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  RHAPSODY OF FIRE
'Into The Legend'
(AFM)
Release Date: 15th January 2016


Joe Geesin

joe geesin


rhapsody of fire

Italian Symphonic Metal bend Rhapsody Of Fire (originally Rhapsody), fronted by singer Fabio Lione and founder and keyboard player Alex Staropoli, are still going strong, and this is their eleventh full length studio album. I like to think 12th if you include the 'Cold Embrace Of Fear' EP, an integral part of a 5 album concept.

Instrumental in the Symphonic Metal genre, taking Power Metal to its operatic end with use of choirs and orchestra, Rhapsody were originally formed by Staropoli and guitarist Lica Turilli in the mid 90s as Thundercross.

This album follows on well from 2013's 'Dark Wings Of Steel', their first without Turilli (reviewed here), and on first listen this is definitely better.

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Their 'Legendary Tales' 1997 debut and 1998's 'Symphony of Enchanted Lands' kicked off the Emerald Sword saga (the band have often used lyrical concepts that cross albums), honing and defining their sound, mixing high speed Melodic Power metal with neo classical melodies and orchestration. The video to 2000's 'Dawn Of Victory's title track, set to a Lord Of The Rings style battle sums it up well.

The band's pinnacle was for me certainly was the Dark Secret Saga, which kicked off in 2004 with the 'Dark Secret' EP and 'Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II – The Dark Secret'. While set in the same world as the Emerald Sword saga, it is a new concept that spanned 4 albums and 2 EPs (the aforementioned Cold Embrace Of Fear was more a mini album), all featuring Christopher Lee (narration and spoken vocals).

If Lord Of The Rings was a Heavy Metal opera, you'd get a fair idea of the band's sound and concepts.

Following 'From Chaos To Eternity' where the band had expended to 2 guitarists in the studio, Turilli departed to form his own version of Rhapsody, a more Filmscore oriented sound, and Rhapsody Of Fire moved on with 'Dark Wings Of Steel'.

With new bassist Allesandro Sala alongside Staropoli, Lione, drummer Alex Holzward and guitarist Roby De Micheli, we now have 'Into The Legend' and what a cracker it is. It is definitely a serious nod back to their roots. Opener and intro 'In Principio' builds solidly and with tremendous power, the chanting choir adding a gothic touch.

'Distant Touch' has the power and intensity of a round with Mike Tyson, the blistering guitar work entwined nicely with the layered keyboards. Bursts of choir and there's a real atmosphere.

The title track has a pre-classical feel and the mix of vocals and Metal before Lione's vocals come in with power make for a great track even before the intricate guitar work comes in.

rhapsody of fire

'Winters Rain' is a track that took me 2 or 3 plays to really get into, but it's a definite grower; a mid tempo crunchy song with layered operatic backing vocals and keyboards side-by-side some heavy guitar. Like an 80s Power Metal song blended with something classical, it does work really well, it's solid, moving, heavy, a seven minute track whose catchiness maybe isn't quite so instant.

'A Voice In The Cold Wind' harks back to the medieval sound of 'Enchanted Lands II', building well and serves as an excellent forerunner to the heavy and blistering Valley Of The Shadows. The female operatic vocals here add a dark gothic edge - an element of Nightwish here.

'Shining Star' opens string quartet style, and the band are more restrained on this one. It comes over really well, too, the vocals are searing and the strings work well throughout.

'Realms Of Light' and 'Rage Of Darkness' are both classic Rhapsody, strong melody and power, a good blend with the keyboards, the keys and guitar intricate in bursts.

The closer, 'The Kiss Of Light', runs to over 16 minutes and with its medieval start it builds. There are quiet moments and blistering solos, the use of choir and orchestra, it tells a story both musically and lyrically; epic in every way.

Overall a fantastic album and as good as Rhapsody Of Fire have been for a while; seven years in the making, choirs, orchestras, several studios, some unique instruments, it is as ambitious as it is epic.

If you like your Symphonic Metal to be melodic and operatic, to be epic, stirring and at times blistering, then this is definitely one for you.

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