Rhapsody Of Fire – Triumph Or Agony
After a battle over trademark issues that began after the release of the 2004 Rhapsody album, Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II, Rhapsody was forced to change their name to Rhapsody Of Fire. Triumph Or Agony marks the first album (of 4 so far) released under the Rhapsody Of Fire moniker prior to the band’s 2012 split. Unfortunately, a new name did not change the musical direction of Rhapsody Of Fire. The writing was on the wall with Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II, with its emphasis on orchestral arrangements and keyboards, and the de-emphasis on guitars and drums, and unfortunately for the band, and for the listeners of this album, this trend comes to forefront with this album. Rhapsody (Of Fire)’s trend of good albums comes to a screeching halt on Triumph Or Agony.
This album marks a sort of prequel to the first five Rhapsody Of Fire albums, as it tells the history and the story of the Emerald Sword. I’m not sure why the band thought it was necessary to explain the story, but if you’ve been following along, that is what to expect. Getting a full grasp of the story would require listening to the album however, an exercise that usually proves unexciting and tiresome. Though my usual habit is to provide a track by track analysis, I’m not going to force myself or anyone reading this to sit through what would be the painful exercise of analyzing every track on this album. Let me instead divide the songs into two categories; good songs (those on the album worth listening to) and bad songs (those songs on the album that are better off skipped).
Highlighting the good songs on this album is the tremendous title track. This song is a hallmark of their live show, and it starts this album off well. The melodies are very well written, and Fabio Lione’s vocals flow excellently throughout the track, becoming the highlight of the song. Turilli’s solo here is short but sings very melodically, and the chorus is catchy and bombastic enough to make this song very enjoyable. Immediately following the title track is “Heart Of The Darklands,” which is the only song to feature a prominent guitar riff. The opening riff resembles something off of either Dawn Of Victory or Power Of The Dragonflame, before evolving into one of the fastest songs on the album: overall a catchy, Rhapsody-esque song with interesting guitars and a good, catchy melody.
Unfortunately, the first two tracks are where the listenable section of the album ends and the drudging, dreary, boring, slow, plodding and tiresome (get the picture?) section of the album begins. It’s usually where I stop listening, but since this is a review of the entire album, I’m pushing on like a champion. The album is pockmarked by numerous quasi-ballad, quasi-folk songs, like a bad imitation of Blind Guardian. Tracks like “Old Age Of Wonders” and “Il Canto Del Vento” present a softer side to Rhapsody Of Fire that just doesn’t work. “Son Of Pain” tries to be an epic ballad, and nearly succeeds briefly (during the chorus), but is mostly just a plain ballad, and not a particularly good one. The drums on “The Myth Of The Holy Sword” build up expectations, which then become another slow, plodding, and uninteresting song. “Silent Dream” is, at least, a metal song, but without a catchy melody or powerful instrumental section, it kind of gets lost amidst the sea of crap that surrounds it. “Bloody Red Dungeons” is much the same way: a slow paced, barely metal song, without any catchy instrumentals or fun melodies, and it really leaves you wondering how much of this album was just filler material.
The worst song on the album is also the longest. This coveted award goes to the epic, “The Mystic Prophecy Of The Demonknight.” It drags, then drags, and then drags some more. At least Turilli put guitars in, but they aren’t very exciting. About nine and half minutes into the song, there is a brief glimpse of brilliance when the guitars speed up to power metal cruise velocity and Fabio Lione’s vocals get darker and much harsher. If this part of the song had been made its own song, it would have been great. Unfortunately, it is but a part of a larger song. A larger song that drags on far too long, spends most of its time only casually resembling symphonic power metal, and isn’t even able to redeem itself by having a fantastic guitar solo, like “Gargoyles, Angels Of Darkness” on Power Of The Dragonflame. Parts of the songs are very ballad like, and they stink too. Listening to this song amounts to listening to 16 and a half minutes of music for two minutes of good songwriting which occurs halfway through.
The album concludes with “Dark Reign Of Fire,” but perhaps it would be more properly titled “Boring Reign Of Boring Boredom.” Lione’s vocals are the only thing worth hearing on this track, and it (boringly) marks a poor conclusion to a poor (and mostly boring) album. Rhapsody Of Fire really dropped the ball on this release, the first under a new name, and the last Rhapsody Of Fire album for almost 5 years (though admittedly, this wasn’t entirely their fault). On some versions of the album, a bonus track is included called “Defenders Of Gaia.” This track should have been included on the album because if it had been, it would be the best one. For some reason (probably related to the story Turilli is trying to tell), this song was left off the album to the albums detriment. “Defenders Of Gaia” does show that Rhapsody Of Fire still had some creativity left, and some desire to write real power metal songs.
This is not an album I would recommend to anyone. I love Rhapsody Of Fire as much as anyone, I own all their albums, and seeing them live for the first time was one of the best moments of my life. I listen to their music constantly and have for many years. Some of my all time favorite albums are Rhapsody Of Fire albums, and thankfully Rhapsody Of Fire would redeem themselves with future albums, but Triumph Or Agony is an album better off skipped. It is easily the weakest album in the Rhapsody Of Fire discography, and features very few of the Rhapsody Of Fire qualities that make them a great band (at times). Gone is the harshness and anger of Dawn Of Victory or Power Of The Dragonflame. Gone are the catchy melodies of either Symphony Of Enchanted Lands albums. What’s left is a hollow shell of the things that make Rhapsody Of Fire truly great. This album is symphonic power metal without the power and, in many cases, without the metal. Why a band with two truly great instrumentalists in Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli decided to release an album that in either case has to be a chore to play is something I’ve never quite been able to figure out, but the fact remains that it happened. Go listen to something else (less boring), and stay away from this. Or listen to it, but don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Graham’s Rating: 1.5 out of 5