Rhapsody Of Fire – From Chaos To Eternity
And so, at last, we come to the end: the final album in a saga that began 15 years earlier in the mid 90’s. Three presidents have come and gone, two decades have passed, a new century has begun, and a new millennium is in its infancy, yet the tales of the Emerald Sword, the Warrior of Ice, and his successor Dargor live on. Rhapsody Of Fire made no secret of the fact that this was to be the last album in this saga. Indeed, in hindsight many of the band’s press releases also indicated the looming breakup of the band, which decided to part ways with their guitarist and main influence Luca Turilli after the summer festival tour. With all this knowledge, it would have been easy for Rhapsody Of Fire to release another mediocre album. It would have been easy for them to give a lackadaisical effort, to release an album with sub-par material, just to finish the story, then go their separate ways. It would have been easy to throw together 9 songs with leftover material, end the story, and never look back.
But Rhapsody Of Fire didn’t do this. Instead, the band combined the creative prowess they had left to produce one last gem, and it is indeed a fantastic album. Every song is very high quality. Every song is catchy, every song is memorable, and most of all, every song is metal. The band’s final album is in fact so good that it rivals the only flawless album in their discography, Dawn Of Victory. I will confess that after the band’s recent turbulence, I wasn’t sure if they had another unbelievable album in them. I’m glad to say I underestimated them, and that they proved me wrong.
The album starts, as all Rhapsody Of Fire albums do, with an instrumental, “Ad Infinitum”. Unlike most Rhapsody Of Fire instrumentals, this one has a guitar in it. The minor key and lightly picked desolate guitar melody lay out the climatic nature of the album. This is where the story ends; and Christopher Lee is going to tell us that through his narration. The eyes of Thanor must be found and returned, or else the dark one will awaken from his eternal prison. If you’ve been following the Rhapsody Of Fire story so far, you can probably guess where the climax is going, but this time I’m not going to spoil it for you. Trust me, this album is worth listening to to find out the answer.
“Ad Infinitum” marks a perfect segue into the title track. The opening riff for this song, when I first heard it, blew me away. And it still does. Harkening back to the days of songs like “Holy Thunderforce,” “From Chaos To Eternity” is a phenomenal song. The riff ends with a quiet section by Fabio Lione, but it is short lived before the song picks back up. Lione’s vocals here are excellent. The backing vocals “saaaave myyyy soullll” are downright chilling. The powerful keyboards of Staropoli back up this song well, but the real treat are Turilli’s guitars. In addition to the exceptional opening riff, but Turilli takes the solo as an opportunity to show how melodic he can be. Though not the most technically difficult solo he has written, it fits the song perfectly, and its execution is flawless.
The next song is another one of the band’s Italian-language songs. Unlike many prior iterations however, “Tempesta Di Fuoco” is not a ballad. Starting with more of Turilli’s shredding, this song keeps the album’s atmosphere of being darker and still melodic going very well. The guitar riff resembles that from “Dawn Of Victory,” but differs enough to make it interesting. “Ghosts Of Forgotten Worlds” is very similar to the prior track, but varied enough to remain unique. Starting with another rapidly picked descending guitar riff (can you tell I like these?), some of the verses of this song are actually sung without much instrumental backing. “Anima Perduta” is the album’s ballad. Although my dislike of Rhapsody Of Fire ballads, after doing a rewind through their entire catalog, should be well known, this one isn’t bad. It isn’t as outstanding of a song as the other tracks on the album, but it is still well written. If this album has a weak point, this is it, but it only just.
There is no contest in my mind for the best track on this album. “Aeons Of Raging Darkness” is, with one exception (and that exception is, to me, intensely nostalgic), the best song Rhapsody Of Fire has ever written. It is the harshest, the darkest, and the angriest. The lead vocals are straight out of black metal, which Fabio Lione apparently does incredibly well. Starting with a bass solo which is then mirrored by the guitars, Luca launches one of Rhapsody Of Fire’s heaviest riffs ever; and I believe this song is flawless. The first verse combines the black metal shrieks with an almost shouted melody line before opening up and allowing Fabio Lione to properly sing, all the while keeping the shrieks in the background. Once the chorus comes in, the melodic vocals fade completely, and Lione shrieks the entire thing to outstanding effect. If you don’t find yourself singing (or perhaps growling) along, then it is hard to call yourself a Rhapsody Of Fire fan. This song is truly outstanding because it proves that this band is able to write a song with primarily harsh vocals, blast beats, and one of their heaviest ever riffs, and still make melody a premium. It features a fantastic melody that the listener can sing along to (and that this listener often does sing along to), while maintaining the angry bite to it that makes it so unique.
