Rhapsody of Fire - The Eighth Mountain - (8/10)
Published on February 5, 2019
So, what are we up to now? There’s Rhapsody, Rhapsody Of Fire, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, Luca Turilli, Luca Turilli’s Dreamquest, Rhapsody Reunion, Turilli/Lione Rhapsody… any I’ve missed? Beyond the farce that this band and its many side-projects has created, there is some world-class musicianship going on – the majority of which, based on the last 7 years, seemed to belong to Luca Turilli. The Italian guitar god went from strength to strength with his multi-faceted and envelope-pushing incarnation of the Rhapsody name. Meanwhile, his ex-songwriting buddy, Alex Staropoli, plodded on in mediocrity with the lacklustre Dark Wings Of Steel in 2013, and the slightly better Into The Legend in 2016. The line-up fell apart, a pointless collection of re-recordings seemed to hammer the nail into the coffin (for me anyway), and all seemed lost. Well, shut my mouth and colour me awake. Staropoli has returned with an all-new Rhapsody Of Fire record for 2019 and they sound refreshed, revived and ready to battle some motherfucking dragons once more. Let the citizens of Algalord rejoice – it’s not shit!
2013-2018 will forever be known as Rhapsody Of Fire’s ‘dark era’, not just due to the lack of quality, but because of Alex’s musical leanings. Both DWOS and ITL had a heavy reliance on tonic pedals and single-note chugging, dragging the band’s usual bright, symphonic flair down to a murky quagmire. It was here that Turilli’s absence was felt hardest. But, within mere minutes of hearing 2019’s The Eighth Mountain, you will find yourself grinning with relief and nodding in approval just as I did. “Abyss Of Pain”, even as an intro, may seem superfluous, but all is forgotten as the explosive blast of “Seven Heroic Deeds” knocks you on your ass. Rapid-fire double-kick assaults, speedy strumming, blaring symphonics, fret-hopping guitar sweeps (Turilli-esque if I may be so daring to say!) – this is Rhapsody Of Fire! Finally, it feels right!
A big talking point was always going to be Giacomo Voli’s vocals, or rather the absence of Fabio Lione. Voli’s higher-pitched and more trebly tones take a little while to get used to, and he doesn’t give the choruses quite the same impact, but he has some serious chops, especially in his falsetto register. Just hear how he belts the mighty chorus to “Rain Of Fury” with aplomb and some wicked top-tier screams in ”The Courage To Forgive”. With more experience, this guy will undoubtedly become the voice RoF needs to shine once more. Staropoli himself holds back on the flashy virtuosic playing, opting instead to let his keys layer the metal lavishly with swathes of gorgeous strings. He still employs the orchestral stabs to accent the more vicious riffs on the album, but it’s refreshing to hear him back to his theatrical ways, rather than trying to be as ‘metal’ as possible. Track six, the gorgeous “Warrior Heart”, brings back that folk and baroque influence in splendid fashion – and for that track alone, I applaud Mr Staropoli.
I’m glad the Italians didn’t skimp on quantity here – The Eighth Mountain is over an hour at least. I do, however, think that having two ‘epics’ was stretching themselves a bit much – especially considering the 10-minute “Tales Of A Hero’s Fate” blows its load far too early (those harsh vocals are class…more please!). Amazingly, there is a surprise posthumous appearance from…Christopher Lee?! It just has to be! Unless it’s an insanely good impressionist. More welcome is the sheer quality of the 9-minute ”March Against The Tyrant”, with its majestic chorus and hugely impressive extended guitar solo. This album will not quite grab fans on first listen and make them want to play it all over again, I guess Alex still has a little way to go to reach past glories. But it will restore many fans’ faith that had previously been lost. The Eighth Mountain is not perfect, but if it were released circa 2006, it would have been very well favoured. Let’s just be thankful that it’s bright, vibrant, symphonic, energetic and full of choruses like ”The Legend Goes On” (man, that is the shit!)
8/10 – needs more dragons.