Released: 2012, Nuclear Blast
Back in September, 2012 I took a look at some new, underground Italian Power Metal bands in a five CD review feature. This month we are going to look back at 2012 and some of the titans of Italian Power Metal who released albums this year. They are Elvenking, Rhapsody, Skylark, Thy Majestie, and White Skull. I call them ‘titans’ because all these bands have been around for 15 years or more and are all in that 5 - 9 album zone…pretty impressive! We also reviewed the new Secret Sphere and Vision Divine last month who also meet this criteria. Enjoy!
In one of the more bizarre situations in the history of Metal the band Rhapsody Of Fire (formerly just Rhapsody) split into two virtually equal parts. After 15 years the primary composers having accomplished their goal of the world’s largest Metal concept album series, Luca (guitar) and Alex (Keyboards) parted ways and created two bands each party taking various ex-members of the main band with them. They parted on good terms, Rhapsody Of Fire hitting the tour circuit and Rhapsody hitting the studio. Well Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody is first out the gate musically with their debut album ASCENDING TO INFINITY. Luca brought with him Dominique Leurquin (guitar), Patrice Guers (bass) and Alex Holzwarth (drums) all ex-Rhapsody Of Fire. For the record Fabio Lione (vocals), Tom Hess (Guitar) stayed with Alex Starpoli in Rhapsody Of Fire and then they recruited Oliver Holzwarth (bass) and Roberto de Micheli, both with ties to the old band AND to make it just a bit weirder Alex Holzwarth drums for both bands.
There are many connections to the original band as the logo and font remain the same, and they use the services of Felipe Franco again for the cover art, so there is certainly consistency in image and presentation. It’s a good package with lots of pictures and lyrics and so on. Issued in the summer by Nuclear Blast the band, the nine-track album runs about an hour and the North American version has a bonus track in the form of a Helloween cover tune, ‘March Of Time’. There is even the almost mandatory epic tune, ‘Of Michael The Archangel and Lucifer’s Fall’ running over 16 minutes in three parts.
One of the first things I noticed obviously is the new singer Alessandro Conti. Observers in the industry thought that might grab the vocal slot but the ex-Empty Tremor singer does a marvelous job. His voice is clear and powerful, his vocal range is large, and he sings in the cinematic, impassioned delivery that this music thrives on. Lots of the lyrics are sung in Italian as well. The next interesting point is the lyrical move away from fantasy. Rhapsody Of Fire delved into the realm of high fantasy a created a totally fictional world. Conversely, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, lyrically speaking is based far more in mythology and literature, for examples songs like ‘Excalibur’, ‘Dante’s Inferno’, ‘Clash Of The Titans’ and ‘Dark Fate Of Atlantis’.
It is hard to write a review of ASCENDING TO INFINITY without drawing numerous parallels and references to Luca’s previous work. However, if I took this band on face value as a brand new, untested band, I’d still be blown away. It sounds just like..well…Rhapsody / Rhapsody Of Fire. To me that is a really good thing. The cinematic sound is fully in place with no surprises. Everything is bombastic, epic, glorious, triumphant, inspiring… any adjective you would like to use would fit. There are tender moments with flute and lute such as the beginning of ‘Excalibur’, massive choirs of ‘Dante’s Inferno’. Keyboards are all over the place as are guitar solos, female vocals, and double-kick drumming to choke a horse.
A quick survey of reviews on Metal-Archives gives the album an average rating of 90% across eight reviews, so it seems the initial impressions are very favourable. Would it be wrong to call Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody ‘Best New Band of 2012? I don’t think so. The ball is in Rhapsody Of Fire’s court and it’s going to be tough to match or beat ASCENDING TO INFINITY.