Rhapsody – Power Of The Dragonflame
From the opening chord of “In Tenebris,” the listener should be prepared for a grandiose, catchy, and powerful experience on Rhapsody’s Power Of The Dragonflame. This album marks the conclusion of their original 5 part saga about the Emerald Sword, and is therefore the climax of the story. Rhapsody does a phenomenal job on this album of just that: sounding absolutely climactic. Beginning like all Rhapsody albums (with an instrumental introduction), this song sets the tone well with some minor key orchestrations underneath an “epic choir”.
Power Of The Dragonflame is full of excellent songs from front to back. As you may have noticed from my reviews of the other Rhapsody albums, I like what I call “Rhapsody heavy.” That is, when Rhapsody are playing quintessentially metal songs. I like the shredding, I like the heavy riffs, and I like when they play songs with a bit of edge to them. I’m not a fan of the slower, softer Rhapsody you hear at times. That is why I liked Dawn Of Victory so much, and why I also like Power Of The Dragonflame. This album is completely relentless from beginning to end.
The first full song, “Knightrider Of Doom,” starts with a blistering riff that descends the fretboard, complete with artificial harmonics and all. This is one of the faster songs on the album, and it never lets up. It has the perfect speed and power for a Rhapsody song, though the vocal melodies during the verse leave something to be desired. When playing the song, it is more or less impossible not to get swept up in the chorus, the epic orchestra behind it ensures that it’s very memorable.
Following is the title track. One of the best songs on the album, Rhapsody combines many of their best elements to make a very complete song. The verses have a harsh bite to them while still being melodic, and the chorus is particularly good. The use of orchestral arrangements really accentuate the melody here. The opening riff is hooky, and the solo that begins midway through the song is top notch. Despite being shot, this song manages to present a very broad soundscape, showing Rhapsody at their best.
The next track on the album, “The March Of The Swordmaster,” is a slowed-down tune which begins quietly with an acoustic march before turning into a mid-paced metal song. The vocals here are very angry, and while Fabio Lione does a good job of pulling off an unusual style of singing, this song remains fairly standard Rhapsody. It isn’t a bad song, but it does little to distinguish it from other, better songs on the album. The march rhythm that keeps up throughout the song makes you want to pump your fist, but that’s about it.
“When Demons Awake,” is the biggest standout track on the album, because the vocals are… almost harsh. They aren’t quite the black metal vocals you will hear on later Rhapsody Of Fire albums like From Chaos To Eternity, but they are far harsher than the vocals in any Rhapsody song to this point. I think people will view this song in a love/hate light. As I’ve already said, I like Rhapsody best when their songs have a bit of edge to them, and I really enjoy the vocals here. This is one of my favorite songs on the album, though it isn’t a song for everyone. “Agony Is My Name” is another gem, with broader appeal because, unlike “When Demons Awake,” there are no harsh vocals. The song still kicks though, starting again with the opening riff. Lione’s vocals soar, and the “epic choir” has its moments as well. The best part about “Agony Is My Name” however, is the chorus. Rhapsody keep up the darker, angrier tone throughout the song, yet as with most of the other songs, still manage to make the melody shine through.
The obligatory ballad on this album is completely in Italian. I must say, after seeing Rhapsody live, that I have a better opinion of “Lamento Eroico” than I previously had, but then my general dislike of Rhapsody ballads should be well known by now. Not only do I not understand the lyrics, but other than the final chorus, most of this song is a slow and tame, without even orchestral accompaniment. The very end of the song has its moments, because it brings back the epic orchestra, and gives the outro a kind of cinematic tone. The rest of the song is a fairly run-of-the-mill ballad however, and it hurts the feel of an otherwise good album.
“Steelgods Of The Last Apocalypse” returns to the form of the rest of the album, while also managing to be more uplifting. The orchestral arrangements that accompany the vocals are largely responsible for this, but it makes for a nice contrast. Most of the other songs on the album are harsh, angry, and remain so much of the way through, while this song gives some happy and upbeat tones, while still keeping with the general mood and theme of the album. It manages to combine later Rhapsody stylings with sounds from early Rhapsody albums, to good effect, though the song is unable to distinguish itself strongly from others on the album. Lione still manages to work in shouted vocals and harsher tones as well. “The Pride Of The Tyrant” has one of the most uplifting choruses on the album. You can tell how the tone of the tunes here take the story Rhapsody is trying to tell and develop it towards the climax. The guitar work on this song isn’t what it is on some of the others on the album, either in the riffs or the solos, though there is some nice keyboard shredding halfway through. The verse becomes repetitive but the chorus, complete with the synth horns and climactic sound are excellent.
This brings us to “Gargoyles, Angels Of Darkness,” which is both the final song on this album, and the last song and climax of Rhapsody’s first saga. This is the song they have been building through 5 albums to get to, and it is the longest song they have written thus far. It begins with a classical guitar section played not by Turilli but by guest musicians. Once the classical introduction is over, the “metal” part begins (with Turilli back on lead guitar), though the opening classical theme repeats itself throughout the song. The epic suffers from the same problem as many Rhapsody epics – it is way too long. There is too much repetition, there are too many instrumental breaks, and the song begins to drag after you get about 11 or 12 minutes into it. There are highlights however; Rhapsody does a good job of laying out the “epic, cinematic” sound they are looking for, and the solo that starts about 10 minutes into the song is perhaps the most impressive that Luca Turilli has ever played.
Power Of The Dragonflame is an excellent album. It is one of the better albums in the discography of Rhapsody, and is the best album until From Chaos To Eternity, some 10 years later. It brings the original Rhapsody story to a close in a very strong way (much stronger than it began). Although subsequent albums would be sequels and prequels to this story, the story of the Emerald Sword is the one that Rhapsody is most known for, and so it is only natural that this album and Dawn Of Victory are very iconic for the band. Yet the album is also experimental. I feel, after listening to it again to write this review, that it is like a preview to what Rhapsody would try on From Chaos To Eternity. They were experimenting with harsher vocals, angrier songs and different tones, and it worked very well. Dawn Of Victory is better because the epic is stronger and it does not have a ballad, and From Chaos To Eternity is also better, but Power Of The Dragonflame remains a very strong album from a band in their prime.
Graham’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5