DATE OF INTERVIEW:
RHAPSODY OF FIRE
9th May 2011
Music doesn't get more epic than that made by Italian symphonic metallers Rhapsody of Fire with their self-styled approach in crafting grandiose compositions they've opted to label "film score metal". And the pinnacle of said style is about to be unleashed in the form of new album 'From Chaos To Eternity', arguably their most epic sounding effort to date and rather aptly so as it concludes the 'Emerald Sword Saga' that was first introduced to the world back in 1997 on full-length debut 'Legendary Tales'. As with its predecessor 'The Frozen Tears of Angels, the new release is also characterised by a much heavier guitar-centric sound than what fans have come to expect from the band, although the symphonic elements remain intact, of course, thus still pertaining to their "film score" aesthetic. And legendary movie actor Sir Christopher Lee appears once again as narrator on key tracks, notably on the final near twenty minute 'Heroes of the Waterfalls' Kingdom', providing a fitting end to the saga penned by guitarist Luca Turilli. Ahead of 'From Chaos To Eternity's release and three months before Rhapsody of Fire are set to make their debut live appearance on UK shores at the Bloodstock Open Air festival, keyboardist and co-composer/founding member with Luca, Alex Staropoli, spent half an hour talking to Metal Discovery...
ALEX STAROPOLI: [laughs]…thank you! I haven’t got my copy yet!
METAL DISCOVERY: I’m blown away by the new album, it’s fantastic…
(Alex Staropoli on working with Sir Christopher Lee)
"I have goose bumps right now thinking about this moment. It was amazing! To see this tall man, he was eighty three at the time, with this big voice, you know, it was so fantastic."
Rhapsody of Fire - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2011
Interview by Mark Holmes
MD: Ah, right! I gather you began working on it immediately after ‘The Frozen Tears of Angels’?
AS: Yes…we started working almost immediately with the excitement of coming back and working with Nuclear Blast, and having a lot of compliments for ‘Frozen…’…we were so excited and started immediately, yes.
MD: To keep the momentum going, kind of thing?
AS: Yes, that’s right.
MD: So after your legal problems three or four years ago, were you bursting with creativity after the break you had?
AS: Yes! We were still working in that period. It was kind of hard but, sometimes, the best music comes out from hard moments.
MD: Of course, yeah. I read on the press sheet that the aim for the album was to “let the guitars blast stronger again”…
MD: You can hear that right from the start on ‘Ad Infinitum’ with the guitar arpeggios. Why did you decide on that kind of direction?
AS: Well, I love guitars myself so that was the obvious way to follow after ‘The Frozen Tears of Angels’. We already started to have heavier guitars, a little bit of orchestral arrangements, and the point that now, for this latest album, aside drums, we recorded everything in our studio in our hometown. This was amazing, you know. So the vocals, for example, we did it in my studio here in my house and this was fantastic, for the very first time, to have Fabio not having the stress of paying a studio and everything, so we had so many hours to do it the way we wanted. Luca recorded his guitars at home, Tom Hess recorded his guitars at home…fantastic performances. So the approach that we want now is to be heavy - the drums, the guitars and bass to be there louder and present, and the orchestral arrangements don’t have to kill everything. This was the big question that we always had – for the very first albums we always wanted to hear everything so we would always have compromises and not have a very heavy sound. But, lately, as you can see, we decided to do it this way.
MD: Yeah, you can definitely hear that on the new album. It’s been said that ‘From Chaos to Eternity’ will be the final instalment in the ‘Emerald Sword Saga’ – why did you feel it necessary to end the story now with this album?
AS: Well, let’s say it’s been decided since many years. Luca is the one that wrote the saga. For sure, he wrote the storyline from the very beginning to the end so we knew that, somehow, in this period, we would reveal the last chapter of this saga. Also, because it’s been going on so many years and it was time anyway.
MD: Yeah, is it something like fifteen years since you started it?
AS: Yes, 1997 was the very first release.
MD: So do you anticipate the new album will begin a new saga, or is it too early to say?
AS: No, we’re not anticipating anything right now. We’re just concentrating on this one and we don’t want to talk about the future yet. There will be a lot of surprises; there will be many other things but now we don’t want to talk about that! [laughs]
MD: Of course, yeah, this album isn’t even out yet!
AS: Yeah, you’re right!
