REVIEW: RHAPSODY OF FIRE – “Into The Legend”
Since the mid-nineties only one name has ruled the symphonic power metal scene – Rhapsody of Fire. So yeah, they’ve had a couple of changes, but the truth remains the same. Over the years, they’ve told us legendary tales, composed symphonies of enchanted lands, and to this day are the masters of bringing listeners ‘Into the Legend’. Releasing January 15, 2016, the band’s eleventh full length album promises to be one of the largest and most ambitious project yet. Sure, fans still hold on to classic releases as if they can’t be topped, but Rhapsody of Fire challenges those opinions after spending seven months in four different studios composing and arranging ‘Into the Legend’.
In true RoF fashion, this release begins with the intro track ‘In Principio’ with echoing sounds of iron and brass horns building into strong choral arrangements; I’d expect no less. “Distant Sky” follows with a driving tempo and killer guitar work that is a serious blast from the ‘Holy Thunderforce’ past. This track however, is probably my least favorite on the album and initially worried me about the rest of the record. Fabio Lione sounds as god-like as ever, however the chorus is entirely too predictable and repetitive (I know, I can’t believe I am saying that either).
However, the album’s first single, the title track “Into the Legend” immediately saved me from that fear. The vocals are aggressive, the keyboard work of Alex Staropoli and guitar work of Roberto De Micheli are flawless together. The chorus is full of fanfares, cymbal crashes, and guitar solos; honestly everything a symphonic metal fan would want is here. This is when it hit me – Rhapsody of Fire has won me over yet again. Speaking of fantastic guitar work, “Winters Rain” has one of the coolest guitar riffs I have heard from RoF in years. If I had to pick a favorite track on the album, this would be it. It’s completely unexpected, dark and eerie, mid-tempo but heavy as hell emotionally. It’s a little under eight minutes long, but honestly, I could listen to hours of this song.
As for “A Voice in The Cold Wind” – you know you’re listening to a great track when your coworkers walk by and comment on how awesome the flute sounds in the music you’re listening to. As expected, the album features a beautiful ballad “Shining Star” which really slows the tempo down and shows off the fantastic vocal talents of Lione, but the speed picks back up quickly with “Realms of Light”. The flute returns in the album’s near seventeen-minute long epic “The Kiss of Life” which is another favorite of mine from the release. It starts slow but explodes into a massive chorus, mid-tempo, heavily driven track with some of my favorite drums on the record from Alex Holzwarth. This song covers everything from acoustic instrumentals to larger than life choruses and tells a fantastic story. Just when you thought you have heard it all, a stunning operatic duet becomes the cherry on top.
‘Into the Legend’ is like a best-of record composed of all new material. A well seasoned Rhapsody of Fire fan will listen to these tracks and hear the homage given to 1998’s ‘Symphony of Enchanted Lands‘, 2000’s ‘Dawn of Victory‘, and 2002’s ‘Power of the Dragonflame‘. While Luca Turilli has left and gone into a land of epic cinemetal, Alex Staropoli has definitely decided to stay true to the traditional Rhapsody roots. Is this release genre defining? Ground breaking? Nope. But for those of us that still hold on to those old releases, and love that nostalgia they bring us, this somehow provides us the same feeling – with a dash of excitement and unpredictability.