Another of my favorite epic metal groups is Rhapsody of Fire. Formerly known as just Rhapsody. That can be confusing at times. Anyway…
Rhapsody of fire is in some ways the opposite of Blind Guardian. They do not present themselves as bards telling a story. In fact, they do not really present their albums as stories at all – they present them as histories of true events. These aren’t just concept albums, they’re series of concept albums forming a single giant story arc – two, really, the Emerald Sword Saga and the Dark Secret Saga.
In a way, they do what Blind Guardian talks about doing. Blind Guardian’s songs talk about mythopoeia, but Rhapsody of Fire’s songs are mythopoeia to an extent that Blind Guardian never reaches, and I think precisely because they are completely un-self-conscious. Their art is not like literature, it is like the most primordial myth. And myths don’t have storytellers, they simply are.
So Rhapsody of Fire is in a certain sense less sophisticated, less complex, than any of the other groups here. The result of this is that you don’t view their works from the outside to appreciate the artistic skill that went into them. You are either completely immersed in them, or you find them absurd.
That said, even if they are in essence more myth than literature, they can still be analyzed for meaning. Mythopoeic worlds are hard, I think impossible, to create ‘without bias’ – i.e., without arguing at least implicitly for some view of the fundamental nature of the world. In any case, Rhapsody of Fire makes its views quite plainly known through the lyrics of the songs.
Their main focus is the eternal struggle between good and evil. This takes mostly the form of good guys versus bad guys. As band’s lyricist (and guitarist), Luca Turilli, has said,
Evil can be found everywhere. But it will never win as long as there are enough good people who fight against it.
The meaning of this may not be immediately obvious. The speaker is Dargor, who is half-demon, half-man. He has chosen to deny his demon nature and fight for the Light (represented here by the “thunder gods”… I’m not going to get into their cosmology, which I think is vaguely pantheistic). Though the Warrior of Ice is the main character of the Emerald Sword Saga, he does not in the end turn out to be the main character; that would be Dargor. This same Dargor reappears in the Dark Secret Saga. Dargor is indeed half-man half-demon, but he is in many ways the most human character in the sagas. He shows that when Luca Turilli says “evil can be found everywhere”, he means even in the hearts of good men. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said,
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, an it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
But, then… what is meant by good and evil?
Following the “pure love and great emotion” is the good. The evil characters in the sagas are truly evil – they are for the most part demons. One is named “Queen of the Dark Horizons”. The main enemy is Kron, the War God. Their division between good and evil is quite simple. That which is evil is abhorrent, disgusting, focused on eliminating all life from the universe. That which is good loves life. I don’t think this simplicity is necessarily bad, though I disagree with the implied pantheism.
Incidentally, it’s kind of ironic that I like them, since in many ways I distrust emotions and would prefer to be a completely rational creature. I think I like them because what they believe is what I wish I could believe.