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The sixth album of Symphony X is a very special one. In addition to maintaining the progressive and neoclassical roots of the band, The Odyssey marks the beginning of a continuing transition towards a heavier sound that will gain a wider audience for the band. Besides that, the twenty four minutes title track is one of the most ambitious songs written in the genre, and by itself justify the purchasing of this great album.
First of all, the production of this album is probably the best the band had until this point. Except from the synthetic virtual orchestra that is mainly presented in the title track (I guess that recording a real orchestra is not always affordable), each instrument sounds perfect. The guitar tone is addicting, the frequencies are equalized very well and the result is a clear yet crushing heavy tone. The drums and bass are powerful and mixed properly, you can hear each bass line and drum hit perfectly. The keyboards aren't over the top in its simple pad movements, yet the lead sections are piercing enough to provide a worthy addition to the great arsenal of complex leads in this album.
Before we move on, I must praise Russell Allen. This guy is probably at his peak in this album. His timbre is more powerful than ever, and he can easily transition his voice from soft vocal lines to rapid, powerful almost hoarse tone quite easily. Of course it is a studio and not live recording, but it still takes a load of technique and talent to sing the way he does and sing in the wide vocal range he presents in this album. Without a doubt, this album has one of the best vocal performances ever recorded in progressive metal.
As I mentioned, most of the songs in this album are inclined towards the heavier sound of progressive metal. The first track, 'Inferno', has a fast paced and complex main riff and a very ballsy verse riff. The vocal lines in the verses are aggressive as hell yet the chorus is melodic and very catchy. Most of the tracks follow a formula of aggressive verses and softer, balancing choruses. There are a lot of technical exhibitions to be found here, both Romeo and Pinnella have a great ability to execute complex fast solos that resonate well and maintain a solid melodic theme.
The most outstanding track in this album is the title track. The Odyssey is musical interpretation of an ancient Greek poem that follows the story of Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It's a twenty four minutes long epic adventure that is divided into seven different parts. The first part is an instrumental overture with tons of orchestrations that could fit easily in one of Walt Disney 90's classics movies. Of course, it's all accompanied with powerful and heavy riffs and is a very exciting introduction. The second part is more laid back and describes the yearning of Odysseus to return home, meet his wife Penelope and reassert his place as rightful king of Ithaca. Then, it gets a darker and heavier tone and features some heavy twisted riffs that leads to the third part which describes the continuation of the journey. I highly suggest following the lyrics when listening to this track as you'll probably notice a lot of nuances in the combination between the lyrics and the music. The ending of this track is epic and mesmerizing, you'll feel as if you have just finished watching a long epic film and reached an inspiring pinnacle. There are a lot of things going on in this piece, you'll probably notice something new each time and eventually this track will grow on you. In comparison to 'The Divine Wings of Tragedy' from 1997, The Odyssey is a slightly better piece. It's a bit more focused and engaging and far more catchy. Both tracks are twenty plus minutes long masterpieces, but in my opinion The Odyssey is a little bit more convincing.
If you happen to have the Japanese edition of this album, you'll gain two bonus tracks. The first, Masquerade, is actually a recording from the Prelude to the Millennium compilation that is a new version of probably the best track of Symphony X's debut. It has an addictive catchy chorus and highly melodic neoclassical motives that are really worthy. The performance of Russel Allen is far better than the original performance by Rod Tyler, so definitely check out this one. The second track, Frontiers, sounds like a studio leftover. It is a nice track with some solid riffs going on, but nothing too special.
In conclusion, if you consider yourself a prog metal fan, or new to the genre, the title track is a must have. The rest of the tracks in this album are great as well, yet the title track alone is worth the purchasing. Besides a couple of Symphony X and Dream Theater tracks, there aren't many twenty minutes long pieces in progressive metal that reached artistic levels such as prog rock veterans did in pieces as 'Close To The Edge' and 'Supper's Ready'. The Odyssey is one of these timeless gems, and I believe it's a duty for each high quality music fan to spread the word about it, in hope that one day in the future it will get it deserved recognition in the history timeline of music.
Symphony X is a band that offers an original blend of progressive metal / rock and power metal with neoclassical metal as well as symphonic metal.
