Symphony X - Iconoclast
Nuclear Blast
Progressive Metal
9 songs (62:54)
Release year: 2011
Symphony X, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Aleksie
Major event
New Jersey’s gift to progressive metal was in quite the position coming into this, their 8th studio album. 2007’s Album of the Year, Paradise Lost, was not only the band’s best album thus far but to me, the best metal album of the previous decade. That’s some sweet momentum to take with you. But on the flipside, how the hell do you top that?

The newly released follow-up, Iconoclast, takes this gargantuan task by the horns and tames it pretty much as well as could be humanely imagined. Indeed, what I mean is that this album didn’t lead to the kind of mind-melting “Dio be praised, the crazy bastards actually did it!!!”-wildest imaginings jubilation that would’ve resulted (among other groan-worthy things) in a one-paragraph review written in all CAPS, comprised only of superlatives and shouted recommendations to buy buy buy.

What it did lead to anyhow was finding a great friggin’ album!

Iconoclast carries on mainly with the slightly more straight-forward and adrenaline-fueled direction that Paradise Lost started, maybe taking the aggro and the groove down just a little to provide more of the prog with tempo turns and momentary polyrhythms for all the academics out there. What is notably different comes with the theme of the album. Every track takes some kind of look at the contemporary relationship between man and machine. Many can probably predict what the tone taken here is, but let’s just say that I feel this LP would make a very nifty soundtrack for the day when Skynet finally becomes self-aware and begins to mow down the Earth’s organic matter.

This has resulted in the compositions and especially the atmosphere-filling choirs and keyboards emitting a dark, robotic feel that really compliments the theme well. Fans of the widdle shouldn’t worry as Michael Romeo’s blazing fretboard antics are as sharp as ever (keeping it fast yet tasty) while Michael Pinnella stings with the occasional keyboard solo. His more frequent use of the Hammond-style organ is also a very nice addition. Russell Allen still belts those magnificent vocals like Zeus on one of his more aggressive days with ultra-badass raspiness to spare while also bringing the traditional metal wails and soulful crooning (oh so powerfully pulling on them heart-strings) when they’re called for.

On the song-front, we find great variety. The opening title track is a 10-minute monster of very proggy proportions. Drums and choirs all over the place, orchestral elements beautifully lacing the sidelines, crunchy guitars and clanging bells throwing down hard on you. Place Sir Allen bellowing on top of all that and we’ve got one hell of an opening.

Following this, the pre-taste-of-the-record The End Of Innocence is admittedly a slight letdown despite its cool intro and heady pace. The opening half is further muddied a bit with Dehumanized, which tries to groove like a motherplucker but just can’t storm out of those gates. Fortunately the mood is quickly saved by the rapid-firing Bastards Of The Machine, which noodles on those strings and keys in the vein of Sea Of Lies while also bringing an awesome chorus. A surefire concert favourite to me.

Heretic is probably the sole outright mediocre track here for me which is a shame due to some cool singular elements in there like Romeo’s scorching solo and Michael Lepond’s pummelling bass lines. It’s the lackluster chorus most of all, I guess. Luckily from here on out for the last four tunes it’s a blast of awesomness to the face. Children Of A Faceless God, Electric Messiah and Prometheus (I Am Alive) all make it more noticeably proggy again with especially the latter showing the aforementioned sinister, mechanical vibes.

To cap off the album, we have the “mandatory ballad” (SPOILER ALERT yes, also including that Accolade-reference I’m sure some of you would be looking out for /SPOILER ALERT), the 9-minute When All Is Lost that is the hyper-emotional and lovely Russell Allen Show until they heavy it up a few minutes in and turn this into the kind of soaring mini-epic with lots of mood swings that made the likes of The Divine Wings Of Tragedy’s title track so brilliant. I’d have to say that this and Bastards Of The Machine are my favourite tracks off of this one thus far. Production-wise, the band retained the chunkier soundscape that worked so well on the previous album so you can expect the package to crush those speakers of yours.

So all in all, is this doozy as good as Paradise Lost? Not so far. Does this live up to the high, high standards of Symphony X? Yes. Is it a friggin’ great record? Hell yes. Iconoclast. Go buy. It’s good for you.

Oh yeah, and as a disclaimer, it seems that this record is also coming out as a double-disc version with 3 additional songs (titled Light Up the Night, The Lords Of Chaos and Reign In Madness). By all accounts I’ve read the band would’ve originally wanted to put out a double album but the record company recommended that a single-disc version be released as well, which the band eventually backed as well with the selection also available to us on the promo version. So take that for what it is. But do I really need to make longwinded arguments in favour of fishing out the 2-disc version with simply more fresh Symphony X to be heard? Didn’t think so.

Killing Songs :
Iconoclast, Bastards Of The Machine, Children Of A Faceless God, Electric Messiah, Prometheus (I Am Alive) & When All Is Lost
Aleksie quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Symphony X that we have reviewed:
Symphony X - Underworld reviewed by Joel and quoted 92 / 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
Symphony X - Symphony X reviewed by Boris and quoted 68 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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