Symphony X

What's your favorite Symphony X album?

  • Symphony X

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Damnation Game

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Iconoclast

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Underworld

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    15

MrKnickerbocker

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Exactly. My line-by-line review would read like:

"Heavy riff, Russell growling, bland chorus."

"Heavy riff, Russell growling, awesome chorus."

"Heavy riff, Russell growling, I heard a keyboard!"

"Heavy riff, Russell growling, bland song."
 

LooseCannon

Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
The best song being first hurts it too. But yeah, that's pretty much what I wrote.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Because I just can't be arsed to write more about this album, here's my one sentence reviews...

Iconoclast (2011)



Iconoclast - An awesome onslaught with the most consistently loud Pinnella we'll get on the whole album that might also be the heaviest and proggiest Symphony X has ever sounded, despite a pretty silly chorus and Russell's particularly ragged vocals. 10/10

The End of Innocence - A slightly more classic-sounding tune with a melodic chorus, an incredible bridge, a nice solo, and Russell backing off the tough guy schtick a little. 10/10

Dehumanized
- Russell puts on his growliest tone for this groovy, but unremarkable song with incredibly dumb lyrics featuring one of Michael Romeo's best solos. 8/10

Bastards of the Machine
- Heaviness and even dumber lyrics abound, despite some nice keyboard and guitar unisons, a brief glimpse of Lepond's bass, and a very Dio-influenced vocal performance. 6/10

Heretic
- A much more diverse heavy tune with some cool vocal melodies, less grit, and a nice slab of twisty metal riffs. 9/10

Children of a Faceless God
- The best aspect of this song is the incredibly catchy, anthemic chorus, but the rest is quite solid and bears quite a bit of resemblance to The Serpent's Kiss. 8/10

When All Is Lost
- The first, and only, true melodic tune on this album that consistently strives to capture the magic of previous epic ballads but never quite gets there, although Russell's vocals are great and the bridge is really beautiful. 10/10

Electric Messiah
- Another heavy tune with pretty similar riffs to the rest of the album that has some good playing, a decently catchy chorus, and earns an extra point for Russell finally singing with some soul. 8/10

Prometheus (I Am Alive)
- Everything is starting to blend together, but there's something coldly interesting about this song and it does have another big, anthemic chorus. 8/10

Light Up The Night
- This entire song sounds like shit hitting the fan and it is a contender for worst Symphony X song of all time, including the material on the debut. 1/10

The Lords of Chaos
- An odd song lead by a rare semi-bluesy riff with some interesting verses but another insipid chorus. 4/10

Reign in Madness
- Deceptively melodic at times and predictably heavy at others, this song has a great chorus, a brilliant second half, and is probably the best song on "side two" despite more poor lyrics and feeling like it just could have been so much better. 9/10

Album rating - 7.5/10

 

Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
The album starts off extremely strong with the title track. Excellent epic. Great riffs, great performance from Russell, some nice twists and turns in the structure. Awesome. I also give a lot of credit to bands who can open up with an epic track that still establishes and energy for the album and doesn't drag things down from the onset.

The quality drops off immediately after the title track and doesn't really pick up again for me until Children of a Faceless God. On the single disc version (the best version IMO), the momentum stays until the end with When All Is Lost. The album suffers from having a lull so early on in the sequencing. The 2 disc version doesn't really flow very well and features some really filler-y songs. There's an excellent 5 track EP in here.

BTW my only time seeing Symphony X live was on the Iconoclast tour. It was great. These songs came to life live and really helped my appreciation for the album. I was a little bummed that there weren't as many classics (and also that the Odyssey was being played on the previous leg but not anymore), but I did like the Iconoclast selection.
 

