Discussion in 'Music Discussion' started by Night Prowler, Aug 22, 2013.
Discussion on a discussion forum! Who would have thought!
What's incredible is that in a 20 minute long, mostly-instrumental epic, there's only about 40 seconds of wankery. It's barely worth complaining about.
Yes, I agree with this. I more meant in tone and style than I did in skill. These songs are clearly still progressive metal, but just in terms of the riff selections and the like.
Similar to Mosh, I've gonna skip the line-by-line review this time because I think we're all agreed on this album. If you graphed the quality here it would like a giant, very sharp V. I personally think the first half of this album is impeccable. It's some of the best, most melodic-yet-heavy material the band will ever write. The first two tracks make an incredible opener, with Sins and Shadows ripping right out the gate (especially during that choir vocal and solo duel section) and Sea of Lies adding more groove and melody. I love the acoustic guitar/bass verse in that second tune and all the incredible bass work. Out of The Ashes seems like the ultimate peak of "Old Symphony X", it's a very upbeat distillation of the first two albums but done so much better. I got to see them perform this song once in a bar with maybe 100 people and it was absolutely stellar. The Accolade is just a work of art. I honestly don't know of any other song with so many layers that works this well. The way the intro builds and manages to completely create an atmosphere without a single vocal is simply breathtaking. The keyboard layers during the bridge are just gorgeous and only enhanced by that epic bass and drum groove. The Accolade shows what Symphony X is truly capable of; it feels like a band. My only complaint is that Russell's vocals are mixed too low on this song in particular.
And then...we hit the lows. The middle of this album dips in quality, but only compared to the incredible strength of its beginning and end. These three tracks are better than anything on the debut and better than half of The Damnation Game. I dig the heaviness of Pharaoh. I like the Egyptian tonalities and Russell using different textures, but it's out of place coming straight after the intense winter-y aspects of The Accolade. The chorus is really pretty lame and the bridge section where Russell is singing over himself either needed to be rewritten or have multiple singers. Still, it's the best of these three and it has a bass tapping section. The rhythm of Eyes of Medusa is cool, but once again the chorus is lame and it has the single stupidest "bridge" ever with a giant orchestral section that comes out of nowhere and returns with equal stupidity. It's like an Opeth Heritage transition: "if you just fade out or fade in, it works!" No, Michael and Mikael. Romeo's solo is really nice, though. It sounds like a Nintendo game. The Witching Hour is pure filler and should have been cut from the album altogether. There's nothing terrible about it, it's just completely unmemorable on an album full of classics. If you told me this song was written for the debut album, I'd believe it. The title track is a tour de force. It's haunting, it's beautiful, it's heavy, it's epic, it's every band member in peak form. It's a damned masterpiece. Candlelight Fantasia seems like a letdown after that song, but I still love it. I think Russell's voice is just spectacular (especially at the end). I could do without the fade out, but oh well, it's still amazing.
My ratings lie as such:
Of Sins and Shadows - 10/10
Sea of Lies - 10/10
Out of the Ashes - 10/10
The Accolade - 10/10
Pharaoh - 7/10
The Eyes of Medusa - 6/10
The Witching Hour - 5/10
The Divine Wings of Tragedy - 10/10
Candlelight Fantasia - 10/10
Album rating - 8.6/10
As with the previous album, Romeo and Russell steal the show, but I truly don't think enough has been said about the work of Pinnella, Rullo, and Miller. The way these guys fill in layers is simply incredible. There are moments (especially in Accolade and the title track) where they are completely responsible for the mood, catchiness, or complexity. The tracklist of this album reminds me a little bit of Powerslave: it starts and ends with the strongest stuff and the middle dips (although the middle of Powerslave dips far less).
Yes! It's amazing that he is able to be such an incredibly show-off while still maintaining a true sense of melody and scope within each song. His Sea of Lies solo is just awesome: melodic, hooky, but still with flurries of shred.
This analysis just made me appreciate the song more than I already did! Kudos!
Twilight in Olympus (1998)
1. Smoke and Mirrors - Here we go, I have a scotch in hand and Symphony X on the speakers. The intro really hearkens back to the very early days of the band, with some harpsichord in the intro as well. Decent rock riffs as we get into the song proper followed by a fairly aggressive time change, though future ones on the song aren't so rough, and the chorus is on point. This song seems like it's about politicians not being trustworthy, a warning that everything is "behind smoke and mirrors", and that death continues to lurk as we live our lives in ignorance. Not a bad guitar solo, but I'm not in love with the keyboard one. Not a bad opener, but SX has done better. 8/10.
2. Church of the Machine - Interesting intro, building up to the intro chorus. I like when Symphony X tries to do things differently, and this one works from the beginning. Keyboards twinkling with a lovely building riff into a monster of a main track, heavy bass that drives the song forward. I really enjoy the uplifting guitar sound at around 2:05, and this whole early instrumental is really enjoyable. It's not like anything SX did before, but absolutely the band. Russell sounds like a rock god here, and he's carrying some awesome lyrics. Bow down in the platinum maze, twilight cathedrals spread the system plague. A warning about the danger of technology - in a lot of ways, laying the entire groundwork for Iconoclast (while being mostly superior to that album, but we'll get there). Not quite a big fan of the stripped down vocals of "The creator 'neat..." but it isn't enough to pull the song down a full point. Really good keyboard solo from Pinnella here, and one of Romeo's more Yngwie-sounding solos in awhile, but he doesn't wank it out, so it's fine. Really killer fucking chorus. 10/10*.
3. Sonata - The version on Spotify cuts quite abruptly to Sonata, I don't know if that's intentional. Anyone know? This is a lovely little rock arrangement of Beethoven's Sonata #8, with some fun playing by Romeo, but not much else here. 7.5/10.
