25 December 2010

Not a Christmas Post, or, The Cold Embrace of Fear

It's been an uncommonly cold and snowy December in southern Finland. But that's nothing particularly blog-worthy. Neither have I anything new to say about Christmas, really. Instead, here is a belated album review.

Last spring I wrote about Rhapsody of Fire's new album. Well, much to my surprise, in the autumn they came forth with another new release, The Cold Embrace of Fear. It's not quite a full length album, though, a mere 35 minutes (and also priced accordingly). I didn't get around to pre-ordering it this time, but I finally got it today, as a Christmas present.

This release is quite different from the previous. In terms of story, it's much more like I was hoping The Frozen Tears of Angels to be. There's voice acted sequences, twists and achievements. It's like a climax to the portion of the story begun in the previous album. They really form one whole together.

Musically, whereas the previous album had a more straightforward metal feel, this one's much more symphonic, slower and atmospheric, with lots of interludes (and aforementioned voice acting). The actual metal on this record is mostly contained in the track 'The Ancient Fires of Har-Kuun' (which at 15 minutes covers almost half the album, not necessarily the best choice structurally), and the later 'Erian's Lost Secrets' (largely a reprise of the former track). The whole thing is really designed to form a single, coherent whole, rather than a sequence of separate songs. (Indeed, it's subtitled 'A Dark Romantic Symphony'.)

I can't help thinking the perfect comeback for Rhapsody might have been something halfway between The Frozen Tears of Angels and The Cold Embrace of Fear. But both are fairly good in their own right, and quite different. The first you can play in the background, enjoying some decent riffs and solos. The second you sit down to listen with booklet in hand, following the story. Not necessarily a record I'll end up playing particularly frequently, though. Now I'm just waiting to see what the climax of the Dark Secret Saga will be like...

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