Released: 2006, Magic Circle/SPV
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Containing more cheese than a Wisconsin dairy, Italian “film score” metallers, Rhapsody, unleash LIVE IN CANADA 2005: THE DARK SECRET, the band’s first ever live release. Recorded in Montreal (Canada’s metal haven) on last year’s run of dates with Manowar, capturing the essence of Rhapsody is almost a crime since the visual aspect of their shows is as grandiose and epic as the music itself. I mean, Christopher Lee himself recorded the band’s introduction! A DVD of the same show is coming later in 2006 and that will surely be an addition to my collection, but in the meantime, this 11-track CD will have to suffice.
That said, a significant chunk of Rhapsody’s music contains string sections, choirs and other studio goodies and since the band did not drag them along on the road, their parts are all pre-recorded or are prompted samples levied by keyboardist/songwriter Alex Staropoli leaving their “live” status debatable. Staropoli’s talents are something to hear, what with the endless array of sounds on top of his usual requirements. Vocalist Fabio Lione is in top-form and his skills on the melodramatic “Lamento Eroico” are certainly commendable as are his controlled wails on tracks like “Unholy Warcry.” His failures, though, lie in his between song banter with the French-speaking crowd (I always thought the “w” in “sword” was silent??), which seems forced and…did I mention cheesy? Guitarist Luca Turilli, helped on the road by touring guitarist Dominique Leurquin, impressively nails the lightning-fast solos of their studio counterparts here and with ample doses of shredding, the six-string devotees will be drooling. A requisite drum solo by Alex Holzwarth is tacked on to the end of a 13-plus-minute version of “Erian’s Mystical Rhymes” and after the bombastic swells and majestic choirs, this exercise in self-indulgence is as refreshing as it is exasperating.
It’s a shame that nothing was included from Rhapsody’s 1997 debut, LEGENDARY TALES, but with only an hour to kill, concessions have to be made. Despite touring in support of SYMPHONY OF ENCHANTED LANDS II – THE DARK SECRET album, the tracking on LIVE IN CANADA is broad and considering the work put into recording a Rhapsody album, it’s a miracle that they can even pull this off. LIVE IN CANADA 2005 – THE DARK SECRET features a rare North American appearance by the mighty Rhapsody and from what I hear, this was an excellent show and the crowd was rabid. One could consider this a Rhapsody “greatest hits,” for lack of a better term, because the versions heard here are nearly exact replicas of the much-beloved studio versions but with crowd noise and Lione’s ramblings, so for a neophyte, this could be a “one-stop-shop.” As for recommending it, the bonus DVD features a teaser of what to expect from the LIVE IN CANADA DVD that is “coming in 2006” so if I was going to spend $20, I would hold off and wait for the DVD but you certainly can’t go wrong with the CD, either.