Rhapsody's (yeah yeah we’re supposed to call then ‘Rhapsody of Fire’ now) new album we have no thundering drums, no speeding songs, and none of the HEAVY symphonic metal that has made Rhapsody one of my favorite bands. In its individual pieces, most songs on here could be considered decent...IF they would have been included on an album with heavier songs. However, having a full album of ballad-esque and mid-tempo songs is not why I listen to this band and I am quite disappointed with this album's direction.
The Rhapsody of sleep begins with "Dar-Kunor". This song is more of a lengthy epic intro full of choirs and the typical Rhapsody symphonic sound. By around 2:30 the band comes in, but is at the background as the orchestration and choirs dominate. Then it is the title track, "Triumph Or Agony" which is a mid-tempo track that only picks up during the chorus. There are plenty of choirs in this one as well. This is one of the better tracks on the CD along with the next track, "Heart of the Darklands". On here we get back to slightly more familiar territory with some great lead playing for the intro. The song never fully delivers on what was expected after such an intro. It's an OK song, but again mid-tempo and comes off as what would be a filler song on an otherwise brilliant album.
By this time in you may wonder, “if this is as good as it gets on here, we're in trouble.” Your worries will be realized with the next part of the album…
"Old Age of Wonders" starts with a sleepy intro with flute and clean guitars before Fabio comes in with slow, soft, singing. This one never picks up at all, even when the drums come in. There are no distorted guitars as the flute and keys are at the forefront....boring! With the next track, "The Myth of the Holy Sword" the vocals improve, Fabio is still an excellent singer, that's a given. However, this song also never gets off the ground and is slow-paced. This is not the Rhapsody we've come to expect. It's not that we haven't heard this kind of material from the band. It's just that it's been one part of their style and it doesn't represent the full package at all. This is one dimensional in its restrictions. There is no speed, aggression, and the lead playing, while present, is not as prominent or as fiery. Strange, as this is supposed to be a "Rhapsody of FIRE" not "of sleep"! Following up these 2 laid back tracks is yet another (!) slow ballad "Il Canto Del Vento". At this point into the album I am astonished as to the song choices and the laid back pace. This ballad starts with piano, muted orchestration and Fabio...and again, it never goes anywhere or picks up the intensity at all....just wow, what are they thinking? Any of these ballads alone on an album of heavier/faster material would be fine, but for the material to be fully based on this stuff is just saddening. Some life appears with the beginning of "Silent Dream" but after the lively intro, the song starts to sound like something from the recent disappointment LUCA TURILLI'S DREAMQUEST. After this is yet another mellow track called "Bloody Red Dungeons". With a title like that, you'd expect something vicious like Rhapsody's "When Demons Awake"...but nope, it's another sleeper. Just when you think things can't get any worse we have "Son of Pain"....what's this Celine Dion wannabe crap? Christ allfuckingmighty...next!! The epic track "The Mystic Prophecy of the Demon Knight" (awesome song title!) has 5 parts and runs for just over 16mins. Within those 16mins we have a fair bit of variety, but it gets burdened with the dialog in a few places. It’s like your hearing, but not seeing, a movie. At 9:20 a heavy riff busts out for a bit...much too short and too late though. The album closer, "Dark Reign of Fire" is ok, but offers nothing new. It's not really structured as a song as it also has a fair bit of dialog. Maybe the next step for Rhapsody would be to release some of these songs put to visuals. Not so much a typical music video and not a full movie, but more like a short film telling a story with more dialog, bloody battle action scenes, and all backing music done by Rhapsody.
This is not an album to crank while cruising, but moreso for listening to before you drift off to sleep. If you have it on in the car, you'll either forget it's on, or it will induce a coma on you. This album aside, I still consider Rhapsody to be one of my favorite bands. If they continue on this path, they will join the ranks of the other bands whose music I only love up to a certain point in their career. So I'm left asking ‘were are the sounds of SYMPHONY OF ENCHANDED LANDS (I & II), DAWN OF VICTORY, POWER OF THE DRAGONFLAME?’ When the medieval / folk / classical / opera “influence” becomes the main sound of the band and metal takes a backseat, I lose interest. Rhapsody has clearly lost their fire and metal edge on this album.