The Italian composer born in the same city as Gioacchino Rossini started his career as a Hard rock guitarist and songwriter and later on turned his efforts to soundtrack productions for different US TV channels, after years of music schools.
This is his first soloist outcoming and it's divided in an overture, 3 acts and a finale, all dealing with a legend concerning Cristoforo Falconi, a brave and pure crusade knight who fought Saracens and died betrayed by another Italian at the Holy Land.
His 14 tracks are all instrumental or barely sung and show a vast range of styles, instruments, sounds and atmospheres: from the epic and warlike opener "The First Crusade", to "The Sword of the Rose Pt. I", rich in delicate piano lines, to the dreamy, knightly and heraldic "The Sword of the Rose Pt. II", to "The World Traveler", so lively and grounded on violins and double-basses, but also including two acoustic guitars and hammering slowdowns, we almost get to the end of the first part; yet the surprises and other ingredients are yet to come.
"Deus Vult", triumphant and pompous, showing crystal-clear cymbal shots, an organ and a gregorian choir, closes the first act.
"March of the Heroes" contains royal and fierce elements, as well as 19th century Classic music pauses, arias and sounds, till the piano appears again; this is the most complete and multifold track of the cluster.
As the title suggests, "Arabian Skies" comprises Arab tunes, vocals and instruments, followed by "Knights of the Cross", sombre and threatening, in which the matching between keyboards and percussions achieves summits of elegance, making it top the rest of the compositions.
In "Reflections" the Marche artist displays his solo piano skills, whereas "Spirits" passes by dynamically, full of percussions and some female vocals. This is the only tasteless track where there's also an unnecessary pause breaking the climax. I can't explain what happened and why nothing was done to correct this plain flaw.
"Gate of Lions" is a long one, similar to the opener, yet more tranquil at the end, while "To the Battlefield" begins with church-like arrangements before turning tight; definitely suitable to draw courage out of the troops on the eve of a do-or-die attack; here you'll find a Classical music intermezzo, appearing to be the rightest choice for this piece.
"Aenigma" is another composition I repute complete and summarizing Cristiano Filippini's background; there're frantic and martial percussions and guitars, and this time there're acoustic riffs and solos at last! Here you'll be involved from beginning to end and that's a proof of his mature capacities.
A gracious manner to conclude this lengthy opus is "The Triumph of the Cross"; victorious, charismatic and deign of a king, it's based on deep keyboards layers.
Great booklet and story, professional sounds, recording and performance, with just one big mistake in the arrangement mentioned above; what else do I have to say? "The First Crusade" is such a good Medieval/Classical/soundtrack music debut whose vibes will take you so far away so that they might make you think it's surrounded by magic...