Rhapsody – Rain Of A Thousand Flames
There is some debate amongst Rhapsody fans over whether Rain Of A Thousand Flames is another full length studio album, or “just an EP.” At over 40 minutes long, it is certainly a long EP, though it is still a bit short for an album (especially for Rhapsody). Personally, I consider it to be an EP since it is not essential to the main storyline of the other Rhapsody albums, because it is only 41 minutes long, and because much of the music is instrumental. Ultimately however, because it contains 7 full songs of new material, it will be included with my review of the other Rhapsody studio albums, and the EP versus LP distinction is ultimately unimportant.
The album starts off strong with the title track, “Rain Of A Thousand Flames.” Despite having possibly the worst music video ever made, the song itself is a strong, albeit short one. Immediately you can feel the dark tone the album is going to take. As I mentioned, the story is somewhat separate from the prior Rhapsody catalog, because instead of focusing on the hero and his quest to cleanse the land of evil, it focuses on the evil dark lord and the atrocities he is committing against the people. As a result, this album features more anger and more dissonance. This trend was alluded to on Dawn Of Victory (and quite successfully), and would be continued on Power Of The Dragonflame, but nowhere would it be more apparent than on this EP. The lyrics, particularly on “Rain Of A Thousand Flames,” are quite violent. That said, the title track is one of the best tracks on the album. Despite the song’s dark mood, it is well written and very fast. Turilli and Staropoli each take their turns soloing, and the tone of the album is set.
“Rain Of A Thousand Flames” is followed by “Deadly Omen,” a short, somber instrumental, mostly a solo piano with some brief orchestral moments. It isn’t particularly noteworthy, though the music fits well with the title of the song. It gives the listener the experience of feeling like something bad is about to happen, which was pretty clearly the band’s intent. I dislike the lack of guitar, but Staropoli’s piano playing is well done. For an instrumental it isn’t bad, though its only purpose seems to be to set a somber and apprehensive mood.
The lengthy “Queen Of The Dark Horizons” is the next track, and I guess a minion of the dark lord that is wreaking havoc all over the land. This song, like the previous two, has a very dark tone. Gone are the major keys and happy moments from earlier Rhapsody songs. However, this song in particular is too long for its own good. The introduction is fully repeated, lasting almost 3 minutes. Midway through the song is a quieter, softer portion that gives way to a cinematic and epic sounding finale. The last 6 minutes of this song are easily the best: a very impressive combination of cinematic sounds and power metal.
“Tears Of A Dying Angel” starts with a brief segment of orchestration and choral vocals before becoming 4 minutes of droll storytelling. Rhapsody had used spoken word in songs before, but never to this length, and after awhile it really becomes distracting. The voice acting is cheesy and the story the band is trying to tell isn’t altogether clear from the spoken word segments. It is mostly just a synopsis of all the evils perpetrated by the dark lord Akron. If you want to listen to music, just skip this track. “Elnor’s Magic Valley” is a folkish kind of jig featuring a lone violin. It’s only a minute-and-a-half, and sounds good though it isn’t particularly noteworthy. “The Poem’s Evil Page” is another short song, though only the first part of it is a song. It ends in a quieter, instrumental section featuring a small flute. I’m not a huge fan of this particular song either, because it doesn’t really make a lot of sense, either as a metal song or as an instrumental.
The final song on the album, another lengthy offering, is “The Wizard’s Last Rhymes.” This song is openly based off of the 4th movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony in e minor, to good effect. This song has some interesting vocal melodies and again is very dark. It is perhaps the strongest track on the album, and probably the one with the most replay value, particularly if you’re a fan of Dvorak.
It is hard to give a rating to this album because of what it is. It is not a complete album made up of standard songs. Much of the album is either instrumental or spoken word, and rating those in the same way as you would rate a traditional album made up of traditional songs is difficult. If you want a complete Rhapsody experience, you should certainly own this album. The songs that are on the album (notably the first and last tracks) are very enjoyable, and if you care about the Rhapsody saga, you will be interested in the elements of the story they introduce with this offering. You should also know what to expect; you aren’t going to get a traditional piece of metal, even by Rhapsody’s standards. Much of the album cannot be listened to on its own without being nonsensical, so I would not recommend listening to it piecemeal. Give yourself 41 minutes to listen to the entire album straight through, and you will come to appreciate what Rhapsody is trying to do with their music.
Graham’s Rating: 3.25 out of 5
Please note: video is official, but perhaps NSFW