How does one follow-up a masterpiece such as V: The New Mythology Suite? With another masterpiece, would seem to be Symphony X's answer and I wholeheartedly agree with that practice. The Odyssey is musical, technical, emotive, energetic and intelligent. As a matter of fact, I have come to view The Odyssey as somewhat of an informal successor and / or sequel to The Divine Wings of Tragedy. Both albums are remarkably cohesive despite being comprised of individually dissimilar songs that range from beautifully light to dark and heavy. Also, another common trait is their twenty-plus minute title tracks. Most obvious though is the "The Accolade" and "Accolade II" connection that they share, both being their respective record's fourth track. The similarities end there however, with each album's sound being distinct and The Odyssey is certainly no rehash of The Divine Wings of Tragedy. Instead, it is an excellent addition to Symphony X's discography.
As per usual, the compositional ability of the band is demonstrated in full force throughout the album's entire duration. This is most excellently exemplified with the title track of the record. This twenty-four minute and change behemoth of a song showcases the symphonic side of Symphony X as well or better than any other of their songs in its introductory minutes. This eventually gives way to some of the best acoustic guitar segments of the band's complete catalog. Long story short, by the end of this sensational sonic masterpiece, the listener will have been graced with many different sounds: heavy and light, quiet and loud, fast and slow, subtle and bombastic, metal and otherwise. Indeed, "The Odyssey" could very well be my personal favorite song of all time. The other songs on the record deliver other fantastic elements. "Inferno" and "The Turning" provide the audience with fast, intense and energetic music, while "Wicked" as well as "King of Terrors" give birth to a newly introduced groove metal sound that adds to the band's already diverse music. This aspect would evolve to become more prominent in future releases. The album is also not without a softer side. Of particular note is the aforementioned "Accolade II" which, as the name suggests, reprises many of the melodies, rhythms and themes from "The Accolade" and does so in grandiose fashion. The two songs differ greatly however, and an inattentive listener may not even notice the connection initially. An adaptation of the classical piece "Prelude No. 24 in D minor, Op. 28" by Frédéric Chopin is performed during the introduction of "Awakenings", a song that I absolutely adore for its epic scope and incredibly varied songwriting. Also, the Japanese special edition of The Odyssey features the two bonus tracks "Masquerade '98" and "Frontiers", both of which are undeniably outstanding.
Also outstanding is the musicianship. Michael Romeo displays some of his finest guitar-work to date. His playing is as technically impressive as always and is extremely creative as well. This is especially true during the orchestrated passages of "The Odyssey" where the tone of his guitar compliments with the other instrumentation perfectly. Vocalist Russell Allen turns in another phenomenal performance. His extraordinary range, power and diversity is genuinely mind-blowing, and will doubtlessly leave you speechless. The amazing tone of Allen's voice is showcased spectacularly from start to finish, but especially so on "Awakenings" as well as throughout the title track. Also, it should be mentioned that "King of Terrors" features an extremely rare scream during the mid-section that is chill-inducing, and demonstrates the versatility of Allen's voice well. All told, his singing is simply unmatched be any other vocalist, be it past or present (and most likely future too)! Performing on keyboards is Michael Pinnella, who exhibits his impeccable chops by virtue of advanced patterns and spellbinding solos. You need only to listen to the breathtaking piano solo in "Awakenings" for but one of many stellar examples of his virtuosity. So amazing Pinnella is in fact, that I consider him to be the greatest keyboardist of all time, bar none. Bassist Michael Lepond performs brilliantly, with blistering bass guitar solos such as the one heard on "Frontiers" in addition to intricate patterns that add much color and depth to the music. The drumming, as you might have already surmised, is wonderful as well. Jason Rullo's performance is as tightly played and technical as ever, cementing the music with perfect beats and unleashing explosive energy with insane drum solos.
Production values are also top tier. Despite the multitude of sonic layers that formulate the music, the vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass and drums as well as the many miscellaneous instruments that are sometimes present can be heard in the mix with pristine clarity.
With their sixth studio album, The Odyssey, Symphony X has created a timeless masterpiece that possesses qualities of classic rock and yet is modernized for contemporary audiences. Thus, The Odyssey should appeal to enthusiasts of music, both past and present, and continue to remain relevant for generations and beyond, just as Homer's Greek epic poem of the same name has and will be for countless millennia to come.
