I will not say that I am the biggest fan of Rhapsody of Fire. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re a fantastic band with a lot to like about them. Yet, they’re not a band that I would rush out and listen to everything they’ve ever put out. Nor am I watching the release calendar like a hawk looking for their new album. Yet, when I get the chance, I do love to listen to their music. They’re just such a grandiose band and always present themselves with so much energy. They make your typical symphonic-power metal with all of the check listed hallmarks. The fast-paced rhythm section, twinkling keys and synth, overwhelming power-filled chorus lines and that massive bombastic production that dominates the senses, in the best of ways. The band return with their twelfth studio record The Eighth Mountain and, yeah they once again deliver on that promised sound.
The Eighth Mountain is an absolutely spectacular record filled with whimsy and wonder. The production is top-notch with every piece of instrumentation sounding clear and well toned and the whole thing is so tightly mixed it’s almost otherworldly. The moments of tension are so delightfully contrasted against the moments of release. When the choruses lines come in the instrumentation is sweeping and the vocal performances are delivered with so much conviction. Adding to the vocals is a choir performance that adds so much more gravitas to the sound. The orchestral style is mixed well with the metal stylings and it’s put together so seamlessly. Yet at the same time, the tone is textured enough that it doesn’t just meld into one homogenised ‘symphonic metal’ sound. It feels like power metal with orchestral accompaniment rather than a band just aiming for the symphonic metal format.
This album will not be for everyone. Nothing ever is. I can certainly hear how this album could be dismissed as too over-the-top or too gimmicky. Yes, there are certainly those moments. It comes with this style of music and indeed, any sub-genre of this calibre. There are no themes of ‘sticking it to the man’ or social/political commentary, it’s a record exploring fantasy concepts and using poetic language to communicate emotions. The orchestral sound will not suit everyone’s taste and I can understand that. For me, I’m willing to take Rhapsody of Fire by the hand and explore the imaginative imagery with a bombastic soundtrack. It’s one of the reasons I love this side of metal.
Bottom line, if you’re not one for power metal or symphonic metal, then this will do little to change your mind. However, if you’re willing to, at the very least, give it a try. This album is not a bad entry point to their discography. As it’s got more of a modern-aged production to it but the songwriting feels like very like old school Rhapsody or Blind Guardian. It’s definitely something worth getting and listening to a few times over, and over.