Rhapsody of Fire - Legendary Years - (9/10)
Published on January 3, 2018
Sometimes the function of a critic isn’t simply to inform, but also to contradict mistaken sentiment or even stem a massive tide of misinformation. It is with full self-awareness as to how arrogant that this assertion will come across that the author of this review will double down in his occasional Amish alter-ego and state, “Ye are quite mistaken”. Granted, the practice of revisiting past moments of greatness in the recording studio tends to be a polarizing subject, but the wild disparity in reactions to Rhapsody Of Fire’s Legendary Years compilation is one of those cases where the truth can’t be somewhere in the middle and one side has to be wrong. With rhetorical scorn, one side asks without expecting an answer that most pointless of questions in “What is the point?”, as if taking on a new vocalist isn’t grounds enough for a demonstration to assure the band’s audience that the amazing recovery after a slight stumble that was Into The Legend wasn’t a one-time fluke or that songs that are up to 20 years old couldn’t do with a studio update.
To dispense with further polemics against the online critical establishment on this one, this is actually a rather refreshing and different take on the phenomenon that is Rhapsody Of Fire. Perhaps the best analogy would be to one of their various live outings in terms of song selection, as there is a clear preference towards high-energy banger numbers like “Emerald Sword” and “Dawn Of Victory” and a near complete absence of any conceptual narrations or interlude material, save a couple fleeting passages that were redone by Giacomo Voli on “Rain Of A Thousand Flames” and “The Dark Tower Of Abyss” in a less eccentric yet still dramatic manner compared to Sir Jay Lansford’s original spoken bits. Voli’s vocals actually prove to be equally as versatile to that of Fabio Lione’s, save maybe a tad less overtly operatic, as he hits all the vocal characters effectively from the soft croons of the piano driven ballad “Wings Of Destiny” to the blackened shrieks and mutterings that paint the verse sections of “When Demons Awake”.
The sheer excellence of this performance goes beyond the new vocal helmsman and informs every single detail of this baby, as what was Rhapsody Of Fire’s golden years while with LMP spills forth for all to hear. Though he made a less than perfect first impression on Dark Wings Of Steel, guitarist Roberto De Micheli perfectly emulates Luca Turilli’s highly idiomatic and methodical guitar soloing style, offering up the same mixture of Neo-classical shredding and folksy melodic hooks over a far cleaner instrumental backdrop. This should come as no surprise given Roberto’s past association with this band and Luca during the Thundercross days, let alone his brilliant performance on Into The Legend. The production itself is really where this album proves its worth, as it embodies the same balance of power and atmosphere that rounded out the arrangement on the aforementioned previous studio album. Though most of the LMP era music on here sounds quite updated and fresh, special note should be made of Legendary Tales songs like the title track, “Land Of Immortals” and “Flames Of Revenge”, which see far more guitar presence and a bombastic orchestral background rather than a synth-heavy gloss.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to put out a compilation of this nature prior to having another go in the studio as soon as possible, given the circumstances this is something that likely needed to happen first. The usual peanut gallery of “It’s not Rhapsody without Luca Turilli” types were likely itching to take a massive dump on the next thing that would have come out of this band, especially with Fabio Lione out of the picture now, and even if they’d have put out a full album of new material that was a throwback to this era (which is what Into The Legend basically was, and received a predictably lukewarm reception in pro-Luca circles), the results would have been similar. The author of this review doesn’t necessarily seek to basque in the light of fashionable non-conformity at every opportunity, but he simply cannot square the actual contents of this album with the overtly negative side of the critical community. Legendary Years is precisely what it proclaims itself, a full on throwback to the best days of this band with an updated production and a few minor tweaks around the edges, and will hopefully prove to be a stylistically identical preview to coming attractions.