Rhapsody of Fire - Into the LegendIt’s sometimes hard to keep up with the entity we call [Luca Turilli’s] Rhapsody [of Fire]. Starting in the late ’90s, these Italian cheese-mongers took the power metal world by storm with their bombastic, orchestral take on the genre. The young, bright-eyed Italian maestros reeled off four albums that added an epic, operatic flair to the neoclassical metal of the 1980s they’d grown up on. While the band’s near-demise at the hands of functional psychopath Joey Demaio is one of the greatest scares of my adult fandom, Rhapsody of Fire‘s return from near annihilation was celebrated with two excellent records and an EP in short succession and all was well in the land.

Then tragedy struck. Rhapsody of Fire as we knew it was finished after an amicable break, with Luca Turilli leaving the band. Turilli and Alex Staropoli would each get their own version of the band—with Turilli’s staying on Nuclear Blast, and Staropoli’s moving on to AFM.

With the band being as melodramatic and operatic as its music, it only followed that Rhapsody of Fire raised this story’s tension by dropping a steaming pile of proverbial dragon dung in 2013, while Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody nailed its debut. Dark Wings of Steel marked Rhapsody of Fire‘s first bad output since the Magic Circle days, and I was left discouraged. The album was only a shade of the band’s former glory, with simplistic and uninteresting songs and flat, muddy production. Worst of all, the guitar work took the biggest hit, as though replacing Mozart with Salieri. Frankly, I had trouble mustering up the energy to even listen to the album enough times to write a review.1

Into the Legend marks the 2nd full length record from the Luca Turilli-less Rhapsody of Fire, and Rhapsody of Fire isn’t about to miss again. They’ve come loaded for bear… with orchestras. The timeline on how long Into the Legend took to prepare is unclear—7 years in four different studios? But I’m not sure how that makes sense—but the end result of these gargantuan exertions is a colossal 70 minute album packed to bursting with every instrumentalist they could muster.

The exertions seem to have come on the recording side of the record, however, as no exertions were exerted to make this album sound like anything other than a [Luca Turilli’s] Rhapsody [of Fire] album. Start with the epic orchestral introduction; knock out 9 above-average-to-excellent power metal songs backed by choirs, threaded with buttloads of sweep picked arpeggios [How can less be more!? – Yngwie]; and close it out with a testicle-crushing 16-minute epic. The only difference is that Staropoli and crew seem to agree with everyone else in the world that voice overs are cheesy as hell and have removed them.

To be fair, there’s no reason to expect Rhapsody of Fire to change. Into the Legend is intentionally crafted to sound like the first four Rhapsody records, with songs resembling the earliest material. Several of them feature the once ubiquitous, choir-laden anthemic choruses, which hearken back to days of yore (read: 1997). This is a wise approach for the Fabio Lione-fronted Rhapsody of Fire, because this is the material where he shines the brightest. The album opens with “Distant Sky,” which puts the choirs on display immediately and the band never backs off—”Winters Rain,” “A Voice in the Cold Wind,” and “Rage of Darkness,” all feature these trademark choruses. And they’re not against revisiting other hits, as well: “A Voice in the Cold Wind” is the obligatory “Village of the Dwarves” reference, while “Shining Star” is an old school orchestral ballad, but also the album’s worst moment due to Fabio missing a couple of pretty sour notes in the chorus.

Rhapsody of Fire 2016 - Photo by Luigi Orrù

The orchestrations are a highlight of Into the Legend and the use of a real orchestra, the different choirs, and other ensemble instruments, makes for an engaging listen. The sound is lush, but I question—as usual—the need of crushing the master here to a DR7 given the space and dynamics of an orchestra. Still, Alberto Marin (mix) and Maor Appelbaum (mastering) manage to get something more akin to Turisas‘s loud, but well-produced, Stand up and Fight, rather than Fleshgod Apocalypse. The use of a real orchestra also differentiates this album from earlier Rhapsody of Fire, which often scored a level orchestral alacrity that only an orchestra made up of 150 Antonio Vivaldis could ever have performed. This more grounded, realistic sound makes Into the Legend sound epic and mature.