LooseCannon

Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
Underworld (2015)



1. Overture - Does a pretty good job amping you up for the album with the chant and some nice strong playing from all parts. Maybe not as good as previous intros, but still pretty good. 7.5/10.
2. Nevermore - It sounds good, but it still kinda sounds a little too much like stuff from Iconoclast for me. We get growling Russell quite quickly, barely giving us a chance to get used to that riff from Romeo. I can hardly hear Pinnella, which seems to be a damn shame. He seems to be getting lower in the mix as we go. Chorus isn't bad, neither is the bridge, as Russell finds some of his soar. However, Russell sounds a little bored on the verses. I have a suspicion that this album, along with Iconoclast, are when his interest in Symphony X are at a minimum. Sad. You get a little more Pinnella as we go, but as a supporting player. Actually quite like the solo here, it sounds much different from anything Romeo's ever busted out before. The keyboard solo, by comparison, doesn't give me much inspiration. It's a fine song, pretty good, but it is hardly inspired. 7.5/10.
3. Underworld - Solid synth info, with big crashing chords in the back from Lepond and Romeo; Lepond gives us a strong gallop here that alternates with a crushing riff, then rocks into something more rock-based from Romeo. Liking this more than the previous song so far. Russell doesn't sound quite so bored, he's still using his rougher voice, at least at the beginning. Every time I hear this version of Russell I am forcibly reminded of Bruce's vocals on Fear of the Dark. Great fills from Rullo in the gaps between lyrics, though, he's really driving this one on. Solid rock song so far. The second chorus (post-bridge) with the soar really adds to it, especially the insane keyboard Pinnella tosses at us here. Yeah, this part takes it up a half point or so. I want to remind you that Symphony X used to make whole albums like the second half of this song. Blistering Romeo solo here, aggressive and hot. Pinnella matches in enthusiasm, but not length as the two duel back and forth. Back to that killer chorus for the end, though the fadeout is a little meh. 8.5/10.*
4. Without You - Okay, acoustic guitar. Let's see...looks like someone wants to make a ballad. Russell sounds great on it, mind you. Properly soulful and mournful. Beautiful lyrics, too, haunting in a lot of ways. Symphony X doesn't do a lot of stuff like this, and it might be the best example they've come up of this style of track. Rullo drives things on here quite nicely, managing to give the drums a flair above a traditional rock ballad, and I really enjoy the background groove when Russell sings "I've come undone". I wonder if this needed a guitar solo, but we're getting one, and maybe it's a little too aggressive? The post-solo keyboard suits the mood of the song a little more appropriately, I think. I like the change of key for Russell at the end. This one is really good. I want to go to 10, but I feel like it isn't quite balanced as it should be. 9/10.*
5. Kiss of Fire - Back to heavy metal! A little choir accenting strong beats delivered by the rhythm section, really aggressive fills from Rullo - he and Lepond are rocking this album so far. Russell comes in with a lower register, not quite as growly as before, but I still think he should be soaring over this material. Chorus is positively evil, and I think that's good, but it's not the strongest I've heard. Still a solid little rock track so far - I think the intro made it sound like it'd be more special than it is, unfortunately. Once the lyrics come in this track becomes a little rock-by-the-numbers. It's not samey, like so many tracks on the last album, but there's a lot of similarities to what we've heard before. Some awkward timeshifts in the middle part, as if the band's forgotten how to make them work. Again, once the instrumental comes in, this song gets a little more special. There's some solid evil on display here, and I really like it. But it loses that specialness when Russell is singing. 8/10.
6. Charon - This one starts off sounding a tiny bit samey, we've heard this rolling rhythm before, but Romeo adds a few beats to make it special. However, Russell comes in with his full proper voice and immediately sets a new tone for the track. Great lyrics here, a song that gets a bit heavier as it goes into the bridge, then switches seamlessly to melodic for the soaring chorus. Sail away on the wings of Charon! Take me to the distant shore! Yeah, that's proper. This is proof that the sound of Iconoclast and Underworld to date did not need those cruel growls. Really good and wicked solo from Romeo here, alternating pitch and tone to give the sense of crossing the turbulent River Styx, cascading down the rapids to the beyond. I just wish this one had been blown out into a proper epic. 6 minutes is too short, but still it's the album's first 10/10.*
