Luca Turilli Pays Respects To Sir Christopher Lee


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During Ghost Cult’s recent chat with Luca Turilli, he took time to share his thoughts on the sad passing of Sir Christopher Lee…

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Sir Christopher Lee was very open about the fact that his work with Rhapsody in particular led to his late-blooming but passionate love for Metal and his decision to become a Metal singer himself in his 90’s. Would you like to say something about your own experiences with Sir Christopher?

You know, when he passed away I could have written many things about how much he meant to me, but in the end I prefer to condense everything in one sentence – that one of the greatest men on Earth passed away. I remember the first moment when me and Alex approached him – we were both trembling! – but he was a really charismatic, approachable guy and he really helped us and spoke to us openly.

He told us lots of stories about the things that went on behind the scenes of his films – we really bonded with him, and in a way he became a sort of grandfather figure to the band. What I said about how important our positive values are – Christopher Lee was always acting in the name of those values; he was committed to life and positivity.”

He also hunted Nazi war criminals after the war, before becoming an actor.

Wow really, I didn’t know! He never spoke about that!”

RICHIE HR


Symphony Of An Enchanted Mind (Part 2) – Luca Turilli of Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody


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With his Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody project – now onto their second album Prometheus: Symphonia Ignis Divinus through Nuclear Blast – he is putting out some of the most daring, distinctive and emotionally resonant music to be released under the Power Metal label in years.

Luca Turilli’s music is passionate, powerful and filled with a sort of joyous open-mindedness, and even through the muddy and unreliable medium of an international Skype call it’s clear as Luca enthuses about music, spirituality and his work with the late Sir Christopher Lee that he possesses all of these qualities himself.

Do you think you might ever return to the kind of serial concept stories that you wrote with Rhapsody/Rhapsody Of Fire?

“I cannot guarantee anything, but I prefer writing about different things. There is a mini-concept across the last two albums – there are three titles on this album connected to four titles of the first album, and there will be three on the next album, for example the third part of ‘Michael The Archangel’. I like always to have connections between songs – there is a mini-concept about spiritual evolution and the connection between the past and the future – but I don’t think I will ever release one album devoted to one unique concept only.”

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Some internet fans have been calling quite vocally for a sequel to Prophet Of The Last Eclipse (Limb/SPV) to finish that album’s story.

“Oh no! That was a trilogy of albums with one about the past, one about the present and one set in the future – the trilogy is finished, and now with Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody I can do whatever I want; it makes no sense for me to go back to a solo career.”

Some people might take this as an insult, but ever since Italy re-entered Eurovision I can’t help but think that you’d make a great Eurovision entry. Is that something you’d consider doing?

“No, although I think for me that music would be very easy to compose. I started in the world of Heavy Metal, my influences were of course Helloween with Keeper 1 and 2 – incredible albums – bands like Crimson Glory, and guitars players like Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman, but my potential for composition expands all the time.

“If tomorrow they would ask me to compose music for a musical, I could do it very easily, but for now I like to keep attached to the world of Heavy Metal. It would be very easy for me to leave Rhapsody and focus entirely on music for the entertainment industry, but I would feel the loss of the second element of Rhapsody, this Melodic Metal. Equally, if you restrict me to compose a Heavy Metal song just for guitars, drums and voice I could not do it – for me the best music I can create, to express myself and to give my positive message the most impact is the combination of the cinematic music of the soundtrack and the melodic Metal that I like.”

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I was fortunate enough to catch you live in London a few years ago, and one thing that stood out was the sheer joy that came from all of the musicians on the stage, yourself included.

This positivity often seems quite at odds with many other Metal bands, and is sometimes treated as something of a joke by journalists and other musicians. How do you approach that?

“Let me say one thing – of course we transmit a positive message, our music wants to be a hymn to life, so we try to capture that live when we perform. But I must say that we’re really serious about the message, this is really something I don’t laugh about. It is part of my life, and I see it as sort of like a mission, you know?

