Symphony X - Symphony X
InsideOut Music
Progressive Metal
10 songs (53:36)
Release year: 1994
Symphony X, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Boris
Archive review

This is the debut album from New Jersey's Symphony X, a band that is now a veteran in the realm of progressive metal. There are many oddities about this album that set it apart from the rest of the Symphony X catalogue.

For one, this album does not have Russell Allen (easily the best part of the band) on vocals. Rod Tyler sings instead, and although his voice is far from weak, it just doesn't possess the power Russell's does. Second, Symphony X lacks the crystal clear production that this band has become famous for. The record is self-produced so it's excusable, but a lot of the orchestration and guitar solos are hard to hear. In addition, if you listen to the album in headphones, there are really faded vocal tracks in the background that are otherwise impossible to hear. Now, either these were mistakenly left in the mix but turned down low enough so that they don't take away from the songs (really, you can't hear them at all when there are other instruments playing) or no one taught Michael Romeo anything about mixing a cd at this point.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the songwriting on this album is just subpar. The album opens with the uninspired instrumental "Into the Dementia" which sounds like Michael Romeo wanking his guitar over indiscernible piano effects and then proceeds into "The Raging Seasons," the weakest opening number in the bands history. The vocal melodies for the verse sound like Russell Allen could've maybe sung this and made it decent but the chorus sounds like 3 random melodies forced on top of one another. The third song on the album, "Premonition" again begins and ends with faded vocals impossible to hear (and the lyrics aren't in the booklet, I really think these were bad takes accidentally left in). The solo in this song is unfortunately uninspired but at least it's a welcome change to the boring riffs and keyboard tracks that make up the rest of the song.

Next comes "Masquerade" which may be familiar to those who own the version of "The Odyssey" that comes with a rerecorded and rearranged version of the track. Of course, that version completely rapes this one, with Russell actually doing the melodies justice. That said, some of the choir arrangements on the latter version are laughable while this version is rawer. If they had rerecorded the song as it was with Russell singing, it may have been awesome. This is one of the better songs on the album, with relatively catchy melodies and nice interplay between the keyboards and guitars.

"Absinthe and Rue" is another highlight of this album, though that's not saying much. This song is second-longest on the album clocking in at a little over 7 minutes (second to the final track, "A Lesson Before Dying."). This is where Michael Romeo's and Michael Pinella's songwriting begins to show, with some interesting invocations of the harmonic minor scale, and lots of cool keyboards in the background. This song, if redone with Russell, could've easily fit in as one of the weaker tracks on the Damnation Game (or as a decent track on Symphony X's other major screwup "Twilight in Olympus").

The rest of the album doesn't offer much. "Shades of Grey" is a boring, average track, although a fun tidbit is that this was the first song Michael Romeo and Michael Pinnella wrote together. It also has a nice intro from Pinella. The next track, "Taunting the Notorious" is a really boring speed-metal track with barely any progressive elements whatsoever. It sounds more like an exercise that Michael Romeo uses to warm up than a song, and there are virtually no keyboards. Very disappointing. "Rapture or Pain" and "Thorns of Sorrow" are decent songs with catchy choruses but add nothing to the album. The final track, "A Lesson Before Dying," is a 12-minute barrage of wankery on both guitar and keyboards. It's not bad, just boring—the instrumental solo section drags on too long. However, Rod Tyler's voice sounds pretty good on this song.

Long story short, this album sounds more like one of those newer Symphony X-wannabe bands than Symphony X themselves. If the band were to just forget this album ever existed and never play any songs off of it again, I really wouldn't mind. They don't play these songs live anyway (except Masquerade), but I have a feeling they may on their upcoming tour or in the future thinking fans would enjoy it. I don't really recommend this album to anyone but die-hard fans of the band (which I am, and that's why I bought it, but it sucks). I'll maintain that the coolest thing about this album are the names of the songs, and that "The Damnation Game" is their real debut.

Killing Songs :
Absinthe and Rue
Boris quoted 68 / 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 - The Divine Wings of Tragedy reviewed by Boris and quoted 95 / 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
To see all 10 reviews click here
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