Halt! Before one can go on, they must be able to accept almost nauseating-inducing levels of cheesiness, male operatic vocals, and some of the best instrumentation in power metal. Add to that list, the addition of a full choir and orchestra.
Now, since that is out of the way, we can proceed.
Welcome to the world of power metal...a dangerous land filled with dragons, steel, magic, orcs, a general love of anything medieval, and cheese. Power metal has some of the highest levels of cheese in any sort of music, even surpassing death metal (although that uses a different brand of cheese). However, if one is willing to look past the surface, they will find an unsurpassed musical landscape. Power metal is home to some of the best musicians in the metal scene, including everyone from Dragonforce, Michael Romeo of Symphony X, the guitarist/keyboardist duo of Sonata Arctica, Emppu of Nightwish, and countless others.
Rhapsody falls somewhere on top of them.
Rhapsody is one of the most unique bands of the power metal scene. Yes, nowadays, the method of combining orchestras and choruses to power metal is almost standard. However, Rhapsody was one of the first to use it, and use it to its full potential. As their website says, they are the founders of "Hollywood Metal". Started in 1997, they are still as strong as ever.
Symphony Of Enchanted Lands is THE ultimate act of Rhapsody's. Featuring 10 songs (well, only 8 actual songs...more on that later) of epic conduction, superb instrumentation, powerful and awe-inspiring vocals, excellent writing, and a level of cheese only Italians are capable of, this strikes awe and wonder into the heart (or ears) of those who dare to listen to it. Considering this was the group's second release, it is even more remarkable that they could come together and write something like this, also taking into effect that Legendary Tales (their first release) was years ahead of its time.
What to delve into first...the instrumentation. Simply put, awe inspiring. Each member has a job to do, and they do it with the utmost perfection. The guitars fall into a rut somewhere between Blind Guardian and Symphony X...much neoclassical stylings on the guitar, and some absolutely crushing lines. Of course, in the grand tradition of power metal, most of the songs go at 100 miles per hour, with doublebass and palm muted chords apounding, and the synths laying down a barrage of notes.
The band is rounded off by Fabio, a terrific (if somewhat odd and cheesy) vocalist. He has your classic power metal OMGSUPEROPERATIC voice...yet oddly enough, he makes it work. Only on occasion does it sound REALLY fake; most of the time, it just sounds funny. He has quite a powerful voice though.
And, of course, the quality that defines the band: the orchestra. Unlike some bands, who have an orchestra just to overshadow the horrid quality of their music, Rhapsody uses it in a way to make you want to move your arms in conducting motion (or perhaps the arm movement is due to you wanting to slay orcs and dragons). At any rate, the orchestra rocks. Makes the music that much more epic.
Now, if you're like me, you've gotten past the fact that the cheesiness is the most you'll find this side of an E-Z-Cheese can, this album works. You just laugh at it. And cheese abound this album has, with one of the funniest tracks I've ever heard, Heroes Of The Lost Valley. It contains no music, just some outdoor noises for the first part, and a HORRIBLE voiceover the second. You really have to listen to it...it will make you laugh your ass off. There's a bunch of cheesy voiceovers throughout other songs as well; learn to put it aside though. It pays off in the end.
Hell, the band"s goddamn website is www.mightyrhapsody.com. That alone lets you know about the cheese.
One other side note: Every single one of their albums has started with a chois/orchestra intro. It wouldn't be Rhapsody without it.
Now, what review wouldn't be complete without recommended tracks? I implore you to tell me.
My personal favorite, and the first real track of the album. It has some great guitar work, and an epic singalong (well, almost) chorus. It makes you leap up and want to conduct your ass off.
Has just a perfect epic feel to it that almost has yet to be replicated.
The Dark Tower Of Abyss:
Neoclassical, anyone? That is the main draw of the song. Period.
Barring the weird (fake) genre, and the cheese, this is Rhapsody's finest hour. Epic music takes the cake here, and makes you just listen in shock. Italy is known for producing great things, and this further affirms it. You won't be disappointed. Just go get it.
Final Rating: 9.5/10