Sound — 6
Rhapsody Of Fire have made the welcome habit of returning to the approach which decorated their earlier power metal installments, namely "Symphony of Enchanted Lands" and "Dawn of Victory," through their recent studio releases. Such alterations were especially prevalent on 2013's "Dark Wings of Steel," which centered the group's emphasis towards operatic refrains and neoclassical shredding solos - both of which are certainly qualities readily present throughout symphonic power metal, however Rhapsody Of Fire were once at the forefront of this movement and such a distinctive return wasn't left unrecognized. Fortunately enough, this stylistic trend presses forward with the eleventh Rhapsody Of Fire studio installment, "Into the Legend," which more often than not delivers anthemic compositions demonstrating a conscious emphasis on structured progressions without losing the creative energy of the group.
The monumental title track "Into the Legend" does take a moment to gather it's strength and become aware of it's surroundings, specifically due to the Celtic introduction which later develops a large role in the synthesizer melody found throughout. Soon enough the pounding percussion of Alex Holzwarth and the blistering guitar work of Roby De Micheli shift the pace into overdrive, where the attention particularly centers toward lead vocalist Fabio Lione, who is no stranger to the Rhapsody lineage; Lione has appeared on the band's studio efforts since 1997's "Legendary Tales" and remains a viable and formidable key to retaining the band's distinctive sound over the course of many lineup changes and the infamous battle over the Rhapsody name.
"In Principio (In the Beginning)" serves as the album's dramatic opening instrumental and prelude to the rambunctious nature of "Distant Sky," a song that is unapologetically propelled by massive neoclassical shredding scales and Lione's commendable lyrical delivery. "Winter's Rain" sets the pace just a tad, ultimately settling in a grounded galloping anthem highlighted by crushing rhythm guitar and synthesizer arrangements that soar above the six strings. The aforementioned Celtic atmosphere makes a full fledged return on "A Voice in the Cold Wind," which quite frankly does more to disrupt the aggressive flow of the album due to the expansive bagpipe solo that comprises the bulk of the track. "Valley of Shadows" alternates back into the familiar chemistry of operatic vocals, snarling backups and assertive percussion that dedicated listeners tend to gravitate towards from a new Rhapsody Of Fire release.
The group moves into power ballad territory with the symphonic accompaniment and emotional vocal performance on "Shining Star," which despite the dramatic shift as far as mood and pace are concerned still finds a comfortable home in the track listing. Arguably the most rhythm guitar oriented number on the album, "Realms of Light" is taken control by palm muted chord progressions that have that much more room to breathe when the synthesizer is, even momentarily, taken out of the equation. Those symphonic arrangements are critical to the Rhapsody Of Fire sound, and make a welcome resurgence on the following "Rage of Darkness" and the epic sixteen minute "The Kiss of Life," however just a brief amount of appropriate variety delivers that much more to the end result found on "Into the Legend." While the previously noted "A Voice in the Cold Wind" serves as a strong example of experimentation with the best of intentions, it ultimately stands as one of the album's least memorable moments.
Lyrics — 8
Fabio Lione isn't just recognized for his previous contributions to Rhapsody and Rhapsody Of Fire, but also for his like-minded work as a vocalist for heavyweights Angra, Kamelot, Labyrinth and Ayreon, naming a few. Despite his rigorous schedule and frequent use of soaring operatic vocals, Lione remains in top form throughout Rhapsody Of Fire's "Into the Legend," more than occasionally belting out lung bursting high notes that make for some memorable climatic refrains. The title track "Into the Legend" and "Distant Sky" are a few of these same tracks that are especially memorable for Lione's ability to nail accelerated verses and melodic choruses, which continues to fare well against the symphonic metal background of this band.
Overall Impression — 7
Three years since the release of Rhapsody Of Fire's previous installment "Dark Wings of Steel," this veteran symphonic metal outfit follow a similar path as far as overall album composition while retaining degrees of originality on their eleventh full-length studio album "Into the Legend." Between the album's frequent implementation of massive scaling solos, compelling operatic refrains and masterful instrumentation, Rhapsody Of Fire continue to impress this far into the career, even while incorporating a few less-than-favorable moments throughout.