7. To Hell and Back - Really cool intro on this one, synth and guitar joining in a rather heroic sound. This moves into a solid groove, into some clean bluesy words from Russell. Yeah, I'm digging this so far - I think this style of vocal really suits Russell, he can accent some evil when he wants to, but most of the delivery is on point. The bridge has some great drumming, some solid aggression. I'm the hangman's noose! is a solid lyric and Russell nails the fuck out of it. The chorus I find a little offputting, almost a little syrupy, but still a really enjoyable beat. Great and long solo from Romeo, really nailing some of the emotion this song is trying to drive, followed by a timechange and mournful Russell sings his best mournful song as Pinnella spirals on the keys - and then the instrumental comes in strong, aggressive and harder. You get the sense of those feelings intensifying. When Russell comes back he's tossed the bluesy groove and put on the growl, and it takes me a little out of the track, but it's not that bad, I get what they're trying to do with this, and it only lasts for a couple verses. This one feels like two songs stuck together, but that's OK because this band makes that shit work all the time. This is a reminder that somewhere Symphony X has the capacity to put together an epic, a song like The Odyssey or Divine Wings of Tragedy or Through the Looking Glass. Makes it more frustrating that they don't do that anymore. The final instrumental has a murderous Pinnella solo, I really dig this one. The chorus seems a little more epic at the end. Even with some flaws, this one is a very strong 9.5/10.*
8. In My Darkest Hour - This one sounds like a leftover from Iconoclast out of the gate, and the lyrics and singing don't break that. The chorus is pretty good though, and hits some notes I'd like to hear. Solo is fine but almost seems out of place. Still, it's a short rocker and it's not very special. I don't have anything to say about it, and I don't really care about it, like so many from the previous album, this one is going to get forgotten as soon as I finish listening to it. 6.5/10.
9. Run With the Devil - Not a Van Halen cover. Interesting and aggressive start, really strong playing from Romeo. Russell has a real rock groove on this one, and he wrote the lyrics (his only contribution to the album, sadly). Pinnella comes in during the bridge, but the chorus is a little lackluster. I mean...this sounds like they wanted to do a basic rock song, and that's kinda what it is. I mean it's kinda...boring, isn't it? Russell sounds good and Pinnella sounds good when the mix allows him to be heard, but otherwise it's generic rock song. That's really disappointing from a band that should be far, far more interesting. The instrumental section tries, but it's very juxtaposed to the boring chorus and verses, and nobody sounds terribly interesting. This one is nice, it's inoffensive, and it's kinda the definition of a 6/10.
10. Swan Song - An intro that takes me all the way back to the Accolade, though it doesn't get any time to develop before we jump into the lyrics. I feel like this band is in a rush to get their songs done, and that's really sad. Still, Russell sounds good, and the song itself is a throwback to the stuff that made Symphony X great. It doesn't quite soar as high as some of the better songs in the SX discography, but instrumentally it feels like a homage. It might almost get to self parody. Russell's got real emotion here though, and I love that they let Pinnella play away on the piano without smothering him in bass or guitar. Still, a forlorn hopeless love track doesn't fit with this band's repetoire, and I worry that Iconoclast's limited commercial success convinced the band to throw some more radio-friendly crap in. Not that this song is crap, but it definitely feels influenced by that stuff. I still really like it, enough to give it an 8/10.
11. Legend - Aggressive keyboard to start, and I like it, really interesting, and I like how the guitar seems to compliment but not replace the keys. We get a really rocky riff from Romeo as Russell comes in, soaring hard until the bridge, but I like the way he sounds. The chorus doesn't soar either, but it's really earnest and I like it a hell of a lot. This one is proper good, my only complaint is it feels a little rushed, like we should have a bit more breathing room between the end of the chorus and the next verse. This one sounds almost space-like, and I really enjoy it. I love the ahh-ahhh-aaahhhh-aaaaahhhhaaaaaaaa the legend never dies! parts too. Ooh, a little bass solo from Lepond, fun! Then we have a great keyboard bit and a monster solo from Romeo, followed by the chorus amped up a notch. There's the extra kick I was looking for to push this one up. The outro is grand too, quiet and mirroring the intensity of the song, before hitting you one last time with that beautiful progressive sound. This song gives the album a second clean 10/10.*

