Progressive metal band from New Jersey, USA.
Symphony X - Twilight in Olympus (InsideOut) 1998
Symphony X - V:The New Mythology Suite (Metal Blade) 2000
I had read some great things about this band so I checked out the AMG review of this disc before purchasing it and decided to give them a try. AMG stated "Perhaps no other guitarists in the metal genre has been as influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen as Symphony X leader Michael Romeo. That has proved to be both a blessing and a curse for this gifted guitarist. His chops are certainly comparable, but his sound and style are often identical to his idol. Therein lies the problem with this recording and, for that matter, most of the post-Malmsteen shredders." What a crock! While the band does have some Yngwie-like technical prowess, the music is NOTHING like Yngwie. Symphony X are much more complex combining classical elements with sweeping melodies and complex songwriting to created epic numbers that far outweigh Ynqwie's compositions. While I like Yngwie, it has always been my complaint that many of his songs are just exercises, or excuses, for Yngwie to solo over. This is simply not the case for these guys. Also I must make mention of Russell Allen's vocals. I was expecting some helium high prog-metal vocalist, but instead Allen's vox are more in line with some of the greats from the 70's, occasionally reminding me of Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow/Deep Purple) and on occasion Ian Gillan (which if you know me, this is the ultimate compliment.) Picked up this CD for a mere $5.99.
This album in nothing short of jaw dropping. I can't really see any fan of progressive rock not salivating over this disc. While many prog-bands forsake memorable songwriting for technical writing, Symphony X avoid this completely on "The Odyssy". Another complaint often filed against prog bands is that they tend to be to mellow, as heaviness is often compromised for indulgent, technical instrumentation. Again, this is not the case with this CD. There are the more melancholy moments, the acoustic parts, and obligatory ballad but overall, this is a pretty heavy album. In other words, the Odyssy is technical but also very listenable. The variety here is compelling, from songs like the shred-heavy "Inferno (Unleash The Fire), to the beautiful ballad "Accolade II", to the progressive offering of ³Awakenings,² to the symphonic, epic title track "The Odyssey". Some of the rhythm guitar work will probably send those with strict definitions of what prog-metal should sound like for a loop. There are some of those groove based, stop/start ryhthms that metal purists seem to hate. ("Inferno", "Wicked", "Incantations of the Apprentice") However, I do hear this as a sellout to alternative rock or anything like that. This is far to melodic and far to heavy metal to be considered that. Russell Allen once again proves that he is one of the most versatile vocalist that heavy metal has ever seen. His vocals and his vocal melodies just seem to fit, whether the band is going full force or doing something totally off the wall. Michael Romeo's neo-classical style soloing is also something noteworthy, as it really adds to the overall sound of the disc. I should also make mention that this CD is one of those concept albums. The Odyssey follows the travel of Odysseus as told by Homer, a story I must confess that I am not that familar with. If I had anything negative to say about this CD it would be with the somewhat fake sounding symphonic opening to the epic title track. For some reason this part of the twenty four minute epic just didn't sit with me as well as the rest of the album. However, this is a minor complaint to an album that is mostly a progressive metal masterwork.
Symphony X - Paradise Lost (Inside Out Music) 2007
1. Oculus ex Inferni"
I put off picking up the new Symphony X because frankly, all this progressive, symphonic metal that is flooding the underground is a bit beyond me. I appreciate the musicianship. Like many others, I find them to be stellar musicians and to be technically proficient. My jaw drops at the sheer talent of the musicians. However, much like Dream Theater and Kamelot, I tend to find this sort of music boring after a while and I tend to lose interest in their CDs quickly. I suppose I prefer the looser feel and simpler songwriting of other bands to the technique-over-feel approach of many prog-metal bands. One only needs to read my review of their past albums to know that I am appreciative bands of this caliber, and specifically Symphony X. However, once bands start adding all these layers, choirs, symphonies and detailed concepts/storylines, I lose interest rather quickly. So, I was a bit apprehensive about this CD, knowing the direction they went with "The Odyssey". However, after reading numerous threads on the various metal chat boards about how great this album was, I decided to finally give it a shot. Some were even calling it "the greatest heavy metal album ever." One veteran metal fan stated, "Symphony X are within the 5 greatest metal bands of all-time...in the upper echelon in every way". I must confess, I get a bit tired of hearing elitist comments like "most other metal bands are not in the same league as Kamelot & Symphony X" from prog-metal fans. Quite frankly, I disagree. Personally, I like the simple blues metal approach of underground metal bands like Broken Teeth, the straight forward heavy metal of U.D.O. and Saint, or the powerhouse metal of Nevermore or Brainstorm as much as the progressive wankery of bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X, if not moreso. One is not inherently better than the other. It's just a matter of what the listener likes better.
But on to "Paradise Lost". Whether this is the greatest album ever is highly debatable. However, what we do have here is a very, very good progressive power metal album. While the band has gone in a similar direction as "The Odyssey", I also think this one is a bit heavier and more powerful. I actually listened to the CD twice all the way through and one day and didn't feel the need to turn the CD off halfway through. Once past the orchestrated opening track, a track that sounds like something off a movie soundtrack, the combination of heavy songs and lighter moments truly satisfies. The songs flow together well, with lots of high and lows in each song. Russ Allen's vocals are a bit more varied than what I remember. While he has that smooth, natural sounding tone he always has has, he also uses a harsher, darker style here as well, and he does it well. The guitar playing is, as stated already, spectacular. Michael Romeo is definitely a world class shredder. His guitar solos at times are outrageous, yet he manages to make them fit the feel of the song rather than just using them as a showcase of his talent. Overall, I had no reason to steer clear of this album. I actually quite enjoyed it and think it's a very solid effort from Symphony X. Is it the greatest metal album ever? I don't know that I would say that. Does it really matter? Listen to what you like and ignore the elitist groups. "Paradise Lost" is a great album for those who enjoy quality progressive power metal.
One final note, the packaging is cool and sucks all at the same time. The digi-like packaging is cool how it opens up almost like a cross. The CD and booklet fit neatly into the die-cut packagin. However, I would rather have had a jewel case version frankly, as the digi is rather flimsy due the die-cut, finger like panels. These will surely get bent and torn over time. I'm gonna have to put this one on my iPod so that the packaging doesn't get destroyed carrying it around. It also bugs me that this CD has no spine, so when I store it on my CD shelves, it's gonna be hard to find.