4. In the Dragon's Den - As if the band was aware that it's standard procedure to put a nice hard rocker before an epic, they trot out this song. It's not bad, it's quick and inoffensive, but it scarcely rises above that level. It gets a bonus half-point for the "Through the nights and days, we will find a way" part, but otherwise, it's not special. Instrumental section is fine and all, keyboard solo gets to a good place but that's about it. This one feels like filler. 6.5/10.
5. Through the Looking Glass
Part I - We twinkle into this as the previous song fades out. The intro to this is mystical and magical, with undercurrents of menace, which is appropriate for Alice's second trip to Wonderland. I wonder why Romeo chose the second book instead of the first - we're dropped in media res into some of the content, and unless you are familiar with Carroll's work, the lyrics are (appropriately) nonsensical. But you do get the feeling of someone passing through the class and spiralling down, the slow increasing in intensity in the instrumental as it grows. The guitar-led sections seem to be reality, strong and uplifting, Alice herself, while the keyboards are deceptive and alluring, the Jabberwocky drawing her deeper. A direct correlation to the first chapter of Through the Looking Glass, this portion is about Alice's return to Wonderland, though now Wonderland is more confusing because she entered through the Looking Glass. She's still seemingly at home, but everything is backwards. "everything's so strange, the same but rearranged". But very quickly Alice realizes that the danger she escaped previously still lingers - the Queen of Hearts still wants her head, and her minions stalk Alice...
Part II - This seems to refer to Alice's adventures in The Garden of Live Flowers. The Red Queen is there, and she runs fast, and urges Alice to do the same. The softness seems to mirror that adventure.
Part III - The previous part is shortlived and now we're into the meat of Alice's adventures. When she arrives, she stumbles into a living chess game, where the pieces destroy one another. The White and Red Queens deploy their pawns, and Alice is stuck in the middle. "Dream on, do you believe"...is just magical, the pinnacle of this album so far and one of the best ever Symphony X moments. Russell hits it, right on the nose. As she quests, she finds the White Knight, who brings her to the edge of Wonderland; but the edge of Wonderland is where Alice becomes the Queen, and commands herself to wake.
Was it all just a dream? Do you believe that all the things you are seeing are true? Or as Lewis Carroll wrote, "Life, what is it but a dream?"
A magnificent centrepiece to this album. It could probably have been Divine Wings of Tragedy long and complex, but this is still a massive success and a powerful 10.5/10.*
6. The Relic - This song reminds me of the story of the Holy Grail in a lot of ways. Great chorus, but the surrounding bits fail a bit, with an over reliance on harpsichord-style keyboards that seem to dance over the rest of the track. Still, one of the better ~5 minutes SX songs. It never feels like it's filler or overstaying its welcome, and it clocks in at a strong 7.5/10.
7. Orion - The Hunter - Really classic-sounding rock riff to start this one, with some neat little time changes and fills. This is a different track at the beginning, the keyboard dancing in to interrupt and add a new layer, and then things level out. It gives the image of primordial savagery meeting something more divine; it's a fusion of this that underpins Russell's vocals when he begins to sing. Interesting that on an album called Twilight in Olympus the only figure from Greek mythology that appears is Orion. This song has a constant feeling of becoming, as it gets more and more like a traditional Symphony X song as it moves along. I'm not the biggest fan of the use of backing vocals in some places, but overall it's pretty good. The chorus disappoints a bit, but the instrumental really picks it up. Cracker solos on this track. 8/10.
8. Lady of the Snow - Why is the intro to Lady of the Snow oddly Arabic in sound? Feels a little out of place. Anyway, this song is about Elsa. 9/10.
Final Score: 74%
* this song was added to my "Greatest Hits" playlist that stays on my phone at all time. A globally recognized mark of excellence.
A slight step back from the awesome peaks of Divine Wings of Tragedy, this album has lower highs, but higher lows. Overall, still a highly enjoyable experience, but it feels like Through the Looking Glass, as a centrepiece, is missing something compared to Divine Wings. Without a third 10/10 track to support it, the album loses a bit of pace. Upon research I found out that the New Mythology Suite was supposed to be the centrepiece for this album, but it ended up as its own album, which we'll discuss next time. So far this would be my #2 Symphony X album, though I find it a hint less accessible to the average listener than the previous outing.
Next up - V: The New Mythology Suite. I'm really looking forward to this one.
I think I agree with your overall impression of the album but I disagree on the best and worst songs. Through the Looking Glass is great but not a 10/10 for me. More on it later
Short, but sweet:
1. Smoke and Mirrors - This song rips. It's neoclassical, it's upbeat, Russell sounds amazing. The rips are "serpentine", the band is on fire. The bridge is huge and dramatic. I actually think the weakest section is the solos, an incredibly rare occurrence for this era of Symphony X. Sins and Shadows might be a hair better, but this is still a damned classic. 10/10.
2. Church of the Machine - I really hate the intro, but the rest of this song rules. What a huge, epic chorus! The way the rhythm moves under the keyboard part is so cool. That syncopated part before the verses is one of my favorite SX moments. I actually hear a lot of their future sound in this tune, but this is still the best this sound will ever get. The "pyramids" and "cursed we live in pain" part is so catchy. The ending is brutal and incredibly melodic. 10/10
3. Sonata - Kind of a throwaway, but it's pretty and the playing is nice. I think it's in a poor spot on the album. 6/10
4. In the Dragon's Den - Russell sounds like he's really pushing on this one. I like the riffing and the driving beat, but it's definitely the weakest heavy song on the album. One of the most "standard power metal" songs SX has ever done. I do really love the insane unison during the bridge, though (especially cause it ends with a phaser-ized bass solo!). Still, it's better than anything in the middle of the previous album. 8/10.
