Released: 2013, AFM
You would think that there would not be much more to say about Rhapsody of Fire but in reality there was quite a bit of excitement to see what the first ‘non-concept’ album by Rhapsody Of Fire would turn out like. After the 15 year, 10 release concept and the well-documented evolution of the band, and the creation of Luca Turilli’s new band, there was some speculation about the parallel existence of the two acts. Luca’s version of Rhapsody was first out the gate with a new studio album and now Rhapsody of Fire is back. After a string of three albums in 14 months to complete the storyline, it seems like a long time since the last studio album but really it only took the band a little over two years to follow up with their next studio album and it is worth the wait.
THE DARK WINGS OF STEEL comes in a very nice digibook with a die-cut cover with, what else? A dragon! Of course there have been a couple of line-up changes since the last studio album including Oliver Holzwarth (brother of drummer Alex) joining on bass and Roberto De Micheli, who was actually in an early incarnation of the band 20 years ago. Roberto also was on the last double Live album but this is the first time we get to hear his own original work. He had huge shoes to fill following in the footsteps of Luca Turilli but I’m pleased to say he does an admirable job. In fact this album seems to have even more solos as if to prove that the ‘new’ guy can shred too! That is one part I really enjoyed in this album, the guitars have come ripping back to the front especially on solos like the one on the cut, ‘Silver Lake Of Tears.’ The Starpoli vs. De Micheli keyboard/guitar trade-offs are magnificent.
This version of Rhapsody (of Fire) still has the ‘voice’, the Golden God himself, Fabio Lione, which is a major advantage, if you must compare) between the two acts. His performance is as powerful as ever. All the components you have come to love in a Rhapsody are intact. If you have never heard the band, they truly are the leaders of the entire epic, symphonic genre. From the opening orchestrated intro ‘Vis Divina’ with choral vocals to the dying notes of the massive choirs on the last song, ‘Sad Mystic Moon’, every song is a winner. The album is very fast overall, quite dark and heavy as they scale back some of the Hollywood/soundtrack components, just ever so slightly. The songs are still grandiose, epic and bombastic but not as much as the giant Metal Opera styling’s of the last several albums. Of course there is no narration, the band are content to just put their heads down and metalize fro ten songs in a row reminding us all that they have not forgotten their Metal roots.
I think there must have been an enormous amount of creativity and freedom for the band in writing, once free of the lyrical and musical constraints of The Chronicles Of Algalord where everything had to 100% over the top. The songs are a little more streamlined and perhaps stronger for it without the distractions of all the extra sonic bells and whistles. It shows, as THE DARK WINGS OF STEEL is as good as anything the band has ever done. I feel they have effectively silenced the critics and cynics and proven that they are more than just a one-trick pony.