A Light in the Darkness

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On a relatively steamy July afternoon, Italian guitar wizard Luca Turillia of symphonic power metal masters Rhapsody of Fire called this Teeth-scribe from an enchanted forest of unicorns, and we spoke in detail about the group’s latest masterpiece, The Frozen Tears of Angels, Luca’s own incredibly detailed lyrical and musical concepts, and the band’s collaboration with horror movie legend Christopher Lee.

The Frozen Tears of Angels just recently came out within the past few months.  It contains signature Rhapsody of Fire elements, but overall, it feels to be more of a mature album, a little more streamlined than previous Rhapsody of Fire material.  Can you describe how the creative process was for you?  Was it different than it normally is?

Luca Turilli:  No, to say the truth, no.  I mean, when you say mature, many people say it’s an album more ‘mature,’ no?  To me, we could have composed that album also ten years ago.  This is just because the chapter of the [Dark Secret] Saga.  All the lyrics were particular; I wanted to draw the line to particular feelings in this part of the saga, and so, the album had to sound really big.  [With] the composition, the process is always the same, so it never really changes, it is there.  I meet [with] Alex [Staropoli] and we compose the music, and the first step is for me to describe to him what the chapter of the saga is about, the kind of emotion that we want to align musically, and then we start putting down the basic orchestral arrangements.  I think that the only difference compared to the other albums, it was, this time, not because of our way, but we had more time.  And one thing that probably changed that, usually after every album you have some left over, three or four songs that you have left over from the previous production, so sometimes you take this part, you modify that for the new songs, whatever.  Usually this is typical for many bands.  But in this case, I mean, so much time with such leftovers, that we listen to these old songs thinking if we can use them for the new songs or not, and we decided, knowing that the new album is going to be released in a long [time], we decided to start the composition from zero once again.  And probably, this is why this album sounds a little bit fresher, and also having some new approaches, I’d say.

For those who are not familiar with the lyrical concepts of the Dark Secret Saga, could you kind of explain how The Frozen Tears of Angels falls in with that?

Yes.  This is the third chapter of the saga.  It is a very fundamental moment, because [we see] the main character moving through the lands in the direction of this Nordic land, icy landscapes at the border of their world, to discover something more about this Dark Secret, no?  So they have to find this Erian’s book, this book written with the blood of the angels in the primordial times.  I mean, it’s very difficult for me to resume the saga in two minutes [and] a couple of words.  It is already difficult when we have to write down every chapter in the booklet of the CD that is very full every time, thanks to our label that gives us this possibility to have this long, long booklet. It is already difficult for me; it’s not so easy to resume everything, also because then, told like this, it seems like a fairy tale.  But in the end, everybody knows that in the Rhapsody saga, there are always these hidden messages: metaphors, a connection with real life, a connection with psychology, physiology, anthropology, whatever you want.  I always had fascination for this kind of stuff, so I always like to do it in the lyrics.

Rhapsody of Fire has always had such an intricate backstory going on with the lyrics; you could literally write books out of it.  It’s really interesting to read.

Yes, you know, this is many times [said] that it was gifted to me to write books about this, but the main thing about the work is to write one book for every CD, so in the end, I should have written already nine books, so it’s impossible, realistically.  So for me, the important [thing is to] have the basic events of the saga in my mind, inviting each CD to speak about one event more than the other, but important also [is] to give the positive message that is typical of a band like Rhapsody–hope, respect, love, whatever–something that usually is considered nowadays out of fashion, but in which we strongly believe.  We founded also the band Rhapsody because of this, apart [from] the passion for the cinema, for all these fantastic tales.  At the same time, really to tell about these incredibly emotional landscapes offered kindly by Mother Nature,  and also to help improve the social relationships, I mean, all this stuff, no?

That’s great that you guys have a positive message going on behind it.

You know, it’s very difficult, because when somebody doesn’t like Rhapsody, wants to criticize our band, the first thing said [is], ‘Oh, the lyrics, the princes, the dragons,’ but these people really don’t understand what is behind it, or even care to understand, no?  But whoever wants to know something more can easily understand what there is behind.

Do you plan to continue on with the series of lyrical themes with the future albums?

Yes, I’m sure it will stay with a couple of albums, and probably the saga will be closed.

This time around, you’ve also had more contributions from Christopher Lee.  Now, how did that union come about?