5. Through the Looking Glass - LC pretty much covered everything there is to cover here...it's another goddamned masterpiece. Probably the band's most melodic song overall and a hell of a performance from every member. The chorus is so epic, so catchy, and so earned. I don't know if there's any other song that takes so long to get to the chorus and yet that chorus is still so rewarding. The jazzy part at 4:45 is such a nice twist. There's such a scale of beauty in this song, it's just wonderful. 10/10
6. The Relic - A letdown after the previous song, but I really adore the spidery guitar riffing in this tune. I would give this song a 7, but that breakdown earns it an 8/10.
7. Orion - The Hunter - There's no other song in the Symphony X catalogue like this one. It's a mid-tempo groove that snakes along and really kinda pummels. I love it. Russell sounds great, there's some very nice musical waves and transitions, it's a unique tune. I love how calculated Romeo's rhythm playing is underneath the vocals, normally he's just hitting chords until it's time to solo. Awesome solo break here, too. 9/10
8. Lady of the Snow - I'm challenged by the song. I appreciate the unique-ness, I appreciate the restraint (hell, it might be the band's most restrained song ever). This might be the first and only time they use Asian-influenced music. According to Thomas Miller and Romeo:
It's a neat song, but not a perfect one. Again, points for uniqueness. 8/10
Overall rating - 8.6/10
This album is really interesting because the great songs on Divine Wings are all better (save for Looking Glass), but the bad songs on Divine Wings are infinitely worse. Twilight suffers from a bizarre tracklist and some half-cocked ideas, but is quite consistent and probably the most unique album in the band's discography.
Shall we continue?
V: The New Mythology Suite (2000)
1. Prelude - A good prelude is short, introduces the style of music, and gives the listener an idea what they will encounter in terms of themes. This one hits it all, from the classical tinges to the aggressive Romeo guitar to the chorus. 9/10, because I can't go any higher on this type of track.
2. Evolution (The Grand Design) - The first thing I did when this came on was turn it the fuck up. That's already a good sign. You never realized how much you missed Jason Rullo on Twilight in Olympus until this track hits. He really is the perfect Symphony X drummer. Great chorus, one of the best. The beats come hard and fast and aggressive and the song drives on. An absolute cracker of a track that shows how this band has hit their prime. No more awkward sudden time changes, everything is paced dramatically and with great need, Russell hits different tones, the guitars and keyboards have become their own. 10/10*.
3. Fallen - An absolutely effortless switch to this song makes it seem like the second part of the previous. Here, the story draws into the tale of Isfet, the Egyptian goddess of injustice and chaos; a fallen angel. That opening riff is fucking dirty and I love it. The chorus is absolutely spine-chilling, and I love how each repeat of the chorus has it grow in intensity. The subtlety of this performance was missing on the previous outing, for sure. Russell tosses us a little more of an aggressive sound, but it works in the parts he does, when he talks about Isfet's journey; the third verse has a chorus as the gods, lamenting their decision to split off the worse half of themselves, while a more demonic haunting Russell warns us of the consequences of this action. It seems like it shouldn't have taken five albums for this band to get to a dramatic and ambitious concept album, but here we are. The growing instrumental piece is powerful and evokes images of dread, followed by one last powerful chorus. 10/10.*
4. Transcendence (Segue) - This is so brief, you barely notice it's there, but it gives you the sense of something becoming. In this case, you can imagine the story sweeping the sea, and the city of Atlantis cresting on the horizon. It inspires awe and changes the scene perfectly. 9/10.
5. Communion and the Oracle - The intro of this track has a call to the Ocean, the way Pinnella twinkles away on the keyboard, before the guitars and bass roll in, like the tide, adding weight to the music. I have no problem imagining the Utopian city of Atlantis, the shining pinnacle of humanity, an island of perfection in the calm sea, a sea that is no longer to be calm. Lyrically, this song evokes images of Númenor, the legendary home of the Dúnedain, in terms of its downfall. An oracle who provides the warning who is ignored, and to the lament of all man. Russell is superfluous on this track - so far, this album is him at his absolute best. Romeo's solo is mournful at first, with a growing ecstasy; yet there is a haunting in the keys near the end of the instrumental mirrored at the end of the song. The day of Atlantis has been undone. 9.5/10*.
6. The Bird-Serpent War / Cataclysm - A far more chaotic introduction, with aggressive rumbling drums that sound like a hurricane approaching. For the first time I think Russell doesn't sound 100% on point, but the violence he's trying to embody is evident. But yes, Atlantis is under siege now, the sea reclaiming the island of the Grand Design. All that is Atlantis was lost; the chorus where Ma'at, the child who can bring balance, is saved is the best part of the song. The instrumental sounds like a whirlpool in the sea, with the bass forming rolling waves. Technically good, but maybe not as good as the previous three major tracks. 8.5/10.
7. On the Breath of Poseidon (Segue) - Brassy and strong, the touch of the god of the sea drives Ma'at away from Atlantis. As the drums fade, we hit repeated walls of music, splashing back and forth, and then eventually a calm as the storm, the fury of the gods at Atlantis, finally fades. A lone survivor on the night sea, a French horn drawing her to her new home. The place she can grow. A new home on the horizon. 9/10.
8. Egypt - God, the intro to this is gorgeous. The new scene is set perfectly with Egyptian-sounding guitars and keyboards, and now Ma'at has a new home. Russell hits the previous heights, with soaring rock vocals that inspire images of beauty and strength, layered over rising crescendos. For the story, Ma'at has reached her new home, the home she is now destined to rule. The last daughter of Atlantis, married to the King of Egypt; yet the Destroyer, Isfet, the Serpent, chases her mirror to these new lands. Can they stand together? The keyboards and the sound in this is a cross between Egyptian-sounding guitar and the soundtracks of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Stargate. 10.5/10*, fucking brilliant song.
9. The Death of Balance / Lacrymosa - Mostly an instrumental about the rising of the beast from the ruins of Atlantis and its approach to the shores of Egypt. Once the beast reaches the shores of Egypt, Ma'at stands before it. A vision of power and beauty. A chorus laments the day; the Latin lyrics roughly translate as "A sorrowful day rises from the ashes - be judged." The battle is violent. And then it is over. Balance is dead. 9/10.
