In order to listen to Rhapsody (of Fire)’s new collection of re-recorded songs “Legendary Years”, I had to first pull out my dusty copy of “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” and bask in the glory of that album cover. In the late 90s, as a teenage fan of power metal, fantasy, and role playing games; in the era of dial-up internet, Rhapsody (without the “of Fire” back then) was manna from heaven. Now to alleviate the massive confusion I just caused, I’m not talking about the Real Rhapsody streaming service being mana from heaven (it wasn’t): I’m talking about the symphonic power metal band.
You see, because we were all very, VERY confused about the now defunct streaming service and the symphonic power metal band with a similar name, Rhapsody (the band) changed their name to Rhapsody of Fire. Anyway, again, no one cared about Real Rhapsody, everyone (should have) cared about the band, but I digress.
So back to the music. Where was I? Yes, the CD: Popping the CD in, I found myself instantly singing along with my favorite choruses. “So,” I asked, “what’d they need to re-record these songs for?”
Listening to many of the songs off “Legendary Years” back to back with the originals, there are two main differences: the LOUDNESS WARS (I feel the need to type that in all caps, since it most accurately conveys the fact that the LOUDNESS WARS basically just turned the CAPS LOCK on for music) and the new singer. I’m sure that there are purists out there who are about to reach through the internet tubes to strangle me, but I’m actually a really big fan of Giacomo Voli’s work on these songs. This is largely a matter of preference, but I find that Voli has a fuller sound to his voice, and his accent is less apparent in his singing voice, especially on the softer segments, though there is a bit of charm lost. While not as immediately noticeable, all of these songs were also originally recorded with guitarist and primary composer Luca Turilli who is also no longer in the band. There are some subtle differences in the guitar work, but not much that’s worth noting.
The LOUDNESS WARS, again, presents a matter of preference. This is power metal, and symphonic power metal at that, so the heavier songs are almost “brickwalled” by nature, and since the dynamic shifts are typically more extreme — it’s either a ballad, with acoustic guitar, piano (or harpsichord), and pensive orchestration or it’s full orchestral, full on, double bass METAL — so there really isn’t much lost in the dynamics of the songs. There are also definitely aspects of the mixing and performance that were subtly changed or improved. For the most part, these are things that you notice on back to back listens, or on your favorite tracks that you know by heart. To casual listeners, the primary difference is the new singer.
As far as the songs themselves, they all come from Rhapsody (of Fire)’s first five albums, covering 1997 through 2002. I don’t think I could have picked them better myself. It’s a selection of what Rhapsody (of Fire) did best; explosive, power metal anthems, like “Dawn of Victory” and “Emerald Sword” as well as more progressive tracks like “Beyond the Gates of Infinity” and “Legendary Tales.” For seasoned listeners, this is a great nostalgia trip, and for new listeners, who may have had no idea that the band used to be just “Rhapsody” and not “Rhapsody of Fire” — or those who have never heard the band at all — this serves as a perfect introduction to the band’s golden years, and, in my opinion, their best material. There is one thing missing though, if this is your first introduction to Rhapsody (of Fire) – go find all of the album art from these albums. It is the perfect complement to the epic, over-the-top, sounds of Rhapsody (of Fire).
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