Symphony X - The Divine Wings of Tragedy
InsideOut Music
Progressive Power Metal
9 songs (65:23)
Release year: 1997
Symphony X, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Boris
Archive review

One of the first bands I discovered on my own when taking an interest in metal was Symphony X, and in the last 10 years, they’ve gained popularity and become one of the leading names in Progressive Metal. So recognizable in fact, that most people put their name right up there with Dream Theater when passing judgment on newer prog-metal bands. I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Divine Wings of Tragedy, the album I first heard all those years ago, and the album widely considered their staple, has not yet been reviewed and was mine for the taking.

Although this is technically the band’s third album, I choose to ignore their self-titled debut, and instead see this as a sophomore effort, after the wonderful Damnation Game. Divine Wings kicks into gear with the muddy guitar riff that opens Of Sins and Shadows. The song has less of a neoclassical feel than previous compositions, focusing instead on a straightforward guitar riff accented by a cool keyboard line, and an uber-catchy vocal melody provided by one of the best vocalists in the business, Russell Allen. Of course, there are solos galore mid-song that show off Michael Romeo’s amazing skill (and Michael Pinella’s also, let’s not forget about the keyboards).

Next up we have Sea of Lies and Out of the Ashes, two more impeccably written songs that combine proggy riffing, neoclassical soloing and Russell’s soaring voice (yes, Russell Allen and I ARE on a first name basis now). Anyone who’s ever heard of or seen Symphony X live will know at least Sea of Lies as it is their Run to the Hills, if you will. Both songs are also under five minutes long and thus don’t drag, a trait that future Symphony X songs unfortunately don’t share.

Following the opening trio of songs, we get to the first lengthy one on the album. The Accolade has also become a fan favorite—keeping in with Iron Maiden analogies, this is their Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It starts off with dreamy acoustic arpeggios on guitar that are later built upon by the rest of the band. It is at first reminiscent of the song The Edge of Forever from the previous album, but once it kicks in, it takes on a personality of its own. The song is almost 10 minutes long, but doesn’t feel like it because it constantly changes and plays around with its musical and lyrical motifs, much like a classical symphony would.

After this, the album takes a slight dip in quality. Pharaoh and The Eyes of Medusa are both good songs, but they are not as memorable as the first four, and their placement back-to-back right in the middle of the album kind of defines their place as filler. Still, Pharaoh features a pretty catchy vocal melody for its verses, and its chorus has him exercising his best Dio impression. The downfall of these songs is really that they’re both about a minute too long.

The Witching Hour picks things back up with a really fun neoclassical intro by Romeo and so many arpeggios your mind will explode. The song is reminiscent a bit of Dressed to Kill off the previous effort, but it is better played and catchier. I’m going to skip the gargantuan title track for now and talk about the album closer Candlelight Fantasia. Russell’s vocal performance on the song is nothing short of spectacular—it makes me wish he took better care of his voice so that he could still sound like this. The song overall reminds me of a Kansas song if Kansas were a power-metal band. As a matter of fact, Symphony X overall remind me of a power-metally Kansas. A great, dreamy closer that never gets too boring and has a fantastic climax, and doesn’t fail to impress despite its placement after the titular epic track.

Now we can talk about the monster that is The Divine Wings of Tragedy. The opening minute, which is essentially a Gregorian chant, is an immediate indication of the epic-ness that is about to hit the speakers. Following we have a syncopated guitar riff that all future Symphony X songs will be variants of. It is not as heavily orchestrated as The Odyssey and thus still sounds like a metal song rather than a film score. The song features some great riffing in particular, and admirable performances from the rest of the band. Check halfway through at the 10 minute mark for some more great Dio-like singing from Russell. This goes more or less for the Odyssey as well, but the reason this epic is so successful is because any time a riff or motif risks becoming stale, something new is added to the mix to spice it up. That coupled with the song constantly switching gears and telling a compelling story (it is biblical, read the lyrics for yourselves) allows for a smooth listen—one that you’ll look up from and be surprised that 20 minutes have just elapsed.

At any given Symphony X concert, you will find a huge percentage of the setlist be devoted to the songs from this record. It is, for fans of the band, a classic, and although I think it is a little too power-metally and not progressive enough to be considered a Prog-Metal classic, it still deserves to be credited highly as it is the defining moment of one of the genre’s best bands.

Killing Songs :
Divine Wings of Tragedy, Sea of Lies, Out of the Ashes, Candlelight Fantasia, The Accolade, Of Sins and Shadows
Boris quoted 95 / 100
Aleksie quoted 96 / 100
Other albums by Symphony X that we have reviewed:
Symphony X - Underworld reviewed by Joel and quoted 92 / 100
Symphony X - Iconoclast reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 88 / 100
Symphony X - Twilight in Olympus reviewed by Boris and quoted 78 / 100
Symphony X - The Damnation Game reviewed by Boris and quoted 84 / 100
Symphony X - Symphony X reviewed by Boris and quoted 68 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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