I love the book the Odyssey, so when I first discovered Symphony X and saw that they had an album named after it I just had to get it; and let me tell you, I'm glad I did, this is a phenomenal album. Everything about it is very enjoyable and many parts greatly resemble parts of The Divine Wings of Tragedy though a little heavier. The style is definitely heavier and more intense than previous Symphony X efforts, but it fits very well and almost seems to me, what they were meant to do in the first place style wise. It's very heavy, but manages to throw in the symphonic and progressive elements that we know and love Symphony X for and enhances this album so much.
The highlights of this are Inferno, King of Terrors, The Accolade ll and, of course, The Odyssey. Inferno is a great opening song and it really represents the slight change in styles that Symphony X adopted in this album. It makes a great live song and if I had to pick one this would be the big hit of this album. It doesn't really have a very eminent chorus or catchy lyrics, but it's got this great metal groove that just makes it a lot of fun to listen to. King of Terrors is another good one with a solid chorus and some great riffage. It's also got a little narration towards the end that pretty much gives the song it's title, fortunately it's not too cheesy. This song has a really good chorus, and once you really pay attention to this song I bet it'll stick in your head like it did for me. In general King of Terrors, is kind of similar to Inferno with the raging guitars and the still progressive side. It's like thrash metal combined with progressive metal (awesome). The Accolade ll is really good, I've always really loved Symphony X's ballads and I kind of wish they would make more of them. See usually their ballads become either half ballads or mini epics; songs like Paradise Lost and The Sacrifice from Paradise Lost (the album) are examples of the whole half ballad style, while When All is Lost from Iconoclast is one of those mini epics. The Accolade ll is obviously very similar to the first Accolade (which of course you all remember) in that it stays slow, but manages to be very powerful. It's amazingly well written and probably one of my favorite ballad/epics.
Now I'm going to devote an entire paragraph to The Odyssey (the song). This song is a true masterpiece and my personal favorite song of all time. It starts off with an orchestral section with some really cool rhythms and meter changes. This transitions into a slower part with some really good vocals, probably the best I've ever heard from Allen. The whole song is split into seven parts and while the middle part kind of blurs together a bit, if you pay really close attention you will hear some absolutely amazing stuff. The orchestral parts really blend well with the metal stuff for some really well done and atmospheric music. The absolute best part of the song is part seven: The fate of the suitors/champion of Ithaca; this part is really, really good. It's fast catchy and really fun to sing. The chorus is great and in general it's just a good way to end one of the greatest songs/albums I have ever heard.
I love the progressive feel of this whole album. It's not power metal because it relies on short bursts of rapid fire drumming and more complex drum beats which really makes listening to it very enjoyable. I also enjoy the combination of progressive metal with thrash metal, but with good vocals. This is a very complex album that somehow manages to be fairly accessible.
Even though it's heavier and more thrashy the old Symphony X, their new sound is still great and really adds a fresh perspective to the band we know and love. This is definitely, in my opinion, Symphony X's magnum opus and is a must buy for all metal fans ever.
To be perfectly honest I find The Odyssey to be Symphony X’s weakest album that I’ve head (still haven’t heard Paradise Lost). The main reason for me would probably have to be the fact that there are less of the progressive elements that the band is famous for.
The first song on here has a really annoying guitar part to me. The guitar is played really high and is being picked fast. It’s got an obnoxious tone, and it’s lost the power, and progressive metal feeling it had in previous albums. The songs on the album are either hit or miss to me. The song is either good or worthless. The opening track, the bonus track, and “Incantations of the Apprentice” don’t really do anything for me, but all the other tracks are pretty solid.
The best song on here hands down is the seven part epic song “The Odyssey”, and the song is just fantastic. It’s the best song Symphony X had written since they released The Divine Wings of Tragedy. You don’t even need to listen to any of the other songs with this track on here. This track blows all the other tracks away. This is also what pisses me off about it. It’s a very long song, and some of it feels like its just being tagged on, as if even without that guitar solo or extra long opening part you wouldn’t really miss anything important, or that the song itself would be even better without it. The actual opening part of “The Odyssey” is rather nice. It starts out in an epic way (horns and stuff like that) then goes into a peaceful “happy” mood, then a much darker sounding for about a minute, then a guitar solo starts, and finally the song really starts to begin. But the biggest problem is that it is an overlong song, and if it got cut by eight minutes you wouldn’t really miss out on anything important.
