I'll admit it. I was pretty hard on the last two Rhapsody Of Fire studio albums, giving them both only an average rating, when they probably deserved better. Who else does epic melodic and symphonic power metal better? Very few. While their latest and tenth album, Dark Wings of Steel, revisits the band's familiar territory, it's still terrific.
So you're probably wondering what changed my mind to give Dark Wings of Steel are more favorable score. Fundamentally, I think I finally accepted the simple fact that, though much maligned by some metal fans as pompous and grandiose, I really like Rhapsody Of Fire and their epic film score power metal, and likely for the same reasons others despise it.
Once more everything about this album is big and bombastic. This time around the vocal arrangements and guitar work really resonated with me, notably on Rising From Tragic Flames, Angel of Light, My Sacrifice, and Silver Lake of Tears. Fabio Lione's vocals have never sounded stronger, moving along and soaring with the melodic arrangements. New guitarist Roby De Micheli strikes a balance between being sleek and elegant, bursting forth and soaring like the vocals. Alternatively, this time around it feels like Alex Staropoli's keyboards have been reserved mostly for the symphonic orchestration; I can't recall a specific solo or interplay between the guitar leads. Perhaps a third or fourth listen will draw them out. Nevertheless, as always, hia symphonic synths are lush and devastating. While it's not clear from the PR material, I'm guessing, if there were any orchestral arrangements, Staropoli composed them.
Two final comments. As done on other albums, RoF includes a ballad, Custode Di Pace, sung in their native Italian, which blurs the lines between hymn, opera, and melodic metal. In the digipak copy of the album you get a bonus track, A Candle To Light, which is just as epic as the entire album. While it didn't come with my digital EPK for review you can listen to it on YouTube.
In fine form as always, with Dark Wings of Steel, Rhapsody Of Fire remain the kings of epic and symphonic film score power metal, at least until Luca Turilli's next album.
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