Rhapsody (of Fire) - Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II - The Dark Secret
After listening intensely to Rhapsody's new album for the past month it is slowly establishing itself as their best and most accomplished so far. Yes, Rhapsody are back, and this time they have taken a big leap forward by adding a real orchestra and a professional narrator, as well as a huge and masterful production, finally giving the band the grandiose sound they deserve. The Dark Secret is an album that doesn't show everything on the first listen. If the album strikes you as not particularly fantastic then you feel the same as I did when I gave it my first listen. This is one of those albums that opens up with time and each listen opens your ears to another layer in the huge sound. The music has so many layers and subtle details that it is hard to grasp it all first time around.

I will shortly comment on the story which takes place in the same realm as all the other Rhapsody albums some years after Power of the dragonflame ended. It is obvious that Luca is a Lords of the rings fan, but instead of making an almost parrallel story it would have been nice if the story had been more original as there are no surprises in this one.

One thing about Rhapsody that always annoyed me was their narrator who was way too dramatic and gave some songs on the earlier albums a very sheepish feel. This has at first been corrected with the addition of the well known Christopher Lee. For the record, I still think they should have used him for the narrations only and never have used his picture in the numerous ways they have. Sorry guys, it is only the narration that really works fantastic. The imagery falls flat. Anyway, onto the music...

Mr. Lee's utterly compelling voice is deep and chilling, setting the scene for another epic journey in the introduction track, The dark secret. It fits the music of the slowly rising orchestra brilliantly creating a special mood which is further enhanced by big choirs. Unholy Warcry explodes in your face with great power and sums up the entire album very well. Comparing to the version found on the EP I find this longer version much better. It has a better flow and the middle part gives a whole new epic atmosphere to the song. The orchestration is used to the max. here, constantly edging on the music, giving a sense of urgency and great drive. The aggressive guitar solo sounds strangely familiar so I guess it is a classical piece that has been translated.

Stopping to take a quick breath in an atmospheric passage and a theme that runs through the album, Never forgotten heroes continues the atmosphere very well. It sets the tempo slightly down but is no less bombastic and with the Rhapsody trademark, an absolutely huge chorus, it makes for another great song. A nod goes to the uplifting keyboard solo and I can easily forgive the unfortunate lyrics.

The instrumental Elgard's green valleys made me groan. Oh no, that voice was not Christopher Lee!?? Did they do it again? Yes, for some reason the band has decided to add another voice character in the form of Iras Algor played by Toby Eddington. When you have someone as professional as Christopher Lee, then why on earth not find a way for him to do all the voice acting? Ok, I'll get back to Toby when he makes his next appearance. The music has an upbeat adventurous mood, but overall it feels too simple and short, like something is missing. I think this one should either have been kept of the album, or expanded. Fx. the somewhat odd fitting flute part from Sacred Power... could have been used here. It feels like a natural extension of the melody.

The magic of the wizards dream is a ballad that is beautifully performed by Fabio. It has a sad undertone to it and the use of an opera voice, especially in the last chorus, adds something really cool to the song. The only downpoint is the rythm which is typical for a ballad. The orchestra and Fabio's voice goes a long way in creating a special feel, but when I focus on the drums it is like the rythm pulls the juice out of the song. More variation please!

Wish granted... The 10 minute long Erian's mystical rhymes shows how good the arrangements of Luca and Alex have become. Once the song gets going it keeps the intensity going all the way till the end. This song is just one example of how the orchestra and the band unite in a fantastic way. Fabio puts on a truly impressive performance as well. His voice has developed and on the entire album he sings very varied and always with a lot of feeling. Here he delivers the many captivating passages with great conviction. Catastrophically, in the end the song drops its majestic tone on the floor as Toby Eddington as the wizard Iras takes over the narration in a speech that makes me laugh out loud every time I hear it, especially the pronouncation of the words "incredible danger" sounds so funny. To me it is obvious that he cannot match Christopher Lee, so why use him in this way? I don't know. This part of the album reminds me of that old 80'ies fantasy movie, The Barbarians. Impossible to take serious, but hilarious nonetheless. Just too bad as it destroys the atmosphere of the album completely for me. My advice is to let the music speak for itself in the future if Mr. Lee is unavailable.

