Rhapsody of Fire – Legendary Years (AFM Records)Thursday, 8th June 2017
Coining the term ‘Hollywood Metal’ (or cinematic if you prefer), the current incarnation for Rhapsody of Fire felt the need to revisit their 1997-2002 material, using the latest recruits on vocals and drums for Legendary Years. Keyboardist Alex Staropoli spearheads the decision to record these fourteen songs anew, stating in the bio that ‘for some musicians and fans, what is part of the past should not be touched. We do not agree.’ Risky and bold for sure – especially considering the impact 1997’s Legendary Tales made on the power/ symphonic metal landscape at the time. As such, how does the overall output fare against the original recordings?
If given a toe to toe comparison for Giacomo Voli versus Fabio Lione when it comes to range, delivery, and execution, the nod is going to go slightly in the latter’s favor. Giacomo is no slouch, able to convey the operatic and neoclassical nuances adequately on “Knightrider of Doom” just as much as theatrical flair for the ballad “Winds of Destiny” – but there’s just something slightly more majestic about Fabio’s phrasing and control during “Emerald Sword” or “Holy Thunderforce” that tips the scales. As for drummer Manu Lotter, there didn’t seem to be that much variance from the older recordings in his tempos or fills, so we’ll consider that an even trade off. Production advances have improved the choir/orchestral choices on hand, especially in the capable hands for Rhapsody of Fire – giving robust folk-ish harmonic flourishes during “Legendary Tales” and the monumental “Dargor, Shadowlord of the Black Mountain” an opportunity to enhance the original takes for sure.
On the other side though, do the long-term Rhapsody of Fire followers want to hear updated versions of their favorite classics? To many, it’s sacrilege to attempt to usurp originals that probably have been played thousands of times in favored listening devices or on stages worldwide. It’s even questionable whether former guitarist Luca Turilli had any say so in this being done – being a co-writer or full composer for much of this material. As such, Legendary Years probably belongs best in the hands of followers recently discovering the band who haven’t bought the back catalog – while the ardent supporters sit this one out to await the next epic, symphonic power studio outing.