10. Absence of Light - The opening of this song is glorious chaos, as it should be. Isfet has triumphed over Ma'at and crushed her. The law of One has faded and died. Night has come. The chorus is a monster, and it makes me rock out hard. But is hope gone? Super crunchy riff on this one, aggressive keyboards. But Ma'at's body wasn't all that met. Perhaps it refers to an actual splitting of her; I choose to believe that Ma'at and the Prince of Egypt had children. Five of them. V. Isfet herself is collapsing; arises from her Seth and Amentet. But to oppose them, named are Montu the Soldier and Sekhmet the Hunter. The others? We'll find out soon. 10/10*.
11. A Fool's Paradise - Egypt has been consumed by fire and violence as the factions of Isfet battle each other. Darkness rules the land. Rapid and aggressive again, a song that is a tribute to the war of the victors. A haunting lament at how humanity has fallen from their pinnacle of technology - Atlantis - and now become nothing more than a rabble, spending generations embroiled in hatred and fear and disease. Is this armageddon? The harpsichord returns; an intentional callback to the instrument's use on Divine Wings. Choruses grow in intensity. Russell is very good, but this song is all Pinnella and Lepond and Rullo driving it on. 9.5/10*.
12. Rediscovery (Segue) - Another short little note, spiraling slowly downward to give us the groundwork for what comes next. Bells ring to let us know something new is about to be birthed. 8/10.
13. Rediscovery, Pt II (The New Mythology) - Intentionally, this song sounds different from those that came before. Indeed, a new mythology is upon us. Great introduction to this, keyboards and drums and bass that drive us progressively into higher crescendos. We revisit the sign of Five, and we are again given explicit names - Zeus, Ra - the kings of their own mythologies. Are these the descendants of Ma'at? From chaos and destruction her gifts have spread. And from those gifts a new Grand Design has arisen, but as the Grand Design rises, as the old knowledge of Atlantis is relearned, the same old demons have returned, the same style of wars are fought. We have a jarring chorus as the darkness, whatever form it now embodies, rules, followed by a quieter moment, a dirge to Ma'at. How she tried to bring peace, but she ended up failing and humans now control their own destiny (we must find our way again...). Russell doesn't quite hit the same peaks on this track as he did earlier, but he doesn't need to carry this band anymore, and everyone else is on point. We revisit the concept again, and get a warning that there will always be darkness threatening to overwhelm the light. One thing is clear, the new Grand Design is us. This song is about today, a reflection of the fictional mythology on the modern era of man. 11/10*, goddamn.
Final score: 95%
* this song was added to my "Greatest Hits" playlist that stays on my phone at all time. A globally recognized mark of excellence.
The best Symphony X album yet, and indeed one of the true titans of prog metal. V: The New Mythology Suite takes the concepts intended for the previous album's title track and blows them out into an entire story, engaging and enthralling, and it reflects it back on modern day. Everyone is on point and the return of Jason Rullo is a triumph for this band. It is probably downhill from here, because how could it not be?
V: The New Mythology Suite is a beautiful piece of progressive metal. It's one of the most striking, incredible albums by any band from the first note to the last.
1. Prelude - Pretty much tells you everything you're going to get from this album: drama, epics, and some epic drama. A perfect intro. na/10
2. Evolution (The Grand Design) - And then this beast rips from start to finish. Russell sounds godly, the melodies are soaring, fucking Rullo is back with a vengeance. The bridge is majestic. I will say that this is probably the moment when Symphony X becomes a more guitar-oriented band, but it works for the moment. Romeo is in the forefront and the keyboards are providing more texture than anything. The ending is just brutal and so intricately composed. 10/10
3. Fallen - A mystical keyboard transitions from one song to the next and this one is also an absolute banger. Heavier and slower than Evolution, but no less awesome. I love the shifting time signatures built around the main riff. The way Russell's verse vocals play with the timing of the riffs is fucking masterful, it's so slinky and catchy. There's a demonic, evil sound to the organ and backing vocals in this song - a stark contrast to the usually angelic/medieval choir vocals in other Symphony X tunes. Although there is a severe lack of standout basslines on this album compared to Thomas Miller's work on the previous albums, it should be noted that new bassist Mike Lepond turns in his first co-writing credit on this jam. 10/10
4. Transcendence (Segue) - The orchestration here is over-the-top, melodramatic, and just gorgeous. It's so lush and grandiose that it could fit in a John Williams score. A wonderful little transition piece. na/10
5. Communion and the Oracle - Everything about this song radiates beauty. The clean guitar, the keyboard, the incredibly tight and catchy bass and drum groove, I just adore it. Romeo's lightly-distorted guitar layer adds a nice counterpoint to the beauty, a small bit of a jagged edge. If there's any song that rivals the beauty of "The Accolade", it's this. The galloping main riff and chorus music that starts at 1:05 might be my favorite moment of Symphony X instrumentals ever. Russell is a damn god on this track, he users lightness, darkness, power, soul, everything in his arsenal without any of it being flashy. Something that is really apparent on this album is the sense of groove and how it affects the vocals. Russell is a guy with a lot of soul, blues, and rock influences and it really sounds like Rullo (or Romeo's composing) has finally realized how to incorporate that into the songs. Rullo has a few lyric credits on this album and it makes sense that they all fall on the tracks with solid grooves and nice drum/vocal interplay (Fallen, this, and Egypt). Another mini-epic masterpiece. The outro literally feels like hope slowly drifting away... 10/10
