without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Finally it's here, coincidentally today is when Iconoclast is officially getting released in the US. For the fans, the 4 year long wait since Paradise Lost, is finally over, another mega studio album, their 8th in a career spanning almost 17 years now. Being an honest fan of this band, since when they were relatively new to the progressive circuit in the mid 90's, I had to buy the extended version. It contains 2 discs with an arrangement of 6 songs in each, packing a total 82 minutes of pure progressive metal with definite nuances of heavy metal riffs and even incorporates elements of double bass drumming nailed with flawless precision by the mighty Jason Rullo.
With the exception of Michael Lepond (bass 2000-present), the rest of the members have been fairly around right from the days when Michael Romeo (guitars) conceived the idea behind the band's creation. I will briefly run over the reasons why I have not given the album a perfect score.
I'd like to look at this band in 2 different timelines (pre & post 2K). While the pre 2K era saw Symphony X, churning albums with fair rapidity, as is expected of a band. They just came out with their mammoth sonic sphere mixing symphonic and progressive elements, winning tons of fans' respect worldwide in the likes of The Damnation Game, Divine Wings of Tragedy, Twilight in Olympus. The post 2K era has only witnessed the release of 4 studio albums with wait times of four and five years between some of them. This to me is dangerous for sustaining a consistent fan base and loyalties in today's world, where there is an abundance of talented bands. Admitted though, they have phenomenal world tours lasting for years.
Like I mentioned earlier, this release spans 82 minutes and to the casual listener it may seem a bit overmuch and easy to get lost within. Even to a decent fan, I'd recommend giving the CD a few spins before they come to lasting conclusions, as the story and the songs grows on one, with familiarity. Personally, I am an ardent Symphony X-ian with supreme faith in more being the merrier!
The last piece for me and I'll shut my gob on critiquing the album furthermore. There have been instances of the usage of existing riffs particularly harkening back to their The Odyssey days. This in itself is not a bad thing, as if I have enjoyed a riff once, I shall enjoy it again in another manifestation in another track!
Now towards the awesomeness of the album. Let me start off with the cover art, incorporating the typical Sym X masks in a subtle way as we all have come to know, over the years. It has been designed by Warren Flanagan (film concept artist of the fame of The Watchmen and The Incredible Hulk). The cover art also complements the lyrical concept behind the album wherein misguided technology gives birth to Frankenstein-ish horrors and sees the world being taken over by machines.
The title song is the first song on the album, an epic 11 minutes in length that starts off with a superb guitar based riff and the synth chimes in before the drum & bass settle in. The song has a very catchy chorus, "We are strong, We will stand and fight" and I would more often than not sing it aloud while banging my head away. Russell himself has more growls on the album, than I've ever heard on any other. In his own words, 'the singing is very melodic, the choruses are real strong, the verses are real strong, but I'm singing aggressively — a lot of that going on — cause the topic is, again, very dark'.
Dehumanized, Bastards of the Machine, Children of A Faceless God are monster tracks with no lack of the epic riffages. I can already foresee moshpits going beyond control on Iconoclast tours. When All is Lost forms the quintessential ballad and is probably the only song that lightens up the atmosphere a tad bit, not in terms of lyrics though as they still follow dooomed to darkness pattern and have been crafted superbly! Michael Pinnella's keys accompany the song for the most part. Gives me a feel of 'The Accolade' from the Divine Wings of Tragedy. It's difficult to dissect every song and it's a wasted effort in doing so. The album is meant to be heard at one listen and then a few more times. Leave your worries behind and be prepared to go on this journey. Be prepared, you may have to fight the damn machines in your mind along the way, but bring them down in 'iconoclasmic' style :)
Moving on and indeed the album is very heavy, crisply produced and at the same time very, very compact with all the musicians playing their craft at their very best! The album instrumentation style reminds a little of Fates Warning's 'Awaken the Guardian' or Queensrÿche's 'The Warning' days. I would not say Symphony X has totally abandoned their roots but rather has morphed into this new sound that blends heavy, speed and progressive metal in a unique fashion. Paradise Lost was the trend setter towards this and with Iconoclast the sound's more stable with a distinct identity.