“Ready When You Are, C.B.”
David Lee Epic Symphonic Hollywood Beowülf
Power metal – metal forged from the sparks of Judas Priest and their supersonic guitars and screaming mad lyrics – berthed a movement that pushed the metal envelope during the 1990s, though that movement was, shall we say, somewhat unnoticed in the US, where “we” preferred steering “metal” into either the mediocre world of “pop” or into the blackest of black metals and extreme metal. The movement was, however, hailed in Europe, currently the headquarters of the new true Power Metal.. These bands aren’t afraid to concentrate on melodic metal guitars and articulate vocals; combining classical symphony and classical opera. The result, with all its fantastic imagery and storytelling, swords, and battle-won honor, is metal written as classical symphony, rather than “rock.” The effect is what one would expect had Mozart outsourced his music to Manowar. Thus, it’s not hard to understand that their music isn’t just “metal” but “symphonic, epic Hollywood metal.”
I first heard and heard of Rhapsody while on tour with the 82nd Engineering Battalion during a particularly tense European winter. And I noticed that there’s a freshness, like the sensation when gets when biting into a York Barbell Company 45 lb. Plate – right before leading a company of berserk Vikings into battle! My mighty jaws making so much ground metal out of the plate, I spit out a fusillade of hot iron, harassing the other side’s front line! Onward, fellows! For when we win the day, the women will be at our side for the night’s feasting, and, er, “rewards.” The soundtrack of my vision, which lately’s been occurring during waking hours, is performed by Epic Symphonic Hollywood Metal – True Metal – titans, Rhapsody.
Rhapsody hails from the north of Italy and was founded by epic symphonic Hollywood metal guitarist Luca Turilli and epic symphonic Hollywood metal keyboardist Alex Staropoli in the early 1990s after a brief first life as Thundercross. To date, Rhapsody has released three albums — Legendary Tales (1997), Symphony of Enchanted Lands (1998), and this year’s Dawn of Victory, comprising “the Emerald Sword Saga,” a metal symphony of Wagnerian proportion – all of which have been released by German label Limb Music – telling of fighting with swords, elves, dwarves, magic, lusty violence, and other fun things. What else would one think of songs like “Triumph for my Magic Steel,” “Heroes of the Lost Valley,” and the current single that’s tearing up the European charts, “Holy Thunderforce”? Rounding out the rest of the band is Fabio Lione (epic symphonic Hollywood metal vocals), Alessandro Lotta (epic symphonic Hollywood metal bass) and Alex Holzwarth (epic symphonic Hollywood metal drums). I spoke with maestro Luca Turilli, who has several solo projects as well (also on Limb), including his 1999 release, Kings of the Nordic Twilight.
Hello, Luca Turilli here!
Good morning, er, good evening, since you’re in Germany!
It’s 20 to eight…
I’m a very big fan of Rhapsody and your own work, King of the Nordic Twilight.
Thank you very much. This is a pleasure!
Did you come up with the term “Epic Symphonic Metal?”
You know, you can define our kind of metal in different ways, no? So it was a bit of a joke between many journalists because those were our manager’s words; he wanted something special to promote our music and so we can up with this definition “Hollywood metal.” This is what we decided would define our kind of music. In the end, the word “Hollywood” means our passion for the American cinema, no? For the movies, it contains for me already the terms “epic” and “symphonic.”
Would you feel comfortable scoring films appropriate to the music of Rhapsody?
Yes, this for sure is our ultimate goal for me and Alex [Starpoli, who is credited with the orchestral arranging on Rhapsody’s albums].
Epic films, of course!
No, no, no… I can tell you to begin I could score really particular movies, I adore every kind of movie from science fiction movies from horror movies to the normal and most known epic movies
I could see Rhapsody scoring doing a version of Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments…
Hmm! That would be fantastic!
How about composing epic, symphonic Hollywood versions of classical operas, like Wagner or Verdi?
We have many ideas no? Many projects, obviously, because when you love the soundtracks of the American movies this means that you also love the classical normal music because I think these soundtracks are the evolution of classical music of the last century, yes? For example, I know that John Williams was a big fan of Gustav Holst and there are many connections between the two kinds of music; they are so close in the end. So far as for Rhapsody it would be very easy, let’s say, very great , the possibility to compose an opera, but we have plenty of ideas, no? And now between the various chapters of the Emerald Sword Saga, for sure, we would like to relate something special, the problem was for our manager it’s not so easy… When we finish out our contract!
Speaking of the Emerald Sword Saga, how many chapters are left?