The last angels' call is incredibly catchy and caught my ears right away. It is one of those charging straight ahead songs, galloping headfirst into a memorable chorus that you will go around humming for weeks. A trademark Rhapsody song and one of the reasons why I find this band to be so special. The way the orchestra is used in the verses works very well too. The term Happy Metal is not that far off here.

Dragonland's rivers begins with some campy voice acting but luckily that is soon forgotten as the captivating music takes over. The song beautifully creates a lush atmosphere with a warm harpsichord sound, flute and Fabio's mesmerizing voice and ends up as an atmospheric mid tempo track. A welcome breather after the last two bursts of power.

Sacred power of raging winds has Christopher Lee making a welcome return, giving the song an ominous atmosphere right from the start. Unfortunately the big bad beast in the middle part doesn't sound very frightening, more like a sad old guy with a serious speech impediment. Like I mentioned earlier I think the flute part fits somewhat odd in this song and could have been incorporated into Erian's green valleys with more success. It just feels too happy for the atmosphere of the song. Anyway, overall Sacred power... is another killer song. 'Nuff said.

Guardiani Del Destino is a stirring piece sung in Italian. Nearing the end the album takes a darker turn with the haunting Shadows of death complete with a cool guitar and keyboard battle. The immense Nightfall on the grey mountains ends this first part of a new saga, much in the same way The Fellowship of the ring ended that first part of a trilogy, with a strong craving for more.

Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli are given ample opportunity to show their skills and through the album we are treated to countless guitar and keyboard solo spots. A few stand out, but mostly they just fit into the music very well. Drummer Alex Holzwarth is a strong foundation and all in all Rhapsody sound like a well oiled machine that is not about to break for anyone.

I bought the Limited DVD edition of the album as soon as it came out and it is definitely worth the purchase for the fans. You get a 15 minute making of the album documentary. It merely scratches the surface and I would have liked it to be much longer and detailed. The making of the Unholy warcry video is pretty fun too, one comment in particular is hilarious, but I won't reveal that, hehe. A short documentary on the artwork for the album is also included as well as 3 different versions of the Unholy warcry video. The Epic version is by far the best and here Rhapsody have actually produced a worthwhile video.

The actual packaging does the band honor too. A book format with thick and heavily illustrated sheets of paper outlining the story, lyrics and band pictures which are always fun to look at. Luckily there are no cd sleeves. Top score on the packaging.

So to sum up this long review:

Good points:
  • Christopher Lee

  • Blood stirring and awe inspiring music

  • Huge orchestra, an amazing production and impressive arrangements

  • Many many layers of music which equal many many hours of enjoyment

  • Bad points:
  • Bad bad Toby Eddington... The second narrator

  • Unoriginal story with too many similarities to The Lord of the rings

  • Elgard's Green Valleys could have been more worked out.

  • Conclusion:
    All my critical comments aside, what you get with this album is something really special. The music is adventurous, constantly challenging and takes Rhapsody to the next level. At times the music will take you far away and before you know it the more than 70 minutes of music has passed like a quick breeze, leaving you amazed and hitting the play button to experience it over again. A slightly flawed package, but the most important element, the music, is without doubt incredible and beyond comparison to any other band out there playing a similar style. Rhapsody are still the kings of the Symphonic Metal genre.

    Written by Steen
    Monday, October 4, 2004
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    Steen: 8.5/10

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    Rating: 6.5/10
    And so we got the fifth Rhapsody opus and yes overall it's a good album. Unholy... · Read more ·

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    RevelationZ Comments

    Comment by Ben@metalreviews.com (Anonymous) - Tuesday, October 5, 2004
    I'm actually surprised this was your album of the month. At Prog Power it seemed as though you thought it was an "eh" album, I guess listening to it more changed your mind about it. That's happened to me quite a few times too, I'll pop something in and not get blown away until I dust it off (literally) sometimes months later and then I'm thinking "Is this the same cd? DAMN!"

