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Rhapsody Of Fire - "Legendary Years" (CD)

Rhapsody Of Fire - "Legendary Years" CD cover image

"Legendary Years" track listing:

1. Dawn Of Victory
2. Knightrider Of Doom
3. Flames Of Revenge
4. Beyond The Gates Of Infinity
5. Land Of Immortals
6. Emerald Sword
7. Legendary Tales
8. Dargor, Shadowlord Of The Black Mountain
9. When Demons Awake
10. Wings Of Destiny
11. Riding The Winds Of Eternity
12. The Dark Tower Of Abyss
13. Holy Thunderforce
14. Rain Of A Thousand Flames

Reviewed by on June 14, 2017

"Alex Staropoli proved one thing on this record – the band sounds youthful, energetic, and exciting with Voli and De Micheli leading the charge."

For the past six plus years, the world of Rhapsody – Rhapsody of Fire and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody - has been a confusing whirlwind, one that could have seen the entire entity making a living if not for the desire of co-founders to remain separate and distinct. Both halves – one led by co-founder Luca Turilli and the other by co-founder Alex Staropoli - originally split under friendly terms. The departure of vocalist Fabio Lione and drummer Alex Holzwarth back in the fall of 2016 only complicated this.

Enter Rhapsody Reunion: a 20th anniversary touring event that was set to feature Turilli, Lione, Holzwarth with guitarist Dominique Leurquin and bassist Patrice Guers to say goodbye to the legendary lineup that put the band on the power metal map. Apparently, Alex Staropoli was asked to participate, but chose to concentrate on solidifying the new Rhapsody of Fire lineup and to record a new album, which at the time was very understandable in light of Lione and Holzwarth’s departure. Ironically however, the record turns out to be a celebration of the 1997-2002 era with vocalist Giacomo Voli at the helm, the exact time frame which the Rhapsody Reunion tour is focusing on. Naturally, a huge swath of the fanbase cried “Why this? Why now?” Admittedly, your author was skeptical – not because of the ability of the new lineup, but the timing re-recording classic material. For the most part, however coincidental, this whole idea appeared as another ‘tit-for-tat’ between co-founders.

Excusing the timing of the release in light of the Rhapsody Reunion tour, it is not completely uncommon for a band to re-record older material when major lineup changes are made, especially with a replacement for such a distinctive and widely known voice like Fabio Lione. Looking beyond what appears to be a re-writing of the history of the band, which has annoyed a portion of the fanbase, if I sounded like Giacomo Voli, I would no doubt wish to silence my critics by showing what I could do on the most cherished classic material. Make no mistake about it, Voli absolutely kills on this record, especially on “Knightrider of Doom,” “Holy Thunderforce,” “Dargor, Shadowlord of the Black Mountain” and “Rain of a Thousand Flames” – a tall order, indeed. This is something you might not have suspected from his work with Teodasia. However, if this was presented as an extended EP that featured new material along with a few re-recorded classics as bonus tracks, it may have been welcomed more universally than the deeply divided reaction to “Legendary Years.”

For guitarist Roberto De Micheli, “Legendary Years” is a bit more like vindication. Here is a guy who has been in the band since 2011, having only appeared on studio albums post-split with Luca Turilli. If you have seen Rhapsody of Fire live since the split, De Micheli is a true heir apparent to Turilli and has been coming into his own as a gifted songwriter, especially on “Into the Legend.” In what also feels to so many like a re-writing of “legendary history” – De Micheli flashes brilliant talent in re-creating this classic material with his own flair. If only Roberto was hired instead of the deeply coveted Tom Hess, we could have heard him earlier on the album “From Chaos to Eternity.”

“Legendary Years” also had some legendary production – with Orden Ogan’s Sebastian Levermann performing the mix and mastering, who always gives the guitar extra crunch and attention. Quite simply, “Legendary Years” sounds brilliant.

If you step away from the timing and nature of the “new” Rhapsody of Fire album and base it on performance alone, “Legendary Years” sounds amazing. Alex Staropoli proved one thing on this record – the band sounds youthful, energetic and exciting with Voli and De Micheli leading the charge. With Seeb at the knobs, the band has never sounded better production wise. However, for many that timing, nature, lack of new material, and subsequent proof of a solidified writing team present huge obstacles for the future of Rhapsody of Fire. It was already incomprehensible to see life after Luca Turilli, which the band overcame.

The tools in a post Fabio/Holzwarth era seem to be in place, but once again Staropoli will need to overcome another huge obstacle when an album of new album of fresh material will be expected. Sadly, “Legendary Years” would have perfect as a special release after or accompanied by a new album. Unfortunately, with its quirky timing in light of what could have been the true celebration of this era in the form of a real Rhapsody Reunion Farewell Tour, the astonishing performances on this release will likely be completely overlooked due to what feels more like a family fight.

Highs: The performances and sound are outstanding.

Lows: "Legendary Years" seems more like "legenary rehash."

Bottom line: For those daring to look beyond ill timing and lack of new material, "Legendary Years" sounds less like "legendary rehash."

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)