The album may drag one a little bit for me, but I can also see as to why a lot of people consider it one of their best, even though I find it to be their worst. Either way I recommend this to anyone into progressive metal or Symphony X fans who haven’t heard it yet.
Let's get this straight. Symphony X is one of my favorite metal bands. I love the keyboards and prog influences. With this album they took a little different turn by adding more fast riffs and grungier vocals. Songs like "Inferno (Unleash The Fire)" and "Kings Of Terror" literally burst open with intensity. Let me say, this album is brilliant.
As I said the speed is a big factor in this disc. It opens with fierce riffing and continues on for a large majority of the album. However, unlike "thrash" music, it appeals to me a lot. It is like Blind Guardian's "Tales From The Twilight World", a clash between two very different genres. I like speed and anger when I can still headbang, but when it gets too fast and too much screaming, I find it tiresome. There are some more angry vocals here, but they still maintain their prog-ness and are still as brilliant as before without losing their flair.
"Inferno" is one of those songs that you wish you could play on guitar. It's fast, shredding, and heavy and never lets up. The same goes for "Kings Of Terror" which even has a part in the middle that sounds just like a part in "Inferno". Whether it was intentional or not, I don't know.
Remember "Accolade" Symphony X fans? Well, it's back with "Accolade II"! Oh goodie! Sure, it's no "Accolade I" but it's a good, long, song that like the original is a little slower and epic than the other tracks. It has great contrast on this album though because of the ferocity of the other songs. "Awakenings" is also a slower song, also very long, but better, and more heart-felt. Well, at least at the beginning before an odd chord begins banging out on the keyboard like a middle school chorus teacher trying to get her students to sing the right note. It's only awkward for a second and then...bring in the band. Shredding resumes.
That just about brings me to the best part of the album, the title track. This multi-part 25 minute epic recalls such songs as "Achilles, Agony, And Ecstasy In Eight Parts", "And Then There Was Silence", and "Divine Wings Of Tragedy." Symphony X's "Divine Wings..." has gotten a lot of praise as a 20 minute epic, but this is much better. Think a whole album worth of amazing songs jammed into 25 minutes, and you have it. The song follows an arc, starting epic, dying down, building, raging, dying down, being REALLY amazing, then ending. You may wonder what the REALLY amazing part is. Well, it's the final part, "The Fate Of The Suitors/ Champion Of Ithica". It is one of the catchiest, most glorious, melodic, rich, full, guitar/ keyboard based songs ever. (I know it's not an individual song on it's own, but it plays like one.) The whole "Odyssey" song is less thrashy and raging then the other songs on the album, bringing back to mind all the old Symphony X albums, but better. Definitely my favorite Symphony X song.
Full of rage, speed, anger and a beautiful 25 minute epic, "The Odyssey" marks in as #2 on my top Symphony X albums list. Just the title track is worth 12 dollars, and that statement alone proves how great this disc is.
I’m puzzled as to why I don’t worship Symphony X. They are all very good players, not bad songwriters, and they play prog/power, one of my favorite styles. But this album lacks a certain quality that I usually refer to as “the ‘hell yeah’” (shitty Vinnie Paul band notwithstanding). You know. The “hell yeah”. The “oomph”. As Ozzy would say, the “c’mon people, MAKE SOME FUCKING NOISE!”
But maybe it’s not fair, starting off my review like that. It’s definitely unfair to Russell Allen, as he does a godly job on vocals. The easiest singer to compare him to would be David Coverdale, but that’s really not taking into account the diversity his vocals have. I mean, he does some nice angry growling on Inferno (decidedly not death growling, but still), some very cool bluesy singing on Wicked (“In my nightmare she SAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIID”), etc. The general style that his vocals take is still power metal, but he uses all different kinds of things to keep you on your toes.
The bad thing is that his lyrics are not on par with his singing. Evil women, dark fantasies, and Greek mythology have been done before, and better, too. My one real lyrical complaint, though, is with the title track. Near the end, Allen sings “Minerva guides my way.” There might not sound awful to anyone who doesn’t actually know Greek mythology, but to someone obsessed with the subject like me, it stands out immediately. Minerva is the Roman name for the Greek goddess Athena. If you’re doing Greek legends as a lyrical subject, fucking get the names of the gods right in the name of Zeus. And not in the name of “Jove”, even if you need it to rhyme with “above”.