    I'm curious though as to what you think of Reckoning Night, I'm still pretty underwhelmed by it, way too easy for the Finns.

    btw, you know you want the Dark Secret (EP) shirt with might King Lee on the front. God thats such a horrible design, I would not wear that in public for any amount of money.


    Comment by Steen (Staff) - Tuesday, October 5, 2004
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    Comments: 518
    Yeah, like I wrote, it didn't strike me as fantastic the first time I heard it, but man did it grow! The "bad things to do with Christopher Lee"-list has the shirt on the first place, closely followed by the flash intro that was briefly on the official website a few months ago. Man, that was fun and sad in equal amounts.

    Haven't heard Reckoning night enough to judge it yet, but the first listen didn't make me go Wow!

    Posted by Steen (Staff)
    Tuesday, October 5, 2004

    Comment by Soundchaser (Anonymous) - Tuesday, October 5, 2004
    I really don´t know what the people see to this band now?
    A long time ago was a surprise, but now this band make the same album over and over and over again.
    We have to be honest with ourselves, if you have the first two albums... you have it all.
    Nothing new, really, reaaaaaaaaaaaaaally boring, Rahpsody close the circle a loooooooooong time ago.
    Rating: 3.5

    Comment by Andres (Anonymous) - Wednesday, October 6, 2004
    I liked it. But yeah, I would never wear the T-Shirt. However the T-Shirt of "Dawn of Victory", now that's a cool T-Shirt

    Comment by Alanna (Staff) - Tuesday, October 12, 2004
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    Comments: 245
    The Christopher Lee floating head tshirt. Oh my it is so awesome, I am preparing to order one now.... not.... ahh what were the guys thinking? Who on earth would wear that? Regardless, I just ordered the album based on this review alone. I'm sure I won't be disappointed unless Fabio starts singing about the floating head. Urk.

    Posted by Alanna (Staff)
    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    Comment by Matt The Pirate (Anonymous) - Wednesday, October 13, 2004
    Where is the Metal? This is a terrible album by Rhapsody standards. Way too light. The songs are not very good and there is tons and tons of wasted space. I love orchestration but there is no meat on the bones of this album. Prophet Of The Last Eclipse had lots of experimentation but at it's core had totally kick ass songs. This album is a waste of talent plain and simple.

    Comment by Steen (Staff) - Wednesday, October 13, 2004
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    Comments: 518
    Hey Alanna

    I haven't noticed the lyrics dealing with any floating heads... yet... You never know with Rhapsody haha. Anyway, I hope you'll like it as much as I do. Give it a little time and it should open right up.

    Posted by Steen (Staff)
    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    Comment by Ricky Of Bodom (Anonymous) - Friday, October 15, 2004
    I have to agree with Matt the Pirate to an extent. While this album is technically and musically impressive, it is not fast or powerful enough to be a truly great Rhapsody album. Even when a heavy riff gets you feeling high, a moment later the music will return to the slow pace most of the album is used to. There are some songs that stand out for me and I enjoy listening to, but they are all interrupted at some point with narrative by Christopher Lee which is just intrusive and annoying and usually makes me stop the music. Even the storyline disappoints me. It seems a lot shallower and unimaginative than The Emerald Sword saga. In my opinion, the best reason to buy this album is for the cover.

    Comment by Nicklas (Anonymous) - Tuesday, October 19, 2004
    This is the best album that Rhapsody have made. But you have too listen to it about 10-15 times.

    Comment by Nina - RevelationZ (Anonymous) - Tuesday, October 19, 2004
    It's true that the album takes a little more time to get into, but it's one of Rhapsody's best, none the less! The magical classical inspired harmonies blends in perfectly with the harder drums/parts, all crowned with the impressive vocals of Fabio Lione. A very powerful album, which stands to prove once again what splendid artists Rhapsody are! All songs are atmospheric and beautiful, though Erian's Mystical Rhymes, Never Forgotten Heroes and Sacred Powers of.... stands out for me!

