Review Summary: Intense and fast, the way power metal should be done, with a real spark to it. This is metal
From their high point on The Frozen Tears Of Angels, power metal outfit Rhapsody Of Fire could go in two directions. They could either tread along similar ground and attempt to rehash that entire album and recreate the masterpiece that it was, or they could go in a different direction and make something that felt truly unique amongst their discography. In the end, the band took the latter path, utilizing new guitarist Tom Hess to maximum impact, forming a much heavier album than what the band had put out before, flooded with insanely fast, technical riffs and a much tighter flow to an album. This album has no songs that leap out at the listener, but instead feels more at home when being listened to in one sitting of its entire one hour duration, allowing for the story that began on Legendary Tales to continue and unfold piece by piece.
Power metal in its truest form is found right across the board here, with the soaring vocals that the genre has become known in perfect key across every song on here. This album is the sound of a band that are not only willing to push the boundaries in their style of music, but also confident that they can eclipse everything that has come before in a blitzkrieg of utter chaos, and everything on this album flows together in perfect harmony. Right from the opening notes of the short but intense opener Ad Infinitum, it is clear that the guitar work to this album is going to be a considerable cut above anything this band has put out in their catalogue, and then the spoken vocals handled by none other than movie icon Christopher Lee come into play, before a creative, blisteringly fast riff that stops and then starts again repeatedly whilst accompanied by operatic vocals that can only be described as the stuff of deities. The true marvel of this song is that all of this has taken place in just shy of one and a half minutes, giving a strong expectation for the album to come right from the word go. And it doesn't get any less jaw dropping from here onwards.
The title track follows, and contains some more incredibly fast guitar work that consistently stays light years ahead of many of the band's within the genre, slaying giants such as Dragonforce without even batting an eyelid. The multi-tracked vocals are done with considerably more grace than many other artists can manage, and this is the first song where the bass is allowed to do its own thing, during a break close to the beginning of the song. The true genius of this album, however, is that the guitar work is not the pointless brand of insanely fast playing associated with such bands as the aforementioned Dragonforce, but is consistently done tastefully, with the riffs remaining exceedingly high standard and retaining a huge amount of creativity throughout. Another thing that immediately springs to notice is that the solo work is, for once, every bit as tight as shred fest of riffs that the album proves to be, being both blindingly speedy and amazingly good sounding.
In fact, all six members of this band are strikingly talented, as evidenced by such moments as the great blast beats found on Tempesta Di Fuoco, the stunning vocal work on Anima Perduta or the bass work on the title track. The keyboards, handled by Alex Staropoli, are simply divine, being used with breathtaking talent with a startling frequency. This is an album that has something for absolutely any listener. If they are put off by the keyboards, then perhaps the frantic riffing will win the listener over, or, for the more shredding-inclined listeners, the breathtaking guitar solos across the release will surely impress. This is a lovingly crafted release by six insanely talented musicians, each of them a master at what they do, each with their own influences whilst never straying off the beaten path.
Ghost Of Forgotten Worlds is the finest track off of this release, starting with a killer guitar solo, before moving into a guitar riff that brings memories back of the 1980's thrash metal scene before suddenly, completely out of the blue, it stops and goes into a melodic section. After picking up again, we are treated to some of the most intelligently written music in the power metal scene, containing some hyper technical guitar work that will steam roll the listener flat and leave him or her wondering exactly what the hell just happened. This is another real success with the album-it changes so frequently in such a short space of time that one is left wondering how they got from A to B in the space of literally a minute. This band changes their core dynamics so frequently that it is impossible to keep up with, at times being mellow and beautiful, before plunging headlong into some of the fastest shredding a listener will ever hear.
The only real criticism of this release is the amount of listens it takes to truly settle into the listener's brain. So much is going on at once that it requires a near unprecedented amount of plays before the real grandeur of the album becomes apparent to the listener. This is one album that really does have so much depth to it, firmly building off and altering the formula that made them good in the first place in ways that are almost impossible to comprehend. There is no standout musician nor moment on this album, as they are all heart stopping in their own way. This is an album that demands a listen and then commands the listener's attention from start to finish, combining the beautiful with the ridiculous. 5/5