Rhapsody: Power of the Dragonflame

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Rhapsody: Power of the Dragonflame
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Rhapsody: Power of the Dragonflame
Orchestral Power Metal, Symphonic Power Metal
Limb Music GmbH SPV Records
March 18th, 2002
Release length: 1:01:02
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All good and glorious things must come to an end, including the Emerald Sword Saga. Power of the Dragonflame marks the conclusion of Rhapsody‘s long running epic, and the fifth full-length album of their career. This conclusion is easily one of the most loved titles in the discography up to this point, but does this Symphonic/Operatic Power Metal opus end on a high note, or does it fail to live up to the expectations the legions of loyal fans have been lead to build up through the previous three chapters and side journey of this story line?

If you need any convincing that you are in for a bit of a wild ride, you only need to look at the introduction track “In Tenebris.” This beautiful choir driven operatic piece really establishes a tense atmosphere to the music that the production does capitalize on. The audio is rather crisp and digital, but far from sterilized. The drums fill the music well with pounding deeper snares against a strong click to the bass kicks, though the cymbals can seem a bit too far in the background. The bass becomes an important instrument that really adds a blunt edge to the material, and the cleaner, yet sharp guitar chords benefit greatly from it. There’s also a bit of an open sound to the production that gives it a hint of a raw quality, but not too much to eliminate the modern digital elements entirely. This helps to weave an epic tone to the music, and the louder keyboards can really push it a lot further on almost every song, which is exactly what happened when “Knightrider of Doom” bleeds in from the introduction, and the richer material introduces a heavier, more intense Rhapsody experience with plenty of epic moments amid the quicker chords and their slightly bludgeoning bass backdrop, but not really violating the tyupical sound the band has built up throughout the years.

Power of the Dragonflame definitely does try to stand out among the other entries into the storyline, and it often does it quite well. “Where Demons Awake” is a phenomenally intense track, having some harsher vocals with additional distortion utilized, while coming at the listener with some of the quickest chords and drumming to a Rhapsody song yet. The guitar solos are great and can sometimes feel like a Shred offering, and the keyboard solo carries a bit of a Progressive tone to it, as well as a dark and dismal majesty during some of the main verses. Additional Operatic choir chanting accompanies certain passages, and it really just pushes this into an over-the-top experience that you just cannot walk away from without wanting to take up arms yourself and let out a warcry. “Agony is My Name” also has some rather aggressive moments to it that pushes the envelope. However, these are very few, though when they hit they are met with nice transitions, and really stand out in the mix to make the track a lot richer.

Of course, not all the amazing songs on this recording are high speed aggression fests. “Lamento Eroico” is one of the most impressive Operatic pieces to hit a Rhapsody album, really using a traditional piano sound to it’s advantage, along with some additional Classical instruments and a very engaging vocal performance that does seem to hit some clasically trained notes, but still nothing too awe-inspiring, leaving a bit of a hole in your heart yearning for higher, enthusiastic notes that simply aren’t reached until the very end, and by what seems to be a guest male vocalist. There’s also the jovial Folkish “The March of the Swordmaster,” which finds a nice mixture of the aforementioned style’s specific instruments with slower to mid-paced performances of epic Power Metal. This one also seems to pack a bit of attitude with it, especially in the vocals, but there are many riffs and passages that feel like a Manowar tribute that will have you pounding your fists in the air against the many gang chants while completely swept up by the atmospheres the drums and keyboard establish.

However, what appears to be the crowned jewel of the album is the conclusion song “Gargoyles, Angels of Darkness.” This is a nineteen plus minute offering that really does start out a little on the rough side thanks to some uninspiring slower material that doesn’t establish the atmosphere the band is clearly going for. Once the song finally kicks in though, the music proves to be a solid mixture between a typical Metal band trying to incorporate an Orchestral score into the mix through the typical instruments with nice transitions in and out to what the less aggressive “Knightrider of Doom” and “Power of the Dragonflame” offered, being more of a beautiful and moving style without the additional edge other songs here carry. The only real gripe here, as well as with the other songs on the album, is the narration. While this sounds more natural compared to the others that came off scripted, these spoken word sections sound horrible due to a general weakness and uninterested tone in the voice, greatly pulling away from any dynamic or epic elements that come before or after it, such as during the final dialogue of the already mentioning climactic track and the booming conclusion it has.

But, even with that narration being a little less than what you would expect from the group, Power of the Dragonflame is an excellent conclusion to the Emerald Sword saga. The fourth and final chapter nicely closes up the loose ends, all the while incorporating plenty of tense, gripping Power Metal tracks that perfectly make you aware of the sinister and action-driven climax behind this album. It’s just sad that it has such an unrestrained sound to it, but yet the vocals felt chained down and holding the rest of the material back. Aside that and the other gripes, however, it’s clear that Rhapsody tried to pull out all the stops for this one, and it really shows. Power of the Dragonflame is easily one of the group’s best offerings up to this point, and easily the one album fans have been waiting many years for.

01. In Tenebris – 1:28
02. Knightrider of Doom – 3:57
03. Power of the Dragonflame – 4:27
04. The March of the Swordmaster – 5:04
05. When Demons Awake – 6:47
06. Agony is My Name – 4:58
07. Lamento Eroico – 4:38
08. Steelgods of the Last Apocalypse – 5:49
09. The Pride of the Tyrant – 4:51
10. Gargoyles, Angels of Darkness – 19:03
Overall Score: 8.5/10


Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.