Two years ago I was made a promise by guitarist/composer Roberto De Micheli, as Rhapsody of Fire released a compilation of newly re-recorded classic material called "Legendary Years." Roberto simply said: "I promise to you a great new album for 201!" That promise was fulfilled with "The Eighth Mountain," the band's strongest effort since "The Frozen Tears of Angels."
The band has finally presented a Rhapsody of Fire album that represents the true succession of the band in the post-Turilli era, and should grab the attention of an "alienated fanbase" that has called this lineup a "Rhapsody of Fire cover band." They key is....will there be enough of us to convince everyone that they should listen. All it takes is one listen to "The Eighth Mountain" and all those feelings you had for the band as a youth will come rushing back.
Even though I remain a staunch defender of the band's previous efforts - "Dark Wings of Steel" and "Into the Legend" - I acknowledge two records have seemingly polarized the fanbase. Human nature creeped in and fans started choosing sides in this nonexistent "war." In what seemed to be a snub to the departure of the legendary Fabio Lione and drummer Alex Holzwarth, Alex Staropoli appeared to fan the flames a bit by re-recording classic era music while the classic era lineup decided to do a farewell tour. The result was "Legendary Years" in 2017, which you author thought was a very enjoyable release, but one which laid down the gauntlet under very suspect timing. Fortunately, whatever oneupmanship there is behind the scenes, it seems only to serve in pushing both Staropoli and Turilli into creating better music. Luca has had the upper hand in quality of albums issued since 2011, but make no mistake about it....Staropoli has ROARED back armed with young guns and the strongest Rhapsody of Fire record in years. I dare say that "The Eighth Mountain" can sit right along side "Dawn of Victory" and "Triumph or Agony" knowing full well how much that statement means to the Rhapsody of Fire faithful.
So what makes "The Eighth Mountain" such a success? For one, avid Rhapsody fans will love the new saga - a story written by Di Micheli and Staropoli - called "Nephlins Empire Saga." It harkens back to the glory days with an overall theme of lost and corrupted souls. Back from the grave is Christopher Lee, who returns to provided narration for the album's epic closing (and one of the best) track "Tales of A Hero's Fate." With that backdrop set and a superior sound team at the helm, the songwriting returns to the superiority of the past - the perfect blend of speed, power, glory and fantasy brought on by top notch musicianship. Oh an Manuel Staropoli fans will be so happy to hear the recorder back on "Warrior Heart"!
Choosing once again to record in front of a live choir and orchestra, Staropoli teamed with the Bulgarian National Symphony Orchestra and two choirs with more than 20 singers. The atmosphere is most haunting and gorgeous...resulting in such instant classics like "The Legend Goes On," "March of the Tyrant" and the aforementioned "Warrior Heart." Only a fool cannot see that the band has pulled out all the stops to make "The Eighth Mountain" such a special album.
Where "Dark Wings of Steel" and "Into the Legend" had quality music with a mix that leaned heavily towards the keyboard side of things....the hiring of Ordan Ogan's Seeb Levermann has finally restored the perfect balance. If there is one thing I know about Seeb is that he is brilliant at bringing out the best in what makes metal...metal: guitar. Di Micheli's play is further showcased with Seeb's trademark serrated edge - and you can hear it the best on songs like "Rain of Fury," "Clash of Times" and the amazing "Master of Peace."
Picking a replacement for the world's greatest vocalist - Fabio Lione - is no easy task. Not overly impressed with the work on Teodasia (a reflection more on the style than anything), new vocalist Giacomo Voli was so impressive on "Legendary Years," at times sounding a bit like a young up and coming Lione. On "The Eighth Mountain," Voli truly shines with new material - proving he belongs in the Rhapsody of Fire realm with the ability to bring all the greatness that Fabio had brought over the years. The band actually sounds refreshed, renewed and evolved!
Ever since the now famous split between Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli, many saw division, but I saw the opportunity for even more amazing music. Di Micheli was deemed by your author as the true heir apparent to Turilli and the future of Rhapsody of Fire, and "The Eight Mountain" only strengthens that sentiment. Now you can add vocalist Voli to that future. The man defied the all the odds (and criticism), easily exceeding expectations for "The Eighth Mountain." The changes in the band is akin to how it felt when the legends of the legendary Star Trek series were recast - at first there was betrayal and disgust, and then pure joy when it was pulled off with such respect to the past but an eye towards a long lasting future. It is yet another chapter in the ever expanding world of the greatest power metal band (now bands) to walk the earth. If you cannot trust a true believer, one who was with the band since before the band was first signed, then to whom can you trust?
Label: AFM Records (buy the album here)
1. Abyss of Pain
2. Seven Heroic Deeds
3. Master of Peace
4. Rain of Fury
5. White Wizard
6. Warrior Heart
7. The Courage to Forgive
8. March Against the Tyrant
9. Clash of Times
10. The Legend Goes On
11. The Wind, the Rain and the Moon
12. Tales of a Hero's Fate