Album: Ascending To Infinity
Released: June 22, 2012
Label: Nuclear Blast
Score: 8/9 Hammers
What’s the maximum word count for these articles? Aside from Manowar, Rhapsody was my first metal band. I came into the metal on the wings of fire breathing dragons and gilded elven armor. For me, metal and escapism walked hand and hand through the misty downs of the Sapphire kingdom. Because of this, I have followed Rhapsody through its many iterations to whatever the hell it is now. Before the mid 00’s, Rhapsody was Rhapsody, just a modest Italian power metal band content writing albums that served as chapters in an continuing fantasy tale. The last 5 years for Rhapsody have been difficult. From name changes, to legal fights with Manowar’ music label Magic Circle Music to recently the split between the two founding members of the band, Rhapsody, as I once knew it, will never be the same. Luca Turlli’s Rhapsody continues the starcrossed legacy with Ascending to Infinity, the 11th album, depending on what timeline you are following, from the band once known as Rhapsody.
Just who in the goddamn hell is Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody and how do they differ from Rhapsody of Fire or Rhapsody? Well, reader, I am glad you asked. In 2006, the band was forced to change their name due to copyright issues with an unnamed company. It is probably the music service no one uses. The name change was a sobering and cringe worthy moment for a band that spent the past 7 years engulfed in their own fantastic world and never really hurt a fly or goblin during their entire existence. This was literally two kids into D&D getting picked on by a music service that no one goddamn uses anymore. Assholes. The band, as optimistic as ever, marked a new chapter in their existence as Rhapsody of Fire and continued writing The Dark Secret Saga — you know… the sequel to The Emerald Sword Saga — you know the original story which was told in Rhapsody’s first five albums. No nothing? Did I not remind you to bring your green and black deck for tonight?
Last year, Rhapsody of Fire released From Chaos to Eternity which was the 5th and final chapter to the Dark Secret Saga. The band announced that their time spent writing epic fantasy was at an end and a new dawn was on the horizon. Well, I did not think it was going to be this. Months following the release of From Chaos to Eternity, Rhapsody of Fire split into two entities with its two founding members on opposite sides. Keyboardist and songwritier Alex Starpoli with drummer Alex Holzwarth and longtime vocal contributor Fabio Lione would continue with Rhapsody of Fire ( which I will now refer to as ROF) while guitarist and other songwriter Luca Trulli with bassist Patrick Guers would continue in Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody ( now referred to as LTR). Ohh, yeah and Holzwarth is still drumming for LTR so there is that. Regardless, I may have lost 75% of my readers at this point but you 25% are the ones coming over to play Magic later anyway. Now that we have our backstory taken care of it is time for Ascending to Infinity, the 11th/1st album from (Luca Turilli’s) Rhapsody [of Fire]…or more mathematically — LT<(r)>OF. Squared to INFINITY.
If one was expecting broad stroke changes in Rhapsody’s sound following the LTR/ROF split then one could be disappointed. The music still retains the lightning fast power metal marked by operatic vocals, neoclassical guitar solos, and enough bombastic ambition to fill the Ruby palace which lay in the Sapphire Kingdom. There are differences however. As promised, Turilli drops the strictly high fantasy motif for a more…well…science fantasy theme which flourishes of dystopian futures and mythological undertones. Are you sure you do not want some Cheetos? Mountain Dew? The thematic shift is enough to move away from the fun yet burdening closed fantasy universe which weighed on Rhapsody in the past. Now Turilli is free to write about other topics like Atlantis , biblical tales, and King Arthur. Oh, did I mention its fucking awesome?
Ascending to Infinity is not a return to greatness yet a reminder that Rhapsody regardless of iteration has the power to write powerful songs regardless of present situation. The structure presented throughout this record is astounding and stands as a more powerful follow-up to the already stellar From Chaos to Eternity. There is a freedom present which marks songs like “Dark Fate of Atlantis,” “Excalibur” and “Dante’s Inferno.” Even slightly mediocre opera duets like “Luna” pass without care when one fully subscribes to this record. Its alright, everyone in Italy understands Opera on a cosmically deeper level than everyone else. Even the 16 minute closer “Of Michael the Archangel and Lucifer’s Fall” is impressive and circumvents being cheesy — because in all honesty it should be. I love it. I love the fact they have done the same thing, for the most part since 1997.
Now I understand that my bias towards this band could or could not have influence over my judgment on Ascending to Infinity. Some people could say that I spent most of my college time and campus resources printing out and reading the accompanying text for the Emerald Sword and Dark Secret Saga which used to be on the band’s website might influence my opinion on this album. Well, fear not, for I can decipher quality in power metal, at least I hope I can. This gilded armor is heavy. I should have went with glass or Mythril. Ascending to Infinity, regardless of tedious backstory, stands as one of the most entertaining and rousing records of 2012. It consistently delivers high quality power metal which is no longer tethered to large epic narrative. None were more surprised with this fact than me, who has been listening for quite sometime. Who is going to die first Rhapsody? You or me — because until then, our fates are intertwined.