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
    20

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
Late birthday present came in yesterday from my partner, who sent me a cool headband with Bluetooth speakers in them. They sound shockingly great and I'm gonna use the hell out of them. With that note out of the way, let's dive into "Out of the Ashes"!

Y'know, I actually underrate this song a lot. Up to now I've mostly just thought of it as a typical, catchy Symphony X rocker... but that's actually what makes is so great. I will say that the downside is that the intro sounds like plain, typical, sparkly power metal, which just simply isn't my type of thing (generally). Romeo's guitar and Pinnella's keys are usually a match made in heaven, but here it actually seems like they tried to write that sort of heavenly marriage ceremony and it doesn't really work all that well for me. But other than that, the rest of this song is pure, 100% killer, and this is a very minor issue overall for me.

I like how the lyrics work in this song. Regardless of their intention, I can really quite clearly see a prisoner locked up in a castle, trying to find a way to escape. Ivanhoe is probably the closest comparison I can give, the entirety of the stay at Torquilstone specifically. Love the zips the guitar does behind the verses. Pre-chorus is cool too, love how Russell holds the "on". And come on, who doesn't groove to this chorus? It's not on the level of "A Winter's Dream" for me, but it is one of the band's definitive choruses, no doubt about it. Catchy as hell.

And yeah. Instrumental section is fun. This song as a whole is just really, really fun to listen to. The only thing that holds it back from being another perfect Symphony X rocker like the previous two is that intro, (but it's not even bad), the rest is cool as hell. Fast and the Furious: Castle Edition (FUN AS FUCK).
 

Jer

Yes, Yes, Another Beer!
“Out Of The Ashes”:

A pumping beat with harpsichord synth accompaniment breaks into a neoclassical guitar lead that goes on a long melodic journey before gaining some nice abrupt backing chords to play off of.

Some more neoclassical convolutions and then we launch into a pretty good driving verse. This segues into a surprisingly smooth pre-chorus with some odd rhythms and nice backing “oohs”. A quick choral crescendo breaks into a merely OK and very Yngwie-esque chorus.

Thankfully, we are soon rescued by a key change and a sweet but all too brief guitar solo which rolls back into the verse. Hmm, there’s a weird backing vocal interruption in the middle of the verse. More pre-chorus and chorus, and then we cut into a nice peppy guitar solo.

A nice bass fill interrupts, the guitar retorts, and then we flow into an extended synth solo. This eventually finds its way back to the tepid chorus, which goes through some variations before ending on a great vocal high note.

The instrumental sections are all great here, but the overall songwriting is a bit weak; and the vocal sections aren’t as successful as they could be, especially for the uninspiring chorus. On balance I think this one just barely holds onto a 7/10, mostly on the strength of its instrumental parts.
 

Detective Beauregard

Independent as a hog on ice
Out of the Ashes is a near-perfect slice of Symphony X neoclassicalism fused with a touch of power metal. The opening trio of songs from this album is a punch of massive quality, and probably the strongest in the band's discography.
  • The intro is marvelous. It starts in Bbm but modulates twice more as it shapeshifts its way through Bach-ish passages. Yes, the harpsichord has a cheesy Casio quality - but it's still a fun intro. Pinnella and Romeo really blend well.
  • The verse drops to Gm, and while it's nice and upbeat, I don't love the transition here. However, I do like how Russell sounds hurried in the middle and end of the verse, as if something's chasing him. The music reinforces this.
  • The pre-chorus is very catchy, both musically and vocally. It's bouncy, and the odd meter (7/4) gives it a sense of urgency. This is Symphony X using their beloved tritones, but also fusing some blues in there, too.
  • The chorus returns to the verse key (Gm). It's a pretty massive-sounding chorus, although I don't think it reaches the peaks of the previous two songs' refrains. More on this later.
    • A brief solo in the intro key (Bbm) is inserted here, most likely so Russell could wail "the way!" without jumping right back into the verse.
  • I like the second verse a bit better than the first. The random three measures of syncopated 5/8 with the haunting choir vocal above is chilling. It's a proggy and exciting way to break up what is a pretty standard verse.
  • Romeo leads us out of the second chorus with a flurry of notes, introducing the obligatory instrumental section.
    • The guitar solo (in Em) is standard Romeo fare. The catchiest part of this section to me is actually the punchy riff underneath, syncopated with Rullo's kick drum. Classic Symphony X. The solo is 7/10.
      • Miller throws in a cool legato bass fill at the end of the solo, which blends nicely with Romeo's following line.
    • I'm a bigger fan of the keyboard solo here. I like the key better (Am), as it sounds more "dangerous." There's something about Pinnella's solo here that is more bouncy and exciting than the frantic noodling of Romeo. 8/10.
    • The full-band neoclassical fill that takes us back to the chorus is one of my favorite moments of the album. It's such a cool little 14-beat run.
  • The final chorus features Russ pulling away from the backing melodies and into more bluesy territory. I never would have thought that classical and blues would blend, but Allen finds a way. The overall chorus, while catchy, has a bit too much power metal flair to it for my tastes. It doesn't quite match the power of Of Sins and Shadows' refrain or the soaring evil of Sea of Lies' chorus.
    • The song ends with a truncated fill reminiscent of the one at the end of the instrumental section. Great ending.
This is a fun little song, although I don't think it ever reaches the highs of the previous two. I greatly appreciate the neoclassical influence, though, as it is a style that the band will utilize to its fullest a few albums later but sadly nearly abandon as time goes on. This is a simple song compared to most of the rest of the album, but that doesn't mean it isn't powerful. It's a perfect track to lead into an epic knightly tale...
 

