SYMPHONY X

"Iconclast" (Nuclear Blast; 2011)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

You're probably going to think I'm nuts but I've never 'heard' Symphony X. Yes, it's true, but before your toss your tablet across the room in disgust and demand my paper napkin resignation from Rough Edge let me plead my case: I've always been a fan of progressive music. I was born in '68 so I cut my teeth on Rush, Yes, Pink Floyd and Marillion -- those bands paved the way for progressive music to become its own genre in the US.

Now, before you deny my petition, when I did hear Symphony X, I thought they were Dream Theater. The sound is similar although, yes, the vocals are different in that you have James LaBrie with an operatic approach while Russell Allen has a more hard rock sound emitting from his vocal pipes. I throw myself on the mercy of the court packed with Rough Edge readers and promise this will never let this happen again. Since my time-out I've gone back and submerged myself is this sub-genre of incredible music. Symphony X is now one of my tattoos.

"Iconoclast" is the follow-up to 2007's "Paradise Lost." It had been four years since any music was offered so when Russell Allen announced that Symphony X were in post-production of a new disc fans were stoked to hear some new material. On "Iconoclast," machines have taken over the world and we've pretty much ushered in our own demise. The tracks on "Iconoclast" have plenty of heavy/progressive guitar powering them along and Russell's voice is the message to the masses. The drums are incredible and they move the grooving songs right along at a quick pace. This disc was offered as a standard CD and as a special edition. The SE gives you tons more music and it allowed Symphony X to put all their progressive prowess on one monstrous disc. I, of course, picked up the special edition because in order to be inoculated you need the full dose.

Since "Iconoclast" is much more like a theme instead of a story each songs deals with the subject of machines taking over the world. These machines would be technology as well. The struggle on "Iconoclast" is played out with guitar and vocals, the songs build while they climb the mountain. Symphony X isn't looking for higher ground to escape, they are looking for the highest platform to shout their message. This is a great disc to cue up and sit back on. The lyrics tell a story but the music adds the energy. I usually list the best tracks on an album but with progressive music that tells a story I'll just suggest snagging this disc and pushing play.

Symphony X: Michael Romeo − guitar, backing vocals; Michael Pinnella − keyboards, backing vocals; Jason Rullo – drums; Russell Allen − lead vocals; Michael Lepond − bass guitar, backing vocals.

For more information check out these links: http://www.symphonyx.com, and Pour ceux d'entre vous qui parlent le français, découvrez ce site http://www.symphonyx.com/fr.

"Paradise Lost" (InsideOut Music/SPV; 2007)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

From its "Lord of the Rings"-meets-speed metal opening track ("Oculus Ex Inferni"), "Paradise Lost" gripped me in its aural vice with a crushing grasp. I can't remember a CD so instantly infectious, or one that has held up so well under numerous plays.

I wasn't that thrilled with the band's "The Odyssey" from about five years ago, but "Paradise Lost" is another story entirely. Unlike the previous CD (which I will no go back and re-visit) "Paradise Lost" focuses more on the metal side of progressive metal; it's heavier and faster than "The Odyssey" and far better balanced. With its racing tempos, its furious guitars, its epic vocals and choruses and its brilliant songwriting and production, this CD never disappoints or, in fact, gives you even a moment to catch your breath.

"Paradise Lost" is a complex tapestry of heavy metal, weaving so much power and style into relatively short tracks (nothing here is more than ten minutes long), that you can scant believe it.

Fans of progressive metal will find no better example than Symphony X's "Paradise Lost."

A new, two-disc edition of this release was issued in 2008, containing the original recording on Disc 1 and a 5.1 mix of the entire album, plus two video clips, on Disc 2.

Symphony X: Russell Allen (vocals); Michael Romeo (guitar); Michael Pinnella (keyboards); Mike LePond (bass); Jason Rullo (drums). 

