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For those who don’t know how to read the label for almost all the titles from Limb Music specify an approach to the genre the cd is about. In this case it said (because I purchased as soon as it was released): Symphonic/Fantasy Epic metal or so. Thus, whoever expects ultra fast power metal, simple and raw are completely mistaken and could start by taking reading classes and second, maybe some classical music courses would help too.
Luca Turilli as many other guitar players has his own style which is penned by the huge classical music influence and heavy metal. It was never meant to be exactly what fans expected: a faster version of Helloween, Gamma Ray or even Primal Fear and not more powerful, it was the simple idea of combining heavy metal with symphonic music and Luca achieved this in an outstanding way. I can not understand those guys who say this is bad because they do not get the raw speedy Walls of Jericho songs in here. That is just stupid!
With that said and focusing in the album the art is just flawless, creative and magical. Next to say the songs are ultra complex in terms of how many instruments you can find perfectly mixed with metal. You get symphonic classical music, polka, electronic driven songs, epic songs, arpeggios really technical, flutes, celtic music, harpsichords, etc. With that in mind this is a musical experience, not a heavy metal album.
The orchestral intro sets the mood for the entire album and its epic grandeur takes you to magic landscapes and places. Black Dragon follows and it is a powerful song to start. I will not explain every single track since it would take pages to review them. What I can tell is that Ancient Forest of elves is a Stratovarius-tempo-song with some repeated solos along the song and it was wisely picked up for the single. Lord of the Winter Snow has a polka rhythm base and it is ok thou a little weird for an average taste. Sopranos come along in Princess Aurora for the pristine and mystical feeling. King of the Nordic Twilight ends and it is a perfect closing to the album since it makes me (exactly at ‘Wings of Tragedy’) fly, I mean, if a song with a length of almost 12min. leaves wish more, then it is a perfect song because you do not feel the time passing by. You are so involved in the music that you are not aware of the length, ala Stratovarius with the epic songs, only with more symphonic elements and progressive spiced.
With this release, the first part of a three parts saga he has established again as an excellent composer and a great artist who wants to take us to mystic places where snow falls upon your face while you contemplate the twilight raising your swords to the sky. He took some distance from the Rhapsody style so in here the emphasis goes on the guitars not on the keyboards as with Rhapsody. The feeling from each song and the extraordinary combination of so many influences, instruments and bands is something that not everybody can put together in a fashion way… but he did it!
The early years of Luca Turilli’s career as a composer and guitarist were a time of quick growth, evolving from an atmospheric approach to Metal with heavy keyboard usage to a Symphonic hybrid style that makes equal use of acoustic and synthetic sounds. Although this album is heavily criticized as being an outtake from Rhapsody’s first 2 albums, there are some noteworthy differences in songwriting, lyrical content, and overall performance that may make this album more appealing to the traditional power metal crowd who don’t generally go for the pomp and grandeur of Rhapsody.
This release includes a good deal more electronic sounds than is the case on Rhapsody’s material. “Lord of the Winter Snow” and “Princess Aurora” in particular have an almost techno vibe in their respective keyboard intros, although their tonality is still based in Turilli’s Neo-Baroque style. The former is actually quite similar to what is found on the follow up release “Prophet of the Last Eclipse”, carrying a lot of percussive sounding keyboard drones and dance like ambiences, not to mention a highly thematic guitar solo that rivals all the ones found on that album. “Princess Aurora” features a brilliant female vocal performance and some misty sounding synthesized string sounds, not all that dissimilar from what is heard on “Timeless Oceans” off the follow up album.
Olaf Hayer’s vocals are another point of contrast to the conventional wisdom that Luca’s solo project is merely a Rhapsody clone. Anyone familiar with his work with Dionysus will tell you that his voice is not cut from the Opera Seria style that Fabio Lione sings in, thus lacking the extremely wide vibrato during long notes. His best performance is on the ballad “Warrior’s Pride”, although he shines consistently on every track his voice touches, showing some similarities to Michael Kiske and Rob Halford when in his high register.
Naturally there is a fair amount of music on here that is stylistically similar to Rhapsody, primarily sounding like a bridge between “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” and “Dawn of Victory”. “Black Dragon” and “Where Heroes Lie” are riff driven fanfares with bombastic choruses and plenty of speed. “Ancient Forest of Elves” and the title track are the most epic sounding, the former featuring a pleasant violin theme and a chorus that begs to be sung along to, while the latter has a lot of changes and plenty of long instrumental sections. “Warrior’s Pride” and “Legend of Steel” feature prevalent harpsichord parts and plenty of textural density, the former being a more dramatic take on the Rhapsody ballad of the first 3 albums.
Fans of Rhapsody and Dionysus are encouraged to look into getting this album if they don’t already possess it, and fans of Power Metal in general are encouraged to give it a chance, although Rhapsody detractors may not go for it. Although its pegged as the unofficial 3rd album by Luca’s principle band, it does carry a good deal of an identity of its own, both in the music and the more personal approach to storytelling which emphasizes the romantic side of fantasy more than anything Rhapsody has done in it’s history. I still listen to it every now and then and it has yet to lose any of its charm.
When Luca announced his solo project I had great expectations on it. Being released right after Rhapsody’s splendid second album, I thought it could only be great. I was dead wrong. Not only this, Luca’s first solo album, but also the Rhapsody albums to come have turned out to be pretty much worthless.
First of all Luca claims this to be power metal. This doesn’t exactly imply that it is cheesy, but the fact that he’s in Rhapsody does. However, he exceeds and surpasses his real band in terms of having cheese storage-rooms in his basement on this one. Second, this is barely power metal. Luca has taken a few elements from power metal yes, but it’s closer to rock’n’roll than anything else. Rock’n’roll at its own isn’t a worthless thing, but combined with excessive, repetitive keyboards with a hint of video game soundtracks, it is.
Luca usually makes sure that everyone around him has been told that he’s a great guitarist. Well, I wouldn’t mind to see (read hear) some of it. I mean, tremolo can’t be that hard. The guitars are mostly hid-away, in the background too. We do actually get more keyboards from that Miro guy than anything else. And sure, most of it is harmonious, beautiful and all that. Then we have what I’d like to call the cheap parts where he just presses two or three random keys several times in a row, just strumming on. The clean piano is alright I suppose. The wannabe virtuous closings disturb me a little though.
The best song is The Ancient Forest of Elves – just because it uses the same composition as every other song but does the best of it. We have the same, steady drumming – with the same pace as on the other songs. The same double-bass, the same cymbals – in the same combinations. The keyboards conceal a lot of it for sure, but still you notice it, still you get the drum machine feeling. They beat the same easy melody into your head on every single song. And behind the sing-along vocals, the keyboards and monotonous drumming, I tell you, there’s nothing.
I guess that the vocals are saving this record. The female vocals, operatic and not, are some of the best ever in the metal scene. And Olaf Hayer, a vocalist with a voice I love, sings here too. Sadly I have to admit that I’ve never heard something worse from him. He just hasn’t got the edge, the power which usually is a sign of his. I’m afraid that this record only appeals to die-hard Rhapsody-fans. Can’t say I’m one of them.