6. The Bird-Serpent War / Cataclysm - Heaviness returns, the sense of wonder is gone. This might be the most decidedly heavy thing the band has written up to this point. The intro is just vicious. As a song, this one is probably the weakest on the album, but it's still pretty great. It's clearly a set piece that advances the plot both in terms of the story (lyrics) and the instrumental mood. We're going somewhere far away here, somewhere darker. If this were a Broadway musical, I think this would be the depressing end of Act One. 8/10
7. On the Breath of Poseidon (Segue) - A long segue that serves as an instrumental intro to the following track. This sounds like a second prelude, the opening of Act Two. It is at turns majestic and dark, hopeful yet treacherous. I get the distinct feeling of a sea journey gone mostly awry, with the sun breaking through tumultuous storm clouds at the end as we land on new shores... na/10
8. Egypt - We are in a new land. A delicious groove accompanied by 12 string guitars (lutes?) and Eastern-tinged strings paves the way for a tasty, heavy riff. Russell makes a welcome return, blending some great lead vocals with group vocals leading into a positively mammoth chorus. I know the groove of the main riff of this song so well that I could legitimately headbang to it. The bridge switches between insane time signatures, solos, and keyboard sections that it shouldn't work, but it's amazing. Mike Lepond shows up in full-fucking-force with a tapping bass solo that takes place underneath an entire Michael Romeo guitar solo! The post-solo riffing and wicked vocals from Russell gets me every time (and that descending string line from Pinnella is expertly placed!). Egypt slays from beginning to end. 10/10
9. The Death of Balance / Lacrymosa - Egypt ends with a delicate, haunting piano section that leads perfectly into this gem. The keyboard orchestration is just outstanding. It's a pre-cursor to the next album's title track in terms of orchestration and syncopated heavy parts. The first half of this song really serves as a section for everyone to show off and, you know, I'm alright with that. We're descending into the darkest part of the album and it's perfectly chaotic. Another brilliant transition track. 9/10
10. Absence of Light - The second this song rips through the choir vocal finale of the previous track I can tell we're about to enter prime Russell Allen territory and boy am I right! The riffing, tight rhythms, and keyboard layers are just pummeling as Russell lets out all of his soulfulness. His verses are bluesy, powerful as hell, and expertly performed. I love the simple, catchy chorus. Romeo and Pinnella have some lovely and insane unison runs on this track. Russell goes all James Brown at the end and it's a thing of beauty. I probably love this song more than most. 10/10
11. A Fool's Paradise - The ending of Absence of Light feels weird until Rullo starts up the drum fill intro to this tune. We continue to be punched in the face with impeccable riffing and syncopated drum hits. Fool's Paradise sounds the most like the previous three albums in that Russell is singing a little too far out of his best range, but GODDAMN HE SOUNDS AMAZING. His highs are soaring and his lows are evil as hell. The grooves keep hitting and the chorus is just stellar. I find the Latin section to be oddly-timed, but it's brief and honestly makes for a nice, strange little transition. The neoclassical solo section is absurd and glorious. Rullo and Romeo change up the timing of the chorus at 4:30 to make it even better. Another cracker that I probably love more than most. 10/10
12. Rediscovery (Segue) - A mournful keyboard, a sparkly clean guitar...could hope be alive yet? We shall see...na/10
13. Rediscovery, Pt II (The New Mythology) - What else could end this amazing concept album than another Symphony X masterpiece? Nothing. That's what we get here. I could talk about all the parts, but seriously, it's just incredible. 12 minutes of tight, thematically-woven, expertly-performed, uplifting music from everyone involved. Rediscovery deserves the same praise as Edge of Forever, Divine Wings, Looking Glass, and future epics to come. It is surprising, fulfilling, and so much fun. 10/10
Album rating - 9.6/10
Yes, it is that good.
The vocal melodies themselves are the weakest here, but I also feel like the lyrics are so plot-driven that it was probably difficult for Russell to inject any more emotion into his performance. I'm glad that we seem to agree 100% on this entire album (despite a few points and half-points here and there)!
Although the quality does go down, it is incredibly minimal. I think that this is Symphony X at their highest point, but also the beginning of their trio of best albums.
I don't follow along with your discography tour, but I'll just say once again that I've never been a fan of V and it's among my least favourite albums. But it's mostly because the epics don't really click with me this time around (nothing really bad, but also no Divine Wings, no Odyssey or even Babylon or Revelation - probably the best one here would be Communion and even that one leaves something to be desired) and the interludes and concept and whatever really don't work for me and result in a meandering album.
That said, the short songs here are among my all-time Symph X favourites (which is, my all-time favourites overall, because what competition is really there) - Fallen or Fool's Paradise rule supreme. But I don't feel the need to return to stuff like Breath of Poseidon and Egypt with its "five aliiiiiigh" "find the keeeeey" gets somewhat anoying.
I don't know, I just don't hear what you all obviously do. Sorry, there are only three Symph X albums I get bored listening to somewhere in the middle - the debut, Damnation Game and this one. Okay, maybe Iconoclast, sometimes, especially the long version, Light Up the Night or not. Still it's a very good album, because uneven Symph X still trumps most other bands, but I never got the cult of this one.
Absolutely. It's still a really really great song on a stellar album.
Yes, I agree, though I think it starts to dive after that.
Once I'm done with Rainbow I just might do all of Symphony X too. I suppose you could say I'm a "recent albums"-fan; I discovered them through Paradise Lost, which I still regard as one of my all-time favourite albums. Really, it's ridiculously good. I've also listened a fair amount to Iconoclast (which is average but with some real gems) and Nevermore (which is pretty good overall), but aside from that, I'm pretty green. I remember giving both Divine Wings, V and The Odyssey a spin each some time ago, though I can't recall much of what they were like.