Jer

Yes, Yes, Another Beer!
Or to be more brief, when it sounds like someone is trying too hard to come off a certain way, rather than just authentically coming off that way. The musical equivalent of bad acting, e.g. James LaBrie trying to sound “tough” on anything.
It occurred to me that this is probably at the core of my distaste for extreme vocals. They’re just so forced and fake, and “listen to meeeeee, I sound so extreme!!!!” Plus they sound like ass and often ruin otherwise great music, so it’s a double whammy. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there...
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
The Accolade
Music: Romeo, Pinnella, Miller
Lyrics: Allen

Into the morning sun
Down his chosen road he rides to save the world
Cross of crimson, robe of white
Sworn to the quest for the rest of his life

Play shields and wooden swords
Slaying dragons as a knight of Arthur's Court
Trained to kill, to sing a song
Youthful hope to right the wrong

Sons of Antioch
An angel's voice cries out to him
Free the holy lands,
Bring peace to it again

CHORUS
Across the sees through sands of time
Knight of the Templar
A charging steed through lands unkind
A legend forever

A heart of gold pumps within his metal skin
A noble line he carries on

[Keyboard and Guitar Solos for Legends]

Braving the bloody din
Silver spurs are justly earned by strength within
Squire to knight like prince to king
Chalice of life completes the ring

Into the morning sun
Down his chosen road he rides to save the world

CHORUS x2

[Keyboards for Champions]

To see the light he spent his life to understand
The sword he once held tight
Falls forever from his hands

CHORUS x2
  • The single best word to describe this song is: magical. From the opening notes to the end, it rides a wave of ethereal power and beauty that not even many other Symphony X songs can capture.
  • Clean guitar, a perfect percussion fill, and then we're into full swing with Michael Pinnella finally showing up to guide us with a pan flute (?) keyboard patch. This riff and jam section is incredibly medieval. Then things get even more melodic as we enter a mystical waltz, only to run headfirst into a questioning, murky part of the enchanted forest where Michael Romeo's guitar solos, bass and drums continue to jam, and then finally...THE RIFFS BEGIN.
  • The true "metal" part of the song doesn't kick in til 2 minutes and Sir Russell Allen, Sacred Knight of Vocal Prowess arrives to tell his tale of crusading, growing up, slaying foes, and being fucking rad.
  • It's a beautiful verse, sung perfectly and (mostly) in a softer tone. The instrumental chord shifting on "wrong" is some absolutely stunning composition. Cue medieval piano breakdown! Cue actual heavy ass breakdown!
  • A masterful dynamic change occurs. Things get more violent, with Rullo leading the charge on his snare drum and double bass. Russell slays this whole part.
  • The chorus is suitably epic and melodic. It's not their best chorus ever, but it's lovely. The acoustic guitar layer in the background is nice.
  • Romeo's slinky riff (and Miller's killer bass following it) is another change of pace that allows Russell to enter a different register. Remember this phrase "A heart of gold pumps within his metal skin / A noble line he carries on..." for it shall return.
  • Solos! Pinnella and Romeo trade leads in an almost entirely tasteful duel! It's very melodic and ends in a stellar reprise of one of the intro riffs, but now juxtaposed with Rullo's snare-driven heavy syncopation. I love it.
  • We are treated to another nice verse in which our Templar hero enters battle, kills some folks, and ascends in position. The musical transition into the second chorus is much better than the wanky first one. Russell's vocals are beautiful (and I love the echo effect). Also Russell sounds even better in the second and third choruses.
  • Just as things have gotten suitably epic, we completely shut the fuck down and Russell holds a baptism ceremony for everyone who has not yet been ushered into the light and the grace of the Good Word Allen. Just some beautiful singing and notation here with a super simple organ part behind it.
  • I'm suddenly realizing Russell Allen uses falsetto more than I thought.
  • The first 7 minutes and 30 seconds of this song are wonderful, but it's these last 2 minutes and 25 seconds that transcend high quality material. I don't even know how to talk about how much I love it so I'm just gonna list off the polymetric layers as I hear them:
    • church bells
    • pan flute thing
    • violin
    • piano
    • clean, chorus-driven 12 string guitar
    • bass and drum jam to end all bass and drum jams
  • All of these are playing at the same time and it never sounds too cluttered. It is a perfect composition and it makes me think of snow. Epic snow. Grandiose, powerful, scary, beautiful snow.
  • NOW IT'S HEAVY AND OUR KNIGHT IS BACK AND HE'S FUCKING DEAD CAUSE HE FOUGHT FOR RELIGION AND DUH THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS
  • Russell brings it home with a final wail and we're back where we started with the guitar. The legend begins anew...
  • This song is flawless.
Here's one of the only videos of them playing this whole song. Russell says it was "one of the first songs they collaborated on as a band".


