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What we have here is a group of very skilled and talented musicians, who know how to use the maximum of their instruments. As a team they work well, that is more important than their individual skills, and they are capable to make really impressive excellent songs. You don't have to be a huge Symphony X's fan to notice the sound change in their music. That refers to much modern guitar tone with over-used amount of distortion, lack of neoclassical elements, less keyboards and Russell Allen sings much more aggressive. Change of guitar tone and Allen's voice came with The Odyssey, and I can smell horrible Pantera's influence. Of course, you can't expect from progressive metal band to have constant sound, 'cause progressive means that their songs are complex and bands change sound constantly, and metal, which means it belongs to heavy metal music genre. Their tension to create complex stuff whole the time can result in making some mediocre and uninteresting songs. After this release came out, it left great impression, but after more, and more listens some songs lost their charm. Songs which really impressed me after the very first listen were: Iconoclast, The End Of Innocence, Dehumanized, Heretic, Children Of A Faceless God, Electric Messiah and Light Up The Night.
Iconoclast has really nice symphonic metal touch, with epic and eerie choir, massive riffs, well-made progressions which affect tempo change and enjoyable ambient. Choir and dark symphonic arrangements in the middle of the song are too long, they sound well after few listens, and after some time that part becomes annoying. In the beginning I tolerated weak refrains, but soon they become boring. Dehumanized was one of first songs which appeared on YouTube published by record label. They knew what to choose since that song is really memorable, real ear-candy, but refrains are weak, riffs are not much special and song becomes boring soon. In the middle it has some interesting parts and solo, that's all. At first I thought Electric Messiah was as good as The End Of Innocence, Heretic, Children Of A Faceless God and Light Up The Night. Despite good riffs, energetic tempo, solid technical solo and enjoyable ambient, refrains kill the song 'cause they become boring after repetitive listens, but it's very good song anyway.
Heretic progresses from mid to faster tempo, full of massive heavy riffs, Allen's voice is really strong and rough, and fits well in the song, drums are nice, and give pleasant feel. Michael made excellent technical solo, and keyboards in the background make whole thing sound better. Children Of A Faceless God has similar progressive structure, well-written lyrics, another excellent solo and it has the best refrain from this release. Light Up The Night is full of very fast riffs, double bass pedal work is fine, refrains are excellent and again Romeo raped guitar to make his solo. The End Of Innocence has constant mid tempo without any sign of complexity and progressions, just straight forward power metal, with excellent riffs, nice refrains, technical solo with more feel than many others from this release. Keyboards, drums and electric guitar make pleasant ambient. Good thing is keyboards do appear in these songs, but they don't have dominant role like on their previous work. They appear in some intros, after guitar solos sometimes, but mostly as backing instrument.
When All Is Lost shows how not to force complexity if it doesn't work well. Song is very good in general, but there are some chaotic bad parts because of the messy tempo variations - from ballad parts to really heavy riff driven parts. Other songs are not special. Songs like The Lords Of Chaos and Reign In Madness have terrible Pantera's Walk riffs which is result of notable Pantera worship. Also, Allen was influenced a bit with Anselmo since he shouts most of the time. However I don't count Anselmo clown as a singer. What the fuck is he, a shouter? Screamer? Semi-growler? Allen has got really powerful, unique voice with higher register, and he should sing normally, like he did on past releases.
Good sides of this release:
You have 4 amazing songs full of riffs with various speed, it depends on the song. They have excellent guitar solos, vocals are amazing, they have complex structure, so tempo changes constantly. Songs have well-written lyrics, and lyrical topic is about machines taking control over human kind. Science fiction. However, there are very good songs like Electric Messiah and When All Is Lost, and if they spent more time editing them I'm sure they could have been excellent.
Bad sides of this release:
Some of these songs leave great impression after first few listens, and leave you in the state of euphoria, but with time you will realize they are not that good. Many songs are weak, not well inspired and not memorable at all. That's because they tend to make complex songs at any cost. In most of songs refrains are not excellent. That's really weird, since they are capable of making amazing ones.
The End Of Innocence, Heretic, Children Of A Faceless God and Light Up The Night.