    Comment by Matt The Pirate (Anonymous) - Wednesday, October 27, 2004
    O.K. I have spun the album 10-15 times now. I admit it has grown some. Even a couple of the slower pieces I like now.

    That said, I do still stand by a couple of the things I said. This IS a waste of talent. There is no way around that. I would say each of the previous albums has at least 3 times the quality content of this one. The interuptions in the middle of songs for narrations etc. really sucks. I want the old narrator back, that dude was hilarious and he became a part of the Rhapsody experience IMO.

    I didn't mention it in my comments above but one of my beefs is that Fabio's singing on Erian's Mystical Rhymes and Shadows of Death is just painfull. He is straining, straining, straining. Such a great singer singing so painfully. I'm not sure if it is the songs or him but they do not play to his strengths at all.

    Lastly, I still think there is way, way too much slow material and wasted space filled with interludes, narration etc. It leaves you with an album you are fishing for the strong parts through a sea of wasted space. The other albums are jam packed with great material with practically no wasted space.

    Comment by Matt The Pirate (Anonymous) - Wednesday, October 27, 2004
    Oh yeah, regarding the cover. It is not bad but I probably like it the least of the 4 main albums. Regarding the floating head of Chris Lee on the EP and T-Shirt. I gotta agree with Ben, what were they thinking? It is kind of funny though.

    Comment by Steen (Staff) - Thursday, October 28, 2004
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    I'm past my 50'th listen now and I still feel the same as when I wrote the review (after 30 listens). Since then the album has grown even more. I know I didn't let the bad things influence the grade as much as they could have but in this case the music is so brilliant that it is able to make me look past the things that annoy me, namely the boring LOTR-rip-off story, the stupid and unnecessary narration by Toby and the lyrics. To me, every time Christopher Lee appears on the album he gives the music an epic edge, of course he could have been utilized even better than he has by making him the sole speaker. For the record, I do not believe that Rhapsody need a narrator. They should always have let the music speak for itself and let the listener conjure up his or her own vision.

    The strong parts are all over the album, they just don't hit you right in the face the first time as on earlier albums. Another thing is that this album needs to be heard LOUD to get the most from it. The music has to be felt.
    It doesn't sound to me like Fabio is straining on Shadows of death. He sings in a different way to underline the darker turn the story is taking. That is my theory anyway. Same goes for Erian's mystical rhymes.
    It did take more than 20 listens for the album to really open up, but it was worth the time. This is now my favorite Rhapsody album along with Symphony of Enchanted lands.

    Posted by Steen (Staff)
    Thursday, October 28, 2004

    Comment by Steen (Staff) - Thursday, October 28, 2004
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    Tommy, I shall sing the chorus line of The last angel's call constantly this weekend. Be warned :)

    Posted by Steen (Staff)
    Thursday, October 28, 2004

    Comment by karma (Anonymous) - Saturday, October 30, 2004
    as simply as it is... this time rhapsody simply kick asses and blow away all their detractors!!!!

    but the real big thing as always is not luca or alex.... is the amazing Fabio Lione!!!!!!!!

    Fabio himself is rhapsody his voice is the real trademark of the band!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by rhapsody-fan (Anonymous) - Sunday, October 31, 2004
    The song "Guardiani Del Destino" is a italian version of "Guardians of Destiny" which was on their previous minialbum "The Dark Secret".

    SOEL 2 is awesome!

    Comment by Nirre (Anonymous) - Saturday, November 20, 2004
    This album and Angra`s new Temple of Shadows (with the 160min Dvd) is the best album`this year soo far. 10/10

    Comment by ricardo (Anonymous) - Friday, March 18, 2005

    Comment by Joao (Anonymous) - Thursday, April 21, 2005
    I think you should all realise what they are doing.
    This is another kind of music.
    I hope everybody understands this.