“Every artist has a responsibility, I think, to speak to the heart of the people. Emotion is a weapon, a weapon that you can use in a positive or negative way. As you speak to the younger people through your music, every artist has the responsibility to spread a positive message – that’s why I’m so against those bands who use the negativity to sell or to impose themselves in the market or whatever. When you move some steps in a spiritual direction you realise that values such as love and respect are the fundamental values on which mankind can have any hope for the future – all the rest leads to destruction.

“The message that I include in my songs, I like to be serious about it. I’m not the typical Metal guy, drinking and smoking, you know – I practise yoga and meditation, I discovered a lot of things about the spiritual world by practicing on myself, not by reading books. When you experiment with your own spirituality, you can really have a wider understanding of what life is all about. There are too many people happy to live exclusively in a material perspective, they find the joy of life in satisfying their own ego, but there is a kind of universal law that means that for every joy you can get from the ego it comes with a negative consequence, but if you really go beyond the ego you reach a point where we are all connected.”


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Is this purely a personal journey for you, or do you feel a connection to any formal spiritual or mystical traditions?

“There is a great teaching of the Tibetan monks – when you’re part of nothing, you are really part of everything.”

You’re referring to the Buddhist doctrine of Anatta or “not-self” – that the sense of personal consciousness is a conceit binding us to empty physical attachments.

“When a person says “I am x”, “I am a Christian etc”, they are binding themselves into a single way, but there are lots of different ways of approaching this. I don’t like to limit myself. I came to my position after having some… supernatural experiences that inspired me. In England of course you have a long tradition of spiritualism and spirit mediums.”

Italy does too, but the spiritual or religious conversation in that country is often dominated by the Church. How do you feel that your own spiritual journey relates to your origins in a Catholic country?

“Well, I grew up with very Christian values. When people ask me about the connection with Rhapsody and religion, I always say that I respect the positive values of every religion when they intersect with the Universal values of love, but the problem is when they are in any way contaminated by the ego. When they adapt themselves to the social view – that is something I don’t want to be a part of.

“For me Jesus is one of the great characters of history, he expressed these values of love and respect, but I like to go directly to the primordial spiritual source, and scientists can help by revealing the details of the universe. There is a part where all religious traditions, all science, all metaphysical disciplines come together. In the end, life wins everything.”

RICHIE HR

 


Symphony Of An Enchanted Mind (Part 1) – Luca Turilli of Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody


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It’s not an exaggeration to say that Luca Turilli has changed the face of Power Metal as a genre.

When Rhapsody’s debut Legendary Tales (Limb Music) burst onto the scene in 1997 amidst a shower of rainbows and unicorns it hit a moribund, tradition-bound genre like a glass of ice water to the face. Combining huge Power Metal choruses with the panoramic sweep of film soundtracks, a completely irony-free fantasy concept (complete with map) and the kind of genuine, unmodified joy that isn’t often heard in popular music of any kind, the band became genre-leaders overnight, and guitarist/composer Luca Turilli cemented his importance through a string of solo albums before branching off on his own. With his new Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody project – now onto their second album through Nuclear Blast – he’s putting out some of the most daring, distinctive and emotionally resonant music to be released under the Power Metal label in years.

Luca Turilli’s music is passionate, powerful and filled with a sort of joyous open-mindedness, and even through the muddy and unreliable medium of an international Skype call it’s clear as Luca enthuses about music, spirituality and his work with the late Sir Christopher Lee that he possesses all of these qualities himself.

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One thing that seems really striking about the last two albums is how far they go beyond the traditional Heavy Metal influences, taking in not only the expected Classical and Soundtrack influences, but also Italian Pop. Did this feel like a risky move after leaving a band with such a clearly defined sound?

“Yes, absolutely – it’s always risky to do something like that, but when you are a composer you can’t just compose the same thing fifteen years after you started. I have such energy flowing in me every day – I put myself in front of the computer or the piano, or with the guitar to compose and I channel this into my music. For PrometheusSymphonia Ignis Divinus I wrote twenty songs in the first two-three months, then I had to select ten or eleven titles, which at 70 minutes is already the longest Rhapsody album.

