Italy’s Symphonic metal masters Rhapsody of Fire (formerly known as Rhapsody and not to be confused by Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody) have been churning out bombastic orchestral and majestic metal since the mid-1990’s, and even when the band famously split with founding guitarist Turilli, in what has been famously referred to as “the friendliest band split in the history of metal”, and a legal battle with Joey DeMaio’s Magic Circle Records, the band soldiered on, recruiting a new guitarist, Tom Hess, who has since been replaced by Roby Di Micheli, and released the uneven Dark Wings of Steel album in 2013.
Rhapsody of Fire have returned with their eleventh studio offering, Into the Legend, the first to feature new bassist Alessandro Sala. The mix was handled by Alberto Bravin (Echoes studios; Trieste, Italy), while Grammy-nominated Maor Appelbaum (Halford, Faith No More, Dokken) was responsible for mastering.
Admittedly, I have never been the biggest fan of Rhapsody of Fire, however, I have always had the utmost respect for their legacy as a band and for their lead vocalist, Fabio Lione, who is truly one of the finest vocalists in the metal genre. I was particularly impressed after seeing Lione step in for Roy Khan of Kamelot to tour with the band in support of their Poetry for the Poisoned album. Lione was put in an impossible situation and nailed his performances every night. I was also lucky enough to get to see Rhapsody of Fire perform twice on the recent 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise and I was awestruck at how Lione commanded the stage with his presence and his incredible vocal ability.
That being said, when I received the promotional copy of Into the Legend, I decided to give it a thorough listening and review. The album begins with a short bombastic orchestral piece complete with a haunting chanting vocal choir and a huge string section to create a grandiose and powerful intro to the glorious riff-laden metal fury of Distant Sky. The band is firing on all cylinders with a flurry of guitar arpeggios by Di Micheli, the swift and speedy double bass drumming of Alex Holzwarth,main composer and keyboardist Alex Staropoli’s deft fingers on the keyboard, and Lione’s majestic vocals soaring to the heavens with a huge chorus.
The title track, Into The Legend, is another fast paced symphonic metal masterpiece filled with more shredding guitar work, powerful drumming, and a huge melodic and massive chorus. The next track, Winter’s Rain, is a more deliberate and mid-tempo headbanger that showcases Fabio Lione’s mid-range and theatrical vocal ability. Seriously, is there anything this man can’t do? His vocal work never ceases to amaze and astonish!
The chorus is another winner with Lione’s upper register and accompanied by a choir of angelic Gregorian chants and harmony vocals.
The band channel their Gaelic Folk Metal influnces into A Voice In The Cold Wind, a slower yet powerful symphonic tour de force, which will harken older fans of the band to the classic Village of the Dwarves from the Power of the Dragonflame album.
Valley of Shadows is another speedy power mental anthem with a grandiose orchestral arrangement, soaring vocals and a soaring choir of backing vocals to accompany Lione’s massive range and powerful vocal.
The album slows down on momentarily on the epic power ballad Shining Star, which showcases Fabio’s ability to emote through his incredible passionate vocal performance. Realms of Light is another headbanging power metal with the RoF classic sound and style and features one of the best choruses on the album.
The pounding and infectious Rage of Darkness features some sweet harmony guitar work and solos by Di Micheli and flashy keyboard work by Staropoli. Closing out the album is the 16 minute plus epic, The Kiss of Light, a song that has everything you have come to expect from Rhapsody of Fire, lush orchestral arrangements, swirling keyboards, Gregorian chanting choir vocals, heavy chugging riffs, and Lione’s commanding vocals, and many twists and turns along the way, the song tends to drag on a bit and could have used a little trimming in this reviewers opinion, but who am I to argue with the great Alex Staropoli’s vision?
If you are not a fan of Rhapsody of Fire’s brand of cheesy, symphonic power metal, than Into The Legend won’t do anything to change your opinion on them, but if you gave up on the band after the disappointing Dark Wheels of Steel, I urge you to give Into The Legend a spin, you won’t be disappointed!