"Dark Wings of Steel" put Rhapsody of Fire's balls an inch from the belt sander. Annoying fanboys of Luca Tortellini's Rhapsody pounced on the opportunity to kick dirt in the face of "Dark Wings of Steel" by posting memes and talking smack on message boards, effective measures from a fan base so enriched with knowledge and prosperity. I'm neutral here, believe it or not, because the alleged victors of the first Rhapsody war were oblivious that "Ascending to Infinity" also blew chunks, I think, but for different reasons. Round two of this name-sharing nonsense sees this version of Rhapsody (the one with THE FIRE) unleashing "Into the Legend," which actually learns from the mistakes of "Dark Wings of Steel" and proves the group doesn't need Luca holding its hand to excel. This feels like the album Rhapsody of Fire could have made had they not been so skittish.
I interpreted "Dark Wings of Steel" as a vain attempt to distance Rhapsody of Fire from Luca Spaghetti's writing style. The plodding, mid-paced power metal tracks it heaved up under uneventful orchestrations (all the while Luca Manicotti was revealing more traditional Rhapsody songs within his version of the group) rarely struck gold. "Into the Legend" tells a different tale, as Rhapsody of Fire ventures beyond the mid-paced approach and once more acquaints itself with faster tempos and profound neoclassical elements. "Dark Wings of Steel" drifted away from these, but "Into the Legend" faces them unblinkingly. The few tolerable bits of "Dark Wings of Steel" seem to have been integrated into the mold, however, leaving the band a galactic mile of creative space to flex its glittery dong.
The tracks boast organization and poignancy, two qualities that are absolutely mandatory for symphonic power metal to function properly. "Distant Sky" and the title track launch the group's style into fast tempos composed of cutting riffs and double-bass hammering while the grandiose arrangements and atmospheres sound revitalized. The neoclassical guitar work especially feels fortified; the lead guitar sections bleed classic Rhapsody. It helps that the choruses and bridges have an extra boost of importance. Perhaps this may be chalked up to the speedy rhythms, but I'm going with songwriting that isn't afraid to move outside its comfort zone, which was a major issue "Dark Wings of Steel" couldn't seem to shake.
"Winter's Rain," for example, actually sounds like it could've been cut from the same cloth of the aforementioned dud. Rather than move around the issue completely, Rhapsody of Fire took the mid-paced mold and stuck a syringe full of this rediscovered vigor right in its ass; the result is a "Dark Wings of Steel" track gushing with affecting orchestration and the unique intensity of Rhapsody of Fire. "Into the Legend" otherwise manages to flow nicely and capture the dynamic of which this group is capable if it applies itself properly. "A Voice in the Cold Wind" changes up to a more composed setting, full of serene flutes and other classic motifs that scale back the urgency a bit. "Rage of Darkness" harkens back to the spitfires of turbulent speed storms of the past à la "Raging Starfire," while "Realms of Light" dangles on the edge between frantic quickness and something mid-paced. There are many shades of the band explored here, obviously, and with fine results.
"The Kiss of Life" shows Rhapsody of Fire returning to the foundation of long extravaganzas, and I think it is the best track here. The epic bobs and weaves from intense metallic parts to serene orchestral sections with seamless grace; it takes the spotlight away from the other fine tracks presented on "Into the Legend," which is no small feat given the quality of its other chapters. The album otherwise offers a fine performance by Fabio Lione, whose vocals are essential to the Rhapsody of Fire machine. Alex Staropoli delivers vital keyboard and piano arrangements that rival the importance of the riff work, a deed often unachieved in the band's lesser works. "Into the Legend" brings the magic back to Rhapsody of Fire, and you can bet your ass critics of this Rhapsody will find the odds evened.