Starts around 52 mins, if the link doesn't send you there. It's definitely...missing some parts.
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
Oh god. "The Accolade". Jesus Christ almighty, let's go.

So first things first. Everything about this song is slightly off-kilter in the best and proggiest of ways. Where another band would shift, or circle around, Symphony X let things linger, or cut them short, because of how they use time signatures here. It's so weird, but it constantly keeps you on your toes as you listen to it and it's just a really cool element to this song.

Secondly, this has got to be one of Rullo's best performances ever. He's a huge part of what I said above, and he still manages to throw in a ton of little fills throughout this masterpiece and it just sounds so awesome. From the moment the drums kick in to the moment they exit, he is in full control. Pinnella is also brilliant on this song, adding so many layers to the composition. Fuck, everyone is just brilliant on this song. It is one of the best showcases for how well Symphony X can work together to craft something extraordinary.

The song itself starts with a quiet acoustic guitar piece that sets the stage for everything to come. And then the drums start flowing into the mix and the keys start taking us into some interesting dimensions. The whole feel of this song is medieval tapestries. Gorgeous. And the drums drop out for the keys and guitars to bring in a beautiful, emotional little piece before we change up again and finally make it to the "main" part of the song. Now the guitars are soaring leads in a tropical paradise, before the grit comes back with a rocking riff. SO MANY LAYERS DUDE.

The keys have really woven together a misty atmosphere, like a walk through the morning fog. And now Russell comes in like a GOD. This is his best performance yet, by the way. Truly amazing. The tale we are told is of a loyal knight who has worked his way up from childhood to become an honorable man seeking nothing for himself, but with a hope to change the world for the better. Beautiful. A little piano interlude JUST BECAUSE WE CAN. The pre-chorus is a foreshadowing of emotions we'll feel later on. Love the chugging, marching guitars in the background. The chorus is one of the best in the Symphony X catalogue. Some more of that chugging guitar and we hit the bridge. Cool line, bet we'll never hear it again L.O.L.

When Nightwish released Endless Forms Most Beautiful, the guitar / synth duel in "Shudder Before the Beautiful" was heralded as their first in fifteen years. But Nightwish never did any duel quite so well or iconically as Romeo and Pinnella have done in the early days of Symphony X, and this is one of the best. It's such a typical SX thing but it sounds so good in the context of the song. We return to the verse, and in the second half it changes up to keep things fresh. Two chorus reprises! The second one is lifted up and sounds gorgeous.

Just as things seem to be building up to something bigger that anything in the past five minutes, everything calms down, and it's just Russell atop organs. I love when this types of things happen in songs. Think the orchestral bridge in "Ghost Love Score" or the piano / guitar sections in "Estranged". It adds some beautiful elements to already amazing songs. Russell mostly stays in chest voice, but then he rises up towards the end and enters FALSETTO and goddamn it's so awesome.

Oh my god. If things couldn't get any better, Symphony X go an extra mile. Things almost come to a full stop, but then church bells start ringing, Pinnella starts playing one of his most beautiful synth patches, a violin swoops down, a beautiful piano starts playing, an acoustic guitar enters, and finally the drums and bass jump back in and it's one of the greatest pieces of music ever. It's so fucking brilliant. You can layer up a piece of music all you want, but Symphony X go the extra mile and take you BEHIND THE SCENES OF IT. The listener is invited into the recording room and gets to see how the layers are built up before witnessing the final product. And the way more and more keeps coming on top of what's already there is just glorious. Just utterly glorious. I'm crying. Best part of the song, no question.

It's so hard to top that last section and I think it could have been interesting if the band went somewhere else with it, but I can't fault them at all for returning to the pre-chorus and chorus. And the knight's death scene is truly one of their best accomplishments as lyricists. "The sword he once held high.... falls forever from his hand!" Wow. WOW. And two more choruses act as his gravestone. He's gone, but the legend continues. The way Russell SOARS in the final line is just beautiful. For some reason "My Heart Will Go On" popped in my head (again) while mulling over this song, but it makes sense. One of my favorite parts of that song is the way Dion literally soars when she sings "there's NOOOOOTHING I FEAR!" and Russell does that SAME THING in this final chorus. Just beautiful. One of his most passionate performances ever.

I just want to say that even though I adore Russell's singing in this song, this one is not one of my Russell Takes It to 11 award recipients. Not because he doesn't sing his heart out, but because EVERYONE is giving it 1010%. Singling his performance out would be a disrespect to Romeo, Pinnella, Miller, and Rullo, and I can't do that. The award is really just reserved for when a Russell performances makes the song a hundred times better than it would have been without him. In this one, it's all the players that are knocking it out of the park.

The song finally comes to a close -- FULL CIRCLE -- with an acoustic finale a la the intro. Just glorious. Absolutely amazing.

