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Ouch, I never thought I'd give a Symphony X album below 50%, let alone this low of a score. What a sad state of affairs. Did waiting for four years build my anticipation too high? Was I just expecting something else than what I got? I'm not sure, but I'll try and collect my thoughts for this review.
As many of us know, Symphony X are an American progressive metal band, with, as their name implies, some symphonic elements. We lose a lot of the progression and symphonic stuff with this album, and mostly get "METAL METAL METAL METAL." WHERE IS THE PROGRESSION?! Where's the symphonic shit?! Where are the infectious choruses and keyboards and Russell Allen's angelic singing?! We get none of that here. All we get here are a bunch of quasi-groove (though still very technical-sounding) riffs and more of Russell Allen's gruff barking from their previous effort "Paradise Lost." But the gruff vocals sounded good, then. They were used sparingly. Now they're in EVERY FRIGGIN' SONG ON ALMOST EVERY FRIGGIN' LINE. And it REALLY grates after a while, especially when one knows that Allen can do better than this. Everyone in the band can do better than this.
There are no real stand-out tunes on this album, even on the 2-disc edition. Everything is a mish-mash of rejected Odyssey/Paradise Lost riffs and songs that aren't catchy or memorable in the least. Yeah, there's a unifying theme about how technology is slowly overcoming man or some shit like that, but this is such an overused theme in music, it seems really cliched here.
So, yeah, there's really nothing going in favor of this album. Among other annoyances, Michael Romeo's riffs and solos are quite same-y. You could probably literally cut and paste the solo from any one song in the album in place of another and have it make just as much sense. They're technical for technicality's sake, and don't flow into any of the songs well (not that the songs had much flow to begin with...)
When the album DOES try to show diversity, ("When All Is Lost," and "Reign In Madness") it's too little, too late. What a shame this album is. It's not really BAD, just very disappointing, especially for SymX's incredibly high standards. Maybe that's the problem; the bar has time and time again been set so high, my expectations were just too unreal to achieve. But that's no excuse for retreading all this old territory! Yeah, I probably shouldn't expect something amazing every time... But I should at least expect something new each time, and not more of the same, like with this album! Especially after a four-year wait!
I can't even stress enough how unmemorable this album is. I honestly can't remember one hook or riff or solo or chorus or moment that caught me by surprise... Nothing. In the end, the entire album is actually quite annoying to listen to.
Symphony X, I am disappoint. I'll see ya around again in, by my estimation, 2015 or 2016. And if you're gonna rip off one of your own albums again, rip off "Divine Wings of Tragedy!"
**EDIT** Adjusted score. 10% seemed a bit harsh, as it's not like the album is performed incompetently, but as a whole, it is a major letdown, much like Symfonia's "In Paradisum."