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I’ve always wondered how Symphony X feels about Dream Theater. They sure seem to get along given that they’ve toured with each other multiple times but there must be some resentment in the Symphony X camp. Think about it, both bands play very similar styles of music to essentially the same audience, but somehow Dream Theater have worked their way to the top of the prog food chain and have even broken into the mainstream to a certain degree. Symphony X on the other hand has been languishing in relative obscurity despite releasing nothing but high quality material. And so finally the two prog metal titans come face to face on this split for the ultimate showdown.
In this corner, dressed in black tights with fake vampire fangs, hailing from the suburbs of Long Island, we have Dream Theater’s “Forsaken”. Dream Theater has been training at the Roadrunner gym prior to this match up and it shows. This song is clearly built to be a crowd pleaser. It’s got just enough technicality for Dream Theater’s long standing prog fans (notice how the verse is in 7/8) but the soaring chorus and soft and almost Evanescence-esque piano parts will probably help draw in some less nerdy listeners. Not to mention that the lyrics detail the type of vampire love story that pretty much guarantees money in the bank these days. And overall the song does work. It’s catchy, the guitar playing is energetic, and the song varies itself enough over the course of five minutes that people probably won’t get too bored with it.
And in this corner, in the ridiculous silver armor and angel wings, from the industrial wasteland of New Jersey, is Symphony X with “Set The World On Fire”. This track has got all the hallmarks of a Symphony X heavy weight, and unlike Dream Theater who have learned to mask their technicality for mass consumption, Symphony X let you know up front that they can shred your face off. There is no member of the band that doesn’t pull his weight in this song. The guitars do unison runs with the bass, solos are traded with keyboards (in harpsichord settings of course) the drums keep the double bass pounding and Russell Allen continues to demonstrate why he’s one of the kings of rasped clean vocals. This tune hits hard and fast, but an astute Symphony X fan will notice nothing new in this tune.
And this is ultimately why Dream Theater will win every bout with Symphony X. Dream Theater has adapted their signature style and has stayed current to the best of their abilities. While this has resulted in the occasional misstep (i.e. Falling Into Infinity) it has allowed them to stay relevant and interesting through their entire career. Symphony X on the other hand have stuck to their guns their entire career so their style has become fairly predictable, even when the songs they pump out are solid. Who win’s this round? That’s up to you.