Saturday, 23 June 2012

Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Ascending to Infinity - Review

Well Luca calls this 11th Rhapsody studio album and it's all a bit confusing since the band split in two, but I guess Luca is the original member who started the band with Alex so I'll go with what he says and call it the 11th Rhapsody studio album!

So what has Luca come up with since the amicable split? Well it's pretty much a full on Rhapsody album with a little bit of his solo style mixed in but not quite as much as I was expecting. The biggest style change is of course the introduction of pretty much unknown vocalist, Alessandro Conti, from the Helloween tribute band Trick or Treat. To say the guy turns in an amazing performance would be an understatement! Yes, he has quite a strong accent but his voice and tone fit like a glove with Luca's neoclassical compositions and his voice soars and glides like an eagle intertwining neatly with the ebb and flow of the music.

The only thing I would say that is that it's quite hard to pick out his words due to his lilting semi-operatic style. Although that's pretty much true of all non-English power metal singers. Factor in that the music is highly layered with vocals and choirs piled on thick and you get more of a vocal showcase rather than concise clear lines that stay memorable like in some power metal bands.

The music in this album is perfectly executed and the ambition shown is through the roof when it comes to the grandiose melodrama that Luca usually brings us. The album is far less heavy than recent Rhapsody releases and far more complex musically with passages of music which truly leave the listener in a spin. The music is super expansive and busy around your ears and the songs are always progressive although I wouldn't call this exactly prog metal in the normal sense. If you enjoy the more memorable classical music pieces then you will find yourself making many noticeable references to classical pieces of the past. I think Luca is a bit of an old romantic as well as a song like Tormento E Passione which is a fantastic musical piece that's barely even metal but an amazing composition nevertheless featuring an amazing vocal from Conti.

The most normal Rhapsody sounding songs such as Dark Fate of Atlantis feature highly catchy light guitar riffs and swooning operatic vocals from Conti. The song Luna which is listed as a cover which has female vocals and surprisingly almost my fave song on the album. It's not metal at all and I don't even know the original but the passion in that song is just beautiful to listen to and highly melodic. The opening cut Ascending to Infinity is pretty much typical opening Rhapsody cut with more overblown production and layers than you can shake a stick at and is followed by Excalibur another completely overblown affair. Is anything not overblown in this album you ask? it it ain't epic it ain't coming in that's Luca's motto!

The early tracks are really good although sometimes the choruses could be a bit more memorable however almost the best two tracks are saved for the penultimate and the final epic tracks, namely Clash of the Titans and Of Michael the Archangel and Lucifer's Fall.

Clash of the Titans features perhaps the most memorable chorus on the album after Dark Fate of Atlantis. It is a pretty short track and I guess it was influenced by the film and features quite a straightforward attack for Luca and co. It starts quite slow but come the chorus you are taken back to an "Emerald Sword" type sing-along chorus from the early Rhapsody era. The middle of the track also gets rather bombastic and even technicality with keys and guitars doing battle. Alessandro Conti also uses his more aggressive vocals to great affect before the huge choirs return during the chorus. An amazing short tune!

Finally we reach the final epic and what I call kitchen sink metal. In other words we throw everything into the musical melting pot but the kitchen sink! Luca is not one to hold back when it comes to different textures and musical passages of differing styles and this is the song when he utilises it all and holds nothing back. You get super cheesy film track narrations, sweeping arrangements, dark unholy atmospheres, epic swathes of guitars and riffs  and keys to die for. The opening riff in this song is a corker but what I love the most is the way the choirs add little embellishments to give that moody cinematic feel. Conti's vocals on this song are truly impressive with so much emotion even though you can't always understand what he's going on about! The music sometimes make you feel you are watching one of those medieval religious horror movies or something like that. Truly epic and amazing composition from Luca this one and probably the best long Rhapsody song of all.

So there we have the first album since the Rhapsody band split in two. The album is not totally song based and is more of film soundtrack affair that some people won't like but the choruses are still there and will grip you after a few plays no doubt. Luca hasn't forgotten that a power metal song still needs a chorus however grandiose and needs a focal point for the listener to latch on to. Having said that the album's ambitions are clear to see and way huge. I'm guessing Luca would love to be offered to make film music one day rather than trying to please metal fans as well. Anyway Luca delivered as expected and now it's over to Alex and Fabio. What you got guys? You've got a hell of a job on your hands that's for sure. Luca has thrown the gauntlet down and then some!


