RHAPSODY OF FIRE is a name on the tongue of anyone appreciative of Symphonic and Power Metal, and the many related offshoots. Following the departure of the band's figurehead, Luca Turilli, who ended up forming his own RHAPSODY, unlike QUEENSRYCHE, the split was amicable, and the two 'RHAPSODIES' are treated as parallel projects. Post-Turilli RHAPSODY OF FIRE is no-less majestic, grand and pioneering on their new release, "Dark Wings of Steel". This is the first album released after his departure, and also marks the return of the use of one guitarist, and will therefore be, I think, one of this decade's most anticipated releases; it was certainly one of mine.
Naturally, the album begins with an epically symphonic intro, leading seamlessly into "Rising From The Tragic Flames", which does indeed rise above in a blaze of glorious speed metal, that also incorporates heavy chugging passages and sweeping, melodious, choral chants. Fabio Lione's utterly perfect Metal voice is again on par, and the band's now-solo guitarist, Roberto, proves he up to the task of recording both exquisite rhythm and lead parts. "Tears of Pain" feels more like a Progressive Metal track, and I therefore of course love the hell out of it. It's stunted, syncopated riffs are highly characteristic, and its verses contain some of the best vocals from Fabio I have ever heard. "My Sacrifice" is the longest track on the album, at just over 8 minutes, and is one of my favorites, dominated by a rolling, percussive riff, that reminds me a lot of Hansen-era ANUBIS GATE. The track is full of gorgeous guitar and keyboard melodies that complement the enormous range of notes hit by Fabio on this one track alone, and is of course capped off with a virtuosic solo.
"Custode Di Pace" is the archetypal, heartfelt, largely-acoustic track, with a twist; all the lyrics are sung in Italian; a language that Lione's voice is perfectly suited for, being Italian himself. The album's title track is much more riff-focused, and the arrangement is incredibly up-beat and is akin to what I remember of old KAMELOT. Symphonic and choral tracking is used masterfully to accentuate the chorus, and together with the masterful use of riff and chord progression, evokes some truly beautiful imagery. "Sad Mystic Moon" marks the end of the journey, and is almost dirge-like in its arrangement, with a rolling thunder of a riff churned through a slow tempo that transitions into a smooth, mid-speed gallop, aided by the wistfulness of atmospherics that flows into an extremely catchy chorus.
I must confess that I had actually not properly listened to RHAPSODY OF FIRE for a while now, and I'm already regretting it, because everything about this album blows me away; as a die-hard fan of Power Metal, that's quite hard to do.