Released: 2011, Nuclear Blast
It is with some trepidation and hesitation that I listened to FROM CHAOS TO ETERNITY, Part Ten of The Chronicles of Algalord. I have been a Rhapsody fan boy from the beginning. From reading gushing reviews of the now legendary, cassette-only EP back in 1995 to buying the debut album on the then-fledgling Limb Records and faithfully following the band across 15 years of triumph and agony, it is all coming to an end. After all these years, 10 releases (8 studio albums, 2 EP’s) The Chronicles Of Algalord are coming to an end, making this by far the longest most elaborate project in the history of Heavy Metal, and perhaps even recorded music. If you sat down and listened to it all back-to-back you would hear 95 songs that would span just short of nine hours.
So why the trepidation when it comes to the final chapter, FROM CHAOS TO ETERNITY? Well, it’s like reading a favoured series of books or watching a TV series, or movie series (the Harry Potter movies might be a common frame of reference) and knowing that something you have enjoyed for so long will finally, inescapably, come to an end. And how will it end? How does it end? Will everything come to a successful conclusion or will it be an annoying cliffhanger, or wore yet, leave unanswered questions? These kind of things will keep you up at night. The band have wrapped it all up with their third release in 14 months, showing they weren’t dormant in the three to four year gap in 2006-2010 when they were going through legal troubles. They came back in early 2010 and now it’s all over.
I’m not going to ruin the story by telling you the ending, that would just be cruel after a 15-year wait but I will say for the less-engaged Rhapsody fans, it is still quite a complex story-line. You really do have to pay attention, read the liner notes, read the lyrics with this entire saga because if you don’t you’ll probably get lost. If you don’t even care about the storyline, I’d ask you a simple question…would you watch a movie series like Lord Of The Rings with the volume off? Probably not. Listening to a concept album without reading the lyrics is like watching a movie without the volume. How are you supposed to know what’s going on? The whole point of this thing is the story. If you don’t care about the plot then FROM CHAOS TO ETERNITY (and indeed the entire Rhapsody catalogue) would be just another epic, symphonic neo-classical Metal album. However Rhapsody Of Fire did it first and best and that holds true with the final chapter where the dark secret is revealed.
The production is top-notch as always with the album being recorded in studios in Italy, Germany and America. Behind the desk the Paeth/Miro team is in place for the third time in a row to produce the nine cuts, written as usual by Staropoli and Turilli. Naturally Sir Christopher Lee fulfills his role as the narrator for the conclusion of The Dark Secret Saga his majestic and booming voice is as epic as it gets.
FROM CHAOS TO ETERNITY is another gorgeous package, a 30-page booklet, lots of photos and art, lyrics, notes and so on. I will admit I miss the Limb Records days when the packaging was over the top with maps and the photos of the band sitting around on thrones wielding (mighty) swords and such, but Felipe Franco gets the nod for the third time to handle the darker, more metaphysical artwork. Keen eyed fans will notice a visual tie-in to the 1997 debut album, LEGENDARY TALES with the main character on the cover art making a return, the blond hero, riding a unicorn and wielding his (mighty) sword. You can break the whole series into the three distinct eras with different labels, production, artwork and so on and the Nuclear Blast era is my least favourite.
One immediate difference is that the band is now a sextet with the addition of guitarist Tom Hess. It seems odd, somewhat akin to the Italian National football team adding a substitute at the 88th minute of a playoff game, just so the rookie can get some playing time and an international cap. The end result however is a slightly more guitar-oriented album and Hess gets a few guitar solos thrown in here and there. In fact the album started with a peppy little guitar riff instead of synthesizers, an instrumental, symphonic piece or narration and I had to check if I was actually listening to Rhapsody Of Fire. I was thinking to myself, “What the hell? Where is this guitar coming from? This doesn’t sound like Rhapsody!” This is the first time ever on a Rhapsody that the first thing you hear on the album is guitar. Who says you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks?
Musically, FROM CHAOS TO ETERNITY meets and exceeds all expectations. Tons of guitar solos, choirs, engaging narration, medieval style instruments, songs breathlessly sung in Italian, pounding double-kick drums, keyboards all over the map, plush arrangements, sound-effects and an overall heavier guitar oriented tone. Fabio is at the top of his game which is no small feat considering he is often the focal point of such a giant undertaking but he has to share with stage, not only with Lee but half a dozen other guest vocalists and compete with the choirs!
Naturally the album finishes with an incredible epic, the five-part, 19:38 minute track, ‘Heroes Of The Waterfall’s Kingdom’. It is the longest song they have ever done, just a bit longer than ‘Gargoyles, Angels Of Darkness’ on POWER OF THE DRAGONFLAME. The concluding song has everything the band has ever done crammed into one glorious song. There has never been a more fitting conclusion to a story. The North American version ends with an Iron Maiden cover tune, which seems a bit strange tacked on the end of such a story although it is quite a ripping version especially in the solo section and the addition of choral back-up vocals!
One of these days I’m going to sit down for nine hours and listen to all ten Rhapsody (Of Fire) releases in a row on the headphones and finally figure out what the hell is going on! But seriously, back in 2000 when I bought my copy of DAWN OF VICTORY it came with a sticker on the cover that says, “Symphonic Epic, Hollywood Metal. With their 3rd album Rhapsody will triumph over all!” Truer words were never spoke and I feel FROM CHAOS TO ETERNITY has triumphed in wrapping up the monster epic and the band set the standard for this type of project and will never be surpassed.