I like unexpected surprises. Positive ones, anyway, which I am more than usual in need of because of the odd unexpected negative surprise I have had to cope with in recent months. Rhapsody's "Rain of a Thousand Flames" is one of such highly appreciated positive surprises.

"Rain of a Thousand Flames" is actually not really a full-length album as such, in fact it is billed as the forerunner of the full-length album to be expected next year somewhere. Still, clocking at almost 42 minutes, it's not half bad really.

We all know what to expect of Rhapsody, right? Over-the-top up-tempo metal tracks with a healthy dose of Hollywood soundtrack, searing vocals and flashy guitar work. "Rain of a Thousand Flames" is not going to alienate any existing fans, obviously. Rhapsody are not the only band who play this genre of music, but they are the best, do it well, and will not likely stray from the given path. This is made immediately obvious by the opening title track, a fast-paced track in the best Rhapsody tradition. After a short and rather more leisurely-paced instrumental you get the 14-minute epos "Queen of the Dark Horizons", consisting of slower and faster passages, making good use of sopranos and a choire, possessing a memorable chorus, and featuring a most pleasing synth/guitar duet. Ace stuff.

The remaining 4 tracks on the album together form the "Rhymes of a Tragic Poem - The Gothic Saga". Unfortunately these feature repeated spoken sections, dramatic, of hackneyed fantasy cliches, sometimes for minutes at an end. Perhaps they should stick to lyrics and good music, because the 3-minute spoken part in "Tears of a Dying Angel" in particular strikes me as particularly superfluous. Spoken bits come back in "The Wizard's Last Rhymes", the final track. Before that you get songs with up-tempo parts, ballad parts, and mediaeval instruments such as the flute. Musically the "Gothic Saga" is enjoyable and interesting, but in particular those long spoken bits detract a lot of the positive impression. These make the album generally a bit too weird. It's like a long bass solo during a live concert, taking the speed out of the proceedings, providing the aural equivalent of a moment on which to start pressing buttons of a TV's remote control.



Written October 2001


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