Italian symphonic power metallers Rhapsody of Fire (formerly Rhapsody) just came out with their latest, The Frozen Tears of Angels. I've made no secret that I'm not a big fan of power metal, but this is one album that got my attention.
The album is thoroughly neo-classical and over the top, and even though I haven't paid any attention to the lyrics it's obvious they're telling a story. It is definitely guitar-driven, though. The solos are long, and usually go through two or more distinct movements; "On the Way To Ainor" has an especially great solo lasting nearly two minutes and going through about four different sections. Luca Turilli has a few other tricks, too, like the menacing pinch harmonics about two minutes into and just before the end of the title track.
Most of the time, they don't let the symphonic elements overpower the guitar, although most tracks have at least one section where it all swells up and takes over. The keyboards and bass are usually background, although there are a few keyboard solos and bass flourishes here and there.
Singer Fabio Lione's voice isn't particularly meaty. It's a little thin, at least for power metal (he's no Jørn). But as far as being on key and as emotional as you can imagine, he has no problems. He is often backed up by a small choir to add emphasis to the more dramatic parts. And there are a few surprises in store vocally. "Reign of Terror" starts out with a bloodcurdling scream, for example.
As with just about any European power metal, it gets goofy at points. A narrator comes in from time to time to talk about a prophecy or something. "Danza Di Fuoca E Ghiaccio" is mostly a folk song, focusing on some kind of flute and traditional drums. "Lost In Cold Dreams" is some kind of sad ballad section in the story, and even without paying attention to the lyrics I can tell the protagonist is agonizing over his upcoming task. Maybe that's a plus if you can tell the point you are in the story just by hearing the music.
A problem with many concept albums, the songwriting seems geared to telling the story rather than crafting good, memorable songs. But if you instead see them as a vehicle to getting to the solos, then all the better.
The Verdict: If you can get past the goofiness of European power metal, you'll like this album. If you can learn to embrace it, you'll love it. Most of it's fast, everything's dramatic, and there's no way to say "no" to guitar solos like this. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.