Even if there wasn’t a single other good tune on this album, “Aeons Of Raging Darkness” would still be enough to give this album a decent rating. Thankfully, there are other worthwhile songs – in fact there are other excellent songs. Following “Aeons Of Raging Darkness” is “I Belong To The Stars,” which has an outrageously catchy riff. Every time I listen to it, I want to throw up my hands and headbang along. Unlike the riff on “From Chaos To Eternity,” this one is slower and easier to follow (and headbang to!). It doesn’t end there though. Though “I Belong…” is only a mid-tempo power metal song, it is a mid-tempo power metal song written the way all mid-tempo power metal songs should be. The riff is heavy, the chorus is powerful, and the vocals are performed strongly. The riff picks up at several times throughout the song, and each time I’m impressed by the energy it brings to the song.
“Tornado” is the penultimate track on the album, and the first piece of material the band revealed prior to its release. This was the first song that I (and many) heard from the new album, and I nearly went crazy when that happened. The harsh vocals from “Aeons Of Raging Darkness” feature prominently, and yet again the song remains not only melodic, but cinematic. Lione effortlessly changes from clean vocals to harsh vocals and back again. The blast beats during the verses really add to the harsh atmosphere of this song, and Turilli’s impressive guitar solo effectively delivers the melody. The listener that is not careful will find themselves singing along to the third song in a row.
The album, the saga, and the band as it has been known since the 90’s comes to a conclusion with the longest song Rhapsody Of Fire have ever written, beating the previous record holder by a mere 30 seconds. “Heroes Of The Waterfalls’ Kingdom” brings everything to a climactic and powerful ending. The song starts with more spoken words from Christopher Lee, before moving to a folky section to properly begin the music. Though this type of song has been hit or miss in the past, the band hits the nail on the head here, and it is great. Starting with some thundering tympani, when the orchestra kicks in is when the song really takes off. Summarizing the entire epic will be too difficult to do in this limited space, but is is possibly the band’s finest to date. The “metal” parts are heavy, while maintaining that climatic sense the song is meant to convey. The orchestral parts sound like something at the end of a movie. This song really gives a sense of finality – I can see the story coming to an end in my mind when I hear the final chords of the song ring out underneath the powerful voice of Christopher Lee. It is almost sad, knowing what happens to the band after this album is released, but it is also powerful.
I have avoided talking about how I feel as a general rule during these reviews, because I’m trying to analyze the album as objectively as I can, while presenting the reader with an idea of what they are going to hear, since music is a fundamentally auditory medium. However, on this album, Rhapsody Of Fire have achieved something truly amazing. They have concluded a story that took 10 albums and 15 years to finish. They have survived a name change, and multiple lawsuits. They have survived the problems that befall many other power metal bands, especially ones as novel as Rhapsody Of Fire were when they began in the early 90’s. Ultimately and perhaps most importantly, they have ended on a far, far better note than they began. Legendary Tales, the first Rhapsody album, was but a small introduction of the things to come, and the great things this band would accomplish. This album makes me feel empowered, like nothing can hurt me while it is playing. In addition to the great songs, it also has a great feel, something I cannot claim about very many other albums (Dawn Of Victory is another).
I hope that those you who have been following since the review of Legendary Tales have enjoyed reading these reviews as much as I have enjoyed writing them. I hope you have enjoyed the albums as much as I enjoy them, and that, despite my sometimes overly critical remarks, you also enjoy Rhapsody Of Fire. As a reviewer, my job is to be critical, but that should not prevent you and does not prevent me from enjoying the fantastic catalog of Rhapsody Of Fire. I have listened to Rhapsody thousands and thousands of times. I’ve seen them live only once, but it was the best concert I have ever been to, and a moment I will remember for a very long time.
Graham’s Rating: 4.75 out of 5