Rhapsody // Ascending to Infinity
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — -0.5 for lack of insight
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: ltrhapsody.com | facebook.com/ltrhapsody
Release Dates: EU: 2012.06.22 | NA: 07.03.2012
The last few years have been a non-stop rollercoaster since Rhapsody got out of the functional-psychopathic grip of Manowar‘s lawyers. Unlike Manowar, whose newest album is a shade of former greatness, Rhapsody [of Fire] produced two fantastic albums (and a great EP) since 2010’s triumphant return. After mediocre output while on Magic Circle Records, the band seemed to have found their inner maestros and projected them into the recording machines; producing fast, guitar-heavy, bombastic CDs with fantastic variety and wide array of amazing parts. While 2011’s From Chaos to Eternity was probably the weaker of the two albums, its effect seems to really have been introducing one too many (be-sun-glassesed) egos into the picture, which ultimately led to Luca Turilli leaving the band to strike out on his own. A thing that most of us thought was probably a great thing, but had minor worries about. Ascending to Infinity is the answer to those questions and it is mahvelous as the Queen would say.
First, let’s get the dirty work out of the way: Ascending to Infinity is a true Rhapsody record if ever there was one. Starting out with an orchestral theme and narration, filled with ball busting heavy metal tracks, supported by Alex Holzwarth’s mighty feet, laced with ridiculous neo-baroque guitar and keyboard solos and chalk full of melodies that dig under your skin. However, aside from Luca’s own performances, the most important performance on this record was that of new vocalist Alessandro Conti—of the unknown (for a reason) Trick or Treat—who‘s vocal performance is mighty, convincing and a perfect replacement for Fabio, while not imitating him remotely. His voice is smooth and clear when he’s doing his vocal gymnastics, but he does have enough vibrato to get that “operatic metal” thing across and his accent is just as cheesy as Fabio’s so that you never forget you’re listening to Rhapsody.
Luca Turilli wasn’t exactly breaking out of his comfort zone while writing this record: start with orchestras and narrations, fill out the middle with good songs, and finish with a gigantic epic of ridiculous proportions. Luca didn’t budge an inch from this formula and Ascending to Infinity is better for it. One of the reasons that Rhapsody has managed to avoid the problems of being “stuck” in a specific stylistic sound is because the music is naturally entertaining enough that you always keep coming back. Sure, you know the tropes: the emphatic enunciation of certain notes with orchestral blasts; the “Village of the Dwarves” flute shows up on “Excalibur”, despite having a new “more modern” look and feel; the Latin choirs singing latinus soundingus stuffus in the background. And each time these hit home with a kind of ecstatic accuracy that leaves this Angry Metal Nerd in a reverie.
There is, however, one drawback on this record and I’ve finally decided to dock Luca points. I previously commented that I didn’t think that getting better voice acting would make Rhapsody cheesier, but they did. But Ascending to Infinity is marred by the use of “movie guy voice,” to get across the message that the band is “cinematic metal” and it makes me long for the halcyon days of Christopher Lee. I can only assume that the reason the guys in the band think this sounds good is because they’re not native English speakers. Not only are things that Movie Guy narrates ridiculously cheesy on a level that I never even thought Rhapsody could get to, but they’re poorly delivered. The lines are halting and weird, and the script sounds like it was written by an ESL Italian guy who is really good at guitar but probably never could get a job as a writer for anyone… Oh right. In any case, it is unbearable and I am forced to skip it every time. It’s embarrassing and the fact that no one said “Hey, Luca: this sounds like shit and you should change it,” should probably get someone at Nuclear Blast fired. What’s the point of being a label that bullies bands into changing their sound if it can’t be used for good?
Other than that, though, Ascending to Infinity continues a string of major Rhapsody-flavored successes. “Dante’s Inferno” and “Tormento e Passione” are two of the best Rhapsody songs ever written and the only stumble on the record is the awkward “Luna,” which still has a fantastic chorus, despite the female vocal part that shows up throughout is weak and poorly delivered. This record is a must purchase record for all fans of bombastic metal and I’m very happy that Luca Turilli has continued his dominant streak. Now it’s Rhapsody of Fire‘s turn to put out a record. I have trouble imagining that it will be anywhere near this in quality. It’s possible that despite keeping Lione and picking up a good guitar player with little writing chops himself, Staropoli lost out big time in this split. No matter, though, having a successful Rhapsody of Fire is to all of our benefits. Twice the Rhapsody ALL THE TIME! Now that’s music to my ears.
Get it? Rhapsody? Music to my ears? You see what I did there?