Review Summary: The majestic debut solo album of the famed Rhapsody guitarist is a power metal classic
The name Luca Turilli is synonymous with Symphonic Power metal. Luca Turilli is a power metal composer. All songs are outlined on paper before he picks up his guitar and are completed using his immense knowledge of theory and composition. That’s not to say that Luca is an emotionless music-making robot. The songs drip with feeling, emotion, and intelligence and it’s easy to see that Turilli is a true artist who loves music and epic fantasy. The majestic debut solo album of the famed Rhapsody guitarist is a power metal classic.
Upon first hearing that Turilli had a solo career, I was skeptical that I would enjoy it as much as I enjoy Rhapsody. Is he a great guitarist" Yes. But take the magnificent Fabio Lione and the symphonic powerhouse that is Alex Staropoli out of the picture and Rhapsody crumbles. Worry not, power metal fans. Enter singer Olaf Hayer, percussionist Robert Hunecke-Rizzo and the two renowned producers, Sasha Paeth on bass (also bass on Rhapsody’s Legendary Tales and Power Of The Dragonflame) and Miro on keyboards, who between them can boast the recording and production of albums by bands such as Angra, Nightwish, Kamelot, Epica, Rhapsody and many more. With such a mighty party of heroes, the forces of darkness don’t stand a chance!
The album was released in 1999, the same year that Rhapsody released the immense Symphony of Enchanted Lands. Not surprisingly, King of the Nordic Twilight sounds much like Rhapsody. The music is fast and melodic, rarely dissonant and with a mix of complex and simple rhythmic patterns but rarely straying from 4/4 time. The keyboard, orchestra and guitar work alone and in harmony to create powerful classical and folk inspired melodies that fill the listener with joy and wonder. The instrumentation and vocals are almost exclusively diatonic and there are few sour or even lackluster notes throughout the album, however Turilli manages to keep the music fresh and original while many other metal bands sound like they’re being bound by modality. As usual with Sasha Paeth and Miro, the production is excellent, letting us hear every instrument perfectly and bringing out the player’s expressiveness fully. And as usual with Luca Turilli, all instruments are played with the precision and technique of a classical session musician.
The vocalist, Olaf Hayer can be described in one word: powerful. But not the powerful you are thinking of. His singing style is neither harsh nor coarse, but beautiful and crushing at the same time. Comparisons can be made to Daniel Heiman of Lost Horizon, and post Dawn of Victory Fabio Lione. Turilli certainly has a knack for choosing vocalists. Keyboardist Michael “Miro” Rodenburg does a fantastic job filling the air between the other instruments and even plays a few memorable solos and leads, but falls short of the mind-bending orchestral counterpoint, and blazing classically-flavored keyboard solos of Alex Staropoli of Rhapsody. And aside from the occasional outburst of unrestrained sweep picking (this is Luca Turilli after all) there is very little “shred” on the album. With the smaller role of the orchestra and more emphasis on “catchiness” while still noticeably Turilli’s composing style, Luca Turilli has its own unique personality.
Being the sole composer of music as opposed to sharing the writing duties in Rhapsody has allowed Turilli to be bolder, more flamboyant, and yes, cheesier than ever. From the album cover, a picture of a powerful warrior with a gigantic sword made of flames and a view of a dark castle below and the cosmos above, you can already tell that this album is pure Turilli. The man who sports two sparkling ear rings, mentions his ongoing battle with the forces of evil in interviews and rarely takes a picture without a gleaming sword in his hand. Luca Turilli is quite simply badass. “What" Cheesier than Rhapsody"” Somehow it is.
The album begins with To Magic Horizons; a short intro using the orchestra and choir; it is composed so that it serves as a direct introduction to Black Dragon, the second song. As its name suggests, the opening song on the album is a blazing, raging demon. Fast speed metal riffing, grand keyboards, and a powerful, furious vocal performance by Olaf Hayer make the song a fantastic opener. After a long pause the second song begins with a stunning harpsichord-flute duet which turns into a glorious melody with violins and backed by guitar, bass, choir and drums working in unison. Legend of steel bares resemblance to (and this is the last time I will make the Rhapsody comparison) Emerald Sword with its jubilant and uplifting choruses, Vivaldi-esque violins, and break-neck double bass drumming. There are two enchanting ballads on the album, The first, Princess Aurora is sung by Rannveig Sif Sigurdardottir, a soprano session vocalist who has appeared on albums by Kamelot, After Forever, and Shaaman, to name a few. She sounds sort of like a human sounding version of Tarja Turunen. The second ballad, Warrior’s Pride is a gorgeous piece using the whole orchestra and with a mighty and heartfelt performance by Olaf Hayer; it shows us that he does not have to rely on power and shows off his impossible vocal range. The rest of the album is all an array of immaculately composed and orchestrated power metal songs, from the feverishly catchy The Ancient Forest of Elves, to the epic (by definition) title song.
Now, Luca Turilli has never been known for his lyrical prowess in the English world. The Italian speaking lyricist has even been mocked for his combination of hilarious fantasy themes and laughable diction. But it is undeniable that he is a great storyteller. Each song on the album is a myth or legend written by Turilli and although they may not exhibit a poet’s graceful execution, these tales are worth reading, and the music fits them perfectly.
So, mighty warrior, as you quest through the netherworld to find the King’s lost crown of power, bring along an CD player and King Of The Nordic Twilight. You will not regret it.