There are, of course, things that don’t work as well. Nowhere is Turilli’s absence more noticeable than in the guitar work. Roberto de Micheli is a virtuoso guitarist in his own right—check that solo in “Rage of Darkness” if you had any questions about that—but Luca is a special guitarist, and de Micheli’s solos never quite drive me into the upper echelons of guitar-solo-induced rapture. The other thing that stands out about the composition on Into the Legend is the extent to which Staropoli composes in sentence fragments rather than full sentences, or even paragraphs. Songs like “Distant Sky,” “Into the Legend,” “Valley of the Shadows,” and even closing epic “The Kiss of Light,” start with simple phrases, as though written from guitar. Made up of two or three notes and quite repetitive, these licks seem out of place and oddly elementary for a band so invested in bombast that they put a dragon on every single record they’ve produced.

It’s obvious, however, that Into the Legend is a worthy successor of the Rhapsody of Fire legacy after that little hiccup back from 2013 of which we shall never speak again. Into the Legend is substantive chapter in Rhapsody of Fire‘s ongoing dissertation on the Malmsteenian thesis that “more is,” indeed, “more.” These, the venerable Italian statesmen of orchestral metal, make their case with all the bombast and majesty we’ve come to expect.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Media Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Websites: rhapsodyoffire.com | facebook.com/rhapsodyoffire
Release Dates: EU: 2016.01.15 | US: 2016.02.05

Show 1 footnote

  1. I’d give it a 1.5/5.0, you blood-thirsty monsters.
  • Gustaf Lundström

    So psyched for this now!
    I’m surprised they’d put out a recording including sour vocal notes, but then again there are some questionable lyrics to be found in their back catalogue. If it’s even half as good as Frozen Tears I’ll be happier than a weed induced hobbit.

    • It could be intentional, but it just sounds like the result of Fabio swooping into notes. It’s bad vocal technique gone awry.

      • Gustaf Lundström

        But how can this be?! He was the chosen one… Oh well, I’ll just brace myself for it and pray you’re only half right. Though I find that’s usually not the case.

    • Here’s Johnny

      You won’t notice the sour notes, to me it sounds more like they recorded his vocals a bit live as it sounds more emotional. Like his voice is breaking. He is a fabulous singer.

  • Jerome St-Charles

    Glad to read all this, as I really like the band but was really disappointed with their 2013 release.
    The snippets I heard for this one didn’t give me much to be excited about though, let’s hope the full thing is worth it.
    Still 2-0 for Turilli in my book.

    • I came in really skeptical and like it more now than when I gave it a 3.5. I could easily give it a 4 as I’m listening to it right now. It feels like a throwback to the early days in the best possible sense and I like it better than LT’s Rhapsody’s most recent disc.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    I’m probably gonna order this next month. One bad album doesn’t mean they’re finished, although I’m more in anticipation for that new Avantasia album. That one’s almost a sure thing to be awesome.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    How do I go about reprimanding the website’s owner for calling Joey DeMaio a functional psychopath?

    • Obviously there’s some humor involved. But there have been three bands that I’m aware of that have joined DeMaio’s label, and only one of them survived. That one was Rhapsody, and it survived after a protracted court battle that they cannot speak of. Manowar then went on to ape their sound. So.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I meant some humor involved in my comment, too. I guess I should have added some ;)
        It seems the only band for which it´s a good move to join DeMaio´s label is Manowar ;)

      • CarvedInStone

        Is one of these three bands Metalfore? If so they did survive. Before they were Metalforce they where Majesty and already had 4 albums under their belt. When their deal with Magic Cirle ran out they simoly reformed Majesty. They were sued by Magic Circle Records but they won.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    You spelled Yngwie wrong…

    • Oscar Albretsen

      I think he can he can be excused for that one.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Well, that´s not an easy word…

        • Oscar Albretsen

          How many people have last names that are easier to spell than their first?

          • One assumes his name is actually “Yngve Malmsten” right?

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I think his name is actually Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck… or something. Better known as Yngwie J. Malmsteen. But hey, Quorthon’s name wasn’t actually Quorthon, right?

    • It’s a typo, bro. But thanks for the heads up.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I just wanted you guys to notice so you could fix it. I should have made it a little more polite, I guess.

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    nice, i was a expecting a review from you, DWOS was so mediocre, it was the first bad album in all of Rhapsody/Turilli discography, and the singles didnt sound too good either, but the trailer with samples of the song actually sounded GOOD and sounded like RHAPSODY, besides they have a lot to prove and catch up to do because ATI and specially Prometheus were works of art -minus the voice overs, they were unnescesary- anyway i am glad they did better this time and they actually made a good album, i have faith in Staropoli as a composer, i also find interesting that they heard what Turilli was doing and choose to go the opossite direction, a much more simple, direct, and “metal” (that is what the idiots that didnt get what Rhapsody was about always complained) way of making metal, anyway cant wait to hear this!

