Rhapsody – Legendary Tales
There is perhaps no band more instrumental to the foundation of Italian power metal than Rhapsody.* The wealth of Rhapsody clones that have sprouted up in the years since are proof enough of their influence, particularly in Italy. Led by the neo-classically influenced guitar playing of Luca Turilli, the keyboards of Alex Staropoli, and the soaring vocals of Fabio Lione, this band kick-started symphonic power metal in Italy. With their focus on a Tolkienesque high-fantasy saga and their determination to make their music sound like something out of a film score, Rhapsody sounded far different from any other band at the time.
Put concisely, in Legendary Tales, the band’s debut, Rhapsody sounds as though they do not fully realize where they are going. Some of the tracks are excellent and lay out the blueprint for later Rhapsody albums (and for Italian power metal in general). Other tracks do not live up to the standard Rhapsody themselves set with later albums like Symphony Of Enchanted Lands and Dawn Of Victory. It is with this in mind that I begin my rewind of the Rhapsody catalog.
The album starts with “Ira Tenax,” featuring a lone keyboard melody with lyrics in Latin. This ends abruptly, leading into one of the finer tracks on the album, “Warrior Of Ice.” Lione’s vocals soar over an orchestra as the central character of the Rhapsody story is introduced. When Turilli’s guitars come in, the album really begins. Songs like “Warrior Of Ice”, “Rage Of The Winter”, and “Lord Of The Thunder” exemplify the style of power metal Rhapsody is known for. These three tracks are the highlight of the album, and Lione’s powerful voice is showcased throughout. Turilli’s guitar playing is both prominent and refined, and the orchestral arrangements and keyboard leads of Staropoli are clearly featured. The interplay between these elements are explored best on these three tracks, which is what makes them so great.
In between excellent tracks like “Warrior Of Ice,” and “Lord Of The Thunder,” are less memorable tracks with less power. “Virgin Skies” is an unnecessary instrumental midway through the album. “Forest Of Unicorns” tries to be a ballad, and a Blind Guardian-esque folk song, and succeeds in accomplishing neither. “Flames Of Revenge” sounds good, but is too much like other (better) tracks on the album. The orchestral arrangement that runs from 2:45 until the guitar solo at 3:50 is fantastic however, and really showcases the band’s classical influences. “Land Of Immortals” is another good song, but seems to be nothing more than a variation of other songs like “Warrior Of Ice.” Another unnecessary ballad follows (“Echoes of Tragedy”) which is better off skipped.
The final track sounds more like it should be on a movie soundtrack than a metal album. This is the effect Rhapsody was aiming for, but in this instance it is a bit of a letdown. Not only is it the longest track on the album, but it is also the final, title track. The listener approaches it expecting an epic, and is left with an 8 minute long orchestral piece with limited singing and even more limited guitar work. This is the only Rhapsody album where the title track is anything short of spectacular, and I blame that on the fact that it is their first album.
Altogether, Legendary Tales is decent. It has its moments, but not a great number of them. It is not the pinnacle of Italian power metal, nor is it the pinnacle of Rhapsody. It does however explain where they began and where they were trying to go. They would improve substantially with their next release Symphony Of Enchanted Lands, and with their subsequent releases. Still, there are gems here, and the album does have something of a nostalgic quality when you sit down and realize it was recorded in the mid 1990’s. If you are looking for a shining example of Italian power metal, skip this album and look to one of the next Rhapsody albums. If you are looking for a good Rhapsody album, skip this album and look to one of the next Rhapsody albums. If you want to know where Rhapsody came from, how they got their start, and want the complete listening experience (or care at all about the story), give this album a shot. It’s not disappointing, but Rhapsody have far, far superior offerings.
*Note on naming: I will be referring to Rhapsody (of Fire) as “Rhapsody” during the reviews of every album from Legendary Tales through and including Symphony of Enchanted Lands II. In the review of all albums released since then, I will refer to them as Rhapsody of Fire. For those unfamiliar with Rhapsody, it is the same band.
Graham’s Rating: 3.0 out of 5