I couldn't possibly think of a less "meandering" Symphony X album than this (except maybe Paradise Lost). The first two albums have no unifying ideas in either the songwriting or performance, Divine Wings meanders so hard in the middle that it ruins the overall perfection of the whole, Twilight is literally nothing but meandering from one idea to the other in a forced attempt to release an album quickly, The Odyssey falls victim to the same thing as Divine Wings (albeit with much better results), and Iconoclast is meandering to all hell just in terms of sheer bloat. I guess Underworld is pretty straightforward, too, but sonically it diverges quite a bit more than V.
I can understand not being onboard with the concept - it is easily the weakest part of the album. But the music and performances are just stellar. I highly recommend trying to listen to the whole album a few times all the way through without any regard for the lyrics (a technique I usually loathe). If there is any album that deserves to be liked, even if it means subjecting yourself to musical Stockholm Syndrome, this is it.
Definitely a journey I recommend! Start at the very beginning and I think you'll have a much better appreciation for the whole discography (especially if you get through the sub-par debut). It might take you a few spins to get into the material if you're only familiar with the newer, heavier Symphony X, but it will be quite rewarding.
I forgot to comment on Twilight In Olympus. Real quick before going on to V
Easily the most unique album. For a band that is fairly formulaic, very few songs on here really follow the SX formula. You’ve got Dragon’s Den which borders on neoclassical thrash, Church of the Machine which sounds like a precursor to something off Iconoclast, Lady of the Snow which uses eastern classical modes. Even Through the Looking Glass is very unlike their other epics and has more of a prog rock feel akin to Dream Theater or Rush.
That being said, the cost of experimentation is that it doesn’t always work. The second half of the album kinda loses me and, as LC notes, it’s really missing that final epic or a more appropriate closer. Lady of the Snow feels like it leads up to something. Plus, honestly, the song isnt very good IMO. Same goes for The Relic and Orion. Although all three have good things happening. Orion’s best trait is its chorus, which was recycled and improved on the next album.
My favorite song is Smoke and Mirrors. Awesome shredding and an unpredictable structure. It’s probably the most traditionally SX sounding track but it’s great. Love the tempo switches.
Through the Looking Glass is good but kinda overstays its welcome. I agree with Knick that the chorus is earned, but the buildup to the first chorus is so perfect and well timed that it feels like the song could’ve just ended there. Going into an instrumental section before bringing back the chorus again just makes the song feel kinda bloated to me. Everything else about it is excellent, but that’s what keeps me from giving the song a 10/10.
I think continuing the song works perfectly with the narrative. Idk, Looking Glass has always been a top ten song for me.
What song on V uses the Orion chorus?
V was probably the last album I heard when having a physical copy made a difference. At the time it was the only Symphony X album not on Spotify and finding it on CD was really difficult. One day I just happened to come across it in a used CD store and it was a very exciting moment. I had heard every other album and V had this mystique around it as a concept album. When I got the CD, I was listening to it non-stop for at least half a year. For a while it was my #1 Symphony X album. It has come down a bit since then, but it's a close second behind The Odyssey.
There are a lot of little things I love about this album. The segues are probably among the best interludes I've heard on an album. Songs like On the Breath of Poseidon are gorgeous and I can fully enjoy them out of context. I love the way the theme from Poseidon returns at the end of the final epic, such a majestic finish. I also like the bridge after the instrumental in Fallen leading into the final chorus. It's a great buildup.
This is also where Symphony X really becomes Symphony X. The orchestrations on this album add a lot of depth to the band's sound and you can tell that Romeo has a keen ear for orchestral music. When most rock bands include orchestras, it's more of a textural thing and the orchestrations are rarely interesting on their own. With Symphony X, and on this album especially, the orchestra parts are just as important as everything else. The only downside is that it's not a real orchestra. That a band like Metallica can record with an orchestra but Symphony X can't is one of the true crimes of the world.
The Odyssey (2002)
1. Inferno (Unleash the Fire) - A little more rockish than anything from V. Not quite a return to roots for this band, but Russell's leaning far more heavily on a rougher more rock vocal, and I'm not sure I like it. Romeo's riffs are fairly wankish in this track. The lyrical content seems to be about evil dragons, which makes sense given the name. Nice gallop into the middle section, though. I feel like it recovers somewhat by the end. 7/10.
2. Wicked - I really enjoy the vocal style on this. It has a sense of wickedness about the murmur, and a great chorus. I like that this one seems to hit the next level quite nicely, with building crescendos towards that great chorus. Like the ghost of a witch ensnaring our hero. I like the symbolism of "following a star west" that seems to give the song's protagonist an almost magi-like quality. Solid instrumental, really like Romeo's solo, love the last "she saaaaaaiiaaaaaiaaaaid" at the end too. 8.5/10.*
3. Incantations of the Apprentice - Interesting faux-horn intro, nice build at the beginning. I really enjoy the keys on this track, Pinnella has found a way to make them sound completely unlike anything else they've used before. Lyrics on this one are very straightforward, an apprentice trying to learn magic, and learning the wrong stuff. I think maybe the interplay is a little too familiar to Wicked, and without such a great chorus. Short instrumental section that isn't terribly interesting, but isn't bad either. 7.5/10.