For more information, check out http://www.symphonyx.com

"The Odyssey" (InsideOut Music/SPV; 2002)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"The Odyssey" by Symphony X is more progressive brilliance from a band that's not afraid to give it all they've got. The question here, however, is have they gone too far?

By technical standards, "The Odyssey" is a masterpiece, with lightning fast, precision guitar work, epic songs (with running times up to and over eight minutes, plus a seven part, 24-minute extravaganza) and stunning, nearly perfect vocals (sounding here more like Helloween or perhaps Ripper Owens than Ronnie James Dio). 

The problem is that the tracks are so progressively over the top and so voluminously produced, that they sometimes seem too much, the sum of their parts overwhelming what is most important: the whole. In other words, the focus on the technical aspect seems to detract from the overall effectiveness of the songs.

For many, this won't be a bad thing. Fans of bands like Dream Theater and Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force will no doubt find "The Odyssey" enthralling. But I think there will also be others who think it's a little too much and somewhat overdone. Thankfully, it's never mortally overdone. "The Odyssey" tells its story in a powerful, masterful way. Sometimes, it just doesn't realize its own strength.

Symphony X: Russell Allen (vocals); Michael Romeo (guitar); Michael Pinnella (keyboards); Mike LePond (bass); Jason Rullo (drums). 

For more information, check out http://www.symphonyx.com

"Live on the Edge of Forever" (InsideOut Music/Century Media; 2001)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This double live CD, recorded between October 2000 and June 2001, contains fifteen great live tracks with a total running time of over 107 minutes (interestingly, track 12, "Through the Looking Glass" and track 15, "The Divine Wings of Tragedy," make up for over 33 minutes of that time themselves).

Symphony X is a progressive metal band with a musical sound harder than that of Dream Theater combined with vocals that are sometimes very reminiscent of Ronnie James Dio. Their sound is technically charged with lots of double-bass drums and shredding guitars. Their songwriting is hugely epic with vocals and instruments soaring in near-perfect compatibility. 

Also impressive here is the overall sound of the CD, considering that it's a live recording. The music and vocals are all crystal clear - not quite studio, but close. Anyway, who wants a live CD that sounds so much like a studio album there's no real point in it being live.

Fans who like their metal big and complex will love Symphony X and this collection of live performances is a document of the band's talent, ability and charisma.

"Live at the Edge of Forever" (also known as "Live in Europe") was produced by Eric Rachel, Michael Romeo and Michael Pinnella.

Symphony X: Russell Allen (vocals); Michael Romeo (guitar); Michael Pinnella (keyboards); Mike LePond (bass); Jason Rullo (drums). 

For more information, check out http://www.symphonyx.com

"V" (Metal Blade; 2000)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

What makes Symphony X's "V" stand out from its other progressive metal peers is that fact that this bands focuses at least as much on the "metal" as the "progressive." Instead of concentrating too much on experimentation, "Symphony X" keeps in mind that progressive metal is still supposed to be metal, and the fire and edge with which they write and perform gives "V" a harder edge that plays more along the lines of Helloween than, say, Dream Theater.

Subtitled "The New Mythology Suite," "V" is a concept album and, hence, each track is part of a larger whole. In other words, the CD plays much better when played from beginning to end rather than picking out a song here and there. Regardless, the songs are all very well-written, performed with stunning flair and undeniable talent and the production here is top notch.

Those who like epic, cascading guitars, well-placed keyboards and the experimental stylings of progressive metal will find plenty to enjoy here. "V" is an album that dares to be different but stays close enough to its roots to deliver a strong kick in the pants.

Symphony X: Russell Allen - vocals; Michael Romeo - guitar; Michael Pinnella - keyboards;  Michael Lepond - bass; Jason Rullo - drums.

For more information, check out http://www.symphonyx.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

Back to CD Reviews Home

Back to RoughEdge.com Home

Copyright © 2013 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 24 Sep 2017 15:29:52 -0400.