A little story time: in high school Spanish a couple years back, my teacher had us pick a novel originally written in Spanish to help us understand some of the different cultures associated with the language. I decided to pick Don Quixote just because it was the only one that really seemed interesting to me. I was the only person in her career to pick that book (which tells you a lot about American teens I guess), and I somehow managed to complete it the day before the deadline. And don't get me wrong, I thought it was a really good novel. I even cried when the titular hero met his death. But Symphony X did in ten minutes what Cervantes did in a thousand pages. They crafted a character, weaved together a gorgeous tapestry, and made one of the most emotional tales in music history. And the sequel, while good, can't even come CLOSE to the majesty of this first one.

This is, without a doubt, my second favorite Symphony X song. Beautiful.
 

Jer

Yes, Yes, Another Beer!
“The Accolade”:

A pleasant bed of ringing acoustic tones is greeted by some unfortunately low rent synths. Some nice rhythmic play here, then the guitar part turns brighter before somewhat clumsily segueing into more ethereal synths and some sweet soloing and riffing.

Some more cool rhythmic play, then this settles into a crunchier monotonic groove with a little Zakk Wylde pinch harmonic action. This unexpectedly and pleasantly runs up to a higher key for a strong, memorable verse with great vocal delivery.

Some nice melodic convolutions lead into a quick piano fill before falling into machine gun riffing for the soaring, odd-rhythm pre-chorus, then downshifting into a lower, slower, more stately chorus.

A muted staccato lead carries us into a sweet vocal bridge that breaks into a more driving extended synth and guitar tradeoff solo. A questionable synth interlude with aggressive drumming soon drops us into an abbreviated variant verse and pre-chorus before rolling back into the chorus and giving us some sweet modulation.

This flows into a very pretty extended pipe organ and vocal interlude which gives way to bells, wispy synth tones, and some unfortunately low rent synth strings. Electric piano, clean guitars, and drums soon come in to add some more delicious layers to this musical stew before heavier guitars carry us back to the pre-chorus and chorus, with a brief variant reprise of the intro to close things down.

Well, that was an excellent song, albeit with a few minor flaws — some cheesy synth choices and a couple of pretty awkward transitions. But this was also Allen’s best overall performance to date, and the track was packed with great musical parts and some very nice clean guitar sounds. I can’t quite go all the way here, but I think this is a very robust 9/10. Best track so far in this deep dive.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Pharaoh
Music: Symphony X
Lyrics: Allen

LYRICS
[bass solo]

Ancient land, lost in time
Storms of sand and walls of lime
Surround this mask of death I wear

Awakened by intruder souls
The jackal screams as my stone gods behold
Desecraters of Ra

CHORUS
Pharaoh's curse upon you
Who dares to invade his sacred ground
Gods of the Nile arise to strike you down

Forgotten days of my rule
Cities blazed with gold and jewel
Diamond symbol of riches beyond compare

Now I lay cold in this chamber of stone
Fools forsaken the wrath of my throne
Desecraters of Ra

CHORUS

Mystic gods of the stars
I summon thee from afar
Sun, moon and earth
Align for my rebirth

I feel the blood flow through my veins
The life force shines on me again
Let the ritual begin
You will pay for your sins
I am god, I am king of the land
The hour of judgement is at hand
Winds of revenge sweep through the sand
The mighty pharaoh lives again

[bass solo]
[keyboarding, many keyboardings]
[guitar solo]
[keyboard solo]
[guitar/keyboard unison]

CHORUS x2
  • Well, it finally had to happen: the quality had to wane. And it wanes pretty hard here. The first 4 songs on this album are monumental. Classics all around. Perfect, I could even say. But eventually, Divine Wings reveals its similarity to albums like Powerslave: bookended by genius, all the fluff in the middle.
  • The opening is cool: staccato hits, ominous keyboard hits, and an absolutely wicked bass tapping solo (kudos again to the amazing Thomas Miller). When the main motif steps in on the keyboard, it feels a little undercooked. Very Eastern, but kind of like a piece of pottery that promises it was made in Egypt only for you to later find the "Made in Taiwan" sticker on the bottom.
  • Russell sounds good on the verses, but the melodies are struggling.
  • The bass and drum work is the best part of the verses, especially that little breakdown they do during the second half. Awesome stuff.
  • Personally, I hate this chorus. I think it's lame, I think the melodies are poor, despite Russell really doing his best to bring the might.
  • Second verse begins immediately, nothing new here. I do like Pinnella's accent keyboards in the background of the chorus.
  • The quiet part is cool, it's got nice atmosphere and the instrumental is cool. Probably the most effective part in the song. Nice vocal editing, too.
  • The heavier part that follows is super lame and rushed. It sounds like a demo in terms of the composition. Russell is rushing, the riff is like a thousand other Romeo riffs...I don't know. It doesn't do much.
  • I love Pinnella's keyboards in the solo section, though. Overall, the instrumental bridge is fine. It sounds like SX. I like the unison at the end that mirrors Russell's previous vocal line. But all that said, the song completely loses momentum here. We go from, "the mighty pharaoh lives AGAIN!!!!!" to a repeat of the bass tapping intro, a slow melodic keyboard part, some wanking, another intro repeat, and then a couple choruses. It would've made way more sense to have the heavy vocal bridge after the soloing so it could lead right back to the chorus. Hell, Rullo could've even thrown in some double bass to make that last "pharaoh's curse" more menacing.
  • All in all, this song feels amateurish, especially following the masterclass that is the first half of the album.
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
I actually think "Pharaoh" is pretty good, although it's certainly a step down from the first four songs on here. A lot of its charm is that it's a cheesy story about an Egyptian ruler that feels like a B movie. The opening is great, big, heavy guitar poundings that feel like we're at the city gates under the cover of night (love Miller's bass here!). Then when we kick into a regular rhythm it's like swooping down into the city like a falcon.