  • Noobhammer

    Not gonna lie….I’m really digging the track embedded here. That may be because “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” is my favorite Rhapsody album, and this song, and hopefully whole album, like you said, reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeks of that early energy. I love it.

    Just answer me one question….is it a cheese plate? A cheese platter? Or a whole beautiful cheese buffet?

    • Hulksteraus

      From the review I think it is the Platter, and not quite the cheese buffet that Luca Turilli’s version offers up…

    • This is definitely a cheese platter. Not quite the buffet one could hope for, but they’ve only nailed that level a pair of times in their career.

  • Zadion

    Dark Wings of Steel was positive trash, not gonna lie. To this day From Chaos to Eternity is the only Rhapsody record I can say I love though, as I’m a fan of its riff-driven, borderline progressive approach. I’m glad to see they picked themselves up after their last blunder, though, because I thought the band was pretty much through after that split.

    • I loved those first two post-Magic Circle records a lot. I think they’re both good, with The Frozen Tears of Angels being a bit better over time.

      • Jerome St-Charles

        The connoisseur has spoken

      • Oscar Albretsen

        I listen to Frozen Tears of Angels more than even any of the pre-Magic Circle albums. They truly nailed it with that release.

  • I have a question, señor Tipo del Metal Fúrico:

    Which one do you recommend? Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody last year album or this one?

    • Between the two I’d take this one. For me, it’s a 1:1 draw.

  • Wilhelm

    I cannot deny I like Rhapsody’s cheese once in a great while. The new stuff I’m hearing is sounding really good. I saw them on their last tour and they were among the most boring bands I’ve ever witnessed. Hopefully the new one is the kick they need.

  • Robert Turnbull

    I red the review an all, but they had me with that cover!

  • I dig NCS. Great site.

    • Reese Burns

      Even if their taste in modern death metal is a bit… “eh”.

  • savafreak

    Great review man, just listened to it, a great album, better than Turilli’s latest ! Hahahahaha DeMaio a functional psychopath, hilarious and most fitting description ! The dude needs help, despite his talent and the fact that Manowar was untouchable in the 80s, he single-handedly ruined the band with his egoistic masturbatory self- indulgences !

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    i listened to it yesterday, just once, and with not the best audio: the album is good, not great, not terrible, is just a little better than the previous album, but not by much, they seem to be “inspired” a lot by new stratovarius, elvenking, and nightwish, when they are not being “inspired” by previous albums and specially dark wings of steel, which actually they literally copy the solo of the song dwos, not once, but TWICE on this album, they sound pretty generic, the melodies of the verses are boring, the change to verses/bridge/chorus is almost all the time awkard and forced and the chorus have some weird key changes that dont sound good, the guitarist does the same solo in every song, the melody on the kiss of life is literally stolen from a song of a soundtrack that i cannot remember, and etcetera, on the positive side the orchestra and choirs sounds awesome, the best part of the album, anyway the album is ok, is a little step up, but they need to seriously get their shit togheter, this could be literally any band at this point if it wasnt by staropoli great orchestrations and choirs and fabio voice, who has not been doing anything great since fcte anyway, shame because it has some good moments, just like the previous album, but that is not enough

  • Here’s Johnny

    Seems I am agreeing more with reviews on here these days, must be something wrong. This album really engaged me, it does lack Luca but maybe they will get back together one day. Prometheus was utterly amazing, stupidly epic.

    Have to commend the Rhapsody of Fire guys for making an album with this ambition and succeeding. It has an energy about it, great stuff.

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    i heared it a couple of times more, and is a good album, not great, but not mediocre like the previous one, it has some good and great moments and some Rhapsody moments when is not ripping off their own songs or epica/nightwish/elvenking or sounding generic, is a step in a good direction

  • CarvedInStone

    What a great return to form! Probably the best album either versions of Rhapsody since the Turilli/Staropoli split. When that happened I was surprised and happy. Surprised because they had been doing so well since their comeback and there wasn’t any sign quarrel within the band (at least not to an outsider) and happy because I thought I that from that day on I would get double the cheese. Unfortunately neither band managed
    to impress me. On one there was have Turilli who just tries way too hard to be epic and “cinematic” with his incarnation of the band even by Rhapsody standards. On the other side there was Rhapsody Of Fire who, at least judging by their 2013 album, weren’t trying at all anymore. I was scared that I had lost one of my main sources of fine Italian cheese but fortunately Staropoli and company seem to have pulled themselves together for this one. I hope they can keep it up in the future.