A thunder clap before the mighty storm arrives.
It is difficult to carry on even the shortest of conversations regarding power metal’s symphonic sub-style without mentioning Rhapsody Of Fire. In essence, the concept largely owes its existence to the early strides that this Italian band of virtuosos made in the 1990s while much of the music media was penning metal’s supposed obituary. While their ascent to greatness would culminate in five riveting classics under the banner of Limb Music, they have proven among the more prolific and consistent members of the millennial power metal movement even as less bombastic and technically charged variants of power metal arose later in the 2000s. Even the subsequent loss of guitarist and co-songwriting mastermind Luca Turilli and later lead vocalist and highly charismatic helmsman Fabio Lione has seen this band undeterred, and continuing to offer up the same mixture of symphonic pomp, operatic charm and high octane metal with a new flock of musicians under keyboardist and co-founder Alex Staropoli’s leadership.
Following the triumphant entry with new vocalist Giacomo Voli that was 2019’s “The Eighth Mountain,” the first in a new and ongoing conceptual storyline, a taste of what is to come has been provided to satiate the starving masses as they battle cabin fever in the wake of the Covid lockdowns. Clocking in at nearly 40 minutes, “I’ll Be Your Hero” is among the longer EPs to ever be devised, but the logic of why this isn’t regarded as an LP becomes obvious when considering the nature of the content. Barring the title anthem, everything found on this release is either a rerecording, live or otherwise variant version of an existing song in Rhapsody Of Fire’s extensive back catalog. It could almost be regarded as a promotional single with a lot of bonus material, but the seven songs that follow the opener function as a highly effective showcase of the present lineup of the band, demonstrating their ability to faithfully recreate the greatness of the past while standing as a force unto themselves while both on stage and in the recording studio.
The greatest insight into where this band will be headed on their next studio excursion is obviously provided by the opening anthem and title track “I’ll Be Your Hero”. It’s a partial departure from the mostly speed-infused character of the last couple albums, beginning on a massive a capella vocal intro and landing on a mid-paced groove with a keyboard hook that sounds somewhat reminiscent of Sabaton. Giacomo steals the show with a brilliant vocal performance that sees him showcasing much of his massive range in a highly dynamic fashion, but credit should also be given to newly acquired drummer Paolo Marchesich for a rock solid, double kick steeped showing, as well as guitarist Roberto De Micheli for a truly mesmerizing guitar solo that balances melodic splendor and fancy technique to masterful results. About the only criticism that can be laid at this anthem is that it’s a bit on the simple side, but even this plays perfectly to the flamboyance of the vocals and doesn’t detract to an noticeable degree.
The remainder of this rather elongated EP will no doubt sound familiar to anyone who has followed the Rhapsody Of Fire storyline up until the present, though the manner in which they are delivered breathes a level of freshness upon these preexisting entries. “Where Dragons Fly”, a folksy ballad and deep cut that was only to be found as the b-side of the “Emerald Sword” single way back in 1998, is the greatest beneficiary of an updated production that sees its atmosphere nearly doubled in density, while Giacomo’s vocal interpretation proves a tad less melodramatic and more accessible than Lione’s original. A duo of bangers from “The Eighth Mountain” in “Rain Of Fury” and “The Courage To Forgive” are reprised from the tour of said album, and the performance turned in by all involved proves difficult to distinguish from the original studio versions save for crowd noise, some occasional ad libs by Voli to pump up the crowd and Roberto’s solos lacking a rhythm guitar backup.
As this EP is drawn to a close with the original studio version of the previous album’s melancholy ballad “The Wind, The Rain And The Moon” and three alternate versions sung in Italian, Spanish and French by Giacomo in an equally convincing fashion, the only question that is likely to be in the listener’s mind is “how long will I have to wait to get the rest of the story?” Therein lies the beauty and the ongoing allure of Rhapsody Of Fire’s brand of epic storytelling, they are certified masters in providing their audience with engrossing tale set to a truly magical soundtrack. The only real noticeable flaw in their showing here is that the four different versions of the aforementioned closing ballad tend to drag a bit when heard back to back, though this is among a very few select offerings out of this band that doesn’t really lend itself to being heard straight through in a single sitting. Yet despite the obvious utility of the skip function on this opus, it’s a solid showing and hopefully one that will be followed by a minimal waiting period before the complete second chapter of The Nephilim’s Empire saga comes to light.
Released By: AFM Records
Released On: June 4th, 2021
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
- Alex Staropoli / Keyboards, Piano
- Roberto De Micheli / Guitars
- Alessandro Sala / Bass
- Giacomo Voli / Vocals
- Paolo Marchesich / Drums
“I’ll Be Your Hero” track listing:
- I’ll Be Your Hero (Single version)
- Where Dragons Fly (Re-recording)
- Rain of Fury (Live)
- The Courage to Forgive (Live)
- The Wind, the Rain and the Moon
- Sin un adiós
- Senza un addio
- La force de me battre
Undeterred by a series of massive lineup shifts in the 2010s, Italy’s principle purveyor of symphonic power metal marches on into the 2020s, offering up a lofty anthem after their heart of their many historic bangers, along with an assortment of exclusive bonus material.