“We have so many different styles – I really consider myself more of a composer than a guitar player or a piano player – I always have this variety between albums. Especially now, since the split with Rhapsody – for the first ten albums everything, musically, lyrically was related with this saga I created, this kind of fantasy saga. After finishing that, I think the possibility of covering different themes, different topics – even though they’re all connected by this main theme of spiritual evolution – it means I can say different things, offer different styles and different colours, on the one album. I was really feeling the need for this, and I feel very proud of this new album.

“It was very risky, of course – there were some people saying “What is this? What about Enchanted Lands? (Limb)” – this is a problem of illegal downloading, where people will just pick up the new one and say “what, you changed style?”. I’ve been doing this already! I also have a completely new audience, and it’s amazing for me to have this potential crossover – I can reach people who like soundtrack music from the cinema, people who like more opera – I think Rhapsody has always had this potential in some way, but with this new band I’m really free to reach anyone.”

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Is this freedom something you’ve gained since leaving original Rhapsody/Rhapsody Of Fire? Do you feel more able to express yourself honestly with this new set-up?

“Many people ask me “Will you go on with your solo career now you have Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody?” and I always say no. Why should I? If you look the solo albums I was composing when I was with Rhapsody or Rhapsody Of Fire, you will notice all of these sounds I could not use in Rhapsody because of this fantastic story connecting ten albums – I don’t know how many bands in the history of music have honestly done that, it was a real emotional journey for us, incredible – but in some ways it was missing something. I am more of a composer than a player, for me it’s important to compose, and I like a lot of soundtrack styles – at that time it was the beginning of 2000, there were a lot of films like Lord Of The Rings, but there was also The Matrix Trilogy with this kind of soundtrack, very electronic.

“So I really felt the need to compose the soundtrack albums to include what I could not use in Rhapsody – not that I could not because Alex (Staropoli) wouldn’t let me – just because of what we were doing. So now, of course, there is no need for me to make any more solo albums because of what I can do with this new Rhapsody. I’m looking at lots of different opportunities to make music for movies, for video games, but Rhapsody will always be my top priority simply for one thing – I have complete freedom. With Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody band I have found the perfect equilibrium, total freedom and an amazing situation.”

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The symphonic and soundtrack elements have been present since the first Rhapsody album, of course, but with the last two albums you’ve become considerably more successful at realising them.

“Now, when I write orchestral parts, it is so much easier than it was with early Rhapsody. Now with computers, I have one of the most powerful systems for classical composition in Europe in my home. I really want to be able to compete with the great composers of soundtracks in the US and Hollywood, so I really need technological support. In the morning I have breakfast, then I have all of the sounds in the planet in front of me – my own creativity is the only limit!

“When we started Rhapsody in the 90’s with the aim of doing something new the support of the technology was not that great – we were typing note by note on a keyboard sequencer! The Korg 01/W Pro – I remember because it was our partner in the composition of the albums, and in some way of course that’s why it was taking so long. Now it’s easier, and I can create a great orchestration in a shorter time. That’s also part of the freedom I talked about – just technically I can make music now that would have been impossible or taken too long in the beginning.”

Prometheus: Symphonia Ignis Divinus is available now via Nuclear Blast

RICHIE HR

 


Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinis


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Ghost Cult Ed and part-time Blaze Bayley impersonator Steve Tovey recently claimed that Power Metal needs its own version of Portal. Not a band with multi-coloured clocks on their heads playing abstract Noise Metal about unicorns (though that would be brilliant), but a band who can shake up a moribund genre by playing music that is entirely rooted within it while taking a very different approach to song-writing and composition. Having already given his chosen style a massive shock to the system with the original line-up of Rhapsody, Luca Turilli is in the position to do so again – if enough of his peers are prepared to listen.

