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RHAPSODY OF FIRE Legendary Years

By Daniel Höhr, European Correspondent
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 10:49 AM

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Legendary Years

AFM Records, 2017

I have to admit that the whole epic, symphonic, eternal, immortal, sword-swinging, dragon-killing power metal plus orchestra and choir sort of thing is not my cup of tea, never has been and probably never will be.

Exceptions prove the rule, as they say, and in my case I found the exception that would prove the Daniel-doesn't-like-epic-power-metal rule in my post box in late April 2002. It came in the shape of a promo CD of RHAPSODY's album Power Of The Dragonflame (in those days you would actually be sent a promotional CD of a new album together with an info sheet rather than a download link). I sort of sensed what the general direction of the album was, so I was first reluctant to give it a listen and the CD plus info sheet ended up somewhere in the mess that would cover my desk in those days. However, I did play it a few days later. There are albums that you remember listening for the first time and Power Of The Dragonflame was such an album for me. I took to it immediately, mainly because of the originality of the compositions, Fabio Lione's vocals and the Italian sentiment of the album. I gave it a 4.5 Out Of 5.0 REVIEW and would spend the coming months playing it over and over again while stocking up on other RHAPSODY albums.

After the release of the successful Power Of The Dragonflame, there came the much acclaimed Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret, a project Christopher Lee was involved in. In 2006 the band had to change their name to RHAPSODY OF FIRE due to tradenark issues. Since 2011 the band has undergone several line-up changes including the departure of guitarist Luca Turilli and bassist Patrice Guers in 2012 as well as singer Fabio Lione and drummer Alex Holzwarth in 2016.

When key personnel leave a band, there are usually big shoes left to fill. In the case of RHAPSODY OF FIRE, Fabio Lione and Luca Turilli left oversized ones to be filled by their successors. A daunting task, one would think, for the new line-up, which consists of Giacomo Voli (vocals), Alex Staropoli (keyboards), Roby de Micheli (guitars), Alessandro Sala (Bass)and Manu Lotter (bass).

The new album, Legendary Years, is a best-of album featuring 14 selected tracks from the first five years of the 1997 to 2002 era of RHAPSODY, re-recorded by the new line-up, an ambitious and audacious project that takes a lot of balls for the new personnel in general and for singer Giacomo Voli in particular as the fans will invariably compare the new recordings to the original ones on the band's first five albums Legendary Tales (1997), Symphony Of Enchanted Lands (1998), Dawn Of Victory (2000), Rain Of A Thousand Flames (2001) and Power Of The Dragonflame (2002).

To cut a long story short: the new RHAPSODY OF FIRE line-up absolutely nails it, especially Giacomo Voli masters Fabio Lione's vocal lines with flying colours. His vocal range must be about the same as Fabio Lione's but his timbre is different. He sounds more metal than Lione but lacks the operatic element. Neither does Voli attempt to copy Lione's style. Instead, he takes a fresh approach to the sometimes horrendously difficult and extremely multifaceted vocals that encompass ultra-melodic and soaring lines, high notes that pose a serious threat to your window panes as well as black metal style growls. Take for example the ninth track on Legendary Years, “When Demons Awake”, musically the most ambitious song on Power Of The Dragonflame, which includes the aforementioned black metal growls as well as uber-melodic, almost operatic vocal parts. His approach works perfectly and if you didn't know it was a re-recording with a different singer, you wouldn't notice because Giacomo Voli adopts those songs as his own. Another example of how well his approach works is the ballad “Winds Of Destiny” from Symphony Of Enchanted Lands. He pretty much adopts Lione's phrasing but at the same time he puts his own stamp on the song. Thus it sounds neither like a cover version nor does it have a completely new or different character. The same applies to all the other tracks on the album.

And this is also what the other new musicians do. The new incarnation of Italy's prime “epic symphonic metal” band shed a new light on the material with the effect that it sounds fresher and more modern.

It was not only that band and the vocals that were rerecorded. The choirs, the orchestral parts (mainly keyboards, I presume) and the various classical instruments such as a baroque band complete with harpsichord playing in the style of the Italian baroque composer Antionio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741) and which is most prominently featured on “The Dark Tower Of Abyss” were also entirely newly recorded. RHAPSODY's music is definitely worth paying attention to because there is so much happening and thanks to the new recordings, the superb production by Alex Staropoli and the excellent mix and mastering by Sebastian "Seeb" Levermann, you will hear even more and different details than on the original recordings.

Legendary Years is not only a must-have for RHAPSODY OF FIRE fans or anybody who wants to get into their music. It is also recommended to anyone who likes – or even dislikes – symphonic power metal and who wants to experience a superb band whose music encompasses and combines a vast variety of influences, from Vivaldi to opera to power metal to black metal.

This album also makes you look forward to a new RHAPSODY OF FIRE studio album with completely new material and I think this may also be the point of this release.

5.0 Out Of 5.0

Grab a copy of Legendary Years in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.

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