Unfortunately, the rest of the band isn’t as good as Allen. Not instrumentally, as it’s pretty obvious they can shred until the sweep-picking cows (“Moooooooo guitar solo moooooooo”) come home, but in terms of what they’re playing, the riffs just aren’t that good.
They come in two basic varieties – the groove riffs, and the speed metal riffs. Symphony X’s groove riffs (King of Terrors, Wicked, Inferno) are just…meh. I’m not the most vehement hater of Pantera, but I sure as hell don’t want Pantera riffs in my prog/power metal. The two-chord stop-start thing just isn’t heavy. The speed metal riffs are somewhat better, but let’s face it; they’re not on the same level as the Grave Digger riffs they sound like.
The riffs are specifically what lacks “Hell yeah”. If Russell Allen grabbed me by the throat (I have no idea why he would need to, because I suck at singing) and asked me whether the riff on Wicked was heavy or not, I’d be forced to admit that it is indeed very heavy. However, the heaviness is very forced and synthetic. It sounds like the part was specifically engineered by robots that were given the definition of “heavy” and then told to make a riff. It does not sound at all natural.
The songs themselves aren’t catchy. If you asked me to sing a chorus from the album, I could give you Inferno, but that’s it. All the other choruses sound like that one. Granted, I don’t mind them, but they bore me, and they aren’t the awesome “rawk star” moments that choruses are supposed to be.
Michael Romeo’s soloing style doesn’t endear him much to me, either. It’s not that I don’t like the kind of wanking he’s doing here; it’s that he doesn’t do it particularly well. Yes, he can play better than I’ll ever come close to. That doesn’t mean I enjoy his solos, which are mostly “Look, I can play REALLY fast! Aren’t I the best thing since Ritchie Blackmore?” They are not memorable at all, and neither are Michael Pinnella’s keyboard solos. Mindless fast playing does not a genius make, or some crap like that.
So my recommendation? Get this album. You’ll most likely love it if you’re into prog and power metal, and want to hear the two styles mixed. I didn’t particularly love it, but these songs are decent, and I'm generally a picky sonuvabitch - I didn’t like Fates Warning’s Awaken the Guardian either. But even if you like it, you’ll also long for something that doesn’t have the flaws that this album does.
With "V: The New Mythology Suite," Symphony X moved away from their neoclassical sound that they had demonstrated on previous albums, opting instead for a majestic prog/power album. "The Odyssey" shows the band getting much heavier, not just with Michael Romeo's guitars, but also with Russell Allen's vocals and Jason Rullo's drumming. This slight change gives Symphony X not only a signature sound (even though they still show shades of 80's bands like Dio, Metallica, Queensryche, etc), but also the platform they need to push themselves to the forefront of the metal genre.
Michael Romeo remains an innovative guitar monster, writing riffs that are both progressive, yet are impossible not to headbang to. The fact that his guitar finally has balls makes his rhythm-work all the more effective. That pinch-harmonic riff in "Inferno (Unleash the Fire)" is an instant classic. The lead guitar work throughout the album is intricate and inventive; those who accuse Romeo of being a Malmsteen clone can finally shut up now. Whether he is shredding away, like in "Incantations of the Apprentice," or offering more melodic leads like in "Awakenings," Romeo proves himself to be one of the premier guitarists in metal.
Perhaps part of the reason that Romeo is so effective is because he has Michael Pinella alongside him. Pinella adds some atmosphere to songs as well as playing some truly inspiring solos. Unlike many keyboardists, Pinella adds some testosterone to his keyboard sound, yet even at his heaviest, he plays melodically, acting as a perfect foil to Romeo's heavy riffs and insane solos.
Despite the contributions of these two, Symphony X's biggest asset is surely Russell Allen. He uses a rougher growl during some of the verses to counter his clean singing in the choruses. And speaking of the choruses, every single one on this album is stirring, and frankly, awe-inspiring. During "Wicked" the band stops playing and Allen wails like a gospel singer! And his "I walk the road alone" part at the end of "Awakenings" is one of the greatest moments and most passionate moments in heavy metal. His work on "The Odyssey" is one of the greatest performances, not only metal, but rock as well.