The vocal melodies in this song are all over the place, but again, there's something charming in that. Russell gets to belt in the last lines of the verses which is cool. Interesting choice to mess with the tempos in the second half of the verses too. The chorus took some time to build on me, now it's one of my favorite parts of the song. Russell is really moving here. First half, he's slowly descending, second half he dips down suddenly before rising to a peak. Really interesting and memorable.

Love the quiet section, it's quite pretty. The crunching guitars for the heavy section succeeding it are awesome. Everything is worth it for "THE MIGHTY PHAROAH LIVES AGAIIIIIIIN!!!!" But then the song kinda loses me. I like the return to the swooping part of the intro, but everything else feels like it's taking a step back. So as much as I enjoy the first half of the song, the second half could have been more interesting. A step down, but overall still pretty good.
 

Detective Beauregard

Independent as a hog on ice
It's hard to describe The Accolade in words. At almost 10 minutes in length, we go from haunting medieval soundscapes to crunching riffs to rapid-fire syncopation to beautifully melodic vocals to probably the most gorgeous use of polymetrics I've ever heard. Lyrically, there's not much mystery here - the song describes a knight who is a legend in his kingdom, and who eventually falls in battle. It's a bit cheesy for my tastes, but the music is outstanding, so I can get on board.
  • We begin with Romeo's signature acoustic guitar arpeggios, this time in 9/8. Pinnella soon enters with a polymetric violin line that sits perfectly on top, while the rhythm section follows the guitar in 9/8. At no point does this sound confusing or complicated to me, which is one of the reasons Symphony X are such great songwriters.
    • I love the next guitar chord progression, while the violin takes on another line. The song moves up a step here, but there's so much modulation in this song that I'm not going to even bother with most of it. The overall flow is outstanding.
    • We are finally treated to one of the song's main motifs, a keyboard line in 7/8. Romeo leads the band in with some crazy yet melodic leads, and when the beat finally picks up the drums shift the section to 7/4. I love how Symphony X does things like this, and the syncopation between the kick drum and guitar/bass is top notch. Then they're right back in 7/8 for that off-time feel.
    • The pre-verse begins with a generic guitar riff in Dm, but the most interesting thing here to me is the descending keyboard line. Pinnella absolutely slays on this song.
  • Russell sounds amazing in the verse, which jumps all the way up (or down for the keys) to C#m. It's also switched from 4/4 to 6/4. The guitar/bass is straightforward and not to my liking, but once again the keyboard really adds the atmosphere here. The line is a more haunting variation of the one played above the previous riff.
    • The instrumental bit leading into the pre-chorus is insanely powerful, and I love the addition of a new meter (5/4). The piano break is a great dynamic twist.
  • The pre-chorus returns to 7/4 with a fun syncopated line that mimics horses galloping across a field. You can really feel this when Rullo doubles the line with his kick drum.
  • The chorus is insanely simple, but man is it catchy. It's proof that you don't need 15 layers in a beautiful chorus to have it work. Simple progression, simple but wailing vocal... it just works.
  • The next section is back in 7/8, but this time we get a rather complex guitar riff that is eventually doubled by the bass. This is a difficult thing for a bass to play, and it sounds amazing - kudos to Mr. Miller. I actually don't love the vocal line that eventually enters here; I think it sounds much better in the song's sequel. Parts of it sound forced over the odd meter. Oh well.
  • The solo section also seems a bit unnecessary at this point in the song, but this is Symphony X! Perhaps the solos are trying to evoke the feeling of battle, or of exploring the medieval countryside.
    • Pinnella leads things off, and I'm not sure the patch works here. I think a piano or violin solo would have made more sense, but this is still solid. It's a bit too noodly. 7/10.
    • Romeo's first solo is better - particularly the opening lines. 8/10.
    • The second keyboard solo is more of the same, but I like the wailing high notes at the end. 7/10.
    • The last guitar solo is bluesy and is a bit out of place, but I think it sounds better than anything else here. 9/10.
  • Pinnella briefly plays a variation of the intro theme over the syncopated 7/4 chugging. Love it.
  • The second (and different) "pre-chorus" is brief, but I like how the subtle guitar arpeggios here almost sound like raindrops.
  • The second chorus modulates up a full step for even cooler wailing before we're dropped off in church for Russell's sermon.
  • This vocal/organ bridge is truly haunting. Most metal bands wouldn't even dare try this.
  • The polymetric section might be the most emotive complex piece of music I've ever heard. Let's see if I can get this right...
    • Bells start the section off, in 3/4.
    • Synth pad enters in 7/8.
    • Violin enters in 5/4.
    • Piano enters, also in 5/4, accompanying and lining up with the violin.
    • Acoustic guitar enters in 6/4.
    • The rhythm section enters, in 11/4.
  • We get some cool drum fills that lead us back into the pre-chorus, this time featuring running double bass, which intensifies things.
  • The final chorus is cool, but I'm still recovering from the awesomeness that was the polymeters. I actually think the song would have been more powerful if that part was extended and the song ended immediately afterward. I'm not sure if bringing the chorus back was truly necessary.
This song is pretty much perfect throughout, save for the rather unnecessary solo section and final chorus retread. Still, it's difficult not to view this track as the strongest piece of music in the band's discography up to this point. It will be outdone in a few songs, but this is one beautiful piece of music.

