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With 15 years of label backed experience in the style that he largely helped to pioneer, Luca Turilli has become a full on institution unto himself. Having recorded nearly as many full length albums as he has racked up years of experience, his craft has gone through some subtle leaps in evolution, but has maintained a consistent template approach to songwriting and album creation that may as well be his insignia. Perhaps the only downside to the continued expansion of Luca's discography is that it will likely bring a level of confusion to any who casually follow his work, as there are now 2 Rhapsody projects out there, each of them containing half of the membership that gave us the last several albums. Likewise, it has seen the official demise of his 2 side-projects, and with it what is basically the end of his long collaboration with vocalist Olaf Hayer, which actually produced one of his finest creations "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse".
This particular incarnation of Luca's sound, dubbed "Ascending To Infinity", sounds like a continuation of the storyline of the last Rhapsody Of Fire saga, if one were to go by the title and the style of album art. However, when dealing with the actual music, the level of familiarity with the first two Luca Turilli albums ("King Of The Nordic Twilight" and "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse") is far greater than any of Rhapsody Of Fire's back catalog. There is a much heavier reliance upon symphonic orchestral elements with perhaps a less overt hint of electronic elements that were all over the 2 comparable albums, but the impressively wide range of the principal vocalist Alessandro Conti (best known for his impressive vocal work with Helloween tribute band turned power metal powerhouse Trick Or Treat) definitely hints at similar acrobatics that were on display when Olaf Hayer was in congress. Alessandro also has a slightly stronger operatic tilt that, along with the massive production, does move things a bit towards the Rhapsody Of Fire sound, but the songwriting pulls it back the other way.
Perhaps the biggest departure to be found on here when compared to previous Turilli brand offerings is that this is not a concept album, but rather a collection of homages to various famous stories. There's a folksy nod at the beginning of "Excalibur" that turns into a bombastic symphonic anthem, a creepy set of themes kicking off "Dante's Inferno", and a near eastern tilt to "Dark Fate Of Atlantis" that all paint very vivid pictures in correlation to the lyrical subjects, all the while largely conforming themselves to Luca's very conventional blend of classical themes and fast paced power metal. In fact, while the song titles and introductory musical material showcases what would be a newly born sense of eclecticism, the lion's share of this album somehow manages to keep itself nestles very firmly within the orthodoxy of Turilli's older works. Perhaps the lone exception is the operatic cover "Luna", which also proves to be the only lackluster effort on here as it veers a little into jazz ballad territory and clashes with the high energy nature of the rest of the album.
Like any album bearing the Rhapsody letter's on the cover, this album tends to impress all around, but doesn't really hit home until the long-winded closer, in this case a 16 minute plus epic musical depiction of the war in heaven outlined in Milton's "Paradise Lost". Turilli pulls out all the stops on this one, and showcases his abilities as both an accomplished guitar shredder and keyboard soloist. In much the same fashion as "Gargoyles: Angels Of Darkness" and "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse", this is filled to the brim with contrasting sections, operatic vocal work by multiple guest vocalists, and a slow build from a quiet and subdued introduction to an extravagant mixture of metallic riffing and 18th-19th century inspired symphonic arrangements. Alessandro shines particularly brightly on this work as well, pushing the limits of his upper range in a manner highly reminiscent of Michael Kiske, though in a fairly different musical context than the ex-Helloween front man would ever really find himself in, apart from maybe his work with Amanda Somerville a couple years back.
It's a given that Luca Turilli seems all but incapable of disappointing his fan base, though this album probably won't expand too far beyond that, save maybe a few holdouts who really like Epica and Kamelot, but somehow never took to Turilli's more virtuoso-based approach. Indeed, the principle thing that may turn off some older fans of the his work is that he seems to be creeping slowly towards Mark Jansen's neck of the woods, at least as far as the production character of his albums go. The sun never really sets or rises in Luca's world, it's always at the top of the sky, shining down at full intensity, and this is yet another album that reflects that sense of consonance and consistency.