Let’s say the first big chapter, the first part of the story will be four albums long. So the next one will be the end of the Emerald Sword Saga, but let’s say immediately after, with our fifth album, I will start a new saga, but it will be connected as the second big chapter, no?
Do you base the characters and/or the stories on previously published fantasy works?
It’s completely original! Some people have mentioned Tolkien, but just because I chose the same Nordic ambiance. To tell you the truth, I love the ambiance of Tolkien, but I never read him! The series… it’s very big, and for me it’s too much!
How does your native Italy fit into your music?
To be inspired? For sure! That’s why I called my solo album King of the Nordic Twilight. Because for me the north, where I live, I know these particular landscapes… when it’s winter and the snow covering the forest and valleys and hills, no? The winter landscape gives me inspiration! I think, these particular landscapes are magic! They’ve inspired many artists, in many fields, in painting, music and so on. I think it is impressive, the strange colors of the winter; it’s a fantastic sensation to be translated in music.
Have you every just gotten the band together and played outside in a snowstorm?
Oh my God, I think it would be difficult!
I could imagine seeing Rhapsody playing outside in a storm and the winds of the north would stop for you music!
This is what your music does to me! This is what the meshing of symphony with heavy metal does to my body and soul!
Thanks a lot! If everybody would think like you we would be successful in the USA!
Well, this is a problem with the United States and why your music is so fresh. To actually hear your kind of music is what I want to hear in metal… [OK: I love all kinds of metal, but with the live stuff, for the last couple of years here in the states being more of the “extreme” variety, give me a break!] Now, I read in an other interview, that you discovered metal around 1988.
When did you decide you would create this kind of metal that would bring the music up to the new level I think it is.
Let’s say 1994-95. We felt that we had created something new, no? A new mix. And this was in the moment between when we signed the contract with our manager and 1997, when we released our first album. In those three years we developed a lot of our music. Before then we were “Thundercross,” and we played more powerful and rough metal. But we had no possibility to wait and refine our music because of problems with the drummer and the other members… No problems with fighting, but because our drummer was not good enough, and the bass player and singer on our first demo tape, when we were still called Thundercross, they had both married at the same time! The singer was not as good as Fabio [Lione] is now, so it was a great thing to have Fabio, no? In these three years, 94-97, me and Alex just closed ourselves in our room and composed demo after demo. Every demo contained four or five songs to give out and in every demo we tried to insert new things. Soon we had enough demos to record the first album! In the end we had fourteen or fifteen songs ready and in that moment we realized that we wanted to add new elements, mixing them in a new way, and this gave us the feeling that we were creating something different.
English, English. Let me ask you one thing, I am really curious, as an American, can you understand anything when Fabio sings?
I can understand everything Fabio sings in English, it’s crystal clear.
Some sentences are very difficult because of the screams and the guitars! For me it’s very strange, because with Italian rock bands it’s difficult to understand the words when they’re sung in Italian, in a “rock” context, obviously.
The Scorpions once mentioned in an interview a long time ago that it’s hard to compose in German because rock is originally an English language music.
That’s for sure.
That’s fascinating, though, but all operas sound good in which they’ve been written. It’s got to be that it’s rock, even with all the screams. Did you learn English through rock and roll?
I started at the British school, a very famous school in Europe… my English was better then!
Were you exposed to the British heavy metal bands?
Absolutely not! I began at 16 listening to Helloween, then Manowar, these were the first bands I’d heard.
Have you been in contract with Manowar?
No, but now that we are in the big business it’s very easy to hear about the bands. I know that [Manowar frontman] Joey DiMaio is a very big listener of Rhapsody; that’s very good!
I could see the two of you on tour!
That would be my dream, because Manowar, for me, was… I have to say “thanks” for the epic element that characterizes Rhapsody – it’s due to bands like Manowar.
Where were your first shows?
When we were Thundercross we played in small places and it was really a bad experience, I was the singer at the time… I like guitar better! We recently did a support tour in Europe, eight months ago [with Stratovarius]; it was a success, but we’d like to be the headliner, no? Being a headliner, you have the possibility to do special things, and being Rhapsody we need to do special things. And so it means that now we’ll play some festivals in Europe… we had one offer from Canada, but I don’t know. After the fourth album, we want to prepare the Saga on stage. Bands these days don’t put on a big show, they just play a normal concert, so now for us it’s a big step, but I think the fans of Rhapsody expect something special!
Luca, I thank you and look forward to hopefully seeing a Rhapsody US tour
Thank you! It was my pleasure…Ciao!
Rhapsody are touring through Europe in the spring and summer of 2001. No word on any US dates – so contact Limb and tell ’em to get the doggone US tour together!