Following on directly from 2012’s revelatory Ascending To Infinity, PrometheusSymphonia Ignis Divinis (both Nuclear Blast) sees Luca and friends fusing his original Rhapsody format with Italian Operatic and Symphonic Pop but integrating it more smoothly. Whereas Ascending declared this influence with a straight, guitar-free cover of Alessandro Safina’s ‘Luna’ alongside more traditional Rhapsody-style songs, Prometheus blends these elements – and the film soundtracks that Rhapsody had always aimed for but never achieved this well – into a seamless whole. If this leaves the album with nothing quite as breath-taking as Ascending’s stand-out ‘Tormento e Passione’, it creates a more consistent feel across the album, not to mention a subtle, understated piece of dark symphonic pop in the shape of ‘Notturno’, which is in an entirely different league to the ballads most Power Metal bands would settle for.

In case it hasn’t been clear already, this is not straight-forward European Power Metal. Just as Portal baffled many older Death Metal fans with their lack of recognisable riffs and melodies, there’ll be Rhapsody fans left frustrated by the unconventional song structures and the relatively minor role that the guitars often play compared to the other elements. Like its predecessor, it manages to capture the feel of classic Rhapsody while pulling off moves that they would never have been willing (or, frankly, able) to handle.

Prometheus, like its predecessor, is both a bold reinvention of European Power Metal and a celebration of its traditions, simultaneously familiar and challengingly new, and it offers a template of how the old warhorse could be given new purpose – the question is whether that’s what the rest of the Power Metal world wants.

 

8.5/10

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RICHIE HR


Lyric Video: Luca Turilli – Rosenkreuz (The Rose And The Cross)


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Luca Turilli is streaming a lyric video for “Rosenkreuz (The Rose And The Cross),” off of their forthcoming album Prometheus: Symphonia Ignis Divinus, out in North America on June 30, 2015 via Nuclear Blast Records.

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Wind Rose – Wardens of the West Wind


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In for a penny, in for a pound, right? And sometimes that dividing line between success or failure is just how far you’re prepared to take things. Power Metal, with its origins heavily rooted in the extravagances of Yngwie and embracing and taking the more bombastic elements of symphonic music and film scores, is often guilty of not going far enough, playing the safe game mixing Europe with Helloween and churning out decent, if standard, fast-rock fare. On their second album, Wardens of the West Wind (Scarlet), Wind Rose follow in the boot-prints of countrymen Rhapsody by ramping things to the max, and to some effect.

See, where Rhapsody made a name for themselves was by being brave enough to make their music and songs epic; as grandiose, as pompous, as couldn’t-give-a-fuck-what’s-cool as possible, and to think outside re-writing Blind Guardian licks to wanting to create something monumental, something cinematic, something befitting of the grandest of stages. Wind Rose have produced a stirring, rousing album in the vein of Symphony of Enchanted Lands (Limb) that sets them apart from the majority of the others who sit in the Power Metal bubble by taking that chance to do something different. The movie that Wind Rose are tracking is more nautical than Rhapsody’s swords-and-dragons fantasy, as if a hero quest head-on collision of Pirates of the Caribbean and Waterworld was sound-tracked by a collaboration of Symphony X and Luca Turilli.

Attack is another area where Power Metal bands stand or fall, and Wind Rose bring the energy of a thousand marauding pirates fuelled by rum and the promise of treasures great hidden under an X. Francesco Cavalieri’s voice leads the quintet and is another competitive advantage, capable of drama, authority and melody, and making sense of the grandiloquence going on around him, pulling the power and the might cascading around him into strong, viable songs.

In a field that consists of a handful of giants and many who will struggle to achieve a status above mediocrity Wardens… positions Wind Rose as one to watch. If their live show can re-capture the exuberance on record, we will have a new name to light up the European scene.

 

8.0/10

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STEVE TOVEY


Orden Ogan – Ravenhead


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Perhaps it says all you need to know about German Power Metallers Orden Ogan‘s fifth outing, Ravenhead (AFM/Nuclear Blast), that not only did I assume on first listen it was a debut release, but that I hadn’t realised I’d actually seen the band live a couple of years back when they were completely overshadowed by both Freedom Call and especially Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody until reminded by our fellow scribe Richie HR (who had to endure me drunkenly bellowing the wrong words in his ear all through the headline set).

