Review

RHAPSODY OF FIRE Into the Legend

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
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4.5/5 ·
DippoMagoo
It’s always exciting when a new album from a beloved band in their field that had seemed to be on the decline, ends up being a huge return to form, and that is what we have here with Rhapsody of Fire and their latest effort Into the Legend, their second full length album since the band split into two in 2011. I’ve had an up and down history with the band and its various forms, initially being unimpressed by their later albums, before suddenly falling in love with From Chaos to Eternity and then digging deep into their earlier albums and loving those as well. I had been a bit nervous going into Dark Wings of Steel, their first album with keyboardist Alex Staropoli taking full reins as lead songwriter and my worries somewhat came true as while it was a solid enough album on its own, it failed to live up to classic works like Legendary Tales and Dawn of Victory, and proved to be a huge step down from the aforementioned From Chaos to Eternity. My expectations were fairly low for Into the Legend, but thankfully it has proven to be not only a return to form but perhaps one of the best albums in their entire discography.

Where Dark Wings of Steel fell halfway between being a somewhat successful attempt at bringing back the classic Rhapsody sound and a half-hearted attempt at modernizing their music into something heavier and less grand, Into the Legend feels like a deliberate effort to bring back the glory days of their first few albums and in this it greatly succeeds. For the most part this is a return to the epic fast paced power metal of their early albums, complete with epic choirs and the use of a real orchestra, which is used to great effect throughout the album. This album is both much more symphonic and faster paced than Dark Wings of Steel, largely ditching the slower, heavier tracks from Dark Wings of Steel and replacing them with the kind of epic symphonic power metal longtime fans would expect from the band.

Right from the very beginning it’s clear this is a Rhapsody of Fire album: “In Principio” kicks things off with the kind of epic orchestral intro you’d expect, featuring choirs singing a rather ominous sounding tune, that will be returning to later in the album. Proper album opener “Distant Sky” feels like classic Rhapsody at its very best, and includes everything one would hope for, including fast riffs, very powerful sounding drums, epic choir vocals and orchestras, a huge chorus, the unmistakable voice of frontman Fabio Lione, who sounds as amazing as ever, and yes, some impressive guitar work. This time around guitarist Roberto De Micheli brings some of the neoclassical flourishes found on their early albums, and delivers some impressive shredding during the opening track as well as throughout the album. The one time member of Thundercross (Rhapsody’s original name) proves to be a great fit for the band on this album.

The impressive start continues with the title track, which features some heavier riffs but otherwise maintains the fast tempo, huge choirs and epic melodies of the opening track, delivering another unforgettable chorus. Fans missing speedier tracks on Dark Wings of Steel have plenty to enjoy this time around, including “Rage of Darkness” and its epic neoclassical shredding, “Realms of Light” with its epic keyboard solo and chorus that only gets better near the end when sped up and perhaps my favorite of the bunch, “Valley of Shadows”, a much darker and heavier track where the choirs are really in full force, including some epic soprano vocals during the verses, and then in the middle section the tune from “In Prinicipio” returns in full force.

As good as these faster songs are, though, my personal favorite has to be “A Voice in the Cold Wind”, a track which adds in some medieval folk metal elements, especially during the verses where it’s all folk instruments and Fabio singing beautiful in a very relaxed voice, before picking up big time with its huge chorus. All in all, it feels like a call back to “The Village of Dwarves” from their classic album Dawn of Victory. One last highlight is the ballad “Shining Star”, which serves as a nice showcase for Fabio. There’s only one song here I’m not overly fond of, and that is “Winter’s Rain”, a track which plods along with rather boring guitar work during the verses and drags on a bit too long, though its chorus is fantastic and it features more varied choir vocals, featuring pretty epic male voices, plus the orchestra is in full force, so even this track has its memorable moments, even if it doesn’t stand up to the rest of the album.

Perhaps the most interesting track on the album is 16 minute epic “The Kiss of Life”. I find Rhapsody’s epics to be a bit uneven more often than not, and that is somewhat true this time, but I must admit the song has grown on me a lot over several listens. During the early verses the symphonic elements remind me of Nightwish for reasons I can’t quite put a finger on, but it’s the one time on the album where I feel that way and it’s very noticeable. The track is entirely slow paced, but features incredible vocals from both Fabio and a soprano during the chorus, and the acoustic section which features a reprise of the chorus. In fact, it feels like the majority of the song is a reprise of the chorus, and as impressive as it is, I prefer my epics to be a bit more dynamic and varied than this. At the same time, everything sounds great and the guitar solo near the end is epic. So to sum it up, I think everything here is great, but it would have been more effective if the track was only 8-10 minutes, to make up for the lack of dynamics. Still, I’d gladly take this over the excessive narration of past Rhapsody epics, one thing I’m glad they didn’t include on this album or its predecessor.

Aside from a fun but slightly uneven epic and one mildly disappointing track, Into the Legend is an amazing album and represents a return to form for Rhapsody of Fire, bringing back memories of their early works throughout. The guitar work is much stronger than last time, the faster paced tracks are as awesome as always, and on the whole I think this is an album longtime fans will be very pleased with, and for fans of power metal who somehow haven’t heard any form of Rhapsody yet, I think it would be a very good starting point.

(originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2016/01/24/rhapsody-of-fire-into-the-legend-review/)
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