I first saw Symphony X in 2003, and I was lucky enough to see them play a medley of this song and its 2002 sequel, Accolade II. Sadly, they launched right into the sequel after this song's second chorus, so the polymeters were skipped. But it was still freaking awesome.
 
Last edited:

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
I first saw Symphony X in 2003, and I was lucky enough to see them play a medley of this song and its 2002 sequel, Accolade II. Sadly, they launched right into the sequel after this song's second chorus, so the polymeters were skipped. But it was still freaking awesome.
This was the mashup right? They come out of the quiet haunting falsetto part into Accolade II. I honestly don't remember it cause I was freaking out so much.


I actually don't love the vocal line that eventually enters here; I think it sounds much better in the song's sequel. Parts of it sound forced over the odd meter. Oh well.
Agreed, it's a much better fit for part II.

9/8
9/8
7/8
7/4
7/8
4/4 to 6/4
(5/4)
7/4
7/8
7/10.
8/10.
7/10.
9/10.
7/4
3/4.
7/8.
5/4.
5/4
6/4.
11/4.
:applause:

I actually think "Pharaoh" is pretty good, although it's certainly a step down from the first four songs on here. A lot of its charm is that it's a cheesy story about an Egyptian ruler that feels like a B movie. The opening is great, big, heavy guitar poundings that feel like we're at the city gates under the cover of night (love Miller's bass here!). Then when we kick into a regular rhythm it's like swooping down into the city like a falcon.
I do not agree, but always applaud your ability to visualize the music.
 

Detective Beauregard

Independent as a hog on ice
This was the mashup right? They come out of the quiet haunting falsetto part into Accolade II. I honestly don't remember it cause I was freaking out so much.
Yup that's it! We were front row for that show in 2003. I mean, there weren't that many people there, but still.

Also :lol: at including my solo rankings as time signatures. I was like "I definitely didn't write 9/10... oh..."
 

Detective Beauregard

Independent as a hog on ice
No doubt about it - Pharaoh is one of the two tracks on this album that I consider "filler," being in the lowest 25% of the band's discography. That doesn't mean that these two songs are bad, but rather that they are surrounded by four amazing songs, two really good ones, and one solid tune.

An interesting note: Aside from a few brief breaks for effect, this song is entirely in 4/4. One section changes to a triplet feel, but the meter can still be written as 4/4. I'm pretty sure this is a first (and probably last) for the band.
  • The intro punches you in the face with a riff in the heaviest key available for the band, Dm. Romeo hammers away at a chord in quarter notes while the rest of the band syncs up with a more interesting rhythm, which becomes the main motif of this song. It sounds like something is chasing you, and it's cool. The snare also gives it a marching feel.
    • Up to Bm now as Rullo adds the kick for a pulse, and we have one of the coolest musical moments of the song - a tapping section by Thomas Miller. He absolutely slays this song, and not just for this part - his rhythm and groove forms the pulse and the backbone of the song.
    • A fill leads us into the song's main theme in F#m, played by Pinnella on "strings." Rullo finally drops a beat here, too. As fun as this theme is in a B-movie horror way, I actually think it's a bit overused in the song.
  • The verse modulates again to Bbm, where the bass really drives it along as Romeo shows massive restraint. Russell sounds solid here, as he adopts a more legato style for the eastern melodies. In the verse's second half the rhythm section switches to a triplet feel, which is unexpected and cool. It's cut short and...
  • ...that chorus drops! This is a bit cheesier than I like my Symphony X (I see images of mummy movies as I listen), but it is catchy! Two major things here: Romeo's riff is massive - just a fun, stomping, mid-tempo chug. The other is the bass, which instead of doubling the riff like 99% of metal does, it lays down a "Megadeth" backing line that just roots on that open D and makes the whole section that much more ominous. I hear Russ singing, and it's catchy, but he's in the background for me as the music takes center stage here.
  • The bridge is a great use of dynamics, scaling things back but once again being steered by the bass. This modulates again to the metal-friendly key of Em. I love Pinnella's tasteful pad here, as it's very mystical. Russell's vocal layers are also quite haunting.
  • The next verses are based on a pretty generic Symphony X riff that modulates from Em up to Abm and finally up again to Bbm. It definitely pushes the song along and changes the dynamic again, but the whole section is nothing special. The ending, when the double bass enters, is probably the coolest part.
  • After a rather unnecessary intro reprise, we get the bass tapping again. It's amazing, but this section feels like a direct copy/paste job of the first 30 seconds of the song. It should have just went straight from the extra verses into the solos.
  • This interlude "solo" is actually Pinnella playing the melody while Romeo noodles around with some subtle, well-mixed scalar runs in the background. I love this section; it's tasteful, atmospheric, and musically vivid. The band will use this style in the future, but usually it's the keyboard in the background running arpeggios while the guitar takes the lead. 10/10.
    • This is the kind of cheesy song where wacky solos like Romeo's actually work. The emotion the band is trying to convey here is fear and chaos, which is done well. Or they just wanted to screw around with eastern tones. Who knows. Either way, great brief solo. 8/10.
    • Pinnella's solo is even better because it sounds like an '80s Nintendo game, which adds to the cheese. Gimme more! 9/10.
    • "More" comes in the form of a unison! More video games! 10/10.
  • We once again waste another half of a minute with a reprise of the song's main motif from the intro. I don't mind the keyboard lead, but something needed to change here. Maybe the rhythm? It just sounds like another lazy copy/paste job.
  • Finally, I love the classic metal ending of the song. No drawn-out outro, no fading - just Romeo probably realizing that the song had worn out its welcome but still failing to cut a minute of it.
Symphony X will later explore more of this eastern sound on their fifth glorious record, with all-around greater results. Again, this song isn't bad by any means - it just fails to hold a candle to most of the rest of the album. The band knows this, too, as it's one of the two songs from this record that (to my knowledge) has never been played live - even back in the "glory days."
 
