|Review: Rhapsody of Fire - Dark Wings of Steel|
|Dark Wings of Steel|
Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2013
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: December 2, 2013
Reviewed by: Christopher Foley
for:Dark Wings of Steel
I'm sure those who care are clued up on the score with Rhapsody Of Fire by now, what with the amicable splitting of camps between Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli. Anyways, for my money I'd say this here is the real ROF, what with Fabio Lione and the Holzwarth brothers still in tow. Filling the vacant guitar position is Roberto De Micheli who fanboys will likely know from the pre-Rhapsody moniker Thundercross. Wouldn't it have been better in the long run if they'd just stuck to the Thundercross name? It would have saved a lot of name changes, and later confusion, but I digress; let's see how Dark Wings Of Steel has shaped up.
If the exodus of Luca Turilli has spelled one thing for ROF, it's the lack of their brazen "Hollywood" approach. Never have I heard the band so grounded, although I wouldn't want you to believe them to be bereft of their identifying symphonic approach. No, there's still a good deal of epic bravado here, only, integrated in a more honest, humble fashion. The neo-classical elements are somewhat reigned in too, with Roberto's guitar approach more riff oriented as opposed to the Luca's speedy, buzzing tremolo lines, and sweeping pyrotechnics.
I do wish the production would allow for a stronger rhythm guitar presence, as Roberto is putting forth quality material throughout. At times, the rhythms do rise up, although for the most part they lose their footing under the sheer weight of Staropoli's orchestration and keyboards. Whilst on the subject of rhythm, the Holzwarth lads cook up some of their more interesting work. There's a lot less emphasis on the "Holy Thunderforce" speedy fare, and replacing it are deep groves, resonating through album, with highlights such as "My Sacrifice" and the fist-pumping "Angel Of Light" proudly displaying this.
Starapoli's keyboards and orchestration are the definite driving force here, along with Fabio's superb tenor. Again, there isn't all that much in the way of pyrotechnics, with the whole album keeping to a decidedly understated package. The songwriting is put first and foremost, and crafted in a more traditional power metal manner if anything. Even Fabio, who on their last album was brilliantly unhinged, sticks to what he's always done best; delivering those soaring vocal lines, and rolled phrases in a professional, warm manner. There isn't much in the way of his aggressive growls either, with any of those elements saved for backing lines here.
Of course it wouldn't be a ROF album without some fast numbers, and opener "Rising From Tragic Flames" retains the most in common with their prior efforts. Thematically this is still very much what you'd expect from the band, though the lack of a tying, high fantasy storyline is sadly absent. I kind of miss Dar-Kunor, but who knows; maybe one day we'll return for another hurrah. Thankfully there are still plenty of angels, flames, and magic to sate those with the fantastical appetite.
I can certainly appreciate the direction the band are headed here. The material feels honestly conceived and dramatic enough to remain in touch with prior output. I definitely think this will be a transitional album for the band, much like Triumph Or Agony was. I also think Roberto is a great addition to the band, and in an ideal world I'd love for him to have an effect similar to that of Stratovarius' Matias Kupiainen. For now though, fans should approach this with an open mind, and brace themselves for something new. Whilst the material hasn't completely had its way with me, I do feel as though Dark Wings Of Steel is a breath of fresh air for the band. Some of the goofy charm from the past may be lacking, but the future looks bright for Rhapsody Of Fire.
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