God damn it’s been a long time since I got to actually review (which means Gloryhammer doesn’t count) a power metal album I really enjoyed. I was initially quite put off by the immediately use of the typical fantasy music vii-i resolution, which by the way, can we just stop that? It really doesn’t add anything musical, it’s like literal filler in music form. You’re modulating by unrelated half steps, how is that supposed to make me feel anything? Anyway, I was soon proven wrong by a BLAST of energy, a crashing wave of pure symphonic euphoria that completely blew my socks off.
Let’s just start with that fucking production. Holy shit, this is some absolute top notch quality material. It’s super clean, but you can’t really feel how clean it is because there’s so much going on. So many production jobs that are super clean make that fact really apparent in how empty everything is. But Rhapsody of Fire makes sure that this isn’t the case, sending sonic booms through your ears, washing your consciousness away with pure epic music. It’s sort of like going to a high budget 3D IMAX movie. The plot line is mediocre, but the special effects are so fucking good you don’t give a shit. And I would gladly not give a shit, but Rhapsody thankfully gives me a good reason to.
Beyond simple effects like orchestra and choirs and synths, musically this album is far superior to the large majority of power albums I’ve heard. It’s not in a super in your face way, but there are enough interesting chords changes, and twists and turns throughout each track to keep me interested in every note on almost every track (I’ll get to that later). Sure there’s plenty of awesome shredding galore. But what’s better playing fast on a guitar? How about playing fast on a guitar and STILL incorporating riffs and being completely on topic to the chord changes and music! It’s shocking, it’s almost as if playing lots of notes doesn’t have to be completely brainless! Whoda thunk.
And it’s not just the music or the extra material, it’s the entire textural variety of the album. Every song is unique in its own way, and throughout the large majority of the album, despite it’s over hour long length, I did not feel bored. Aside from there just being soft tracks and loud tracks, but unique varieties of instruments and musical tone. Even tracks like Winter’s Rain, which has a relatively consonant melodic contour, has the backing of soaring operatic female vocals, of which creates actual tension in a power metal album. Tension in power metal? Strong emotional reactions to the music in power metal? These can happen? Apparently so. This same operatics is displayed on Valley of the Shadows, and it’s fucking over the top that on any other album I’d just groan at it. But it fucking works here, because it’s just executed so perfectly. Nothing feels forced, and it never seems like the band is biting off more than it can chew.
If there is one failure in Into the Legend, it’s actually the finale. And it’s really only because the track previous, Rage of Darkness, makes for such a great closer in itself. While it’s no longer than any of the other tracks, it ends with such finality, and contains one of the most awesome shred solos I’ve ever heard in a power metal album. If the album ends there it’s approaching 9/10 territory. However instead we get a 16 minute “epic”. While yes, it is a pretty awesome track itself, The Kiss of Life doesn’t feel like it evolves the album to its final conclusion. If anything, it feels like any of the other tracks, but longer and on a larger scale. Not bad by itself, but after hearing all the same tricks for 50 minutes prior, the album finally runs out of steam. It’s like the band had exhausted all of its ideas, and decided to end by just taking all those other ideas, and being even louder about it. Listen to that track was the first time on the entire album I felt bored. The 67 minute play time finally started to feel like a 67 minute album. And it’ such a shame, because I was really looking forward to putting my 9 pants on. Unfortunately, they’ll have to be kept back into the drawer for now.
Still, regardless of one large misstep, Into the Legend brings out a legendary performance that looks to be a hot contender for best power metal album this year.