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I had always heard Symphony X as being a progressive metal band, frequently coupled with the likes of Dream Theater and Stratavarious. From my general dislike of most progressive music, I made the huge mistake of never giving Symphony X an opportunity until overhearing bits of Paradise Lost a few years ago. They’ve since quickly ascended the ranks of my favorite bands. Much of their older material – although good – is a bit too progressive for my taste and my preference leaned towards their heavier songs such as “Of Sins and Shadows” or “Smoke and Mirrors.” With Paradise Lost, the band’s offering of heavier, more traditional metal songs, created a high level of anticipation for Iconoclast.
The band has now masterfully created the ultimate Symphony X album. They have taken another step in toning down the progressive elements of their music, creating an album I find more fitting and appropriate to their sound. More traditional song structures, memorable melodies, and heavy riffs with groove elements but maintain an edge of technical orchestration. Michael Romeo shines once again on guitar and is vastly underrated in the guitar community. A particular feature of Romeo is his ability to generate technically precise riffs while still maintaining a steady flow throughout the song, instead of spotlighting a five minute guitar solo. His riffs and solos have something to offer to each song and I never perceive them as merely an excuse to shred. I am pleased with the guitar tone on this album, although there was some unusual tone adjustments on a few solos. Another rewarding attribute of Symphony X is the unique and talented vocalist Russell Allen. He is the perfect choice for this band and he once again gives a brilliant performance on this album.
Iconoclast has wider offering of songs which would likely be pleasing to fans or “Set the World on Fire” or “Domination.” The opening title track makes up one of their more progressive tracks on the album and is reminiscent of their early material. The following two tracks, “The End of Innocence” and “Dehumanized” are catchy, fist pumping, anthems which finds yourself singing along before the end of the first listen. “Electric Messiah” particularly stands out as a heavier track likely to surprise anyone who, like me, had assumed Symphony X was strictly progressive. “When All Hope is Lost” is another fine offering of a ballad opus which seems to improve with every listen.
Overall I think Iconoclast is great. I was pleased to find their latest offering has expanded on what was introduced with 2007’s Paradise Lost. If you prefer their heavier and faster songs from past albums, Iconoclast will be quite a treat. In my opinion, this is the Symphony X album I have been waiting for.