Final Score: 82.3%
* this song was added to my "Greatest Hits" playlist that stays on my phone at all time. A globally recognized mark of excellence.

This band is a band in flux at this point. You can tell that they are not quite sure who or what they want to be anymore. There's forces encouraging them to make more Iconoclast (please, no), a pull back to the old sound, and pushes in traditional rock direction. There's a lot of comparisons between this period in Symphony X and the early 1990s in Iron Maiden - a disinterested singer looking at his own projects, an attempt to strip down the song that resulted in a commercially successful album, and pressure from mainstream rock to change or evolve to become something more like what other people expect. Iron Maiden reacted by getting a new singer and putting out an underrated gem of an album that combined some old sound with an attempt to stand out from the pack of samey albums.

I don't think that's what SX will do - it looks like Russell isn't going anywhere. But if all they're interested in making is some standard metal, then the band loses what makes them special. There is more making this band special in any random 10 seconds of the song Divine Wings of Tragedy than there is in the entire Iconoclast album. There's more making this band special in the chorus of Charon than there is on over half the songs of Underworld. We'll know based on what songs they pick for their upcoming tour - if they are just playing recent, boring stuff, then we're in a lot of trouble for what comes next. But I believe they've gotten a lot of the experimentation out - let's hope we get something incredible that takes us back to what made this band something unique.
 

Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
I like Underworld. The keyboards have more presence and the band feels like they are bordering prog again. Not all the songs click with me though and there’s this weird tendency toward middle of the road hard rock on a few tracks. Overall though it’s a step up from Iconoclast and arguably on par with Paradise Lost in terms of creativity (although PL succeeds more as a complete work).

As for the future of Symphony X, the early 90s Maiden comparison is interesting. I don’t know if I’d call Russell disinterested, certainly not on the level of Bruce in 1992. A big part of the problem is that their hit-and-run style of activity where they release an album, tour, and then disappear for five years. What ends up happening is that 3 years of musical evolution is stretched over the course of 10 or more. I think this era of SX would’ve been better digested if the last three albums were released close together and the band continued to evolve. I’m guessing the band has one more album in them at this point.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
I don't know if Russell is less interested at all. I actually think he has become more engaged with the band and taken a more direct role in the overall musical sound and lyric delivery, which is sadly to Symphony X's detriment. Russell was always the guy pushing for more rock, more simplistic stuff, more edge and heaviness, and I think he eventually rubbed off on Romeo too much.

Sadly, SX was at their best when the whole band worked on the material and Russell was just told to sing over something or write vocals over something. Romeo's most recent solo album proves that he's still capable and interested in pushing musical boundaries and writing epic, proggy material (even if it's still heavier than ever before).
 

Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
Man, I totally forgot about Romeo's solo album. I'll have to check that out. Are you going to cover it here @LooseCannon ?
 

LooseCannon

Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
I know LC's a talented guy, but producing a cover version of Michael Romeo's entire solo album sounds like a tough ask.
I'm capable, but I can't promise the quality will be good.

Yeah I might do some SX peripheries. I need to force myself through more DT first though.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Um, guys, could we maybe stop talking about Dream Theater in a Symphony X thread? Here's my list of reasons with ratings:

1. A Symphony X thread should be about that band specifically. 10/10
2. Talking about other bands that directly relate to the band or members or posters on this board is distracting. 7/10
3. Dream Theater is less heavy than Symphony X. 11/10
 
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