LucaTThe unexpected passing of Mr Chistopher Lee, a contributor to five of Rhapsody’s albums before divergent paths undertaken by the bands founders was somewhat ironic given the timing of Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody’s second ambitious symphonic and bombastic interpretation of how far the genre can be stretched before it becomes unrecognisable as metal at all. Well known as a fan of Mr Lee I hope in his last days maybe Mr Lee managed to hear this latest opus from the maestro of everything over the top.

Those divergent paths of Luca and co-founder of the original Rhapsody saw the Alex Staropoli version continue as Rhapsody Of Fire but with Luca’s version staying with Nuclear Blast. One never quite knows what to expect from Luca’s creative genius as this new project was mammoth from the compositional phase to production plus mixing and the inclusion of various guests took nigh on a year to come to fruition as those labours bear fruit with possibly his most ambitious work he has ever put together which is saying something as Luca has been far from doing things normally in music since the early days of Rhapsody in the late 90s.

As ever the release starts with a beautiful intro piece and some exquisite haunting vocals before expanding the sound with synths, spoken voice and additional choirs padding out the intro to a sumptuous but apt opening sequence that surprisingly doesn’t hit the fret board acrobatics immediately after it on “Il Cigno Nero”. Preferring instead to draw the listener in with a piano piece and ethereal effects before a light double kick and symphonic aura takes over. As always the arrangements are immense as Alessandro Conti’s voice possesses enormous passion as his tones veer to heady operatic heights on occasion. As catchy as ever the tune is soaked in power metal credentials, sang in native tongue the tune lives and breathes masterfulness. Luca’s shredding is as always contemporary harking back to classical influences that the guy adores and uses so well for all his projects. There is something about a monastic chant to begin metal music that sends shivers up my spine on “Rosenkreuz (The Rose And The Cross)” as the spectrum of power metal colour is displayed in glorious luminosity with the vocals virtually acted out through a wealth of intonations and has become the first single from the release.

The songs have inspirations from various parts of history and literature which I won’t go into here for space sake only. Continuing with “Anahata” the sound is far softer than the previous release enabling the vocals to be showcased in full splendour when the songs delve deep into solemnity or acoustic sections. It is not possible to listen to Luca Turilli’s work and glean everything he has created in one go; time, patience and an ear for detail are crucial and like a lot of complex metal it takes a discerning ear to interpret and appreciate. The emotion of the vocals whether choir, solo, operatic are what I feel stand this apart from his previous sonic artistry, the multi-layering creates such an experience one can easily forget about the underlying guitar work, bass and drums underpinning it all. “One Ring To Rule Them All” inspired of course by Lord Of The Rings but also partly due to a visit to New Zealand aided its spectacular rendering here. Surprisingly most of the tunes are relatively short with occasional epics like this homage to LOTR at seven minutes beginning with Gollum spouting about the precious before an upbeat melody and high pitched vocal line harks back to Luca’s earlier period before Rhapsody changed monikers to Rhapsody Of Fire. Theatrically scouring a multitudinous vocal approach the song is alluring and though the LOTR has been the source for countless bands, whether band names, album titles, themes for songs or sheer literary inspiration the version here is its own.

The ballad of “Notturno” listens like a tragic opera with female and male vocals speaking to each other in dark romanticism and followed by a sort of title track “Prometheus” which is as imperious as anything he’s written. Dare I say that the guitar work feels almost secondary to the overall feel and power of this album which stretches the realms of symphonic metal to the heavens. Without detailing every song which I could do with absolute ease the two tracks preceding the gargantuan closing track are more straight forward, for this guy anyway, as the second part of the “Of Michael The Archangel And Lucifer’s Fall” under the title of “Codex Nemesis” spanning 18 minutes the tune is colossal. I do like the electronics as they sound a little like his Dreamquest project from nearly ten years ago and also some of his original solo work. The tune starts serenely as a metamorphic change transforms the tune with each passing minute unfolding narrated vocals and eerie groans. Melodramatic a slight pause ensues before the orchestration filters in to add dramaturgic qualities as a sudden stop bears full symphonic regalia and a momentous tempo change and thoroughly catchy vocal lines and all that is in the first four minutes of the song. Once again some electronics infuse the song with a virtual sci-fi sensation as the tune soars to mountainous apices and cruises stratospherically with blinding fret gymnastics. With more than a dozen releases under his substantial imaginative belt Turilli has once again realised his musical vision in absolute breathtaking form and I will be listening to this release for a long while before I completely hear everything it has to offer. Unrivalled cosmic brilliance.

(9/10 Martin Harris)