See, if by your fifth album the endearing features are “promising for the future”, “naïve energy and charm” and if you don’t have a distinctive sound of your own so as to be so unremarkable as to not be remembered, then NINETEEN YEARS into your bands’ existence maybe it’s time to sit down and take stock.

But does knowing that this is a fifth album (I tend to do my research after a first listen, if research is required, so that initial impressions are as untainted as possible) make the difference in how Ravenhead should be judged? Damn skippy it does. Because you know that “promise for the future” then becomes “Oh, this is probably as good as it’s going to get” and, if we’re being honest, “naivety” really means not quite doing it right or not yet realising what needs to be done to live up to the masters (or indeed apeing the masters a touch too much to be a successful band in your own right). Having lived with Ravenhead for a while it becomes obvious that, like so much else in today’s consumer society, while superficially it’s all shiny and nice, as an album it lacks any real depth, substance or character.

Borrowing heavily from Blind Guardian and their school of fantasy-tinged Power Metal, this is exemplarily well played, but as a million death/metalcore bands show, technical expertise certainly doesn’t equate to innovative songwriting ability and Orden Ogan will always be so far in the shadows of their countrymen that they may as well be invisible.

There are decent tracks on here, but after two decades and five albums I want more than a band that sounds a lot like one of their contemporaries with a touch of Sonata Arctica (on ‘A Reason To Give’) or an added folky, shanty feel to a ‘At The End Of The World’. Meanwhile ‘Deaf Among The Blind’ may as well add the word Guardian to the title and serve to sum up Orden Ogan’s status in life. Some of this may seem harsh because this is a perfectly pleasant proficient and professional Power Metal product, but where there is wheat, all else must be termed chaff.

 

6.0 / 10

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STEVE TOVEY


Rhapsody of Fire – Dark Wings of Steel


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Eighteen months ago, a year after amicably departing the band to create counterpart Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, the man himself Luca Turilli strode up, calmly removed his (slightly camp) leather gloves, smiled sweetly, and flicked fingers across the right cheeks of his former bandmates affectionately, before aggressively slapping them hard across their left, dropping the gloves at their feet and turning on his heel with a flourish, striding confidently away. By doing what Rhapsody (of Fire) hadn’t truly delivered since 2002’s Power of the Dragonflame (Limb), Ascendency to Infinity (Nuclear Blast) was dramatic, dynamic, interesting and taking a bombastic risk, moving cinematic metal forward and well and truly throwing down the gauntlet.

In days of yore, once the gauntlet was dropped it meant a challenge had been made and men came out fighting, desperate to save their honour and name from being besmirched.

Unfortunately, Rhapsody of Fire have ignored the humiliating slap to the face, and stood there with their fingers in their ears, ignoring their smarting chops and carried on as if it hadn’t happened. Rather than the salivating prospect of 2 true kings of symphonic metal doing battle round Europe, trading musical blows each trumping the other at each turn, Rhapsody of Fire have conceded the fight, making only a token appearance on the battle ground to wave a white flag.

So predictable is Dark Wings of Steel (AFM) that I could have written this review without actually hearing it. It sounds like the last 3, overflowing with musicianship, but short on songs. The huge choruses and rousing power metal passages are conspicuous in an underwhelming absence. All the requisite is there; it’s exceptionally well played, Alex Staropoli’s baroque keyboard passages twinkle and the as-ever-impeccable Fabio Leone’s soaring vocals are once again the saving grace, while tracks like ‘Silver Light of Tears’ show the flame of creativity can still flicker.

In the main, though, it’s disappointing. Rhapsody of Fire can and should deliver more. More thrills, more epic peaks, more tumultuous choruses, more majestic passages, and bigger driving metal chugs and licks. Instead they seem content to limp along in the shadows of their former glories.

6.0 / 10

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STEVE TOVEY