(c) 2021 AFM Records
- I'll Be Your Hero
- Where Dragons Fly
- Rain of Fury (Live)
- The Courage To Forgive (Live)
- The Wind, The Rain and The Moon
- Senza Un Addio
- Sin Un Adios
- La Force de Me Battre
Giacomo Voli--Lead Vocals
Roby De Micheli--Guitars
Ah, epic symphonic power metal! Either you love it or you wonder "why in the heck do they put so much effort into just one song?" Me, I tend to be in the first category, although there is an obvious division of talent between GREAT symphonic power metal and groups who try hard but come up short. Fortunately, I have always found Rhapsody of Fire to be in the GREAT category, and I have actually followed the band since their 2000 album, Dawn Of Victory, when they were simply known as Rhapsody. Since their start, the band has released a dozen studio albums, has (amicably) broken off into two versions of the band (one being original guitarist and founding member, Luca Turilli's, version, the other being original keyboardist/composer, Alex Staropoli's, version), and has performed in numerous countries on multiple continents, performing their pioneering brand of symphonic heavy metal to hundreds of thousands of fans.
With I'll Be Your Hero, Staropoli's version of Rhapsody Of Fire continues the thee-part saga they started with 2019's The Eighth Mountain, which was the first studio recording to feature new lead vocalist Voli and drummer Lotter. On this EP, the band continues to prove that they are the true masters of this style of over-the-top metal, combining blistering speed with symphonic progression and operatic vocals, with layers of backing vocals, strings, and keyboards rounding out impressively powerful compositions that find Staropoli in excellent fashion! For many, there was great doubt about the continuation of Rhapsody of Fire without Turilli, but for my money, The Eighth Mountain was an excellent record and possibly their best since my all-time favorite from the band, 2002's Power of the Dragonflame, or certainly since 2004's Symphony of Enchanted Lands II! For fans of power metal, that is saying a lot, I realize, but I felt Rhapsody of Fire was perhaps getting too progressive and leaving behind some of the true power that the early records had. With what I am hearing on this EP, that should not be a problem in the future of the band! The lead single, and EP title track, "I'll Be Your Hero" kicks off with Voli's excellent voice opening things up, singing "One day, I'll be your hero" with multiple layers of backing vocals, before he unleashes an ear-piercing scream and the band is off and running! Staropoli's keyboards weave an interesting tapestry of musical textures upon which the fierce rhythm guitars from de Micheli and the galloping drums from Lotter thunder. The bass is a solid presence throughout the track, and de Micheli proves he is no slouch in the soloing department, as well, as he delivers a scorching string-bender that is the perfect blend of speed and power. But for me, this EP was as much about finding out whether Voli could continue in the fine fashion he had established with The Eighth Mountain, or if he was merely a flash in the pan. Granted, it is only one (new) song, but that song is nearly perfect and Voli's delivery is spot on. To say I am more than intrigued for the new full-length album is an understatement!
As for the rest of this EP, there is a lot to take in. "Where Dragon's Fly" is a re-recording of a track that was previously only available as a Japanese bonus track, and fans who have been longing to own the song can now do so. Musically, it doesn't really fit in with "I'll Be Your Hero", but it was never intended to. What you have here is a folkish ballad with flute and some Middle Eastern-sounding string work enhanced by big, powerful chorus sections, all brought together in a way that is not unlike something Blind Guardian has done in the past. Additionally, it showcases what Voli can do with a song that some may already be familiar with, and to say he was impressive would be an understatement.
Likewise, Voli's handling of the two live tracks here is equally impressive. In fact, the two live tracks here...both taken from The Eighth Mountain...may be the highlight of this EP, to be honest, as these tracks really showcase just how well the band is able to pull off their musical adventures in the live setting. The production on both is darn near perfect, and if forced, I'd say I probably prefer "Rain of Fury" with Lotter's INSANE drum work leaving me nearly slack-jawed, but "The Courage To Forgive" is also excellent and almost note-perfect, and its big, powerful chorus really comes across in this live format.
The last track...well, the last FOUR tracks...also come from The Eighth Mountain, as all four are versions of the same song, "The Wind, The Rain, and The Moon". The song is a great one, don't get me wrong, and I can see why it was included as it again showcases Voli's powerful delivery. But, do we need to hear the same song in Spanish, Italian, and French...as well as English? Some might say it's me being an American, but I honestly don't see the need here. I mean, we have over 20 minutes of the same song here! Yeesh! However, I am sure fans in countries that speak those languages, and especially in the band's home country of Italy, these versions may be far more appreciated than they are by me, and I do have a skip button if necessary. I think the disc space may have been better utilized with another B-side re-recording or bonus track, or possibly another live track or two.
Your appreciation of this EP and the song it is built upon is going to be largely dependent upon your appreciation for the style. If you are already a Rhapsody Of Fire fan, or a fan of epic power metal like Helloween, Blind Guardian, and perhaps Stratovarius or Sonata Arctica, you are most likely going to be highly excited by what is offered here, especially since, as I mentioned, a lot of the speed and power that was starting to wane a bit in the twenty-teen years seems to be returning. If, however, you are more into the classic power metal genre, Rhapsody Of Fire is probably a bit over the top for you and may prove too much for you to really grasp. And that's okay. The band and genre is not for everyone. But for those who love the big epic tales, the sweeping sagas, and the metal soundtrack that Rhapsody Of Fire and their ilk provide, I would imagine I'll Be Your Hero will be blasting in the background as you cast your 20-sided dice or shuffle your Magic: The Gathering deck! (Whoa...did I just geek out there for a second or what?!)
Rating: Crankable, to be sure! I give it an 8!