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I was as confused as most people when Luca Turilli decided to leave Rhapsody of Fire in late 2011 to form... Rhapsody. It seems Luca was trying to go for a fresh start, as he disbanded all his other solo projects in favor of this one. Stylistically, it isn't too much different from Rhapsody of Fire except for the fact that it's much more eager to produce an epic, cinematic atmosphere, with choirs and orchestrations abound, not to mention being lyrically more rooted in pre-existing mythologies as opposed to Rhapsody of Fire's lengthy (absurd and overblown but still awesome) original concept. On the surface, though, it does seem like "just" another Rhapsody of Fire album. There's the cheesy intro track which leads right into the fist-pumping, infectious opener ("Quantum X"/"Ascending Into Infinity"), the crappy ballad that should never be on a power metal album in the first place ("Luna," which if I were Luca, I would have shafted it in favor of "Fantasia Gotica"), the lead single which features a lengthy solo passage, infectious guitar leads and an impossible-to-not-sing-along-with chorus ("Dark Fate of Atlantis") and a loooong as hell epic to close off the album in a triumphant fashion ("Of Michael the Archangel and Lucifer's Fall"). On the surface, it would seem Luca has written himself into a Timo Tolkki-esque limbo of uncreativity where he churns out the same old crap no matter how many times he renames his band, but thankfully that is not the case here. Luca just knows what works and adds little twists to bring a bolder yet still familiar experience, much like his previous self-titled band. (no, NOT Dreamquest... Ugh, I was trying to forget that)
The first thing of note is the use of an actual orchestra--- none of that cheesy orchestra patches on a keyboard shit (there are keyboards, but they're restricted to solos and played by Luca himself!). If I recall reading somewhere, Luca wrote EVERY single orchestration line on his own. The orchestration is dense and multi-layered, like a good film score. Every once in a while, it seems like it's drowning out the killer guitar work, but nowhere near as bad as "Symphony of Enchanted Lands II's" orchestration, which grew to be quite overbearing.
The second thing to note is the new vocalist--- Alessandro Conti, of Trick Or Treat fame. While Trick or Treat seems to be little more than a not-too-serious Helloween tribute, Alessandro brings his A-game to the band with soaring operatic vocals. (though you can still hear traces of Michael Kiske worship in his voice. Guess it only makes sense that they covered Helloween's "March of Time" as a bonus track, then) One can still speculate how the likes of, say, Olaf Hayer or even Fabio Lione would have sounded doing this, but Alessandro does a fine damn job, even if he does seem to disappear between the epic, lengthy choir passages. I look forward to Alessandro's future endeavors with the band, and hopefully he'll be able to overpower the choirs and really shine. He has definite potential to climb to the ranks of everyone mentioned in this paragraph.
So, in the long run, if you like Rhapsody or any of Luca Turilli's previous solo projects (minus Dreamquest, which I'm still trying to forget), then picking this up is a no-brainer, really. The only people I can see getting disappointed with this are those looking for something more guitar-driven, like Rhapsody of Fire's last album. But the music provides a grand and epic atmosphere, some catchy numbers, stellar vocal work and some of Luca's trademark neoclassical guitar solos. Hopefully, the boys in Rhapsody of Fire will get inspired by this album and try to one-up it with their next effort and in turn inspire Luca to write an even better follow-up and the two bands will create a neverending cycle of awesome symphonic power metal albums. The fans can only win with this one.