by Phil Freeman

Fabio Lione, former vocalist for Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire, and Alessandro Conti, singer for Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody (formed by RoF’s former lead guitarist), have joined forces with DGM guitarist Simone Mularoni to form a new band, Lione Conti. The lineup also includes keyboardist Filippo Martignano and drummer Marco Lanciotti. Lione Conti is their debut album.

Power metal is a celebratory, life-affirming form. The guitars and keyboards soar; the solos are wildly emotive; the tempos are fast; and the vocals are operatic, the singers seeming to live in a heroic drama about overcoming overwhelming odds to achieve…something. See, that’s the thing; when power metal songs aren’t hyper-specific, telling a story (often one set in Middle-Earth), they’re maddeningly vague, throwing stirring imagery at the listener in a post-Ronnie James Dio flurry of epic gibberish.

Rhapsody of Fire and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody have been responsible for some of the most over-the-top music in all of metal. Their albums include full orchestras and choirs, soaring riffs that owe more to Baroque music than the blues, and compositions that frequently pass the 15-minute mark. This album, though, is a more stripped-down effort. While the men’s voices still rocket skyward, and the guitars and keyboards are still clearly meant to inspire fist-pumping and awestruck headbanging, the insane flourishes that make their main bands so wild and fascinating are absent. They sprint through 10 tracks in just 46 minutes; the longest song here runs a mere 5:22, and there’s not an orchestra, a faux-Middle Eastern techno intro, or a dramatic recitation from a cult fantasy/horror actor (Rhapsody of Fire hired the late Christopher Lee to narrate a string of concept albums) to be found anywhere.

This makes Lione Conti feel like a throwaway at times, rather than the grand gesture this coming together of Italian power metal titans should be. The songs frequently blur together—only the ballad “Somebody Else” stands out in the album’s first half, and even that rises to a crescendo that brings it back into line with everything else before it’s over. That said, the music does have moments of triumph. The aptly titled “Glories” is a headlong sprint featuring truly shredding guitar work from Mularoni (who also plays bass throughout) and machine-gun drumming from Lanciotti, and the video-game keyboards that open “Truth” set up another epic power ballad, with the two singers harmonizing closely as the band surges and riffs behind them. And the album’s final track, “Crosswinds,” goes in a surprising direction, with Mularoni switching from his usual hyper-glossy guitar sound to something a little rougher and more inspired by blues-rock and even fusion; Martignano matches him by throwing bursts of electronic noise in at the bridge.

Just looking at the song titles, though, reveals the ways in which this album falls short of the singers’ previous work. “Ascension,” “Outcome,” “Truth,” “Glories,” “Misbeliever,” “You’re Falling,” “Destruction Show”—these are placeholder titles that mean nothing. Paying attention to the lyrics reveals a similar lack of inspiration; there are words, because otherwise Lione and Conti would have nothing to sing, but they’re totally generic and glide past without leaving any impression at all. It’s up to Mularoni, Martignano, and Lanciotti to hold the listener’s interest, and they mostly succeed. If you’re looking for an album that’ll make you pump your fist and drive a little faster, this’ll get the job done. But the WTF energy of Rhapsody of Fire and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody is almost totally absent here.

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