Thursday, August 6, 2015

Symphony X - Underworld

I remember the first time I heard Symphony X. It was their New Mythology Suite and I was blown away. I must have played that album continually for six months. The fusion of progressive metal and power metal was incredible and the musicianship was top notch. However, the albums that followed did not seem to grab me like that album did. And of their previous works, Only Divine Wings of Tragedy seemed to grab me like the Mythology Suite. The musicianship was still there but the songs were not that catchy and did not make me feel the way I did when I first heard this band. With their newest full length, Underworld, they finally brought back that magic that drew me in the first time I heard them.

From the beginning of the first track, an instrumental simply titled "Overture," I was transported back to the first time I heard them. But it being only an intro, I was not getting myself worked up thinking this was the Symphony X I remembered. Then "Nevermore" fills my ears with speed and riffs that just rolled right over me. This song kicks ass and my hopes for this album went through the roof. Vocalist Russell Allen seemed to know how to balance his vocals with some of his signature gruff sounding vocals to some really melodic cleans. As a matter of fact, the chorus of this song is some of his best singing. Clean and melodic it seems he's lost nothing when it comes to his ability to be a world class vocalist. Then comes Michael Romeo's monstrous solo and at that point all was right in the world. If the rest of the album sounded like this then we have a true masterpiece on our hands.

One thing that has always struck me about this band was when they were on they had this uncanny ability to merge melody, progression and aggression without it sounding forced or pretentious. Songs like "Without You" or "Hell and Back" feel almost like ballads in places without being sappy. Instead they come off as epic tracks, especially the latter. What a beast of a song. The intro makes you think ballad but then the verse comes in and you realize this will be much more. The riffing is catchy, the keys are just enough to provide atmosphere, and the chorus is so melodic and catchy. Again, the solo is fucking godly but so much more than just a wank fest. Instead there's feeling and emotion. This song is almost nine and a half minutes but none of it is lost or dragging. Halfway through the aggression picks up a bit and it's at this point that I feel like this song is a musical journey showing all sides of this talented band.

There is no shortage of powerful tracks on this album. "Kiss of Fire" fucking slays with powerful riffing and aggressive speed even throwing blast beats into the song. The keys provide an eerie atmosphere and take the song to a new level. Mr. Allen makes you feel his aggression in his gruff vocals but they are still not overused as been the main complaints of their latest offerings. The solo is as awesome as ever. This is actually becoming one of my favorite songs on the album. In contrast you have "Swansong" which is a real melodic song with nice riffing. The piano is also quite prominent in the song. This is the closest to what would be considered a ballad on the album. There are a lot of emotions on display here and it seems that the title is quite fitting.

I honestly did not know what to expect with this album and I had doubts whether or not I would enjoy this album. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. They seemed to hit all the marks and create an album that not only showed their incredible talent but still contain great, memorable songs. Will this album be stuck in my CD player for the next six months? We'll have to see about that....