RHAPSODY OF FIRE – The Eight Mountain
Italian power metallers Rhapsody of Fire have returned and this 2019 offering of theirs is loaded with bombastic and symphonic elements that ought to please all lovers of anthemic and epic music. There is a strong focus on melodies here and the ensemble sounds as technically dazzling and impressive as ever. The medieval tones and traits that underlie such compositions as "Warrior Heart" and "March Against the Tyrant" work quite well, and there are many times when "The Eighth Mountain" simply soars and reaches for stratospheric heights. When everything comes together and it all sounds massive as it does in the galloping album opener entitled "Abyss of Pain", life is pretty damn good, but although the record is certainly a well-structured and cohesive piece of work, its production values do let the song material down in a sense. For one thing, the rhythm section lacks presence and punch, which is to say that the drums lack power and prominence in the mix while the bass has a tendency to come across as somewhat subdued, which is frustrating. Another minor issue is that the guitars sound slightly sterile and clinical now and then; a warmer and richer tone would have been preferred, but maybe that is just me being a fat and bitter old fuck. Having said that, the musicianship is utterly mind-blowing and despite the album being slightly less progressive compared to its predecessors, it offers plenty of musical curveballs, twists, turns, and wicked surprises. In that sense, the album can be a nicely challenging one to absorb and it lacks neither theatricality nor energy, which is obviously a huge plus. Apart from the aforementioned "Abyss of Pain", which is a thrilling ride, other tunes such as "Seven Heroic Deeds" with its face-melting main riff and the blistering "Clash of Times" with its huge chorus are riveting and tick all the power metal boxes for yours truly.
There is a sense of something heroic and uplifting to "The Eighth Mountain" that appeals to me greatly and, like I said earlier on, the sweeping and grandiose melodies are to die for in places. Soaked in majestic keyboards and firmly rooted in orchestrated power metal, Rhapsody of Fire’s 12-track opus does everything a record of this sort is supposed to do and it does so with confidence and conviction. It might not be revolutionary or flawless, but it is a strong and memorable offering despite its shortcomings with respect to certain aspects of its production and a couple of forgettable songs.