RHAPSODY OF FIRE – Triumph Or Agony

RHAPSODY OF FIRE - Triumph Or Agony


Magic Circle Music
Release date: September 26, 2006

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Due to copyright and legal issues over their name (someone else claimed rights to the title), Italian “Hollywood Metal” kings Rhapsody changed their name to Rhapsody Of Fire. But, this fivesome isn’t about to let a name change impede what they do best: compose and play some of the most bombastic, theatrical Heavy Metal known to man.

Rhapsody Of Fire’s newest epic is entitled Triumph Or Agony, and picks up the on-going story that fans last experienced on Rhapsody’s previous studio disc, Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II – The Dark Secret. Since Rhapsody Of Fire never does anything “small,” this new album features a 70-piece orchestra, full choirs, and the vocal presence of Christopher Lee, Susannah York, and several other theatrical actors. Topping off the package is cover artwork done by renowned Dungeons & Dragons artist Jeff Easley.

Triumph Or Agony spins a fairly standard, Lord Of The Rings-styled fantasy story over the course of its 11 tracks. There is evil afoot in a mythical land, and some good guys have to vanquish it or the world will be cast into darkness. But, like Rhapsody Of Fire’s previous albums, the destination isn’t important, it’s the 60+-minute trip through utter and complete excess that makes the trip worth taking. Some people love this over-the-top theatrical approach to music (and Rhapsody Of Fire is very good at it), while others find it to be simply too campy and overblown to be taken seriously.

The album starts well, with the nice intro “Dar-Kunor” getting things off to an atmospheric start, and leads nicely into the title song and “Heart Of the Darklands,” two up-tempo, relatively fast-paced Metal tracks peppered with the usual Rhapsody Of Fire staples of elaborate orchestral arrangements and bombastic choirs. Fabio Leone is a very charismatic, emotive singer and he does a good job on these songs, giving them pizazz and energy, and guitarist Luca Turilli throws in some solid riffs. So far, so good.

But with the fourth song, the ballad-like “Old Age Of Wonders,” a sense of lethargy seeps into the proceedings and doesn’t go away. The momentum that Triumph Or Agony showed early on seeps away, like (hot) air leaking out of a balloon. The album is still big and bombastic and theatrical as ever, but it lacks energy and seems to drag, despite the best efforts of Turilli, Leone, and their army of musicians, narrators, and opera singers to keep the thing aloft. It doesn’t help that the album isn’t very “Metal,” with Turilli’s guitar often absent (or buried) for minutes at a time. Theatrical? Yes. Epic? Yes again. Metal? Not so much.

Towards the end of Triumph Or Agony, you’re treated to the album’s epic track, the 16-minute “The Mystic Prophecy Of the Demon Knight,” which starts off pretty well, with some good riffs, strong orchestral arrangements, and a catchy momentum. But, around the halfway point, it devolves into a series of lengthy narrative and dialog passages that just seem to go on forever. What’s more, the very seriously-delivered dialog is quite corny and silly (Christopher Lee deserves a medal for almost making it work, though), making you wish that they’d just go back to singing. Eventually they do, but this song just doesn’t know when to quit.

The final track on the album, “Dark Reign Of Fire,” is pretty good though, and if you’re a fan of the story so far, you’ll be happy to know that this tune basically serves as a setup for another chapter in this saga.

There’s a lot to like about Triumph Or Agony: the compositions, arrangements, and playing are all first-rate, and it’s certainly epic. Rhapsody Of Fire’s legions of fans will go nuts over it (even though it lacks the level of heaviness their other albums had), and those who like their music to have a theatrical, dramatic element will probably enjoy it too. But, if you never liked Rhapsody Of Fire when they were just plain ordinary Rhapsody, Triumph Or Agony isn’t the album that will win you over.


  • Gary McLean

    Gary was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of the small Ontario, Canada town of Sault Ste. Marie, right on the border of Michigan, USA. When it comes to Metal and Hard Rock, Gary likes quite a few different bands, from stalwarts like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, to newer, hard-hitting groups such as Primal Fear, Hammerfall, and Paragon. Other favorites include the likes of Nightwish, Running Wild, Therion, Accept, Stratovarius, Dream Evil, Helloween, Rammstein, Dirty Looks, Crimson Glory, Tristania, and Gamma Ray. He thinks AC/DC deserves a paragraph all their own though.

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