Rhapsody Of Fire (originally just known as Rhapsody) have been at the forefront of symphonic or melodic operatic power Metal since they were formed in the late 90s by guitarist Luca Turilli and keyboard player Alex Staropoli.
After ten studio albums (the last five were part of the 'Dark Secret' saga, featuring narration from Christopher Lee), the band amicably split in two with Luca going his own way. Rhapsody of Fire continue with aplomb, fronted by the powerful lungs of Fabio Lione.
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After the success of the 'From Chaos To Eternity Live' set, 'Dark Wings Of Steel' is the first post Luca studio set, returning to the single guitar format.
The intro 'Vis Divina' is quite Gregorian, building to 'Rising From Tragic Flames' which kicks off with some fast guitar from Roby De Micheli. The emphasis is immediately more gothic and layered operatic vocals, and while the keyboards are as prominent as ever, there is less orchestration than before.
'Angel Of Light', running to over seven minutes, is another very strong track with a touch of Maiden. The soft moments vocalist Lione handles as wonderfully as the more power moments. There are some chunky riffs too.
Most of the tracks here run to five minutes or more and the range of sounds and moods throughout the album works well; there's a mix of feelings with shred and power Metal, and the virtuoso keyboard work from Alex stands out as always.
This is, as it stands, as superb and brilliant (in terms of both sound and performance) as power Metal gets. Yet it is less symphonic than previous outings and, while it is still classic Rhapsody, it has lost a touch of identity.
Even so, one of the albums of the year, and meeting Alex face to face to discuss the album a definite highlight of my year. You cab hear hear the interview in the player here...