Back when Fabio Lione and Alex Holzwarth quit Rhapsody of Fire and joined up with Luca Turilli’s version of the band there seemed like a spark had been reignited. They got back in the spirit of the old Rhapsody material and toured vigorously, and when an actual studio album, under the name Turilli / Lione Rhapsody (sigh) was announced there was ample reason to believe we’d finally have two outfits worth the name of Rhapsody. Unfortunately, Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution) doesn’t even compete with the flourishing back to all that’s fun and campy The Eight Mountain released earlier this year by Rhapsody of Fire. Sure enough, first single and opening track Phoenix Rising is a near perfect Rhapsody song like you’d find on From Chaos to Eternity (2011), with Turilli’s flashy, over the top guitars leading a neoclassical charge, with keys bursting with supporting fire; just a great example of what the rest of the album could and probably should have been.
Hell, the second track, DNA (Demon and Angel) starts up promising enough, introducing Lione in a duet with Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) and a mighty sounding background choir. As it turns out though, that background choir takes away most of what would make the song promising; the duet vanishes in the overproduction, even though both Lione and Ryd make the best of it. It’s a decent enough track, just short of hitting the mark. The album’s downsides come from choices that seem mostly out of place and not fitting the style, and the overproduced elements mostly found on tracks like DNA (Demon and Angel) and otherwise cool closing number Arcanum (Da Vinci’s Enigma). Amata Immortale is some kind of operatic balladry in Italian, bringing less than nothing to the table; it’s cheesy but not fun, and pretentious but not impressive. The same goes for album divider Origins, which basically is a sort of intro in the middle of the album. And that Josh Groban cover at the end? How about no.
Obviously given the talent on display, the album is filled with great musicianship most notably from main man Turilli. His guitars are as crisp as ever and toned back from the overblown neoclassical influences present on his last few Rhapsody of Fire albums to a more Dream Theater inspired progressive touch. His great, sweeping solos lift songs like DNA (Demon and Angel) and I Am, whereas the overall presence and feel of the fretsmanship is what makes Decoding the Multiverse and the title track such pleasurable listens. Lione does his to help out and has some standout moments - he makes a great duet with Mark Basile (DMG) in I Am - but overall fails to really reach the heights he’s been known for, and that climaxed in his last Rhapsody of Fire album. Stylistically the album is less of a reconnection to the Rhapsody sound of old, and more of a follow up to the latter day work of Turilli’s Rhapsody, and reminiscent of the likes of Kamelot. In many respects it has the feel of a follow up to the Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus (2015) album - though Zero Gravity is far from as all over the place as that one was.
The scope is cinematic and big, but never really delving into the epic and adventurous; there’s a technical side to the songwriting, rather than fantastical and organic sounding. The keys are subservient to Turilli’s lead guitar, rather than working side by side to build the scene. Multidemensional might be the only track where the keys take a more prominent role. All this ends up in a product that definitely a worthwhile album to hear, but one that lacks the ingenuity and the spirit that should permeate a Rhapsody album - and that The Eight Mountain captured, though faltering at places. Zero Gravity is still a brave venture; taking Rhapsody to new places and drastically far from the adventure themes invoked by Staropoli’s version. It’s far from a rebirth, but I’ll grant it the evolutionary part; that touch of magic takes a long time to reveal itself and there’s still a case of overproduced choirs and needless filler, but Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution) gets a pass. Still, needs more dragons.
Standout tracks: Phoenix Rising, Decoding the Multiverse, I Am