Overall Score: 8/10 Vocals: 8/10 Musicianship: 9/10 Cheese: 10/10 Pros: Bloody good power metal | A solid start to a new era of Rhapsody Cons: Not quite The Emerald Sword Saga
If you like your Power Metal and have somehow managed to keep track of the Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire saga post-2011 split AND the multiple Rhapsody spin-offs and new members joining and members leaving one Rhapsody for the other since then, then hats off to you – cause that’s a lot of Rhapsody’s. So which Rhapsody is this you’ve got here we hear you say? Well, ‘The Eighth Mountain‘ comes from the Alex Staropoli led Rhapsody of Fire (rather than the Luca Turilli / Fabio Lione one).
Now, this particular album brings with it a lot of firsts. It’s the first chapter for a new saga entitled ‘The Nephilim’s Empire Saga’ which coincidentally is also the first saga written by the Staropoli led Rhapsody (former guitarist Luca Turilli used to be the mastermind behind the bands earlier saga’s) and it’s also the first album to feature the new line-up. Most notably though, the album is the first full-length release to feature the band’s new singer Giacomo Voli. Voli is an alumnus of the Italian version of The Voice and first appeared on the band’s compilation of hits on the ‘Legendary Years’ album.
Anyway, without further ado lets ride our dragon right on in and get stuck into the Power Metal goodness. We’re pleased to report the album features wizards, swords, spells, warriors, tyrants and the rest in buckets. It’s Rhapsody of Fire back on fire after the somewhat under-whelming Post-Luca Turilli releases – Dark Wings of Steel (2013) and Into The Legend (2016) respectively. The album opens with the usual fanfare we’ve come to expect from Rhapsody albums – Dramatic film-score-esq layered with beautiful choirs. The suspense builds and builds before the album launches into the first track ‘Seven Heroic Deeds’.
The orchestration of the song is just brilliant from start to finish. It has the usual virtuoso sweep picking at the speed of light intros, crazy keyboard solos, choirs in abundance and of course a grandiose power metal chorus with Voli’s impressive range driving the song – a consistent formula maintained throughout the album.
It’s followed up by the rapid ‘Master of Peace’ – a more classic power metal sounding track backed up with some really beautiful musical embellishments by guitarist Roberto Di Micheli who takes care of both lead and rhythm guitar duties on the album. The epic ‘Rain of Fury’ comes next and its stacked with everything we love about Rhapsody. It’s one of the best tracks on the entire release. ‘Clash of Times’ too brings even more serious virtuoso shreddage that even the most anti-neoclassical guitarists would surely admire.
The Eight Mountain features three ballads amidst the furiously thrilling storm of sheer power metal velocity. ‘Warrior Heart’ is the first, ‘Match of The Tyrant’ is the second and penultimate track ‘The Wind, The Rain, The Moon’ is the third. Whilst they’re not quite in the ballad league of ‘Magic of the Wizards Dream’ or ‘Son of Pain’ (but let’s face it, few songs are!) they’re still fairly solid efforts on a ballad front. March of The Tyrant starts off with a face melting guitar intro before transforming into ballad territory and building back into more of a ‘Triumph or Agony’ era Rhapsody track – musically and lyrically.
The album closes with a ten-minute epic (no less) in the form of ‘Tales of a Heroes Fate’ which feels like a bit of a throwback to the soundscapes last seen on ‘From Chaos To Eternity’ mixed with Epica-esq choir chants.
It’s also here we discover that Voli is more than just your average Power Metal Tenor – he can also scream a bit too (which he briefly does on the opening verses) and switches between the two contrasting styles effortlessly. He even casually throws in some of the highest notes of the whole album for good measure. It will be interesting to see whether future releases will explore the dynamic between the two vocal styles further as it distinguishes them from the typical power metal school of tenors.
It ends with a mysterious Christopher Lee styled narration about the Nephilim and the destroyer of worlds – a thrilling note to end the album on and surely a theme we’ll see explored in the musical landscapes of the next chapter of the saga.
If you like Power Metal you will LOVE this album. If you can accept that this is a new era of Rhapsody of Fire you will LOVE this album. It has everything we’ve come to expect musically from Rhapsody of Fire. Dare we say it, it feels like a homage to the classic-era Rhapsody sound with a mighty chorus you want to raise your sword to.
It feels familiar whilst also being fresh. And whilst it doesn’t quite have the heavy hitter songs like ‘Emerald Sword’, ‘Power of the Dragonflame’, ‘Dawn of Victory’ or ‘Unholy Warcry’ – it’s still bloody good power metal and these Italians have again proved themselves up there with the best of the genre with ‘The Eighth Mountain’.
On the other hand, if you’re a die-hard old school Rhapsody fan waiting for another ‘Symphony Of Enchanted Lands’ or mega-length epics like ‘Heroes of the Waterfalls Kingdom’ you’ll probably be left disappointed. But hey at least there’s the Turilli-Lione Rhapsody coming later this year to look for to eh? Overall though, this really feels like the album the Staropoli-led Rhapsody of Fire should have put out after the 2011 band-split. A fiery start to a new saga and new era of Rhapsody of Fire.
The Eighth Mountain is released on the 22nd of February 2019 on AFM Records.