4. Accolade II - Normally, when I see a song's sequel, I get pretty trepidatious towards it; song sequels are what people do to cash out on other successes (Unforgiven III, literally both Something Wicked albums). What we get here is a gorgeous re-imagining of The Accolade, with new layers added on. I listened to them back-to-back for this comparison, and while the music has many of the same calls, it is so much more mature and evolved. Pinnella gives the Accolade theme stellar new tiers. The lyrics follow on with the son of the first hero, and Russell belts out an incredible performance on the track. The chorus is chilling and simple and so earnest. A little shorter than the original Accolade, but I believe that's because the band has learned to tell the same style of tale with the complexities compressed and made more evident. This shows how SX has progressed into a titan of prog. 10/10.*
5. King of Terrors - This song has a level of cruelty to it, a violent edge. Based on the tale of The Pit and the Pendulum, by Edgar Allen Poe, it gives us a new dimension to this band. The aggression and fear in this reminds me of some of the tracks off Horror Show (specifically Jack) and is absolutely going to make it to the playlist I use when I personally need to find that certain aggression. While raspy Russell isn't usually my favourite, he hits something closer to a snarl here in the choruses and it really suits the song's subject matter. Great fucking song, with a killer clean chorus. The instrumental really cleans up. Pinnella murders the keyboard with violence, it sounds like the last spiraling heartbeats an anxious heart pumps as fate comes near, while Rullo's bass just hammers home. Really good shredding from Romeo too, I find the guitar sounds less neat here, more rough, like he plucked Dave Mustaine's rig for a solo. One last thought, in the original tale, the protagonist is saved by the French army. The protagonist here is not given such a reprieve. 9.5/10.*
6. The Turning - Dragons, pits, witches, wizards, and now werewolves. I am being forcibly reminded of Horror Show again. Good chorus, though, the "save my soul, losing control" part is really good. However, I think it is a little too similar in terms of tone to the previous song. It's still a good track, but it's one of the weaker on the album. 7/10.
7. Awakenings - I like the atmospheric opening, it's quite pleasant and it gives the idea of floating in a dream. Pinnella's piano is a perfect accouterments to Russell hitting soulful, meaningful notes on every word on the opening choruses. I love the way that the nightmare sequence is hinted at by slightly off-key piano - that's a brilliant little bit of musical foreshadowing that shows the maturity of the songwriters. This song is nothing more than a progressive Wasted Years - a warning against lamenting the past and celebrating our future. A grand instrumental section, too, but I think this one levels out at 8/10.
8. The Odyssey
Part I - Odysseus's Theme / Overture - We are introduced to the King of Ithaca via instrumental. His march is triumphant and martial - as it should be. Odysseus, let us not remember, is the ally of King Agamemnon, one of the victorious heroes of the Trojan War. This journey into lietmotif is positively Nobuo-esque and would sound just at home on the soundtrack of any JRPG from the early 2000s. The Odyssey's Overture, by comparison, is mourning and a mounting crescendo, perhaps a fitting way to tell the tale of a great wandering hero. One of literature's greatest journeys is ahead of us. The Trojan War has ended. The city has fallen. Paris and Hector, Achilles and Ajax are dead. Odysseus wants nothing more than to return home.
Part II - Journey to Ithaca - The King of Ithaca is in prison. He has been away forever, it seems, almost twenty years. And now he is ready to tell us the story of how he ended up captured by Calypso. The way the King's lament is written are nothing more nor less than the most beautiful lyrics written by Symphony X.
Part III - The Eye - Wicked and cruel keyboards from Pinnella and savage bass from Lepond pull us into a hurricane that savaged the Ithacan fleet and forced Odysseus off course. The Eye doesn't refer to the eye of the hurricane, though - no. It refers to the Isle of the Cyclopes. The one-eyed beasts that trapped and ate Odysseus's loyal sailors and soldiers. They were greedy and wanted to plunder the cave for its wealth, only to be trapped and killed. Eventually the surviving Ithacans escape and are given a magic bag...what is inside? Riches? Or something else? A great rock song here, Russell uses his voice to give the greed and aggression and fear of the Ithacans true life.
Part IV - Circe (The Daughter of the Sun) - A cacophony of music represents the opening of the bag. What was inside? The winds, save the west wind. The King was blown off course to Aeaea and he visited the titular Circe, who entranced him with her magic. The ethereal and enchanting keyboards are perfect here, Pinnella is the true standout of this track to date. The confusion and mystification of Odysseus is caught up gorgeously, though his will overcomes hers...and then she entrances him for a year, eventually gifting him knowledge home
Part V - Sirens - The first challenge was the sirens, the call of which would lure men to their death. Again cruel and haunting, the rolling guitars and bass and drums evident of a violent storm being surpassed. Short, but effective.
Part VI - Scylla and Charybdis - Next, the hero meets Scylla and Charybdis; the latter a whirlpool that can destroy any ship, the other a six-headed monster. He does so, but they ignored the final advice - his surviving sailors, as the music grows into a dark crescendo while all seems clear, consumed the holy cattle. They were slain, and only our hero remains, now bound to Calypso as his lover. Yet...Odysseus is not yet out of tricks. He eventually begins to tell his amazing tale...as his music returns, he is freed by Calypso, granted treasure and wealth, and finally...finally...after twenty years...returns to Ithaca.
Part VII - The Fate of the Suitors / The Champion of Ithaca - We return to a softer tune, for a heartbeat, before we crash into a battle. Why, when Odysseus was away, suitors tried to convince his bride that the Hero of the Trojan War had died. That one of the many misadventures he encountered has claimed his life. Russell catches the indignation of Odysseus as he sneaks into his kingdom as a simple beggar. It's time for one last battle. Triiiiumphant Champion of Ithaca! My god, that's stellar. Yet his fury is relentless; he kills another generation of Ithaca's finest men for their greed, as he killed the previous generation at Troy and on his Odyssey. Finally, Athena helps Odysseus restore balance and reclaim his throne, wife and heir, and bring the final battle of the greatest war of mythology to its end. We return to where we started in Part II:
Seems like forever that my eyes have been denied
Home - I'm finally home
I've been twenty years away from all I ever knew
I have returned to make my dream come true
Enough to make me weep. 11/10*. Triumphant, beautiful, engaging, climactic, and powerful. The best Symphony X song to date.
Final Score: 86%
* this song was added to my "Greatest Hits" playlist that stays on my phone at all time. A globally recognized mark of excellence.
Is it as good as V: The New Mythology Suite? No. It's not, and that's to be expected. V was an entire album of the same quality as the title track from The Odyssey, and if it wasn't for the addition of Accolade II, this would be an album with a single purpose. But The Odyssey itself is magnificent - I almost went to 12 on the track, it's that good. There's no bad tracks on this album, it merely has the problem that everything else pales to the masterpiece that ends our time listening today.