Last edited:

Jer

Yes, Yes, Another Beer!
“Pharaoh”:

A robotic riff with drum and synth punctuation gains a little more life as it’s joined by a downpour of bass fills. Suddenly the band transforms into Dream Theater as a vaguely eastern synth melody is supported by some sparse, staccato chords before rolling into a pretty strong verse and pre-chorus. Ew, what’s up with that chorus? How unfortunate.

Another round of verse through chorus, then we get a very nice, gentle vocal bridge with some sweet harmonies. This breaks into a more driving guitar interlude followed by a more aggressive vocal bridge that goes a bit over the top before reprising the instrumental intro.

As the music flows back into the Dream Theatery section we get a pretty cool guitar and synth interlude that cuts into a strong guitar and synth solo section that duels before combining forces. More Dream Theater interlude eventually leads back to the questionable chorus and an abrupt ending.

Some parts of this are pretty great, and some parts are merely OK (especially the chorus), but on balance it’s pretty solidly good. 7/10.
 

Spambot

Ancient Mariner
Out of the Ashes

I know this isn't how people usually describe Symphony X songs or the band in general - but what a fun little song! After the first two songs (which have a slight bit more drama) this one takes itself a little less seriously, and I really like the classical synth sound accompanied by guitar. Mr. K is right - the intro just keeps on slapping. Just when you think they're done, another line keeps on swirling.

The verse has this power-ish metal simplicity feel that I'm OK with but the pre-chorus is a bit of hit-and-miss. I got to praise the back vocals on this one. IIRC, I didn't hear that many back vocals on their last two records (Iconoclast and Underworld) while on the first two albums they're kind of... above the song. I wanted to say "spotlight stealer" but in order to be that, you got to be better than the rest of the cast on the stage. In their earlier cases, they're just too different and too much in the front. In Out of the Ashes they nailed it just right: it took the whole melody a step-up while staying out of the spotlight. Also, those short vocal interludes are also a thumb up - short and on point (and I can not stress enough how important it is to keep these vocal bits short in fast-paced songs).

Something about the chorus also has power-metal feel, but I like it much more than the pre-chorus/verses. Also, the last chorus where Allen goes a bit out of tempo is such a nice touch.

Another bit I'd like to point out is @1:41. I usually dislike these stop-n-go guitar riffs, but thrown in the middle of the verse like this is refreshing.
Nothing interesting to write about solos - noodling, more noodling, guitar noodling, synth noodling etc. You get the gist.

All in all, I wouldn't say it's in the same range as the first two songs since the approach to this one is a bit different, but the quality bar is still set high.

The Accolade

How is it possible that a song recorded in 1996 has this specific 80s feel? But not like "Oh, we really like 80s sound, let's go with that." but more like "It's 1986 and this is the best we can sound with this technology." Don't get me wrong, I love this Casio synth sound in the intro. I have a feeling like somebody is going to wake me up and tell me I need to rescue princess Zelda and rushes me off to the kingdom of Hyrule. Actually, it's that good that I wouldn't even mind if the whole song continued in this fashion (after the first two minutes the atmosphere returns to Earth). Verses are so-so, but that small piano bit around the 3-minute mark - I could swear Rudess stormed into the studio and jumped on the piano. Actually, that whole part (including the awesome pre-chorus) has some kind of early Dream Theater feel. The chorus is a bit cheesy for me, I don't know is it because of the melody or the lyrics.

