Rhapsody Of Fire – “The Eighth Mountain” (AFM Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Well, this isn’t Rhapsody Of Fire’s eighth album but man, does this band surely climb mountains! Now onto their 11th release, we find them in virtually another new line up with only co founder keyboardist Alex Staropoli and long time guitarist Roby De Micheli left since “Into The Legend” 3 years ago. Founded back in the mid 90s as one of the key players in the new power metal scene, Rhapsody Of Fire have been through name changes, numerous line ups and not in the least, the departure of co founder guitarist Luca Turilli. Still, it’s remarkable that the sound both he and Staropoli created is still there and evident across the material here. In fact, “The Eighth Mountain” goes much further in having a range of songs that draw from the early days of more folk influenced material alongside the newer, more gothy material, dramatised by symphonic pieces and an epic track featuring a narration from the late but still great Christopher Lee – so plenty in there for fans old and new. With the new band matching in terms of their highly skilled musicianship, “The Eighth Mountain” lives up to everything that its mighty name might suggest! Gone might be Fabio Lione, who sang on every prior album, but just wait till you hear the pipes on Giacomo Voli, and as for that guitar, one might actually think that Luca Turilli was back (after a steroid injection) when your jaw drops as the frazzling fret board work of De Micheli turns you into fire. But more than the speed and frantic bombast, it’s the passion inherent in the hooks and deep melodies that steal your heart over and over again on the 12 tracks, indicating an elite level of talent in the composing to match the virtuoso instrumental work. As the double bass drumming kicks off ‘Rain Of Fury’, flowing orchestrals (courtesy of the acclaimed Bulgarian National Symphony Orchestra) and Staropoli’s keyboards add the incredible melody atop which Voli’s moving highs send the song into the heavens while on ‘Warrior Heart’, the contrast couldn’t be greater with a folk pipe and Voli’s tender tones creating the medieval atmosphere before 2 choirs add their full measure to ensure a full blown emotive experience. With a female soprano accompanying Voli on ‘The Courage To Forgive’, the track takes a suave mix of symphony and opera as the folk melodies are complemented by gothic background wails and Staropoli’s pumping keyboards adding to the powerful drama that doesn’t let up. De Micheli’s pièce de résistance must be on ‘Clash Of Times’, a classic power metal song with fast double bass drumming, massive folk melodies and even more power as the orchestra lends its weight to Voli’s vocal passion and Staropoli’s beautiful keyboards – until De Micheli steals it with his blinding neo classical work in his lengthy solo piece – bravo! As bold a statement that any new line up could provide, “The Eighth Mountain” is an incredible achievement by all accounts, and then some.