Review Summary: Screw Dungeons and Dragons!
Power metal has built itself its own stereotype within the past fifteen to twenty years or so. Extremely fast and complex strumming of the guitars and double bass drums, extremely fast-paced yet incredibly long songs, orchestral backup music, operatic (and occasionally annoying) high vocals and extremely corny lyrics. Yeah, we’ve all heard it and we keep telling ourselves that no matter what power metal is and always will be the same thing over and over again. It was never really a popular genre to begin not only because of that, but because the overall metal genre was changing over the years. Alternative metal was on the rise when Deftones’ White Pony
album was released to the public, becoming a massive hit, and mainstream metal acts such as Killswitch Engage and Trivium were also gaining their popularity too as the new century was just beginning. It wasn’t until Dragonforce’s song “Through the Fire and Flames” became quite possibly the most popular song in the huge video game franchise Guitar Hero
in 2007 when power metal became something that was talked about to begin with. However, that song alone became quite possibly a game-changer for the future of power metal itself. It wasn’t long before the whole world became aware of this “strangely complex, yet somewhat enjoyable” genre. And soon, everyone in the audience wanted a taste of it, and they were possibly going to have to take a look backwards to get the full feeling of it.
That’s where Rhapsody of Fire comes in. First formed in 1993 and originally named Rhapsody when their debut album Legendary Tales
came out in 1997, this band is practically the epitome of the power metal stereotype as it quite literally represents every single one of those elements. In fact they practically created them, considering the fact that they’re known as the “pioneers” of symphonic power metal. Even so, Rhapsody wasn’t popular when they first came out with their debut album as it only managed to make it to one chart in Japan, and it wasn’t a great position to begin with only making it to No. 52, so as of this point it wasn’t that great a start. It was barely recognized by critics early on and the audiences were too focused on Metallica and Black Sabbath to be interested in the corniness of Rhapsody. Even after over fifteen years it still doesn’t get much recognition from audiences, most likely due to people becoming bigger fans by other big name power metal bands such as Kamelot and Dragonforce simply because these artists are a lot more accessible than Rhapsody could ever be.
However, that’s not saying that Legendary Tales
is a bad album. In fact, it’s far from bad. With the considerable talent that Rhapsody shows throughout their albums, at least their earlier ones, then it’s hard to admire or at least smile at the music. Starting off with the orchestral instrumental “Ira Tenax” (which is something you will find that Rhapsody often does in their albums) and then bursting out into the enticingly epic opener “Ice Warrior,” Legendary Tales
shows that power metal can be enjoyable. Sure the corny lyrics might get to you at first, but in Rhapsody’s standards, the lyrics are a rather minor part in the overall musicality (unless you’re interested in the overall story itself). The instrumentation is executed almost perfectly throughout the whole record. The guitars flash on with their complex solos and fast-paced strumming such as in “Flames of Revenge” while the drums keep the energy and intensity alive. The vocals are typical power metal fashion, but that doesn’t ruin the experience. Fabio Lionne flows with the music, yet never feeling strained or tiring, making an excellent balance of mixture between the vocals and the instrumentation. Even the orchestrations give the album an epic feel to it that is so well present in power metal that it’s hard not to enjoy.
The only downsides to the album are the ballads, “Forest of Unicorns” and “Echoes of Tragedy.” An attempt to break up any monotony in the album, they only add to the cheesiness of it all. The instrumentation of “Forest of Unicorns” is rather dull while the piano elements in “Echoes of Tragedy” make it feel like a Billy Joel rip-off. Both of them are completely out of place in the album and kill any emotion they try to show. Also, “Virgin Skies” is rather unnecessary as it’s only a minute-twenty-second instrumental interlude and has the similar sound as “Forest of Unicorns” which doesn’t make things better.
I can’t guarantee that Legendary Tales
will change your mind about power metal, or Rhapsody for that matter. It’s just nothing more than typical power metal that you’ve heard before, but it’s an enjoyable experience nonetheless. For a first record, it’s a rather excellent effort. Sure it’s not going to get everyone to like Rhapsody, nor should it. The fact that it represents all of the stereotypical elements you would find in music such as this doesn’t make the album completely worth the time. But for what it is, Rhapsody’s debut album is a solid one, and an enjoyable ride at that.