Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus
Like those damnable broomsticks in Fantasia's "Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence, the Italian power metal band Rhapsody did not die upon its dissolution, but rather was cleaved into two autonomous units. Keyboardist Alex Staropoli and vocalist Fabio Lione continued as Rhapsody Of Fire, while guitarist Luca Turilli took an additional cue from presumed longtime hero Yngwie Malmsteen and soldiered on as Luca Turilli's Rhapsody.
Actually, that doesn't look quite right.
LUCA TURILLI'S RHAPSODY.
While neither "new" group has exactly toned down Rhapsody's foundational busyness, Rhapsody Of Fire has at least skewed to the heavier side of bombastic power metal, while Luca Turilli's Rhapsody - now on its second album - has moved in much more symphonic and cinematic circles.
As expected, then, there are absolutely no half-measures on Prometheus. Keyboards, choirs, vocal soloists, wind instruments, narration, sound effects, lyrics in multiple languages - all of this and more is added to the typical power metal tempest. And yet, for all the ornateness of the arrangements, the songs on Prometheus are structured quite traditionally - opening theme, a busy movement that serves as a verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, solo break, chorus, fin. The sturdiness of the songwriting ensures that the flash of the instrumentation never obscures the fact that each piece here is a memorable composition.
The chorus of "Il Cigno Nero" finds Alessandro Conti's range soaring with almost impossible to believe smoothness, his vocals the equivalent of long, golden locks blown back by a wind machine. The tranquil midsection of "One Ring to Rule Them All," meanwhile, introduces a flute or whistle-led folk theme like something out of Copland or Holst's Jupiter. Still, even when the group seems to wander too far afield, at its core it remains heavy metal, even if chopped and idyllically screwed. A useful point of reference might be Therion - or, at least Therion's Sirius B/Lemuria double album (i.e., the last great thing they did before disappearing down a terrible rabbit hole).
If you're still on the fence about whether to fall in love with Prometheus (NB: you shouldn't be), Nightwish provides an instructive contrast. Nightwish's classical influence tends to be much more "pop classical" (think Danny Elfman or even Rodgers & Hammerstein), and where that band has drawn thematically on New World themes such as First Nations peoples and Whitman's Song of Myself. On the other hand, Rhapsody's classical music and thematic influence tends to run much more Old World/classicist: Greco-Roman mythology, Renaissance and romantic composers, etc. Moreover, Nightwish mastermind Tuomas Holopainen recently had the temerity to write an entire concept album about Scrooge McDuck (no, this is not a joke), and yours truly had the temerity to dislike that album on account of its NOT being over-the-top enough (also not a joke). Turilli's ongoing vanity project, it almost goes without saying, suffers from no such misguided restraint.
A very fun thing to do is to imagine classical music nerds flipping just as much of their shit about this sort of thing as metal nerds. (Seriously, you think metal has cornered the market on hand-wringing hysterics from terrible nerds? Or even that metal has the biggest chip on its shoulder about the influence of fascist ideology? Try getting a roomful of classical music nerds to have a civilized discourse on Furtwangler, von Karajan, and the Third Reich.) Throughout Prometheus, Luca Turilli & co. essentially decide to play overlapping classical music forms simultaneously: lieder, sonata, fugue, symphony, march, concerto, overture, nocturne, operatic chorus, and so on. Purists, as always, ought not apply.
However, of the many great things about (Luca Turilli's) Rhapsody (Of Fire), the single greatest thing is that the music is essentially immune to criticism. It's as if the instruments themselves have formed a sovereign nation, dedicated to the founding principle of not giving a shit. Don't like power metal? BAM! Here's a bunch of classical music. Don't like classical music? BAM! Here's a guitar solo masked as a harpsichord duet. Don't like escapism in music? BAM! Here's an album that treats JRR Tolkien, the Bible, and Norse mythology as equally ripe for source material. Don't like listening to music without resorting to the soul-eviscerating poison of irony? BAM! Get the fuck out of here.
Luca Turilli's Rhapsody is simultaneously serious music made by serious people to be taken seriously and ridiculous music made by ridiculous people to be taken ridiculously. That's not a contradiction; that's heavy metal, you nerds.
Prometheus is available now via Nuclear Blast. Follow Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody on Facebook here and on Twitter at @ltrhapsody.