Rhapsody Of Fire – The Frozen Tears Of Angels
It’s safe to say that Triumph Or Agony left a bitter taste in my mouth. It was a hard album to swallow, especially from one of my favorite bands. I was left dumbfounded as to how one of my favorite bands, a band that had been churning out consistently solid albums since the mid 90’s, could produce such a lousy record. Then to top it all off, due to conflicts with their record label at the time (Magic Circle music, run by the band Manowar), they stopped touring and recording altogether. Could the last album released by my beloved Rhapsody Of Fire really be such junk? Thankfully, it was not to be. Rhapsody Of Fire returned in 2010, legal troubles finally solved, with The Frozen Tears Of Angels.
Thankfully, the band also returned to the formulas that made them a great artist in the first place, and abandoned the failed experiment that was Triumph Or Agony. Rather than orchestral songs with vocals (and the occasional guitar), The Frozen Tears Of Angels is full of skilled guitar work led by Luca Turilli. The album is faster, harsher, angrier, and more powerful than either of its two predecessors. The orchestral and symphonic portions return to their proper place– accentuating the vocals, setting the mood, and providing orchestration for a metal band, rather than trying to replace the lead guitars.
Conceptually, The Frozen Tears Of Angels is an album that picks up where Triumph Or Agony left off: the third album in the Dark Secret saga begun with Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II. In this case, the Black Order is trying to release the dark lord Nekron, and the White Order is trying to stop the lot of them. The main quest of this album is for three heroes (including Dargor from the earlier saga) to retrieve the mystical book of Erian. As you can plainly see, Luca Turilli’s storytelling really hasn’t improved. Thankfully, his songwriting has recovered.
The first thing you notice when diving into this album is that the guitars have returned. After a short spoken word and instrumental introduction, the first full song on the album starts with a speedy riff that doesn’t let up through the entire album. “Sea Of Fate” is Rhapsody Of Fire’s way of saying “We are back!” Alex Holzwarth’s thunderous drumming and Fabio Lione’s soaring vocals take over what is a fantastic album opener. It was nice to hear some instrumental solos again too, after they took a backseat on the two previous releases.
This emphasis on the guitar is kept up through the next two songs. “Crystal Moonlight” kind of gets lost because it falls in between “Sea Of Fate,” and “Reign Of Terror,” which are two of the best songs on the album. “Reign Of Terror” is one of my favorite Rhapsody Of Fire songs from any era of the band. It begins with a blazing guitar riff and even includes a mini-solo to start the song. What really makes this song impressive however, are Fabio Lione’s vocals. They start with anger and power, and by the second verse are openly harsh. This is the harshest Lione’s vocals had ever been (up to this point), and they really add that extra punch that makes this song fantastic. Combine Lione’s vocals with another powerful solo by Turilli, and “Reign Of Terror” is the best Rhapsody Of Fire song since “Wisdom Of The Kings,” from 1998’s Symphony Of Enchanted Lands.
No Rhapsody Of Fire album would be complete without a ballad or two (sadly), and this album has two. The first, “Danza Di Fuoco E Ghiaccio” is one of those combination folky-ballady songs that Rhapsody Of Fire likes to write. It begins with a somewhat bouncy flute and acoustic guitar before morphing into a soft, derivative acoustic ballad. It’s definitely the weak point of the album. The second ballad is, at least, a power ballad: “Lost In Cold Dreams.” Lione’s vocals are more impressive this time around, and the “power” part of the power ballad is nicely done, though I’m still not a huge fan. There is a segment featuring dual lead guitars that makes the song interesting near the end, but it is short lived and overshadowed by the ballad portion of the song. The fact that these two track appear just two tracks apart from each other doesn’t help, especially since they surround the fantastic “Raging Starfire.”
As you may have guessed by now, I really like riffs in the style of songs like “Holy Thunderforce”, “Reign Of Terror”, “From Chaos To Eternity”, and “Sea Of Fate.” I feel like Turilli is at his finest when playing riffs in this style, and when they are used, they add a punch to the songs that I don’t feel from the band otherwise. “Raging Starfire” follows this formula beautifully, with a fantastic riff that hits you right over the head. The epic choirs used behind Lione’s vocals are in their rightful place, and it has all the speed and power that a good Rhapsody Of Fire song should have.
The best part about the penultimate track, “On The Way To Ainor,” is the lengthy instrumental section that takes up more than half the song. Featuring a rare bass solo and lengthy guitar solos (first lead, then dual), I enjoying sitting back and listening to the instrumentalists strut their stuff. I like to think that with this song, Turilli was completely throwing out everything that stunk about Triumph Or Agony. Whereas on the former album you could not find a guitar if you listened to the album a dozen times, here Turilli reminds all Rhapsody Of Fire fans that not only does he write many of their songs, but that he can also play the guitar very well, and the result is great fun to listen to.
The epic title track again concludes the album following the standard Rhapsody Of Fire formula. As usual, this one runs a bit long. Though only just over 11 minutes, it takes awhile to get going with a spoken word introduction that lasts nearly two minutes, and an orchestral instrumental portion that lasts well past that mark itself. The opening guitar riff makes liberal use of harmonics, but I think it is a nice touch. Turilli is normally a very clean guitar player that avoids harmonics, so when he uses them it adds a rare edge to the music that I really like, and he keeps it up throughout the rest of the song. The vocal melodies are strong, and there is another impressive instrumental section with both keyboard and guitar solos. While it does run on a bit, it doesn’t offend as much as many other Rhapsody (Of Fire) epics.
Overall, The Frozen Tears Of Angels is a fantastic return to form. Rhapsody Of Fire wisely abandoned the things that did not work on Triumph Or Agony. I had to convince myself to buy this album when it first came out because of my previous disappointment, but was ultimately glad of it. Though it isn’t quite good enough to stand at the pinnacle of the Rhapsody discography (the two ballads really hold it back), it is still an outstanding release, and a sign of even better things to come.
Graham’s Rating: 4.0 out of 5