When it comes to progressive metal, although it is difficult to identify the area of interest of such a genre/non-genre, one cannot overlook a name of level such as Michael Romeo's creature. The American band, in almost thirty-year career, despite having released only 9 albums, has imprinted its name in the history of metal, thanks to an extremely varied instrumental proposal and a crazy talent of the individual components. Iconic, then, the presence on all their splendid covers of the two masks, Comedy/Tragedy, sometimes very well hidden.

Inspired by the good Giovanni Gagliano, I decided to retrace their discography, and I'm happy about it because I discovered that the works I loved are even dearer to me and the ones that didn't convince me are still more than decent albums.

And so...

A rather immature debut that already clearly shows the stylistic coordinates of the group, a progressive metal rich in power, neoclassical influences without forgetting a good dose of aggression and a theatrical attitude that recalls the more operatic Queen. The opener is proof of this theory "The Raging Seasons", featuring several tempo changes, as well as "Masquerade". Most of the pieces have a limited duration and are almost all easy to grasp, thanks also to rather immediate refrains; perhaps only the final suite "A Lesson Before Dying" appears rather drawn out and not as effective as other songs of equal length to which the band will get used to in the future. Probably the only limits of this work are a production that is a little too sparse and... the singer. Nothing against Rod Tyler (who appears only on this album), but the pieces seem to have been written especially for the most talented singer who will take over.

This feels more like a second debut of sorts. Although the formula is substantially the same as the previous one, we can however find a greater aggressive component alongside more inspired compositions. The combination that will make the group's fortune is still close, but songs like the title track or "The Edge of Forever" would have deserved better luck in the live setlists. The presence behind the microphone of Russel Allen was decisive, a very talented singer whose broad vocal spectrum marries perfectly with the multi-shades of Symphony X's music... and the masterpiece is just around the corner.

What to say? Albums like this subvert any order, upset any certainty, and displace. It seems incredible that these guys on their third job managed to reach such a peak. Not a note out of place, not a second of boredom (and the record lasts a long time), a perfect balance between direct songs like "Sea of Lies" and true progressive gems like "The Accolade" and the long title track. A perfect record in every aspect (although, personal note, not my favourite).

Any work released after an artistic monument such as "Divine Wings..." would have had difficulty standing out, yet this proves to be absolutely up to par, perhaps adding that pinch of "dirt" that makes the compositions more powerful and multifaceted. And if the opener "Smoke and Mirrors" hits you like a punch in the stomach, "Church of the Machine" (which perhaps involuntarily mentions "Tubular Bells") and above all the magical suite "Through the Looking Glass" will give us oceans of great music... and the rest of the album is no different. Another great album for the American band that further consolidates its state of grace.

This record carries a personal memory/regret: upon its release, in fact, I don't remember who told me about being a complicated one and therefore, despite the splendid cover attracting me like a porchetta sandwich at lunchtime, it took me years before I decided to listen to it.
Since it is a concept album, and with a more marked progressive imprint than the previous ones, it is natural that it is more difficult at first listening, but the fact remains that it is a great album: "Communion and the Oracle" for example is something magical in its various passages, and the same goes for "Egypt" or for the long final "Rediscovery". A less immediate record, certainly, but one of great charm and class.

"ODISSEY" (2002)
Once again a wonderful cover for a record which, on the other hand, is more aggressive than the previous ones, and perhaps it is the one that least warmed me up than the others. The sound is particularly hard, and this is not a con, but the real problem is the compositions, for a good half of them are ordinary and without that brilliance that had made the difference in the past. However, if these are the defects on the plate of the merits there are some extraordinary pieces such as the opener "Inferno", "Accolade II" (even if the intensity of the first is unsurpassed), the straighforward "The Turning" and above all the long and spectacular title-track, with a cinematic introduction and tempo changes that go well with the mythological adventure of Ulysses. A half-successful job - and what a half! - which, however, as you will soon see, will only be a passing stumbling block.

I still remember today the emotion of seeing such a beautiful cover, one of the best I've ever seen, and just to be clear right away I tell you that this is undoubtedly my favourite Symphony X album. and obscure, there is no shortage of perfectly fitting large melodic openings, all at the service of highly inspired compositions. Songs like the violent "Set The World on Fire", "Domination", "Serpent's Kiss" or the melodic title track stand out for their quality and intensity, and the same goes for the beautiful "Eve of Seduction" and for the long "The Walls of Babylon" and "Revelation" (which in the finale takes up the theme of "The Accolade", as if to represent the third part). A disc where every note is in its place and which is pleasant and engaging even after repeated listening.

For the new album, the group chooses to try a sort of concept on the progressive infiltration of machines into our daily lives, a theme already mentioned in the song "Church of the New Machine" from a few years earlier. The work comes out in two formats, a standard edition and a deluxe one with an additional 20 minutes of music, with playing times ranging from one hour to one hour and twenty. Musically, the band continues its own path in the context of a particularly powerful and aggressive prog/power, in this case with little stylistic variations or melodic openings (a choice motivated by the theme). The substance does not change and the pieces are for the vast majority real boulders of quality, starting from the long opening title track up to the beautiful "When all is Lost". The songs of the complete edition are not mere fillers but rather further enrich the already juicy lineup, just think of "Reign In Madness" above all. An album that requires several listens to get in tune with its atmospheres and to cope with the large amount of music present, but capable of repaying the exhausting wait after the previous album.

This album, to which I am sentimentally linked because it was released in the year of my marriage, presents a substantial stability of the band's musical proposal but compared to the previous one we appreciate a greater variability of atmospheres and a less gloomy atmosphere. And if the verses appear fired to the maximum, the easy-to-grasp refrains take care of it, as evidenced by the opener "Nevermore". The Intense "Without You" is as violent as the title-track, in an emotional climax that finds its peak in the conclusive and profound "Legend", whose words seem perfect to me to close this discussion: "The legend never dies"...
Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post