After the first chorus guitar and drums really get into the groove, Allen joins in and then it kind of goes sideways. I don't mind jazzy synth solos, but this song has already had so many mood and tempo changes (Det. B summed it up nicely). All that makes the song sound longer than it really is, and I must admit I liked it when they returned to the second verse. Allen kind of lifts the second chorus a step-up, doesn't he?

Here's an unpopular opinion: this song should've ended at the 6-minute mark. Don't get me wrong, I love the whole part from 6:20-8:30. The sound, the way it builds up, the changes - everything is a thumb up. But except those few bits that resemble the main melody I don't see what this part has to do with the rest of the song. I'm of the opinion this piece would work better for itself, as a prelude or overture or what have you. There actually isn't a bad part in this song actually, but they are so different and there are just so many of them that the whole song feels like an EP instead of a 10-minute song. It doesn't have that "epic" progression of its parts nor does it have any kind of formulaic predictability.

I mean, overall, it's a good song, it really is, but IDK... I kind of wish it was two or three separate songs, so I could listen to them depending on my mood.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Pharaoh

An interesting note: Aside from a few brief breaks for effect, this song is entirely in 4/4. One section changes to a triplet feel, but the meter can still be written as 4/4. I'm pretty sure this is a first (and probably last) for the band.
This is actually really shocking. I wouldn't have guessed that.
...that chorus drops! This is a bit cheesier than I like my Symphony X (I see images of mummy movies as I listen), but it is catchy! I hear Russ singing, and it's catchy, but he's in the background for me as the music takes center stage here.
Wait...so...the chorus is catchy...but the vocals don't matter in it? Nah, dawh. Nah. Get outta here with your "vocals are the least important part of a song" stuff. The vocals are specifically what make this chorus not catchy.
After a rather unnecessary intro reprise, we get the bass tapping again. It's amazing, but this section feels like a direct copy/paste job of the first 30 seconds of the song. It should have just went straight from the extra verses into the solos.

We once again waste another half of a minute with a reprise of the song's main motif from the intro. I don't mind the keyboard lead, but something needed to change here. Maybe the rhythm? It just sounds like another lazy copy/paste job.
This whole song feels cut and paste, and it's all because of that recycled intro.
Ew, what’s up with that chorus? How unfortunate.
I think that's a fair way of putting it. It's just...not right.
Suddenly the band transforms into Dream Theater as a vaguely eastern synth melody is supported by some sparse, staccato chords before rolling into a pretty strong verse and pre-chorus.

As the music flows back into the Dream Theatery section we get a pretty cool guitar and synth interlude that cuts into a strong guitar and synth solo section that duels before combining forces. More Dream Theater interlude eventually leads back to the questionable chorus and an abrupt ending.
Not a criticism, I'm very curious to know what Dream Theater songs this riff/section reminds you of? It doesn't sound like DT much at all to me.
Out of the Ashes

I know this isn't how people usually describe Symphony X songs or the band in general - but what a fun little song! After the first two songs (which have a slight bit more drama) this one takes itself a little less seriously, and I really like the classical synth sound accompanied by guitar. Mr. K is right - the intro just keeps on slapping. Just when you think they're done, another line keeps on swirling.

The verse has this power-ish metal simplicity feel that I'm OK with but the pre-chorus is a bit of hit-and-miss. I got to praise the back vocals on this one. IIRC, I didn't hear that many back vocals on their last two records (Iconoclast and Underworld) while on the first two albums they're kind of... above the song. I wanted to say "spotlight stealer" but in order to be that, you got to be better than the rest of the cast on the stage. In their earlier cases, they're just too different and too much in the front. In Out of the Ashes they nailed it just right: it took the whole melody a step-up while staying out of the spotlight. Also, those short vocal interludes are also a thumb up - short and on point (and I can not stress enough how important it is to keep these vocal bits short in fast-paced songs).
Yes! I love that it's just a "fun little song". It's fantastic and really lifts the album up by adding some nice, easily-digestible-yet-still-impossible-to-play flair.

The backing vocals really got better on this album. I agree with you that those chant/choir parts on the first two albums were almost never mixed correctly. They definitely abandoned this style of backing vocal by the time The Odyssey rolls around.
The Accolade

Here's an unpopular opinion: this song should've ended at the 6-minute mark. Don't get me wrong, I love the whole part from 6:20-8:30. The sound, the way it builds up, the changes - everything is a thumb up. But except those few bits that resemble the main melody I don't see what this part has to do with the rest of the song. I'm of the opinion this piece would work better for itself, as a prelude or overture or what have you.
That last section is what truly makes this song, for me. It's not only one of my favorite pieces of SX music ever, but easily the best part of this song.
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
This whole song feels cut and paste, and it's all because of that recycled intro.
I don't agree with the whole of your post (I think the vocals make the chorus catchy, but only in a really weird Symphony X kind of way), but this I do. And like I said in my previous post, I really like this song. It's just a shame that they felt they had to retrace their steps again twice halfway through. Everything else rocks.
 
Top