Album review: RHAPSODY OF FIRE – The Eighth Mountain

RHAPSODY OF FIRE - The Eighth Mountain

AFM Records [Release date 22.02.19]

Italian power metal band return with their latest album, cementing the new/current line-up. Formed in the mid 90 as Rhapsody, RoF made the genre of symphonic power metal their own.

Founder members keyboard player Alex Staropoli and guitarist Luca Turilli led the band through many a wonderful album, and many a concept too; my personal favourite and the band’s highlight has to be ‘Symphony Of The Enchanted Lands II The Dark Secre’t was the first of 5 albums following a continuous concept, and featuring narrator Christopher Lee, who I interviewed for GRTR! back in 2007.

That album epitomised operatic melodic power metal, and they have moved in a more classic power metal direction since. And while there’s been a few line-up changes, Staropoli remains constant and has kept the band’s focus solid, and direction on track.

This is the first album to feature vocalist Giacomo Voli (for now let’s forget the Legendary Years compilation, the rerecorded tracks being too close to the originals), and the band are completed (complemented) by Roby De Micheli (guitars), Alessandro Sala (bass) and Manu Lottner (drums).

This album sees the start of a new concept (that will hopefully run) developed by Roby De Micheli and Alex Staropoli under the title of the ‘Nephlins Empire Saga’ which is based on classic Rhapsody’s fascinating fantasy elements and includes the narration courtesy of prestigious British Dracula actor Christopher Lee on the final song ‘Tales Of A Hero’s Fate’, This is what Rhapsody Of Fire are renowned for, in this instance – roughly speaking – lost, corrupted souls.

The album opens with a classic building keyboard, before ‘Heroic Deeds’ crashes in. Massive swirling keyboards, blistering shred (making the album a little heavier than some earlier albums), wide ranging and solid vocals, the earlier line-ups are firmly in the past. And heavy though this is, there’s enough symphonic injections, choir and orchestra too, to tell you this is classic Rhapsody Of Fire.

‘Master Of Piece’ sees Voli’s vocal range come to the fore, and ‘Rain Of Fury’ kicks off with orchestra and piano played heavier than some play metal. ‘White Wizard’ brings the pace down a little, and also shows how the songs are a little more uplifting than on the last album or two.

Then there’s the medieval touches in ‘Warrior Heart’; a little diversity goes a long way. It’s no where as progressive as ‘The Dark Secret’ but the touches are there. Fully enjoyable too is ‘March Against The Tyrant’, which runs to over 9 minutes.

Then ‘Tales Of A Hero’s Fat’e to over 10 minutes – this is epic Rhapsody Of Fire – and classic too. Vintage Christopher Lee too (very much in the ‘Dark Secret’ vein, I’m happy on that note alone). Very few in the power metal genre can run a musical and lyrical story in such epic proportions.

It’s not as anthemic or progressive as the mid 00s, but that doesn’t stop this being great listen. Heavy yet uplifting, symphonic, conceptual, shred, orchestra and choir. What’s not to love?  *****

Review by Joe Geesin

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