    Comment by Pirate (Anonymous) - Wednesday, July 27, 2005
    yea this album is very musical for metal but i love the complexicity combining traditional metal with symphonic metal and classical but also incorporating a choir and the fantasy theme. It may not be exactly what metal advocates are looking for but it is still a great album.

    Comment by Luis Sturian (Anonymous) - Monday, August 8, 2005
    I agree with almost everything the reviewer said, I think his good/bad points sumarize it well... I have exactly the exact opinion that Elgard´s Green Valleys indeed could have been better worked. But I love this album, it´s fabulous.

    Comment by Rosie (Anonymous) - Thursday, February 1, 2007
    Where do I get Rhapsody t-shirts from?

    Review by Tommy (Member) - Wednesday, November 10, 2004
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    Comments: 74
    Ratings: 31
    And so we got the fifth Rhapsody opus and yes overall it's a good album.

    Unholy Warcry is a powerful, majestic and detailed track with many uplifting moments.

    The enchanting and down right beautiful The Magic Of The Wizards Dream is a clear highlight, Fabio's second chorus line backed up by huge orchestrations gives me chills all over.

    The Last Angels' Call relies on a much too repetitive but quite cool chorus line, I just don't think the songs structure has the profoundness I know this band is capable of delivering.

    Sacred Power Of Ancient Winds comes forth with both drama and lots of melody, the spoken part in the middle that Steen also refers to is nevertheless not that successful but overall a very challenging creation.

    The real orchestrations enhance the thick atmospheres and gives the album a very grand feeling. On the other hand it also makes it a bit too polished here and there, this also has something to do with the quite bright but nevertheless clear and highly professional production, I just miss some more down to earth, crunchy and aggressive elements.

    Making use of a second and not very good secondary narrator when finally getting someone as cool as Christopher Lee is just head-shakingly incomprehensible.
    The Oh yes, follow me passage in Elgard's Green Valleys sounds totally akward and amazingly silly. The spoken part in Erian's Mystical Rhymes isn't convincing either and the subsequently joyful orchestrations simply don't fit the dark context.

    I have never been too fond of the Rhapsody saga and lyrics and this time is certainly no exception, uninspiring and unoriginal are words that can be used in more than one instance, fortunately we are treated with some interesting passages along the way.

    The ballad Guardiani Del Destino is a pretty decent song, I just find it a bit annoying that they once again have a ballad sung in Italian; I have no clue of what Fabio is singing about.

    I find this their least good collection of songs, missing more memorable elements. It also has too many irritating moments that scar it, but in all fairness this is also a well-crafted album with a couple of really fantastic songs.

    Rating: 6.5/10

    Posted by Tommy
    Wednesday, November 10, 2004

    Review by Steen

    Released by
    SPV - 2004

    1. The Dark Secret (4:13)
    2. Unholy Warcry (5:53)
    3. Never Forgotten Heroes (5:32)
    4. Elgard´s Green Valleys (2:19)
    5. The Magic Of The Wizards Dream (4:30)
    6. Erian´s Mystical Rhymes (10:31)
    7. The Last Angels´ Call (4:36)
    8. Dragonland's Rivers (3:44)
    9. Sacred Power Of Raging Winds (10:06)
    10. Guardiani Del Destino (5:51)
    11. Shadows Of Death (8:13)
    12. Nightfall On The Grey Mountains (7:20)

    Ltd. edition DVD tracklist
    Unholy Warcry video - 3 different versions
    Behind the scenes of the Unholy Warcry video shoot (5 min)
    The making of Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II - The Dark Secret (15 min)
    Art work (3½ min documentary)

    Supplied by SPV

    Symphonic Metal

    Related links
    Visit the band page

    Other articles
    Power Of The Dragonflame - (Tommy)

    Dawn of victory - (Tajs)

    The Dark Secret (Preview) - (Steen)

    Triumph or Agony - (Alanna)

    A conversation with Luca Turilli - (Steen)

    Legendary Tales - (Steen)

    The Frozen Tears of Angels - (Steen)

    From Chaos To Eternity - (Steen)

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