Even in a genre known for its bombast, Italy’s Rhapsody of Fire have long stood out for their operatic grandeur and symphonic sweep. For over three decades riddled with business problems and personality clashes, their music has transported listeners to fantastical realms, all delivered with unbridled passion and a wink and a nod to classic heavy metal. Their latest offering, Challenge the Wind, is no exception.

This new album, their fifteenth studio effort, marks a thrilling departure for the Italian symphonic metal titans. Gone are the ballads that offered moments of respite on previous releases. This time around, Rhapsody of Fire throws open the gates and unleashes a relentless torrent of pure, unadulterated metal. As keyboardist and mastermind Alex Staropoli himself declares, ‘Challenge the Wind consists entirely of ‘up-tempo numbers'”,  making it the band’s fastest and most furious album to date.

But fear not, devotees of Rhapsody’s signature style! While the tempo may be cranked up to eleven, all the elements that have endeared them to fans remain firmly in place. Soaring vocals courtesy of Giacomo Voli combine with Roby De Micheli‘s virtuoso fretwork to create a tapestry of sonic brilliance. The band’s trademark orchestral flourishes are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the music, adding a layer of epic grandeur that is as exhilarating as it is awe-inspiring.

Tracks like Whispers of Doom  and The Bloody Pariah set the tone for the album, showcasing Rhapsody’s ability to blend blistering speed with unforgettable melodies. The Bloody Pariah and Vanquished by Shadows in particular offer a darker edge, while Kreel’s Magic Staff – already a fan favourite from its pre-release single status – continues to impress with its electrifying energy and buoyant melodic heft.

The album doesn’t relent until the very last note. Mastered by the Dark brings Challenge the Wind to a suitably epic close, leaving the listener breathless and exhilarated. In between, tracks like Diamond Claws, Black Wizard, A Brave New Hope and Holy Downfall each offer something unique, ensuring that the album remains fresh and engaging throughout, despite the comparitively one dimensional pacing of the album.

Challenge the Wind speaks in toto to Rhapsody of Fire’s enduring creative spark, no mater who happens to be in the band. It’s an album that will have fans headbanging with glee and air-guitaring like there’s no tomorrow. With its perfect blend of speed, melody, and symphonic grandeur, it’s a triumph for the Italian masters of symphonic metal and a must-have for any metalhead’s collection. Prepare to be challenged, prepare to be windswept, prepare to be amazed. Rhapsody of Fire is back, and they’re here to blow you away.

Challenge The Wind releases on May 31st