Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody - Ascending To Infinity (2012)


Since the well publicized, but amicable, split between founding members and long time collaborators Luca Turilli and Alex Starapoli, their fan base was left to wonder what each one would be without the other. Turilli held on to the Rhapsody name, while Starapoli will continue on with vocalist Fabio Leone under the Rhapsody Of Fire moniker. The first release carrying the banner alone, "Ascending To Infinity," sees Turilli continuing down the path he has been a part of for nearly 15 years. With his signature guitar riffs, his hands on the keys and a new line-up ready to make history, this legendary power metal master hasn't skipped a beat.

The booming symphonic intro, "Quantum X" is like a teaser for an upcoming sci-fi blockbuster, complete with dire spoken voice. A wide array of images will fill your head, from special effects explosions to large scale battle scenes. As the choir of voices builds, everything goes silent. That is, until the title track comes bursting onto the scene. A reckless array of keys and wild guitar work tangles together in an energetic flash. New vocalist Alessandro Conti wastes no time asserting himself into the mix, his voice, different from that of Leone, is dynamic but somehow soft. The mix is perfectly balanced, allowing the keys and guitars to drive the track forward, but in a perfect harmony with one of the tightest rhythm sections you'll hear on a power metal album. This sets the stage for Turilli and a winding keyboard solo to set things on fire. Those same intricate keys and orchestrations take the lead in "Dante's Inferno," a mechanically precise track that expands on the Rhapsody formula. The choral passages are simply brilliant, taking everything to another level of operatic power. But the shining star is that daring symphonic element, in the form of strings and keys. Sure, Turilli's guitar is the conductor, but the layers of classical infused instrumentals that he rest upon make everything seem more vibrant.

Taking things to the lighter side, the opening of "Excalibur" is sure to warrant even the quickest jig of happiness. What follows is a song of triumph and empowerment, done in a way that defines the genre. The instrumentation paints a picture that is as bright and colorful as anything you've ever seen, and the vocal passages set everything into motion. It's as if you are sitting in the middle of a room, as the notes fly by you, hovering in the space above your head. Conti delivers a dynamic performance, both as the main vocalist, and as one of several voices, joined in a beautiful harmony.The final minute of the track would bring any theater to their feet. For those die hard fans who weren't convinced that the music would be as effective with Starapoli, the opening to "Tormento E Pasione" may swing you to the right side. This is a well orchestrated piece, done in Italian, that will tear down the language barrier. The layers of vocals are stunning, even more-so with the way they are balanced with a rolling bass line and thunderous drums. Whether it be in the fully realized, boisterous operatic sections, or the delicate, romantic pieces, this will be a highlight for anyone who demands perfection in symphonic metal.

Blaring horns open "Dark Fate Of Atlantis," with a single female voice chanting. But it isn't long before Turilli pulls out a piece of guitar work that defies time and space. This is the Rhapsody  that has been setting audiences on fire for so many years, with a speed at the drum kit that would be difficult to tap along to. The vocal passages leave you floating somewhere between an angel and a dream, lighter than air above it all. But with each pick of a guitar string, you are pulled back down to the ground, spinning in circles by the ever increasing flurry of notes. And when it appears that keys and riffs may be enough to send you to heaven, a wild bass solo blasts through you. The challenge then becomes to resist the sultry voice that opens "Luna," a track that defies everything you know about power metal. Through the music and the soulful vocals, you may find a track you could share with your Italian grandmother, one that could inspire you to put your feet up and sip from that glass of wine you have poured. Conti is at his absolute best here, showing that he is every bit the vocal wizard he was purported to be. His voice is low and full when need be, but loud and commanding when the time allows.

Unlike the cheesy 1981 classic, and the lackluster remake, this version of "Clash Of The Titans" is inspiring. The soundtrack element that starting in track one has carried all the way to this point, giving rise to a more complete sound. Turilli does an incredible job fusing his guitar with the keyboard leads, forming one solid mass of fluttering notes. Not to be forgotten, bassist Patrice Buers gives a performance worthy of praise, keeping pace with both Turilli and the lightning fast percussion. The finale, a fitting characterization, is the sixteen minute "Of Michael The Archangel And Lucifer's Fall," which is broken down into three distinct pieces. While the album carries the weight of a film, this track IS a film all unto itself. From a soft beginning to a completely unrestrained crescendo, Turilli lets loose here, creating and crafting a masterpiece of ungodly proportions. With sections ranging from keys and bells, to soft, yet ominous pianos, he hits on every facet of classical metal.This must be heard to be believed.

After the split with Starapoli, Luca Turilli said that he was excited to cease being himself, and to embody anything and everything Rhapsody. Well, that is exactly what he has done. With every note, every drum, every press of the keys, you have a piece of the man himself. There is not a moment where you feel like he took a shortcut, or even settled for anything less than perfection. The compositions on "Ascending To Infinity" could dominate the soundtrack for any Hollywood blockbuster, but have that subtle beauty that could make the most cynical critics smile. And in Alessandro Conti, a new star is born in the metal scene. Even Pavarotti himself would be proud.

9.5/10

Official Site - http://www.ltrhapsody.com/
Myspace - http://www.myspace.com/rhapsodyoffire