Well, it started, I think, five, six years ago, when we record–oh, even seven years ago, in 2003–there was a recording session for the album Symphony of Enchanted Lands, Part II.  And I remember that we asked our management to try and contact Christopher Lee, but it was more like a dream, no?  At the time, we were totally along with the movie Lord of the Rings, and, of course, Christopher Lee was acting as Saruman, and we loved his voice, because we always liked to enjoy the original verse with the real voices.  We discovered that Christopher Lee, apart from being a great actor, a great face, a particular face that we always loved from the black-and-white movies of many, many years ago–he also has a great voice, very deep, very mystical.  So, it would’ve fit perfectly with the saga of Rhapsody to add the significance that we want to have.  And we tried like this, and we were very lucky, because at the time, I remember it was Christopher Lee trying to reach a younger audience, a wider audience, and also, taking part in a movie like Lord of the Rings, this was his goal, doing all that.  So, accepting to narrate for a heavy metal band, probably he thought it would be part of his mission, this task.  And so, we were lucky because he said yes, to collaborate with us, and then he became part of the family of Rhapsody.  Now he’s the main narrator of the Dark Secret Saga, and for us, it is a great honor for a person like him, that is not just a great actor, but a great human being.

Do you imagine that you will work with him in the future as well?

Absolutely!  For sure until the end of the saga.

Speaking of unions, you also signed to Nuclear Blast, and this is your first record on Nuclear Blast.  How did that come about?

Well, you know, in the past, we and Nuclear Blast were already supposed to work together, but then, you know how it is–these pieces never happen, for various reasons.  But we were searching for them, because all that time, many years ago, they were a bigger record company for heavy metal.  We were very lucky because there was this company trusting in Rhapsody, and we were very lucky that they accepted to work with us.  And also now, we’re seeing how this album was received, was welcomed by the fans, by the press, something that really is amazing [to] us.  We thought that after so many [years], so many people forgot about our band, but we see it is not like this.  It is mainly because, I think, of the work of the label, no?  They pushed this album in an incredible way.  It’s great to work with a label that, when you have to sign the contract, they’ve actually got a couple of songs, but not to listen to the songs themselves, just to be sure that you’re not playing, after four years, rap, or pop, or whatever, no?  This is great.  Already this is a great start, you know, to work together, and to see what kind of people they are, how they believe in you.  It gives you positive energy.

I’m glad you’ve found a new home and you’re pleased with it.

Yes, absolutely.  We’re already writing new stuff, so there is new stuff already.  The direction will be revealed shortly after, so the fans can enjoy new music from our website.

You have actually been writing music for this band for almost 20 years now.  How do you feel that you have progressed as a musician in that period of time, and how have things changed for you?

Well, it’s particular, because I face the different phases, different moments.  For example, there were moments, I remember, also related–my main instrument is guitar; for a while it was the keyboard.  I was not even touching, I didn’t touch the guitar for many, many years.  I used it just to rehearse for going on tour, so I have already a particular relationship with my instrument, and I equally love the keyboard and guitar.  But for sure, in relation with this moment, came out more or less something guitar-oriented, more or less orchestral.  So, I went through these phases, and it was great to have these albums witnessing different moments in your career.  Now, I’m totally in love with the guitar once again.  I rediscovered this love because this course, the Neoclassical Revelation course online, where my students can learn tabs.  The stuff from this course, it really gave me the will, really, to start back at the beginning in guitar, and I think the album sounds more guitar-oriented because of this.

Yes, I agree.  One thing I noticed also is that some of it seems to be a little darker, especially “Reign of Terror.”  You guys have actually used some of the more harsh, growling-type vocals, which was really interesting to hear in a Rhapsody of Fire album.

You know, this is something that we did in Power of the Dragonflame, but of course not in such an extreme way.  We always wanted to have this because in Rhapsody‘s music is a positive message, no?  Extreme music, with negative messages, we always wanted to take over.  This was always my idea to do, really.  Also, I’ve always wanted to make a positive reaction, where we want really to have a voice sing like this, you know, with Fabio [Lione], because Fabio, he’s great in this sense–he can sing from the most sweet stuff, to the most gritty stuff–but to have this positive message.  So, to make the point effective, to use this great musical means to scream your rage against the big things of the world, [it’s] really great to use this power, the force, the strength of heavy metal, also to outline something very positive, and the heightening of hope, respect, [etc.].

Do you plan to do anymore solo work?

Well, not now, nothing from the solo work.  Of course, now for me, the priority has been Rhapsody.  I have dedicated my whole composition, composing side to Rhapsody.  Now, we’re writing the new stuff for Rhapsody, so I have no time to work on the solo albums.  But, when the new Rhapsody album will come out, of course there will be time.

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