|Luca Turilli's Rhapsody - 'Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus' (Nuclear Blast)|
|Written by Michael Anthony|
|Wednesday, 19 August 2015 03:20|
I can’t say I’m the world’s biggest symphonic rock or metal fan. I like a bit of Within Temptation or Nightwish every now and then, I have a particular soft spot for Epica, and I do own an ‘Opera Metal’ boxset. In general, though, it’s a genre that I find patchy and a touch contrived – chucking a few strings or layering big orchestral sounds over music written for metal guitars does not, in my book, turn flawed metal into gold. I’ve never had the desire, therefore, to explore the genre’s furthest reaches and darkest corners.
That said, as a long term fan of the fascinating body of work bequeathed to us by the late Jon Lord, I do like the idea of classical/rock fusion – when it’s written and performed with purpose and integrity – and it is pleasing to see the endurance of the classically influenced strain of heavy rock and metal that Deep Purple so inspired. I’m always happy, therefore, to listen to new bands.
On this occasion, I’m so glad I did. ‘Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus’ is as overblown and in your face as the title suggests, but it is also confident, assertive, insistent and inspiring – a joyful and elevating listen from its first note to its last. In short, it’s something of a revelation to a reviewer who thought he had the genre tapped.
Its genesis is, it seems, as complex and involved as some of its compositions. Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody has sprung phoenix-like from the ashes of an amicable split with keyboardist Alex Staropoli. Turilli and Staropoli were founding members of the band Rhapsody, which subsequently became Rhapsody of Fire. Together they released 10 albums over 15 years, even embarking on an ambitious collaboration with Christopher Lee, which no doubt influenced the latter’s subsequent solo venture into the murky world of fantasy metal. Rhapsody of Fire continue as a going concern with Staropoli at the helm, while Turilli has struck out on his own, taking half of his previous band with him (fellow guitarist Dominique Leurquin and bassist Patrice Guers) and adding drummer Alex Landenburg and the virtuoso vocal talents of Alessandro Conti, who apparently trained in the same school as Luciano Pavarotti.
‘Prometheus ...’ is, in fact, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody’s second album. The first, ‘Ascending To Infinity’ is regarded, by its creator at least, as the birth of ‘cinematic metal’ – a development of the ‘Hollywood metal’ or ‘film score metal’ attributed to Turilli and Staropoli’s previous work. ‘Prometheus …’ presents itself as a further step along the road of musical evolution: a bombastic, dramatic, cinematic blend of epic soundtrack-friendly symphonic metal, classical and operatic composition, occasional folk influences and modern electronica that will blow your socks off, and, if you’re not careful your mind. Seven months of composition, three months of production, over 50 days of mixing, several special guests and the presence of two choirs are certainly indicative of the love and effort that has gone into creating this quite staggering piece of work. Tellingly, Turilli himself has produced the album, composed every note, and is responsible for all orchestral and choral arrangements.
Music, for Turilli, is “an amazing bridge between the material and spiritual world” and he uses it to express his interest in matters scientific, metaphysical, supernatural, mythological and spiritual. You can find this in the songs, if you like. ‘Il Tempo Degli Dei’, for example, features a recording of the real voice of Italian psychic Gustavo Rol (1903-1994), reading from the pages of his diary.
‘Rosenkreuz’, the album’s first single, tells of the origins of the Rosicrucian Order (the legendary keepers of spiritual wisdom, ancient secrets and “the highest” intellectual knowledge) and comes complete with Gregorian chanting. ‘One Ring To Rule Them All’ indulges Turilli’s love of both movies and fantasy sagas, while album closer ‘Of Michael the Archangel and Lucifer’s Fall: Part II: Codex Nemesis’ continues Turilli’s fascination with the battle of angels and the Apocalypse of St. John and brings the album’s every trick and influence together to lengthy effect.
But there’s no need to delve into the lyrics and meanings of the tracks to enjoy what’s here. Perhaps the highlight, for me, is ‘King Solomon And the 72 Names of God’, with its stunning guitar work and eastern themes, though it’s almost unfair to single anything here out for particular praise (or criticism). ‘Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus’ is an album best experienced in its entirety as a fluid and fast moving whole … a flowing stream, a tidal surge, wave after wave of astonishment, delight and wonder. It’s uplifting stuff that might just have me revisiting and reappraising my assessment of the genre.