There is a familiar story told here, but not the one that most are thinking of, not the specific story of heroics and magic that has been ongoing since RHAPSODY OF FIRE’s inception. The tale told here is the tale of a band that has taken its craft to its logical conclusion, and under the intense pressure of new and innovative ideas creeping in, has parted ways with a grandiose yet closing past. In its wake stands “From Chaos To Eternity”, the final chapter of the series that has come full circle yet again, finishing with a final battle cry and all the wailing melodies and classical music clichés to make Mozart blush.
Perhaps the greatest weakness that the latter half of this grand 10 album epic that Turilli and company have been churning out since 2004 is that it has largely been a darker yet overindulgent shadow or reflection of the former half. With it came a greater emphasis on orchestration and narration (featuring the auspicious Christopher Lee in between his gigs on “Lord Of The Rings” and “Star Wars), sometimes at the cost of the band’s flashy power metal edge. This was since remedied on “The Frozen Tears Of Angels”, which put a much needed focus back on the band’s songwriting prowess while maintaining the darker, modern production, and this latest opus continues the trend, though leaning more towards recapturing the spirit of “Power Of The Dragonflame”.
This obvious effort at recapturing the heavier, nastier, occasionally bordering on extreme Speed Metal heard on their final chapter of the Emerald Sword Saga is easy to catch, though not entirely a rehash. The darker character of the production, the sharp clarity of the mixing job, meshed with a slightly processed and mechanical sounding guitar line makes this a slightly less organic experience, almost as if there is a mechanistic tendency to this otherwise archaic fantasy. Fabio Lione’s occasional flirtations with a WINTERSUN and EMPEROR blackened shriek character further accents this outlandish tendency, particularly on “Tornado“ and “Aeons Of Raging Darkness”, the assumed foils of the band’s first venture into this territory “When Demons Awake”, complete with vilely shouted gang choruses and even a brief blast beat section in the case of the latter.
But for all of the peripheral innovations that have been underway at the most gradual of paces since 2002, this is very much a conventional RHAPSODY (OF FIRE) album. In fact, when hearing the blazing speed and technical flair of conventional songs in “Ghosts Of Forgotten Worlds”, “From Chaos To Eternity” and “Tempesta Di Fuoco” kicking off the album, echoes of the late 90s come flowing in like a monsoon of déjà vu. But the real kicker is the obvious attempt at recapturing the majestic tower of musical brilliance that was “Gargoyles: Angels Of Darkness” in “Heroes Of The Waterfalls’ Kingdom”. Perhaps the biggest disappointment here is that the narrations take over the song way too much in the same book on tape fashion they did on “Triumph Or Agony”. Nevertheless, the song does a decent job of avoiding the meandering trap of most near 20 minute long opuses, and throws in a fair share of guitar and keyboard gymnastics to dazzle all the shred fan boys.
As stated previously, the real story here is the coming full circle of this band, and it also proves to be the de facto final chapter of more than 15 years of 2 songwriting giants in Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli collaborating. This album has since proven to be the end of this partnership, an end underscored by a somewhat rushed feel within the narrated passages which is not reflected in the music. In like fashion with the splits that occurred in HELLOWEEN, STRATOVARIUS and FREEDOM CALL, this split will bring forth 2 new projects, one carrying the former’s name, while the other is probably more likely to carry the original musical feel that left the band (as GAMMA RAY sought to do and eventually did in “Land Of The Free”). But to Luca and Alex’s credit, they parted after putting out an album worthy of themselves as HELLOWEEN did in “Keepers Pt. 2”, something that was not the case in the other bands noted earlier. So all D&D freaks and power metal junkies alike can take heart in the uncertain future, but more importantly, enjoy yet another fine album out of a band with its own unique, and definitely polarizing niche.
(Online October 5, 2011)