MD: You have the rather amazing Christopher Lee narrating on there again. It’s almost like he’s become an unofficial seventh member of your band!
AS: Yes, I have to tell you, when we met him the first time we started to speak and started to explain what we had in mind and why we chose him…actually, we didn’t choose him because he’s famous or because he’s Christopher Lee but we chose him for his voice…for his amazing big voice. When we told him that, he was glad to hear that. He started to narrate and we were having goose bumps all the time. When he was sitting there and narrating all the narration…I have goose bumps right now thinking about this moment. It was amazing! To see this tall man, he was eighty three at the time, with this big voice, you know, it was so fantastic. Although it was not just a relation where it is a band who pays someone to record some stuff and then goes…he proposed to sing. After he finished narrating we started talking about operas and classical music and songs, and he said, “I want to sing if you let me sing something”. Then we did ‘The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream’ which is a duet between Fabio and Christopher Lee.
MD: I know, yeah, that was amazing.
AS: It was fantastic to see that he had this idea to sing and he asked us to compose a song for him to sing with Fabio so it was really amazing.
MD: It does sound fantastic that duet, and you recorded it in four or five different languages as well, didn’t you?
MD: Yeah, because Christopher Lee’s multi-lingual as well, isn’t he.
AS: Yes, my god, twelve languages! He was speaking Italian almost fluently. It was amazing.
MD: Wow. And is he someone you’ll always try to use as long as he’s available?
AS: What we did in the studio, we recorded a lot of material. We didn’t go to the studio every time, you know, we had to record all the material in one time. In two days we recorded everything and then we used all the material for each album. I think, unfortunately, this will be the last time you will hear Christopher Lee because this, of course, was connected to this saga.
MD: Of course. And it seems like you’re the band that introduced him to metal because, obviously, he’s recorded his own metal album last year, ‘Charlemagne – By the Sword and the Cross’.
AS: I haven’t heard this album yet.
MD: Ah, right. I recommend it; it’s really good.
AS: Ah, okay.
MD: It’s obviously very different to Rhapsody of Fire, but…
AS: I think I listened to some tracks.
MD: It was announced last month that Tom Hess has now officially joined your lineup – what has Tom brought to the band as a musician and a person?
AS: We knew him already. We met him when we were playing with Manowar because he was the guitar player from HolyHell. Actually, Fabio knew him a little bit from before. He’s a big friend and a great guitar player. We asked him to join the band because we know that he’s a great guitar player. He’s actually also my partner for two courses that we are making on the internet. He’s a great guitar teacher, you know, so there is a lot of business involved in this and he’s a fantastic guy. I’m looking forward to playing with him.
MD: And he recorded guitars on ‘From Chaos To Eternity’ too?
AS: Of course, a lot of guitars, yes. I think it’s fantastic, you know, it sounds very heavy because when two guitar players play on the same album you can hear the power is doubled because there are styles and different hands playing different things at the same time. So it’s great.
MD: Fabio’s out on tour with Kamelot at the moment, standing in as vocalist – have you heard from him and how he’s getting on?
AS: Yes, actually, they had a day off in Trieste about a week ago. They were coming from Milan and were going to Budapest, and they stopped off here in Trieste and I met him and, yes, he was very happy. I think, also, the Kamelot guys were very happy with him because they were surprised how Fabio was singing from the very first day they rehearsed and he was there singing everything perfectly. They were shocked. Fabio is, really, a professional guy for that. He’d learnt the lyrics to every song and he was perfect. I didn’t listen myself at any concert but they were totally happy about that. He also had this chance to work because, for him, after many years we were not playing and for a singer it’s important to keep going. So we don’t have any problem if he decided to help out Kamelot.
MD: So he’s keeping up his frontman skills!
AS: Of course!
MD: Roy Khan’s officially announced he’s left Kamelot now so…
AS: Yeah, Fabio told me. I didn’t know that but I think Fabio told me one week ago.
MD: There have been a few Rhapsody of Fire fans debating online whether Fabio’s going to join Kamelot permanently…
AS: Hmmm…no, I don’t think so! Anyway, it is up to Fabio. For us, we never had a problem with Fabio singing in Vision Divine or other bands because we know, for a singer, it’s important to sing and, of course, also in this period of…[laughs]…economic disaster, almost everything can be accepted to have some money. It’s a great thing so I think it can make people happy. I’m sure he can do a good job with Kamelot and we’ll see, you know.