Walking into the 12th studio album from Italian symphonic power metal band Rhapsody of Fire can be done in two ways. the first, and perhaps easiest is to enjoy the sound of triumphant power metal centered around the beginning of a new narrative. The second, and perhaps more interesting, is to step back and take int he dramatic history of a band that started with an almost different set of members and two narratives and over 20 years ago. We will, of course, choose the second road as the saga of Rhapsody, now Rhapsody of Fire, has been something of interest to me and this new record is but another exciting chapter in a band that breathes action.
To summarize decades of history, Rhapsody is as a collaboration between guitarist Luca Turilli, vocalist Fabio Lione, and keyboardist Alex Staropoli. While the exact timelines of all of these members are slightly off, the bulk of Rhapsody records feature these three members along with whenever drummer Alex Holzwarth actually came on board. These musicians made some of Rhapsody’s most famous records including 1997’s Legendary Tales and 2002’s Power of the Dragonflame — all within their first narrative cycle “The Emerald Sword Saga.” Turilli and Staropoli composed and wrote most of Rhapsody’s music with Lione providing the band’s signature vocal sound. This was wonderful until it wasn’t. Starting with a name change, due to legal copyright, and ending with the departure of Turilli for a side project, Rhapsody — now Rhapsody of Fire — operated on dwindling creative resources and finished their second narrative cycle “The Dark Secret Saga” with less energy than when they began. The last few years have seen the departure of Holzwarth and Lione with the Eighth Mountain being the band’s first record to feature Staropoli as last surviving founder. There is even a parallel Rhapsody project featuring Lione, Turilli and Holzwarth as a rival version of Rhapsody called Turilli / Lione Rhapsody. At this point, we all know the fate of Rhapsody’s 12th record. When this many people leave the creative energy is sapped and is best to find a new project to love and admire. To the surprise of many, including myself, the work and dedication of Staropoli and his new crew has not only made a decent Rhapsody record but one that is one of the best in many years.
Looking over the personel for the Eighth Mountain sees Staropoli as keyboardist and sole creator for the record. There are a few remnants of later Rhapsody of Fire personal including guitarist Roberto De Micheli, bassist Alessandro Sala and drummer Manuel Lotter as well as newcomer Giacomo Voli who steps in for vocals. While not intended to be a Lione clone, Voli serves as above average replacement for the memory of Lione to the point of extending his voice into operatic territory that is at times more engaging than Lione’s. Voli was famously featured on the second season runner up of reality show The Voice of Italy in 2014. Other than that reality show factoid, Voli has little other band involvement worth mentioning which is suprising seeing how comfortable he is in this symphonic power arena. From the single “Rain of Fury” to the surprisingly universal message of “the Courage To Forgive,” Voli steps in as flagbearer for a band that many harbored silent reservations regarding its future.
The Eighth Mountain begins the band’s third narrative cycle entitled The Nephilim’s Empire Saga which will undoubtedly last for a few more records. I am still interested in hearing what the rival Rhapsody has to produce as I enjoyed even the side project from Turilli which followed his split called Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. At moments I laugh as the continual drama revolving around this Italian band which have, at times, produced mediocre power metal records. The Eight Mountain, however, has reignited my enjoyment for this band to the point of support for a group of musicians who are making decent power metal in 2019. This type of power metal rivals the new and hip street level USPM and traditional heavy that has covers straight from the 1980’s. This is music made for a selective audience and one I feel could be applicable to many people with the right framing. Rhapsody, and all of its incarnations, have been with me through many years and despite their wavering levels of quality, I have always enjoyed listening to them. Now, I feel I can actually suggest this to people even without filling them in with a long complicated backstory.