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Manowar - The Lord of Steel Review

Finally the Kings of Metal have one again graced or should that be bludgeoned our ears with their latest opus on all things metal. We've been waiting a long time for this one. I've heard many people saying they were disappointed with the overblown nature of Gods of War. Well this album is for you. They were supposed to do another Odin based double disk but Joey scrapped cause he felt inspired to record something more like the old days with no major concept involved just heavy bloody metal. So did they bring the true metal and then some? Well yes they brought the true metal but it ain't always that good.

Mind you I don't think I ever really truly enjoy a Manowar album from start to end but I absolutely get captivated by some songs and so it continues with this album. Here is my song by song thoughts.

The Lord of Steel - The title track is a typical Manowar firecracker like Wheels of Steel or Warlord or something speedy. The riffs sound simple and very fast with beefy bass. Now let's say a few words about the bass production. The bass sounds unlike any previous Manowar album. At first it completely threw me cause I thought I was listening to a stoner album! The bass takes some getting used to man! It sounds like those fuzzed up sub human hearing bass sounds you hear on Electric Wizard or some such doom fuzz band. Not great to be honest. Anyway the song is ok but it doesn't do huge deal for me. A short note about Eric. He sounds great on this album. He sounds better than ever in fact. Age has not made his voice any worse compared to other big metal singers. The song is ok but not catchy enough in the rather average chorus. 6.5/10

Manowarriors - There's an anthem about the band's fans on almost every album. This is this particular album's contribution to that theme. I quite like this tune. It's silly as hell but the galloping riffs are quite catchy. A short word about the drum sound. It kicks ass! Heavy and thumping. A fun song and you will catch on to the chorus soon enough with the gang shouts. The solo in this song is ok and better than others. A short word about the lead playing. In general it sucks but I don't care. I don't listen to Manowar for guitar solos. 7/10

Born in a Grave - Mid paced, fuzzy pounder with a galloping beat that is broken by whispered vocals from Eric before his smoother voice kicks and propels the song in rather steady fashion. The chorus is rather underwhelming to say the least. It's ok but the song is too plodding. I don't mind slow paced but it needs a focal point or memorable element and this one doesn't seem to gather any steam. Not feeling it with this one but it does get better when the nagging mid tempo sort of pummels you as the song goes into it's conclusion. That fuzz bass is very very prominent in this song and annoys rather as does the boring solo. 5/10

Righteous Glory - I love Manowar ballads. To me they are one of the best Balladeers in all of metal. I can add this song to a long list of fantastic emotional Manoballads now. This song has gorgeous smooth build with slow guitar arpeggios and rough distorted chords when necessary. The song reminds of Swords in the Wind from the last album. Eric is the star of the show here though. His voice sounds beautiful and crystal clear with very cool emotional melodies in the chorus. Joey's bass is again huge sounding in this song but not as fuzzed up as on other tracks. The song builds waves of torch swaying emotion as it reaches relaxed crescendo with the chorus to fade. 8.5/10

Touch the Sky - A good one two this with a mid paced catchy stomper to follow the ballad. This song has one of the best chest beating, life affirming choruses on the whole album. During the verses things are fairly pedestrian however come the chorus you are roused into warrior mode. The solo in this song is not bad either but It's Eric pounding heart beating melodies that captivate my ears. 8/10

Black List - A dark and brooding slow pounder with thunderous drums and pounding fuzz bass providing a long intro before the vocals start. Like Bridge of Death this one is slow menacing and has a foreboding feel to it all. Eric sounds like he's gonna meet you at the gates of hell and show you round your new home with his scything lyrics about making a black list of some kind though I'm not exactly sure what he's going on about to be honest. The song is a dirge alright but the nagging chorus is quite cool actually. The soloing behind the vocals sounds very dirty and messy and personally I don't like to hear solos behind vocals as it just annoys me. The song plods to it's conclusion however it's better than the other dirge we've heard so far which was Born in A Grave. 6.5/10

