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? Er...no 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!