Rhapsody – Symphony Of Enchanted Lands

April 20, 2012 in Reviews by Graham

Rhapsody
Symphony of Enchanted Lands
1998

After a decent debut album, Italian power metal lords Rhapsody decided to get busy. They improved dramatically with their next release, Symphony Of Enchanted Lands. The sophomore Rhapsody album is an awesome example of the Italian style of power metal: with outlandish fantasy lyrics, soaring vocals, expert riffs, flawless solos, and the most epic chorus of all time (in my opinion), Symphony Of Enchanted Lands stands out as not only a great Rhapsody album, but a masterful power metal album.

It begins with “Epicus Furor,” a slowly-building instrumental track that leads into the album’s first song, “Emerald Sword.” From the beginning of this track, you can hear the improvement over their last offering. It begins with a guitar riff that will make you want to raise… well, your emerald sword. It also possesses one of the better choruses on any Rhapsody album (though it is a distant second to another song on this very album). As you raise your sword for the king, for the land, and for the mountains, Rhapsody moves you into the third song on the album, “Wisdom Of The Kings.”

Full disclosure: “Wisdom Of The Kings” is my favorite song of all time. In particular, the chorus is my favorite chorus all time, and I love just shouting it randomly whenever it pops into my head (which is often). As those that know me can attest, it is something of an obsession. It has everything you want in a Rhapsody song: a catchy melody, an epic sound, and an abundance of keyboards and synth horns. It also has dragons. Even for those metalheads that do not quite share my enthusiasm for this song, it is one of the better songs on the album, and has excellent replay value (I myself have heard the song well over 700 times). If you don’t find yourself shouting “HOLY DRAAAAAAGONS” when the chorus picks up (at 1:47), you should perhaps try another genre.

Riding on the wind, Rhapsody shows you to their next song, a somber piece called “Heroes Of The Lost Valley.” A harpsichord and flute greet you, setting a very “walking through the forest” kind of tone. It is vastly superior to the instrumentals on Legendary Tales, and introduces another feature of Rhapsody albums: spoken word narration. The song ends with just such a narrative, and leads you right into “Eternal Glory”, which kicks in with, what else, but more synth horns! It has a very cinematic sound, and the instrumental introduction could easily fit right in with a fantasy movie soundtrack. Eventually Turilli’s guitar kicks in, and one of the albums more versatile songs takes off. This song combines lengthy orchestral arrangements, catchy riffs, and quiet verses into seven-and-a-half minutes of eternal glory that also boasts a catchy chorus. Afterwards, we find “Beyond The Gates Of Infinity,” a song that starts very mysteriously with quiet keyboards and a soft guitar riff underneath it, before picking up into a more traditional power metal song. Like “Eternal Glory,” the first verse is accompanied only by acoustic guitar and keyboards, holding the distortion in reserve for later in the song. Lione’s vocals are very well done in this track, as he shows off his darker side. And once again, “Beyond The Gates of Infinity” has a catchy chorus! Way to go Rhapsody!

The weakest song on the album is the ballad “Wings Of Destiny.” Though not necessarily a bad song, Lione’s vocals are the only part about it worth listening to. You get to hear his vocals without “metal” behind it, but instrumentally the song is unremarkable. This track is followed by the far-more-remarkable “The Dark Tower Of Abyss,” which really shows off the classical influences of Rhapsody. The introduction sounds like it could be part of an orchestral suite. Turilli’s guitars fit right in, to the point where it is almost hard to tell when they come in. The arpeggios he plays underneath Staropoli’s orchestral arrangements are nothing short of excellent. Rhapsody comes back to the orchestra many times throughout this song. It is relatively short on vocals and guitar, but the vocals and guitar there are are well done and timely. The highlight of the song however, is unquestionably Staropoli’s orchestral arrangements.

“Riding The Winds Of Eternity” is more traditional power metal with lots of alternate picking and speed picking. The vocals and instrumentals are well and good, but it is one of the less memorable tracks on the album. Like every other track however, it has a remarkably catchy chorus with a very “epic” sound. Finally, Rhapsody brings us to the final, title track, a 13 minute long epic. “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands” begins with another spoken word narration (it’s a sad story!) before picking up with a somber piano melody to set the mood. The piano and orchestra play together for about a minute, when Lione’s vocals come in accompanied only by a very ominous-sounding organ. It sets a very epic feeling, and continues to build throughout until finally, 4 minutes into the song, it becomes a metal song. Though the orchestra still takes center stage for quite awhile, the metal elements are great. There is a brief section in the middle with a female vocalist, before Turilli starts his solo, and perhaps my one complaint is that the solo is rather brief. Altogether however, “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands” is an excellent song, and the perfect close to an excellent album.

If you read my review of Legendary Tales, you might think that I’m not a Rhapsody fan, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love Rhapsody, I just prefer to give credit where it is due. And on Symphony of Enchanted Lands, Rhapsody is due a lot of credit. Almost everything I didn’t like about Legendary Tales is gone; there are no unnecessary instrumentals, no lousy ballads, a bounty of catchy choruses and riffs, and some outstanding vocals. That Rhapsody could improve so dramatically over the course of only one album is a testament to the hard work the band put in. “Emerald Sword” is still a live staple, and though “Wisdom Of The Kings” has fallen out of favor for their live show, it is still my favorite song.

If my Legendary Tales review (or the album itself) scared you off, do not let that turn you away from Rhapsody. Give Symphony Of Enchanted Lands a try, and see if your mind hasn’t been changed. It is a masterpiece of symphonic power metal.

Graham’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5