Released: 2016, AFM Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
You can usually tell what kind of Rhapsody of Fire album it’s going to be by the bombastic introduction and the opening bars of the first song. In a way it’s a little intellectually and artistically dishonest to put it this way, but it’s largely true. The kings of European symphonic metal are forever channeling the impression they made in the opening seconds of their studio career, that being the introduction and opening of “Warrior of Ice” from their debut Legendary Tales. In 1997 that sound was big, new and stunning. Fast-forward nearly 20 years, to the Italian band’s new release Into the Legend. The sound is definitely big, bombastic and melodic. It’s certainly a technical masterpiece, and Rhapsody of Fire fans will love it. But honestly it’s just more of the same.
“Distant Sky,” the first substantive track after the nearly three-minute intro, is a pretty standard mid-tempo Rhapsody offering, technically proficient and musically pleasing, though nothing really groundbreaking—which is mostly how I would describe the album as a whole. The title track “Into the Legend” is, well, pretty much the same as the first one. The remaining tracks take us through the familiar path that winds its way through every Rhapsody of Fire album: how do you change things up enough to differentiate the songs and provide a well-rounded listening experience, while still staying within the boundaries of “Hollywood metal” that the fans have come to love? Usually after the first few tracks there’s a sort of down-shifted, less melodic track on every Rhapsody album; here it’s “Winter’s Rain,” then something with flutes and bagpipes that makes you think of dwarves dancing in the forest, which in this case is “A Voice in the Cold Wind.” Then you have Fabio Lione and a booming chorus singing in Latin (“Valley of Shadows,” which also includes operatic female vocals) and the slow ballad that sounds like it should be playing during the love scene of a movie about Elizabethan-era royalty (“Shining Star”). And of course the finale, which in this case is the 17-minute epic “The Kiss of Light,” where they pull out all the stops, get the choir and the orchestra all lathered up, and leave their fans in twitching paroxysms of melodic, spittle-streaked, power-metal-hungry glory, at least until the next Rhapsody of Fire album comes out. This is now what you expect from a Rhapsody album, and this is exactly what you get.
Into the Legend is certainly well-made. The production values are as high as you’ll find from any big European power metal outfit, and the audio engineers have left nothing to chance. Rhapsody has managed to cover pretty well for the absence of Luca Turilli who left the band in 2011 and the loss of one guitarist two years later. You don’t notice an difference in their sound, though perhaps the creative originality of the 1990s-2000s albums is now gone. Indeed there’s no sense this time of Rhapsody of Fire taking any chances anymore, as they did a few years back singing with horror star Christopher Lee in four languages; but then again they have come a long way since the lispy days of Sir Jay Lansford’s endless concept album narration. Into the Legend is competent, and it delivers what most Rhapsody of Fire fans probably want and expect—though nothing more than that. Don’t expect Into the Legend to wow you, but don’t expect it to disappoint you either.