Do you know who Fabio Lione and Alessandro Conti are? You do? Then this is super – please continue larping. If you don’t, prepare to hear the tale of intrigue, madness and power that is Lione/Conti.
While fronting Rhapsody for two decades, Lione found himself singing for a lot of people, among them Kamelot, Angra and Eternal Idol, before leaving and re-joining Rhapsody for their farewell tour. An odd situation indeed, as they’d split into two bands who were both Rhapsody, but not really – Rhapsody Of Fire (whom Lione also sang for) and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. This was a strange move, but resulted in the rise of Alessandro Conti. Formerly of technically potent but very silly power metallers Trick Or Treat, he was chosen to replace Lione before the Rhapsody split and ended up fronting Turilli’s side of the legendary fantasy metallers.
Frontier Records then decided to create an Italian version – really – of Allen/Lande, a supergroup fronted by Symphony X singer Russ Allen and Jorn Lande of Masterplan. Frontier wanted Lione/Conti to be meatier than the aforementioned coupling, which has spawned 4 albums of heartfelt rock, so they drafted Simone Muraloni of instrumental power metal beasts DGM to do the business.
From the outset, this record demolishes Allen/Lande’s The Battle and fills The Great Divide with muscular Italian concrete. Muraloni produced, mixed and mastered this opus while providing both full guitar and bass work, and he’s brought the focused brawn of DGM with him, not to mention Lancs from Elvenking on drums and Filippo Martignano of Synful Ira on keys. Stacked against their contemporaries in Hammerfall and Stratovarius, this is some magnificently produced modern heavy metal with none of the sonic flimsiness which characterizes the more fantasy orientated areas of the genre. Infinitely beefier than either of the Rhapsodies currently in circulation, fans of those bands might find their previous charges on the insipid side by comparison.
The curled lip romp of Outcome alone stands firmly against the best works by either singers’ previous groups; there’s shards of all sorts in here, from the spreadable cream cheese of touching ballad Somebody Else to the full-chat fist-pumper that is Destruction Show. It isn’t until the seriously over-the-top conduct of Glories that things get a bit Dragonforce-y, but here’s the difference; Lione/Conti is devoid of irony or shame, and this song stood out – not only because of it’s ultra-rude guitar/keys content – but because there’s no shame, no winking eye. Everyone involved in making this record lives for power metal, no joke – the performances vibrate with commitment and excitement from beginning to end.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. You’re Falling is a bit average, and the borderline waltzy Misbeliever feels a bit weird on the first couple of listens, but the only track that Lione/Conti could do without is Truth, which has too many key changes and sounds a bit pedestrian. It’s followed by Gravity, which I went back to a number of times; I know the album-synoptic Ascension is out there as the single, but Gravity gets right in about it, and could slide into Dynasty Warriors without anyone batting an eyelid. In a genre truly choking with seriously flogged melodies, this somehow seems to reach for something greater.
The track listing has been well-chosen; power metal can give all but the most ardent die-hards ear fatigue over ten tracks of terse wailing and thunderous bombast, but this flows beautifully, the peaks being very well managed indeed. Closing with Crosswinds, we get some clean(ish) guitar for only the second time on the whole record, a waft of the east and a supremely widescreen chorus. Possessed of its own character and a pleasing side step on an deftly executed record, it’s a confident way to wrap up a surprisingly varied album.
You’ll notice there’s no mention of either vocalists’ abilities so far, and that’s with good reason; 1-you don’t get to front a band like Rhapsody for 20 years without being seriously capable and 2-you don’t get picked by a band with such involved orchestration unless you can hang. Both Lione and Conti deliver their considerable vocals like kings, with the only complaint being that as they’re essentially employed by the same band, telling them apart was a bit tough. That being said, when I was able to discern their individual contributions, it came as a welcome surprise that it’s an even split.
This is a record squarely aimed at power metal enthusiasts, but if you lust for the melodrama that only Heavy Metal can provide, it’s a glorious ride from start to finish.
You can pre-order Lione/Conti out January 26th via Frontiers here!