Rhapsody of Fire // The Frozen Tears of Angels
Rating: 5.0/5.0 —The Rhapsody record you’ve been waiting for…
Label: Nuclear Blast (EU | US)
Websites: rhapsodyoffire.com | myspace.com/rhapsodyoffire
Release Dates: EU: 30.04.2010 | US: 06.29.2010
It seems forever since Italian power metallers, and just generally over-the-top crafters of Symphonic Hollywood Metal (or as I called it in one of my very earliest reviews “Sword Swinging Elf Metal”) produced an album. And really, in terms of the modern music industry it has been a very long time. Rhapsody of Fire‘s last album, Triumph or Agony, was released in 2006 to almost no fanfare. I didn’t see a single advertisement for the album, I never knew that it was being released and I had no idea that they had even been working on a new album at all. One day I just walked into my local record store and saw it on the shelf there. The total lack of build-up foreshadowed how I felt about the album, and frankly the record that had gone before it: it lacked what I was looking for in a Rhapsody of Fire album. The guitar orientation was gone, the songs were not as huge, the guitar not as bombastic and the feel was generally one that I just could never really get into. Both Symphony of Enchanted Lands pt. II and Triumph or Agony, while technically filling the standards set by the band, certainly didn’t live up to what I see as the band’s crowning jewel Power of the Dragonflame.
So, that should give the reader the standard by which I judge The Frozen Tears of Angels. How does it compare to Power of the Dragonflame? Well, I can proudly say that this is the record that I expected Symphony of Enchanted Lands pt. II to be. The music is huge, fustian and exaggerated, just like you expect, but it is also the most guitar oriented record that the band has ever produced. It is this element in front of all things, that will make the average Rhapsody of Fire fan jump for joy. Gone are the slower passages, gone are the questions of where the guitar solo is because Luca Turilli, as he stated in his interview with me, “rediscovered his first love,” and this record is littered with some amazing guitar solos. My personal favorite comes from the fairly simple, but fragile and beautiful passages in “Danza Di Fuoco E Ghiaccio” a song similar to “The Village of the Dwarves”. But every song has amazing solos, the amazing harmonies and intertwining neo-baroque melodies on “Crystal Moonlight”, the great Iron Maiden double lead from “On the Way to Ainor” and so on and so forth. This record is a triumph for every neo-classical guitar loving nerd out there. Not just because of the standard solos, but because Turilli’s creativity lies in how well he blends his virtuosity in with his overall compositions.
And the overall composition of this record is also a major triumph. The use of Christopher Lee and more photorealistic artwork and so forth was all in an attempt to be taken more seriously, and while I’m not sure that this is actually happening, the band has continued to impress with their understanding of the album as a series of symphonic movements. One of the things that makes The Frozen Tears of Angels great is that while the songs stand alone, the album is not an album that you want to break out for one track. Instead, the dynamics make you want to listen to the whole album straight through and just sit in awe of the breadth and depth of the music. And while the band has often lost me in the past on their more epic tracks, even the 11 minute title track was a gripping piece. The album follows an audio story arc, just like the previous albums, but being able to combine these feelings together and turn them into both convincing neo-classical music and awesome heavy metal has never been done better by the band (or any other band, for that matter).
This is getting long, but one more final point: I have focused heavily on the guitar-oriented nature of this album, but there are a few things that stand out. The band elected (probably for budget reasons) to not go with a full orchestra this time. While Luca Turilli denies it, part of me wonders if that didn’t actually help the sound of this record because it was something that was completely manipulatable by the musicians in the studio. I would bet that there are things that you can write for a symphony that cannot be played convincingly by a symphony and sometimes I wonder if Rhapsody of Fire‘s style doesn’t overpower the musicians they’ve hired to play it. All of the orchestrations are perfect, and the band itself is tight as hell. This is one of the tightest rhythm sections out there, not to mention the vocals of Fabio Lione are accented perfection.
The Frozen Tears of Angels is the perfect Rhapsody of Fire comeback record. After four years of chaos, and the band’s still ongoing legal fight with Joey DeMaio (who signed the band and tried to steal their sound), Rhapsody of Fire is back with a power metal vengeance. They could not have chosen a better time or written better music for this imminent return. I hope this record helps push them back into the spotlight and that the next (at least) year of touring is good for the band, for all the individuals involved and is a kick in the teeth to everyone trying to hold down the most powerful force in power metal.