Jori : Rhapsody Of Fire has lost three image determining band members since the 2013 album From Chaos To Eternity. First there was guitarist and composer Luca Turilli who found his musical epos complete after ten albums, and after the 2016 Into The Legend also singer Fabio Lione and drummer Alex Holzwarth threw in the towel. Let us just keep the incomprehensible game of chess with reunions ans spin-off bands that followed for what it is for now. Rhapsody Of Fire now has only one founding band member left, keyboardist Alex Staropoli, and the man has determination. He pulled Rhapsody Of Fire through this what can perhaps best be described as a Greek tragedy, and now brings the band back to the power metal front with the brand-new album The Eighth Mountain. But year, a band without Turilli and Lione, is that still Rhapsody?
No, is the painful conclusion here. This is already made clear on opener Seven Heroic Deeds, that does not match the history of this band in terms of songwriting. At best we have an Ancient Bards clone here, who also play Italian symphonic metal, but is simply not Rhapsody. Then there is singer Giacomo Voli, who can really do a decent bit of singing, but does not come within a lightyear of the classical powerhouse of Lione or Alessandro Conti. Voli has a magnificent light voice that has got some Chris Bay (Freedom Call) in it, but that of course is devastating to the Rhapsody sound of old. Master Of Peace is a harder song in terms of music, and though many familiar elements make their reappearance, the feeling of old does not return even after multiple listens.
No matter how sorry one can be about Rhapsody not being Rhapsody anymore, that does not mean that The Eighth Mountain is a bad album! If a band from the margin such as Kaledon or Derdian came with this piece of work, there would be praises all over the place. Also the more orchestral Rain Of Fury is a neat piece of cinematic metal, and definitely one of the album highlights. It is Warrior Hearth though that first gives me back a Rhapsody vibe. The intro with the flute and acoustic guitar remind strongly of Forest Of Unicorns of Rhapsody debut album Legendary Tales, while the chorus of the song in fact touches the title track of that album. Towards the end of the record we find the teaser material of a while back with The Legend Goes On. Another strong track with a catchy chorus over a rapid double bass drum as the rules of the genre prescribe. The Wind, The Rain And The Moon is a beautiful ballad that has only orchestral support for the largest part of the song. Tales Of A Heroes Fate closes the album in style with an over ten minute long epos in which we suddenly hear some grunts in the beginning. Though this is a neat piece of composition, it misses the dynamics to suck you in during the impressive duration. Until the end, damn! Do I hear Christopher Lee? Apparently the band still had some material of the man laying about, including a Buddhistic quote that was also used by Robert Oppenheimer after the detonation of the first ever nuclear weapon.
Sorry Horst, that this review missed the deadline. I have been doubting about sending this in for quite a while. On one hand it is grievous that the real Rhapsody-sound of the old days has largely vanished. On the other hand, can you blame a band for moving on after the departure of some band members, no matter how important to the image and sound of the band? Well apparently you can, as two unnamed Iron Maiden albums and two Judas Priest albums be my witnesses, but is it fair? In the end, I think you can best appreciate this album if you ignore the band name on the cover, and if you treat this as an excellent power metal album and not as a Rhapsody product. Musically it might have been a better choice to continue under a different band name, but it is obvious that that is commercial suicide.