Paradise Lost (2007)
1. Oculus Ex Inferni - Fantastic introduction that ramps up and throws in some of the concepts that this ambitious concept album intend to grant us. It crescendos nicely, and has wonderful interplay. 8/10, this is more than an interlude and deserves a better score than one.
2. Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies) - This was one of the first Symphony X songs I fell in love with. I like the opening riff, even if Rullo isn't as aggressive as on the previous two albums in it, he still has great rhythm moments with Lepond, especially just before the lyrics cut in. This song is the tale of Satan, who was the first character introduced in Milton's work. Russell uses a more aggressive tone when emulating Satan's voice, and then he soars a bit more traditionally in the choruses. I love the way he slides the key a little higher as the chorus goes along. Quite a good solid instrumental for a shorter Symphony X track, as well. Tracks well and keeps the tone going with a blistering keyboard solo from Pinnella. I've come down on this a bit from when I first heard it, but it's still a 10/10, and the best opening track since Divine Wings.
3. Domination - I can't quite figure out what the intro bass sounds like, but I like it a lot and it reminds me of something. This is the kind of song that I think SX would have failed early on in their career, but now the time changes are effortless and smooth. Russell starts with a far more raspy voice in this, and again, he's representing Satan as he does, but I can honestly say it doesn't appeal as much as his more traditional soaring vocals. Unfortunately for a band that does amazing choruses, this song barely has a chorus. I like it, especially the fun fills Romeo throws in when he gets a chance to lead, but is it a great song? No. 7/10.
4. The Serpent's Kiss - Great squealing guitar to open, aggressive riffs. Russell comes in quick, a little more rockish and breathless than before, I like this more than Domination already. Romeo is all over this track, just killing those riffs. Russell sounds great in the building crescendos, and the delightfully sung lines are precious. "Trust in me..." such a lie. The instrumental, again, is all Romeo. A little more shredding than I've come to expect from him, a bit of a more chaotic sound. I enjoy the quieter part to bring Russell back, it's positively demonic. Better than the last one, same style of song in a lot of ways. 8/10.
5. Paradise Lost - Lovely intro, after a song where Pinnella didn't have much to do, it's fun that they bring him in to lead. We get more of Russell's classic vocals here, a nice start. So far this is the closest to a "classic" Symphony X song. The only problem is the chorus never hits that crescendo, leaving us wondering, where can we go from here? Surely further than this track goes. It's definitely the best Russell track yet, though, and that's a meaningful thing. It does have a soulful solo though, and the song is laden with beauty and meaning. It finally picks up a tiny bit more in the instrumental section, but I can't go higher than a 9/10.*
6. Eve of Seduction - See, this is the "Evil Russell" sound I like. I like the way this one rolls, rising and falling, with a little more Pinnella - though I worry that he's been relegated to a bit of a lesser role in this album so far. "What can I do?" sounds great. One thing is becoming clear, this band is trying to change directions, and you get songs like this that are more compact and perhaps less indulgent than they would have been on previous albums. It still doesn't quite get there. 8.5/10.
7. The Walls of Babylon - Interesting intro, into a really nice fun riff. I like the choirs that come in pretty quickly. A little more of a traditional SX buildup here, with some classic keyboards. Nice to hear, for sure. I also like the way that comes down into a more traditional rock riff just before Russell comes in. Unfortunately, I'm not the biggest fan of that vocal piece, until he hits the falsetto. That fucking slays. I think this has a killer instrumental. A little cheesy, and that's fine. When we come back from the instrumental Russell sounds better. I'd say this one goes to 10/10, but it's a bit shakier of a 10/10. If the chorus wasn't so fucking murderous, it'd probably drop a point.*
8. Seven - Shouldn't this be track 7? Or are they not counting the intro? What's in the boxxxxxxx? Anyway. Yes, this song is great. It sounds like something ripped off The Damnation Game and given new life by a mature band. Fast and aggressive, with superb rolling keyboards from Pinnella and strong drumming from Rullo. Strong singing from Russell, especially in the quieter, prettier-sung interludes. He still puts a demonic twist of it. The chorus is killer, especially as the song creeps up towards its climax. Best instrumental section on the album yet. The danger of doing a song like this is that you sound like you're trying to reclaim your youth, but the band manages it. Romeo's solo is a monster here, haunting and vicious. 10/10, best song on the album so far.
9. The Sacrifice - I think I like this style of song a little more than the track Paradise Lost. It feels like a ballad from the beginning. Russell is at his best yet on the album here, soulful, mournful, savage when he needs to be. A really enjoyable and soulful track, one of the more beautiful pieces of music this band has written. 9.5/10.*
10. Revelation (Divus Pennae Ex Tragoedia) - They saved the best for last. With musical pieces reminiscent of those you'd find in the songs Divine Wings of Tragedy, The Odyssey, and all over the V album, this track really is a standout on the album. It might not quite get to the same peaks as the previous standout tracks, but it's a grandiose ending that maybe loses some of the luster I've come to expect from these final album tracks. Russell is good, Pinnella is fantastic, and Lepond really rocks it hard here. 10/10.*
Final Score: 90%
* this song was added to my "Greatest Hits" playlist that stays on my phone at all time. A globally recognized mark of excellence.
I wasn't expecting to enjoy this album as much as I do. After the opening it gets a little morose, and I feel like it's missing that next gear from time to time. However, it's still an incredible album. When I first listened to all the Symphony X albums, this is the one that stood out. It's come to pale to V, and none of its tracks get to the places that songs like The Odyssey, Divine Wings of Tragedy, or Rediscovery Pt II find, but it is a very solid album with a grand back five.
Higher than The Odyssey?! Man, I want to keep up, you’re just moving faster than I. I shall return soon with my opinions!
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