Symphony X - Underworld
Nuclear Blast
Progressive Metal
11 songs (63:00)
Release year: 2015
Symphony X, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Joel
Album of the month
Symphony X needs no introduction to this site, or to anyone who has followed Progressive Metal since the mid nineties. From the neoclassical beginning that was their self titled(technically Michael Romeo’s solo instrumental cd came first!) debut through early classics such as The Damnation Game(The first with Russell Allen on vocals), Divine Wings of Tragedy and my personal favorite, The Odyssey, Symphony X laid the ground work of what Progressive Power Metal should sound like. When 2007 came around, the band released, Paradise Lost, a darker and much heavier disc, that caught longtime fans by pleasant surprise. To me it was the evolution the band needed to take, to keep their signature sound and evolve all at the same time. While their last disc, Iconoclast followed in the same suit, some fans felt it was a solid release, yet not on par with the previous effort. Songs like Children Of The Faceless God and When All is Lost set the groundwork, for what now is Underworld. Will Underworld be that definitive Symphony X disc? Has the band changed their sound? What is Underworld all about? Well…………..

With Underworld, I read that Michael Romeo(guitars) used the inspiration from the fourteenth century poem, Dante’s Inferno as well Orpheus, the prophet, poet, and musician. The opening aptly named Overture, opens with a male choir chanting with layers of strings behind them. Much in the way Paradise Lost opened, the second song and first single, Nevermore opens the disc. The speedy stop and go riff, with the raspy staccato accented vocals of Russell Allen, Underworld starts off quickly. The chorus retains the groove like feel of the verses, but sees Allen soaring above the music with a much clearer vocal approach. Hear the track HERE! The album’s title track follows, with lead work from Michael Pinnella’s keyboards. Another stop and go monster, with great riffing mixed with a frenzied amount of hammer on/pull off’s from Romeo. The first two tracks, could have also followed Inferno and Wicked off The Odyssey, just based on the groove of the guitar riffs. The song has a great middle section, with Romeo and Pinnella blending together with Allen again soaring above. The guitar solo on this song, like everything else Romeo does is technical, melodic, and fits the song perfectly, while not playing a guitar solo for the sake of a guitar solo. Same can be said for the synth solo Pinnella does. The trade off between the two of them, brings back memories to earlier albums in the band’s discography. The screaming vocals at the end of the song, don’t do much for me, but they are not bad, either way not Allen’s shining moment. Without You is a very catchy song, that some may call a ballad. It has a truly majestic chorus that really allows Allen’s vocals to shine through. Kiss Of Fire is another speedy fast song that goes for the throat, and does not let go for its five plus minute song length. Mike Lepond’s bass groove sets up the song, and Jason Rullo’s syncopated rhythm(the song also has some great drum fills as well) follows Romeo’s uncanny mix of riffs and grooves. For this and Charon, the next song, Allen sticks to his raspier vocal style.

To Hell and Back is what I would call a mini-epic and is one hell of a song. From early mini-epics, like Edge Of Forever, to both Accolades, or even When All Is Lost off Iconoclast. At just over nine minutes and twenty seconds, To Hell and Back, contains everything that is Symphony X. From heaviness to slower passages, tempo changes, and to virtuosic musicianship all wrapped in a package, that sounds like a band on the same page. In My Darkest Hour, has the groove oriented riff fest of the earlier songs on the disc, yet is not a carbon copy of any of the songs that came before it. Run With The Devil, is one of the more progressive songs on the entire disc, from the stop and go riffs, technical noodling by all involved. The chorus is more melodic, with arpeggiated notes by Romeo and Allen’s signature melodic vocals. The melancholic yet beautiful Swansong is next, and is right up there with Symphony X’s best ballads. The song is moving, and highlights the passionate vocal approach of Allen. Not much else can be said, other than if your a fan of the bands previous ballads, you’ll love this one. Legend is the last song on the disc, number eleven if you are counting. A mid paced melodic song, and a great closer clocking in at six minutes and thirty seconds. A mix of melodic passages and solid grooves, the song contains melodies that could have fit into any of the band’s previous releases. Weaving between old and new, Legend is a perfect example of where the band came from, and where they are now.

So with all this praise, where does Underworld sit with me? Somewhere happily between Iconoclast and Paradise Lost. While the songs are not the genre defying, odd tempo and key changing wizardry of previous albums, they are still great songs as individual pieces of music. As a whole it takes you through a range of emotions, that allows Symphony X to tug on different strings. Only prog-purist will be upset that there is not a ten(or twenty) minute plus song on this disc, for me this is a concise attempt at trying something different, and achieving what they set out to do. Symphony X still sounds like Symphony X, and for ME still one of the most consistently great bands in any genre of music!

Killing Songs :
Joel quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Symphony X that we have reviewed:
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
Symphony X - Symphony X reviewed by Boris and quoted 68 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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