Expendable - A great big hulking mid paced thumper this one loosely based around the film of the same name. I like the way it rolls along with Eric barking out aggressive lyrics with a crunchy chorus. A very simple and short tune at 3:10 and a bit throwaway maybe but it's ok and I guess if you pump this one loud you can get into it a bit memorable. Not my fave song though but the chorus does nag you into submission on repeated plays. 7/10

El Gringo - I really like this song with it's sweet mid paced gallop and Spaghetti Western feel and "Injun" sounding chants. The melody in this song is enjoyable and pretty cool from Eric and one of the more memorable ones heard on the album. The album surely needed more songs like this one. The solo is also not bad. 8/10

Annihilation - As the title would suggest this is a pretty heavy song for Manowar. The pace is again fairly slow but the riffs are crunchy and Eric's melodies are quite cool come the chorus complete with the "Annihilationnnnnn!" scream although he always controls it well and it never turns into a yelp. The solo is just  another average Manosolo that are ten a penny. The chorus is a good one and pretty enjoyable and repeats to fade. 7.5/10

Hail, Kill and Die - With that title you'd expect something special to end with and yes this is a solid and typically aggressive true metal pounder with gang chants for the chorus. This one will go down well when played live no doubt. The used the oft done "let's use all our song titles as lyrics" cliche and whilst cheesy as all hell it actually works for me. However apart from a crunching riff and a repetitive chanting chorus the song doesn't really have too much going for it. It's no way as good as the original Hail and Kill though it tried very hard to be close to it but it just fails. Having said all that it is a good way to end and makes a statement for the band and fans. 7/10

So there the album ends on a very heavy note and we are left with another regular Manowar. No big overblown concept just true pounding heavy metal from start to end.  To be honest the album is a bit disappointing. I enjoy it but I wanted more catchiness and memorable song writing. Gods of War gets a lot of flak but to me it had many great tunes which are not quite matched here though this is by no means a bad album. I think the reviews will be somewhat mixed for this one though it sounds like Manowar and they've stayed true the sound more or less. Just watch out for Joey's bass fuzz - you'll get a big what the fuck when you first hear it!

Overall rating - 7/10

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Latest fave albums

Some of my favourite albums of the last few weeks are:

Ascension - Far Beyond the Stars - Scottish Dragonforce fanciers.
At Vance – Facing Your Enemy - classic power metal with great vocals.
Before The Dawn - Rise Of The Phoenix - top class melodic death.
Black Breath - Sentenced to Life - Evil old school death with rumbling riffs.
Coffin Texts - The Tomb Of Infinite Ritual - Morbid Angel worship.
Dark Tranquillity - Zero Distance EP - Enjoyable stop gap release.
Deadborn - Mayhem Maniac Machine - fast and technical death.
End Of September - st - gorgeous melodic euro goth.
Eradicator - Madness Is My Name - decent melodic thrash.
Firewind - Few Against Many - very heavy and powerful from Gussy and co.
Flayed Disciple - Death Hammer - brutal heavy thrash.
Grand Magus - The Hunt - more hard rock but still fun as hell.
Horrizon - Time For Revenge - melodic viking death with rough vox.
Kreator - Phantom Antichrist - Amazing vicious thrash.
Nightmare - The Burden of God - Melodic and powerful metal with heavy vox.
Otherwise - True Love Never Dies - Quality modern melodic rock.
Pathfinder - Fifth Element - Stratospheric symphonic power metal.
Rise To Fall- Defying The Gods - Quality melodic death ala In Flames.
Running Wild - Shadowmaker - Getting bad press but a fun release from the mighty Rolf.
Sabaton  - Carolus Rex - As amazing as always!
Sacred Gate - When Eternity Ends - Iron maiden copy not bad.
Scarlet Anger - Dark Reign - Heavy and melodic thrash beating.
Shores of Elysium - The Arbiter's Clockwork - Slightly technical melodic death.
Stargate - Beyond Space and Time - Prog power from Italy
Wig Wam - Wall Street - Fun stadium sized melodic rock.