Rhapsody Of Fire – Dark Wings Of Steel
Reviewed by Arno Callens
In every break-up there’s a winner and a loser; so the wisdom of television show How I Met Your Mother declares. While that is a pretty black-and-white perspective, it’s an interesting one concerning the split of Rhapsody. After all, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody’s Ascending To Infinity made a big splash last year, and we had yet to see a response from the Lione/Staropoli-camp. It is here now, and as a Joey DeMaio wet dream, it’s called Dark Wings Of Steel.
First off, that theory above is bullocks. Luca Turilli has strived for a grand cinematic scope and succeeded, Alex Staropoli wanted a return to classic Rhapsody (Of Fire). No one wins or loses if you don’t play the same game. What Dark Wings Of Steel offers is a semi-throwback to a Rhapsody (Of Fire) before The Frozen Tears Of Angels. Gone is most of the progression, and in place there is conservation and nostalgia. Perhaps Staropoli and his cohorts felt the need to ground themselves once more in their roots, for that is pretty much what Dark Wings Of Steel represents. It’s a reset of the status quo, it’s familiar, and therefore, you likely will have heard all this before.
Let’s be honest though, this is power metal. Despite the value I place on innovation, I’m just as much a sucker for a well executed formula as any infant child. Rhapsody Of Fire may not push the envelope, but the envelope doesn’t necessarily need pushing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Of course, when the barriers are tested, you get The Frozen Tears Of Angels and From Chaos To Eternity. When you don’t, you get something that’s decidedly more simple, but still damn enjoyable.
To the songs then. Dark Wings Of Steel feels like Triumph Or Agony II, in that it starts with a fast and awesome song “Rising From Tragic Flames”, starring all the hallmarks of the classic Rhapsody-sound, then follows it up with a million slower songs. Sometimes that gives us the rousing “Angel Of Light”, sometimes the plodding “My Sacrifice”. A very mixed bag, all in all. The riffing is fine, but when every chorus is Fabio drawling over an intended epic strings-and-power-chords section, you run out of gas faster than a car with bullet holes in the tank.
The end of the record partially makes up for that by giving us the fun and fairy “A Tale Of Magic”, the brooding title track and the splendorous “Sad Mystic Moon”. It’s almost enough to save the dragging middle part, and thank the angels there is no 15 minute epic. Luca Turilli nailed his, and Staropoli was wise enough to avoid one if it was going to be another “The Mystic Prophecy Of The Demonknight” (meaning one good refrain and endless narration).
An element that definitely adds to the déjà vu is the voice of Fabio Lione. We’ve seen him expand his range with Kamelot, Vision Divine, and Hollow Haze, not to mention the previous two Rhapsody Of Fire-records, so his performance here is solid, but far from what he is capable of. Plus, despite his considerable talents, he is no Alessandro Conti. In the riffing department Rhapsody Of Fire does score a point over Luca Turilli, since ironically the guitar wizard himself packs less riffs into his album than Roberto De Micheli does here. It’s as if Rhapsody Of Fire when through customs and was stripped of most of their orchestras, keyboards and choirs.
In conclusion Rhapsody Of Fire has reverted to old tricks, which makes for pleasant if somewhat unchallenging listening. Fans of the old days will be delighted, newcomers of the last five years might be less enthralled. Luca Turilli made the better album by my standards, but I might be spinning Dark Wings Of Steel just as much – for different reasons. The Tale of Two Rhapsodies has finished its first chapter, and I daresay the power metal genre is richer for the split.