If, like me, you consider yourself an inveterate fan of power metal in all its many and much-lambasted forms, then you wouldn’t fail to be excited at the prospect of a new album from Italian neo-classicists Rhapsody of Fire. True, last year’s The Cold Embrace of Fear was a bit much (too much dicking about with actors and not enough ROCKING!), but it wasn’t so bad that the quick arrival of new RoF product didn’t have me salivating like a metallic version of a Pavlovian dog.
And so From Chaos to Eternity is here – and it is an absolute stormer. The last of the ‘epic’ series of albums which started with 1997’s Legendary Tales (though don’t be worried about coming to the party late – this record stands up just fine on its own for your listening pleasure), it is also by some way the heaviest, most aggressive thing the band has put its name to in a while. Is this due to the performance of new guitarist Tom Hess? I don’t know, but something’s afoot here. Sure, Luca Turilli is still Paganini in tight leather strides – some things will never change – but there’s a new found hardness in the riffage backing up the man's arpeggieted mayhem that may just persuade a few of the band’s many denigrators to take a fresh look at the band. This isn’t a seismic change in the band’s sound, but it is just enough to hint at an exciting new direction they may be taking now that this chapter in the band’s history would appear to be closing.
Elsewhere Fabio Lione puts in his usual man of the match performance, though he too is used in a slightly different manner on From Chaos to Eternity; I was worried that the upping in the aggression quotient might be deleterious to old Fab – he is, after all, an artist and not a navvy – but I needn’t have worried. And whilst he’s having to put in a few more rather prosaic grunts and howls into the mix here, he’s still on hand to provide the vocal icing when required. Furthermore, whilst there aren’t as many heavily cheesed big choruses for him to work with here, what he does get given by Turilli he handles with characteristically titanic aplomb.
At the end of the day, this is still a Rhapsody of Fire album, and so these minor twiddles to the format may not be entirely successful in making new recruits flock to the band’s flag – and that would be a shame, because when all is said and done this is a very strong heavy metal album indeed.