Sometime in 2011, power metal stalwarts Rhapsody underwent mitosis and split into two bands: Rhapsody of Fire, and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. This is the kind of thing that crops up from time to time and usually involves major drama, the key clue being both bands attempting to keep the previous name. Strangely enough this division was by all accounts completely amicable, and Ascending to Infinity is the first fruit borne by the latter of the two bands.
Rhapsody are no strangers to the kind of cheese that would make Joey Demaio cringe, having in their back catalogue such delightful songs as ‘Forest of Unicorns’, ‘Triumph For My Magic Steel’, and, in the spirit of not realising when enough is enough, ‘The Last Winged Unicorn’. With this in mind it was with some apprehension that I first put this album in for a spin; I love a good slab of musical cheddar but there comes a point for every man where his aural arteries are clogged from overindulgence in cheese, and I feared this might be that point.
My fears seemed grounded from the off with opener ‘Quantum X’; a thoroughly decent intro track mixing metal, orchestral and electronic music, which is utterly ruined by the man who narrates action movie trailers inciting us to “Take an amazing journey, to a world of wonders, to a place that’ll blow your mind, and move your heart”. Oh dear. I always wonder just how self-aware people are in writing things like this. Is Luca Turilli listening back to this album even now, and giggling to himself about how gloriously silly this idea is, or is he reflecting on the purity of his movie-trailer intro track as ‘serious art’? The ability to laugh at itself or be ironic is what validates cheesy music, and there’s no way to know just what the attitude behind this is.
In spite of this cringe-worthy opening, the rest of the album is decent. Most of the songs are based around neoclassical guitar ideas, but there’s also a very strong film score influence in evidence too (4.48 in the title track is strongly reminiscent of some of the score from Star Wars: A New Hope, and there are plenty of less obvious nuances that draw from the wellspring of film-music). The arrangements are dense and complex, but the tight, focused production job allows the music room to breathe.
It’s very refreshing to hear neoclassical music that’s so well written. Anyone can learn a few baroque scale patterns and hammer them into something that sounds halfway metal, but Rhapsody really showcase their knowledge of the way music works, with guitars, bass, and drums all being fully compositionally realised and trading off amongst each other and the numerous orchestral and electronic parts. There’s a veritable glut of tonalities on offer too, from the authentically medieval sounding folk of ‘Excalibur’ to the smoky lounge pop of ‘Luna’, and of course plenty in the way of harmonic minor shred and severe, threatening string stabs. Such variety does leave the album feeling a bit directionless; most of these songs could easily belong to a variety of different bands, but that’s better than all the songs sounding the same, right?
The songs themselves are well written, and for such dense, busy music with such leanings to the cheesy side of things, surprisingly easy to listen to. The track I found myself coming back to most was ‘Dark Fate of Atlantis’, a six and a half minute slab of epic power metal, but most of the stuff on offer is very pleasant to listen to. If you’ve been put off in the past by Rhapsody’s reputation for corniness, well, this isn’t exactly Jane Doe or Diadem of Twelve Stars, but you might find it less offensive than you think, and if you’re currently sitting in a pile of overpriced Manowar merch while listening to Ecliptica, then dive right in, you’ll enjoy this.
Check them out right now on Spotify