Album Review: Ascending to Infinity by Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody

You know the phrase “one step forward, two steps back”?  It usually means that one tried a different approach to something and it didn’t really work out, but you need to commend the subject for trying.  Well, for the first half  of the new version of one of my all time favorite power metal bands, Rhapsody (the other half being Alex Staropoli’s Rhapsody of Fire), I need to make an amendment to that age-old phrase.  On Ascending to Infinity they took two steps back and then two steps forward arriving at the same point in quality on the vertical plane but at a different horizontal point.  I could have said that this new version of Rhapsody had a change in sound, but that just doesn’t do justice to what was done on this record.  Luca, who more or less wrote the entire album, deconstructed some things that were established on the past couple of Rhapsody albums (which were some of the best in the history of the band) and reconstructed the ‘Rhapsody’ sound in his own personal vision.  Gone are the songs of dwarves, elves, dragons, epic journeys, and other high fantasy troupes filled with bombastic medieval orchestral sections, high-flying guitars, and copious amounts of cheese.  Now, with Luca Turilli’s singular vision we have an album that embraces a love for cinema like I’ve never heard before filled with Renaissance-styled orchestral sections, over-the-top guitars, and a massive deluge of cheese.  All with a nice, modern, 21st century touch to it all.

From the first intro track, “Quantum X”, Rhapsody spares no time in gushing the cheese all over the place as a Middle Eastern chant backed by ‘Mortal Kombat’ sounding electronic music that is quickly followed by my first laugh out loud moment of the album.  Unfortunately, Sir Christopher Lee (AKA: Saurmon, Count Dooku, Hammer’s Dracula) was unable to return to fill his role as the narrator on this record, so Luca grabbed the next best thing,  the guy who narrates action movie trailers.  For as cheesy as it was to hear the movie trailer guy on a Rhapsody album (and surprisingly, I wasn’t entirely surprised to hear him) saying “Take an amazing journey through a world of wonders, to a place that will blow your mind, and move your heart so it will never be the same again.” it fits great as it bridges the ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ orchestral music together wonderfully to the Latin chants.  And then the real metal starts.

Jumping straight for his trademark neoclassical style, Luca’s crazy sweep picking and keyboard playing (Luca plays the recorded keys on the album, I’ve no clue who is going to be filling this spot live) set the frantic tone for the over-the-top madness that is to come on the title track, “Ascending to Infinity”.  New vocalist Alessandro Conti dives right in sounding like he’s been with the band for years and all the qualms I had about Fabio Leone no longer being the voice of all Rhapsody albums ceased.  Alessandro does a bang up job on this tune as well as each following track maintaining that ability to switch from traditional power metal vocalist to Opera tenor at ease.  As the song progresses you hear all the things that make Rhapsody great are there such as the huge chorus’ and dueling keyboard/guitar/bass solos (criminally underrated bassist Patrice Guers makes a return for this inception of Rhapsody), but presented a bit differently.  The modern feel and focus on things that are epic other than “The Hero’s Journey” really add welcome change to their overall style.

Being an Italian band that has a great love and relationship for their culture, I’m surprised that this is the first time that the band has written about Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy.  The aptly titled “Dante’s Inferno” is a rip-roaring good time with the orchestral elements taking inspiration from the darker epic fantasy films such as 300 and Dragonslayer.  “Excalibur” is the most ‘classic Rhapsody’ sounding song on the album, being about, well, King Arthur.  Just think of the film of the same name and add Luca Turilli’s guitar and snippets of Action Movie Narrator Guy’s voice to it and you have this tune.  Great fun it is and it is strewn with great ‘lol’ moments and great energy.

The fifth song on the album is by far my favorite of this release.  “Tormento e Passione” sounds like if traditional Italian Opera had a kid with American Broadway Musicals and that kid grew up to love metal and had a thing for jazz hands.  Chiming in for a little help on vocals is Sassy Burnet whose grand Opera vocals work wonders when placed as a duet with Alessandro’s voice.  The lyrics are completely in Italian and having them so really creates a great flow that compliments the Opera sections great as well as the big and bold Broadway Musical sound of the chorus.  The structure of the song compliments both Broadway and Opera as the whole song feels like it a single scene/song in a great work and the epicness of the song really benefits from it.

From here on in the album is pretty much rolls onwards with the cruise control set to ‘plaid’ with a nice coffee break and change of pace for an excellent cover of the Alessandro Safina song “Luna”.  The album closes with the obligatory 15 minute + track “Of Michael The Archangel And Lucifer’s Fall” and while still a fantastic song, I don’t think it is as strong of a closer as some of Rhapsody’s earlier works.  One movement in the tune I really liked was at the beginning where they keyboards play a tribute to John Carpenter’s Halloween theme while Movie Trailer Narrator Guy kicks in for a final farewell telling of the horrors of Hell.  The random devil laughs in the song also made me laugh my ass off.  For those who grab the special edition of Ascending to Infinity you also get a great cover of one of Helloween’s best songs, “March of Time”, to close the record off for you.

If you’re a fan of Rhapsody and were worried that the band would go to the birds after the split between Luca and Alex, let me assure you, so far Luca’s half is totally solid and is a worthy purchase. It should not disappoint unless you were really hung up on the whole high fantasy thing they’ve had going on for God knows how many years.  The more modern sound mixed with Luca’s love for orchestral music of cinema really adds a lot to an already excellent band and I look forward to hear how his half of the band progresses.  If you’r a newcomer to Rhapsody or just want a great power metal record you can’t go wrong here.  I do recommend looking into some of the bands previous works to get a better feel for what their all about before diving into this one (Power of the Dragonflame, The Frozen Tears of Angels, or Sympony of Enchanted Lands Pt. 1 and 2 should be more than enough to get you started).  Let’s hope that Alex’s half is as great as this and then we will get insane amounts of gloriously cheesy Rhapsody music.  Viva Formaggio Italiano!!!!!!!  Peace Love and Metal!!!

Watch this album preview and try to tell me that isn’t one of the most ridiculous album trailers you’ve ever seen.

Here’s the official video for “Dark Fate of Atlantis”:





About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on July 23, 2012, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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