WHY: As eclectic as my tastes are, metal has been my bread and butter, my meat and potatoes, my raison de vita (huh?) ever since I convinced my mother to buy me Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz when I was 10 years old. From there my early adolescence was filled with 10-sided dice, DRAGONSLAYER, and listening to music like Yngwie Malmsteen, Iron Maiden, Fates Warning - the more screaming, dual guitar lines and sappy medieval concepts, the better. Fast Forward about 23 years and I'm flipping through a copy of Terrorizer magazine reading about the past, present, and future of the "power metal" genre, and waxing nostalgic about my innocent youth. So, wanting to check out what the scene was like now, I looked through their recommended list of "essential power metal" records and picked up this album by Italian "Hollywood Metal" (is it bad when a review already has this many phrases in quotation marks and I haven't even started the review yet?) progenitors Rhapsody. Cool cover! Inside I found out this was the third in a series of concept records by the band revolving around a Tolkein-esque world known as Ancelot and a mythical Emerald Sword. I decided not to read any of the accompanying exposition or listen to the previous records and instead just dive into...
1. Lux Triumphans - A dripping faucet, some silly narration, and we EXPLODE WITH BOMBAST! HORNS! CHOIRS! PEOPLE CHANTING LIKE IN CONAN! Cheese level so far for this symphonic intro is running about Asiago, and yet there's a smile on my face. There's no way the actual songs can match the pomposity of this, can they?
2. Dawn of Victory - Did they just sing Gloria Perpetua? Great Galloping Guitars, Batman! I guess this is what they really mean by "neo-classical." I love metal when you can hear the lead singer's accent. "Now THAT's a spicy a-meatball!" Vocal-wise, this guy is definitely one of the better singers I've ever heard for this type of music - not too screechy, not too fey. Guitars are, as would be expected, top-notch, and take away from the fact that the lyrics, about a war between gods and heroes and demons for the city (town? Country?) of Ancelot, are ridiculous. However, my smile is widening.
3. Triumph for My Magic Steel - Greatest Porn Title so far on a metal record. That alone gives it a thumbs up in my opinion. Starts out with some silly Paganini-style arpeggios a la the beginning of Extreme's Do You Want to Play. I have no idea what the hell this guy is singing about. I heard something about the "axe of the dwarf," but I don't what they plan on doing with it. Stellar production, but this song's not doing as for me as the last one. I try to wake up Mrs. Voss and see if she will grant me Triumph for my Magic Steel. Alas, she does not.
4. The Village of Dwarves - I think I just rolled a 20, causing Double Damage with my +3 Broadsword I keep stashed in my trusty Bag of Holding. This song is amplifying my Psionics. Cheese factor would be at Limburger if these guys didn't sound so sincere...
5. Dargor, Shodwlord of the Black Mountain - I kid you not. That's the name of this song. Great opening riff. So far every single chorus is one of those uplifting, everyone-raise -your-jug-of-mead-and-sing-along type of chorus, with majestic strings and keys mixed with soaring vocals (this is really the only type of music where vocals can soar. Mariah Carey can sing like a motherfucker, but you don't soar unless your singing about trolls and vorpol blades, Mariah).6. The Bloody Rage of the Titans - Pan flute, a triangle, and the opening line "Between my trees the unicorn runs" can only mean one thing - power ballad. Or as close as you can have to a ballad when you're singing about the coming of Spring for the forest. No idea why this song is then called "The Bloody rage of the Titans."
7. Holy Thunderforce - It's midnight, 90 degrees, and my head can no longer decipher the subtle nuances implicit in the rhyming cadence that is emphasized in each couplet. I keep reminding myself that I'm reviewing a Rhapsody record, and it's probably another song about warriors crossing mountains and fighting evil, but something inside me wants to insist I'm doing something more constructive with my time, so I'm pretending to analyze Shakespeare's sonnets.
8. Trolls in the Dark - An instrumental that sounds like all the other songs, except without singing. I can see why people would love this stuff - it's well played, sincere, and filled with imagery that millions of boys dream about. But after 7 tracks it's all beginning to sound the same to this 33 year old boy.
9. The Last Winged Unicorn - I'm currently reading the Robert Fagles translation of Homer's The Iliad, and in preparation I boned up on my general Greek mythology (read Hamilton, Bullfinch, and my copy of Deities and Demigods). I thought Pegasus had wings. So would a horse with a horn and wings just be a freak unicorn? Did a unicorn and a Pegasus do it? Isn't there only ONE winged horse, and its name was Pegasus? Is this the same common misnomer that plagued Frankenstein and his creation? Do I really have to be at work in 6 hours?
10. The Mighty Ride of the Firelord - C'mon, everyone together! "Raise your voice and ride all/ride all brave, raise your sword to the sky/and sing the epic symphony/for the mighty and proud Firelord" 9 minutes of heaving pectoral might.
BOTTOM LINE: B- (A+ if you make your saving throw vs. poison) - If you're at all into this type of music, Dawn of Victory will probably make you "cream your jeans" as Tenacious D would tell you. For me, it was a fun trip back to 1984, but not a trip I'll shell out $13.99 for again. While doing this review I found another blogger who mentions the band - you can read his comments about them here. And since you're dying to see what these guys look like: