Familiar sounds under a new moniker.
A sort of musical mitosis has been running rampant in power metal circles over the past decade or so, with the phenomenon that one might dub “The Duel of the Rhapsodies” being among the more auspicious examples of it. While one could maybe argue that the resulting cell split between the two Rhapsody camps did not result in two identical twins, there has been a relatively equal qualitative output between each of them in the studio over the past 8 years following Luca Turilli’s exodus from the Rhapsody Of Fire fold. However, the aforementioned virtuoso guitarist and songwriter has had a penchant for changing the name of his respective projects quite frequently, and while shifts in fellow travelers may be cause enough for a change of moniker, the basic formula in Turilli’s playbook has remained largely unchanged. All that being said, the impressive collection of former Rhapsody Of Fire alumni assembled for the Turilli/Lione Rhapsody project has given some ample reason to assert that that latter is the true heir to the Rhapsody legacy.
For the uninitiated, Luca Turilli’s extra-curricular activities have always involved a greater degree of electronic and ambient influences to complement the symphonic and riff happy power metal elements of his primary work under the Rhapsody name, even as far back as the late 90s solo debut offering “King Of The Nordic Twilight”. The subsequent development of studio technology and the shifting of lead vocalists have largely played an ancillary role in Turilli’s evolution as a solo musician, and the inclusion of long time Rhapsody Of Fire front man and operatic impresario Fabio Lione finds a similar musical eventuality in “Zero Gravity (Rebirth And Evolution)”. A greater degree of stylistic eclecticism and nuance in songwriting essentially results in a collection of songs that come off as progressive in a sort of Kamelot meets Epica kind of way, which also coincides with less overt speed-infused bangers and a sense of gradualism that seems a far cry from the high flying, fantastical character of Rhapsody’s Limb Music days; which has been the chief aim of Alex Staropoli’s flock since Turilli’s departure.
All of this isn’t to say that this album doesn’t have a sense of familiarity with the Rhapsody name from a musical standpoint. One would be remiss to deny that generally fast paced fair such as “Phoenix Rising”, “Zero Gravity”, and “Arcanum (Da Vinci’s Enigma)” have a fairly similar character to where things were musically for the original band during the mid-2000s when Alex Holzwarth and Patrice Guers, both of who’s virtuoso talents are widely exploited on this album, first entered the Rhapsody family. Nevertheless, it’s pretty difficult to square the rapid changes in feel and generally more measured approach to tempo that occur even within these more nimble and catchy offerings. The unifying character of this whole opus is more driven by a sense of drama than that of triumph, and this is a musical eventuality into which Lione’s operatic vocals work quite well given his longstanding work with prog-leaning acts like Angra and Vision Divine, being particularly noteworthy on more ballad-driven offerings such as “Amata Immortale” and overtly operatic fits of drama like “I Am” where his vocal range is fully exploited.
In all honesty, it’s kind of difficult to approach this album without being a bit dumbfounded at how much it seeks to impress, which arguably comes at the cost of accessibility for anyone who was more attached to the days of “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands” and “Power Of The Dragonflame”. Highly nuanced, jarring, quirky tech romps like “Multidimensional” and “Decoding The Multiverse” seem a bit more suited to someone looking for a more symphonic answer to the likes of Dream Theater and even Devin Townsend at times. On the one hand, the fancy guitar and keyboard chops of Luca Turilli give a clear view into classic Rhapsody territory, but everything going on around them seems about as far of a cry from the power metal sound of the late 1990s as one can get. Apart from the faster and more streamlined material noted at the beginning of the last paragraph, this album’s second song “D.N.A. (Demon And Angel)” stands as the only other example of an easy follow composition in what is a fairly convoluted exercise in trying to stretch the boundaries of power metal.
Though Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli have not officially declared themselves to be in competition regarding which Rhapsody is the true one, it has become a fairly popular sentiment among fans of the days when they were under the same banner. In light of this, it’s a foregone conclusion that while some may have a stronger attachment to this version given the greater plurality of original members being in congress, from a musical standpoint Rhapsody Of Fire struck far closer to home earlier this year with “The Eighth Mountain”, coming out with something far more accessible and memorable in the process. This album will probably see a greater degree of play among people who move in progressive metal circles, though the more elaborate formula at work here isn’t as rich in infectious hooks as the average Labyrinth or Kamelot album. As one who views “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands” as the zenith of Rhapsody’s career, the author of this review’s preference is clear, but one thing is clear; similar names or not, these two Rhapsodies are definitely stating out different territory.
Released by: Nuclear Blast Records
Released Date: July 5th, 2019
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal / Neoclassical Metal
- Fabio Lione / Lead vocals
- Luca Turilli / Lead and rhythm guitar, keyboards
- Dominique Leurquin / Rhythm guitar, lead guitar
- Patrice Guers / Bass guitar
- Alex Holzwarth / Drums
“Zero Gravity [Rebirth And Evolution]” Track-listing:
- Phoenix Rising
- D.N.A. (Demon and Angel)
- Zero Gravity
- Fast Radio Burst
- Decoding the Multiverse
- Amata Immortale
- I Am (Featuring Mark Basile)
- Arcanum (Da Vinci’s Enigma)
A good 8 years to the day since Luca Turilli exited the ranks of Rhapsody Of Fire, his ongoing project-hopping craze has found himself surrounded with a familiar group of musicians and a somewhat less familiar take on cosmic power metal exploits