Rhapsody – Dawn Of Victory
On their third album, Rhapsody is back and just as strong as ever. Dawn of Victory is the darkest and heaviest album to date for the band, and is the first to really feature Luca Turilli’s guitars. Every song features his playing in ways the previous two albums do not. Because of this, the album is more “metal” than either of its predecessors. If you are following the Emerald Sword story, this album is where the hero is betrayed by the dark lord Akron (to the surprise of nobody that has ever read a high fantasy novel), and sees his friends murdered by demons, only narrowly escaping with his life. This is why the album takes such a dark tone, and why it is heavier than the two previous albums, which mainly concerned themselves with the exploits of the hero on his quest to claim the Emerald Sword. Though the Rhapsody story remains boilerplate high fantasy, the songwriting itself has matured significantly since Legendary Tales, and even noticeably since Symphony Of Enchanted Lands.
At the beginning of the album, the hero has the Emerald Sword, and the climactic sounding opening instrumental marks the high point as the hero begins his quest to rid the land of evil. This powerful opening track moves into one of the better songs in the Rhapsody discography, the title track “Dawn Of Victory.” I’m partial to fast songs with interesting guitar work and catchy choruses, and this song hits all three points. From the moment it begins to the solo section, the guitars are both exciting and blistering, and the chorus is one of Rhapsody’s best. I get the feeling that while writing this album, Luca Turilli really wanted to show off what he could do, as the fretwork on this album is some of the trickiest in the Rhapsody catalog. I think the addition of Alex Holzwarth as drummer also helped, particularly on the faster and more intense songs like “Dawn Of Victory.” His drumming adds an intensity to the songs that is noticeably absent from the first two albums.
Another song with excellent guitar playing and a catchy chorus is “Holy Thunderforce”, and it’s my favorite on the album . Starting with a brilliant descending guitar riff, moving through a few solid wails by Fabio Lione, and morphing into a very catchy song, “Holy Thunderforce” has everything you want in a Rhapsody song. Sweep picking abounds in the chorus, and there is even a keyboard solo. Perhaps the most sing-along-able of any Rhapsody song, “Holy Thunderforce” is a fantastic song in every way, verse, chorus, instrumentals, and solo. Lione’s vocals are particularly good here, but the lyrics are difficult to understand if you don’t already know them. They are also quite dark.
Turilli leaves nothing on the table on this album. “Triumph Of My Magic Steel” starts with a jumpy guitar line before transitioning into a very cinematic song with great vocal melodies, and yet more impressive guitar playing. “Dargor, Shadowlord Of The Black Mountain,” is another highlight. On some versions of the album, a bonus track is included which is an extended version of the song, a full 3 minutes longer than the original, and both are outstanding. The guitar and keyboard solos featured in the middle of the song are very impressive. The only instrumental song on the album besides the introduction “Lux Triumphans” is “Trolls In The Dark,” which is a guitar driven instrumental that serves as an introduction to “The Last Winged Unicorn.” Unlike the instrumentals on the first two Rhapsody albums, these songs are exciting and do not upset the flow of the album.
Dawn Of Victory is not just a collection of fast songs however. There are slower and mid tempo tracks on the album too. What distinguishes these tracks from those on prior Rhapsody albums, is that they are as exciting and well written as the faster tracks they intersperse. “Village Of Dwarves” is a catchy mid-tempo song that comes between “Triumph Of My Magic Steel,” and “Dargor, Shadowlord Of The Black Mountain.” The orchestral sections are very well written, and the vocal melodies manage to be slower paced, and yet still catchy and fun to listen to. The flute parts are also a refreshing change, after two fast songs in a row to start the album. Unlike mid-tempo songs on Legendary Tales or Symphony Of Enchanted Lands, “Village Of Dwarves” fits with the mood of the album, and does not distract from other songs, nor strike the listener as unnecessary.
“The Bloody Rage Of The Titans” is also slower paced, though this song picks up about two minutes in. The ballad section of the song is well written, and not long enough to become boring before picking up into a mid tempo metal song, with the most cinematic chorus on the album, leaving all traces of the soft introduction behind. The soft piano returns briefly before the guitar solo, which is stylistically similar to the other solos on the album, and again allows Turilli to effortlessly accentuate the rest of the band’s work.
The final two tracks on the album, “The Last Winged Unicorn,” and “The Mighty Ride Of The Firelord” pick up right where the first eight tracks left off. The former has one of the best guitar solos on any Rhapsody song, along with verses you will want to sing along to. The chorus is laughably cheesy, but this is a Rhapsody album, so it would be foolish to expect anything less from the Italians. The instrumental sections are excellent, and as mentioned, the guitar solo will hit you in the face when it starts midway through the song.
Judging from its length and position as the final track on the album, “The Mighty Ride Of The Firelord” is meant to be the epic, though at only 9:15, it is not as long an epic as “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands,” or “Gargoyles, Angels Of Darkness.” The song starts with an orchestral intro before picking up guitars that sound classical for a time. This song is very dark and angry, despite the triumphant tone it takes at times. As the album epic, this song does an excellent job of avoiding the pitfalls of other epics. It does not become too long for itself, it does not become repetitive, and it has just enough of everything, both instrumentals and vocals, to keep the listener interested without boring them. It is the most balanced epic Rhapsody has written, and is an excellent way to close out a fantastic album. I especially like the use of horns in the chorus.
Dawn Of Victory is the best and most complete album Rhapsody has. It avoids the problems that befall earlier Rhapsody albums like Legendary Tales (being repetitive), and Symphony Of Enchanted Lands (unnecessary ballads and soft songs). As I mentioned in my review of Symphony Of Enchanted Lands, my personal favorite Rhapsody song is on that album, but the best album in Rhapsody’s discography is Dawn Of Victory. If I had to recommend a single album to someone that had never heard Rhapsody, I would recommend Dawn Of Victory. If I had to choose only one Rhapsody album to listen to for the rest of my life, I would choose Dawn Of Victory. It is a hallmark of Italian power metal, a hallmark of the Rhapsody discography, and essential listening within the genre of power metal. Every complaint people (including myself!) make about Rhapsody has no place on this album, which is a masterpiece of the genre, and an album that I highly recommend. It is flawless.
Graham’s rating: 5.0 out of 5