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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Luca Turilli

The Infinite Wonders of Creation

Review by Gary Hill

First I need to talk about the layout of this disc. The CD I have is divided in very strange ways. For instance the first track consists of nine very short tracks. The second song on the album, therefore is listed as track ten. This format is consistent throughout the disc with the final track listed as number 88. I can't tell you for sure if this is just the review copy that I have or it will be the basis of the actual release. I can tell you that it's annoying. If it's something that they did just for the promo copy, I have to say it's a mistake. While I can see that it might discourage piracy, I can also say that when reviews are done track by track (as ours are) it's a real pain. In fact, if this album weren't as strong as it is, I would have tossed it aside and not bothered to cover it at all. As it is, I cannot tell you how long these songs are. I get them 30 or so seconds at a shot - sometimes less. Now, while it plays fine, that makes it really hard to keep track of where you are. OK, I'll climb down from the soapbox.

Luca Turilli is probably best known for his work in the band Rhapsody, but for this disc he has produced one of the most powerful and cohesive combinations of rock music and classical ever. I would say that a good half of this disc is pretty much purely classical operatic sounds. Many times even when there are rock instruments present they are there more to augment and support the classical instrumentation. This thing is so creative that although when there is rock it is often metal, that I am including it in the progressive rock segment. The whole disc is one story, but without the lyrics I really can't detail it. All I can say is that this is pretty much what the term "rock opera" conveys. There is some incredible composition, musicianship and in general music on show here. While this probably won't make my list of best albums of the year, it certainly is powerful and most likely would be a near shoe-in for "most creative."

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Secrets of Forgotten Ages
This leads off with the sounds of a forest, it shifts quickly to an operatic mode, and by that I mean full opera treatment, not just an operatic rock style. It moves through like this for a time with varying musical themes and textures and vocal segments. One would seriously think from this that he or she has popped an opera CD into the player. This gets incredibly dramatic and powerful, but also drops down at points. I can't think of a better term to describe this than "fine art."

Mother Nature
Starting with sounds that feel like the theme from the Exorcist, this one jumps shortly into a crunchy jam that is both epic and quite prog in texture. This feels a bit like something you might expect to hear from Erik Norlander or Lana Lane, but with more of an operatic texture to it and symphonic instrumentation added to the mix. A neo-classical guitar solo comes across later and more pure operatic vocals also show up. This one works really well in combining the two natures - metal and classical - into one cohesive form. It's an exceptionally evocative and powerful piece of music.

Angels of The Winter Dawn
A pretty flute type sound starts this, feeling rather Native American in texture. This plaintive sound carries on for a time until a staccato hard rocking jam joins. In fact, at first the original instrument works over the top of this. Eventually, though, the cut shifts out to just this new hard, but very progressive rocking mode. This one features vocal dueling between the male and female vocals and a very dynamic ever-shifting arrangement. Amazingly, though, it still manages to put in some quite catchy segments.

Altitudes
Operatic vocals start this accompanied only by sedate strings. This one builds in a mostly classical manner with music that certainly would be quite at home in an opera. There isn't much rock to this at all, but it is extremely powerful and dramatic. There are some rock instruments at points, but almost more as augmentation to the basic song structure.
The Miracle of Life
Weird sound effects start this, then something that sounds like chanting/singing in a Catholic church enters for a time. Keyboards create tentative patterns at the end of this, then the group explode out into a metallic jam. The priest-like singing comes in again for a short respite before they launch back into the metallic zone for the song proper. This is another strong one and a fine example of how hard rock can be brought into the world of "serious" music with a little work.
Silver Moon
Beginning with pretty piano, a guitar weaves lines of melody over the top of this in sedate, but crunchy textures. This introduction is incredibly beautiful. The guitar drops away as the female vocals enter and this carries forward in a pretty ballad style. They bump it up a bit after a time, but the song essentially retains the same structure, just getting more intensity. After a while like this it shifts gears to something that is a true synthesis of the rock elements and classical. This is one that is powerful and oh so unique. After this works through for a time they drop it back to the section that came before to keep up the great work. This essentially becomes a symphony with operatic vocals over it later. It drops back to just piano to end.
Cosmic Revelation
Keyboards that feel like they could be a music box - only with a better "voice," start this off. It shifts fairly shortly into more hard rocking music, but with very classical progressions. This runs through like this for a while, but then shifts into the super dramatic and incredibly operatic classical sounds. They bring back the metallic structures later, and they start the transition back up again. After the classical sounds this time around, though, a screaming frantic guitar solos over the top in a bridge. They move it back to the more classical elements right after this, though. The sounds that started it take hold of it again for a time, then a quick reprise of the metallic structures comes back to end it.
Pyramids and Stargates
Classical instruments and structures start this off, reminding me a bit of some of the soundtrack music to the Star Trek movies. As it shifts into the next movement it takes on rather Egyptian textures and operatic vocals come in over the top. As the song proper pound in a metal structure take it, but these other elements remain. The lyrics speak of Egyptian things, so this texture is appropriate. While the liner notes to the album says that it is inspired by the film Event Horizon, frankly I see connections here to the movie Stargate. Whatever the source of inspiration, this one moves through several changes and is the most powerful cut on the disc. It is definitely my favorite. Among other things this features a great keyboard solo segment.
Mystic and Divine
This one is another that begins quiet and pensive, with just piano carrying the opening segment. The vocals enter over the top of this in a ballad form, but backing vocals add an angelic operatic style to it. They burst this up for the female verse and launch out into another smoking rock segment that still has plenty of classical music textures all over it. This is another that calls to mind Lana Lane's music a bit. They drop it back to the earlier ballad style to keep going, but then create an alternating pattern of the two sounds. While not as strong as the last number, this one is nonetheless very effective and powerful. It is perhaps more catchy and "singable" than some of the other music here. A classical piano solo takes it later for a turn.
The Infinite Wonders of Creation
Operatic vocals take an acappela run to start this. Then the symphonic elements enter along with more of the clerical chanting. This one grows very dramatic with a film soundtrack sort of texture. As it builds on this theme some keyboards join in, but the overall tone is still rather odd classical music. This runs through to a false ending, then a new symphonic theme starts it up growing steadily. The operatic vocals and orchestral instrumentation come back in full throttle building to another climax. This then gives way to the next rocking theme of the album. They move through this new hard-edged jam with more of those angelic choir voices over the top. Then it drops to a rock ballad approach with female vocals. This runs through some changes and intensification. The chorus comes in with the rock music topped with an operatic choir carrying the lyrics. Then it drops back to a full on opera treatment for short bursts punctuated by the rock band. This is a lot like actual opera except instead of the orchestra emphasizing and separating the lines it is the rock band grouping doing it. It then moves off into neo-classical guitar segment followed by more operatic vocals before dropping back down to the verse portion of the piece. They continue to work through this composition with reiterations of the various segments. They move it down to a longer full opera arrangement. At times this gains symphonic power, but the rock modes do not come back in to the mix here. Eventually just the orchestra remains for a time. Then it is joined by the full choir again. At the end, though, it is only the symphonic instruments left standing. While this is not my favorite track here, it is extremely powerful and makes for a great disc closer.
 
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