The songs on "The Odyssey" range from heavy, to melodic, to epic, and pretty much everywhere in between. Although each of the songs is different and unique, the consistency of the entire album is admirable. The lyrics, at face value, seem cheesy and lame. A song about a knight defending his father's honor? Yet thankfully, the lyrical themes are pretty cool, with songs based on the works of Poe and Dukas. One is about a man who seeks shelter in a graveyard only to be seduced by the ghost of a beautiful woman. How awesome is that?! Then, of course, there is the title track detailing the journey of Ulysses. There are some breathtaking moments in this twenty-four minute epic, the final movement especially, but it could have been a couple minutes shorter, and that opening computer-generated orchestra, although impressive, still is somewhat silly and would have been much more effective with a real orchestra.
"The Odyssey," both the song and the album, is still a remarkable accomplishment by Symphony X. They have positioned themselves as one of the vangaurds of the genre. They blew the other third stage bands away at Gigantour 2005 and can hopefully gain more exposure with their next album "Paradise Lost." With this forthcoming album and a successful tour, perhaps a contract with a major metal label is in their future.
For six years and five albums, Symphony X came off as more of a progressive band than a metal band. From their self-titled debut (1994) to V (2000), they were labeled as progressive metal, but fans and critics alike pointed more often toward their ambitious, choir-like vocal arrangements, classical influences and long guitar and keyboard solos. Even though biting and moderately heavy neo-classical metal riffs have been a calling card for guitarist and founder Michael Romeo from the beginning, Symphony X has not stood out as a metal band to the degree that symphonic/progregressive metal bands such as Nightwish and Therion have. With The Odyssey, however, it seemed as if Symphony X was on a mission to do something about this.
If I have ever listened to an album that should be split into two discs, it is this one. While the final sentence of the previous paragraph applies to nearly every song from "Inferno" to "Awakenings," the 24-minute title track contradicts it completely. After an onslaught of head-banging music with ferocity that Symphony X had never delivered before comes the nearly sleep inducing, seven part title track. While I do not disdain epic tracks, and even love "Through the Looking Glass" from 1998's Twilight in Olympus, this one belongs in the dictionary under overkill and absolutely does not belong on the same album with the other seven songs. As I stated at the beginning of this paragraph, "The Odyssey" should have been released by itself, or on a second disc. Parts I and VI feature low key piano and acoustic guitar melodies, plus totally cheesy keyboard effects, which for the millionth time sound extremely out of place after the previous seven songs. Last but not least, even the somewhat heavier parts of "The Odyssey," which could have redeemed the song, sound out of place because they come across as forced due to the track's overall context. As for the seven songs that come before "The Odyssey," not a single bad spot exists within them. Every bit of "Inferno," "Wicked," "Incantations," "King of Terrors" and "The Turning" explode with intensity. Specifically, Michael Romeo's tone displays much more edge than before, Michael Pinella's keyboard work features darker melodies almost exclusively and Russell Allen's vocals sound more rough and vicioius than ever.
In conclusion, metal fans who have dismissed Symphony X in the past for being progressive, pretentious, ridiculous or who knows what may want to check out this killer disc that truly is Symphony X's most metal album to date.
Progressive Power Metal is probably the most musically diverse yet accessible genre within the heavy metal umbrella. Combining the intellectual and musical prowess of Rush, the technical prowess of Deep Purple, and the heavy atmosphere of Black Sabbath, it abounds with potential outcomes. If there is any flaw to the genre, it is that many acts tend to choose similar concepts upon which to draw inspiration from. The concept of Greek Mythology has been tackled by many metal acts historically, be it Manowar’s rather bombastic interpretation of a segment of the Iliad in “Achilles: Agony and Ecstasy in 8 parts”, or Virgin Steele’s magnum opus “The House of Atreus: Parts 1 and 2”.
Symphony X’s “The Odyssey” did not stand as the lone progressive work that sought to recapture the spirit of a Homer classic, as Blind Guardian’s “A Night at the Opera” contained tracks lyrically and musically inspired by the Iliad. Both drew heavily on orchestral and keyboard ambiences in order to create towering epics to bring the metal sound into the field of historical dramatization. But where Symphony X has the edge is in terms of accessibility.
This album is probably the simplest work ever put forth by Symphony X, in terms of song structure and in terms of harmonic progression. Tracks such as “Inferno (Unleash the Fire)”, “Wicked” and “King of Terrors” all have clearly defined and catchy choruses, meshed together with minimalist guitar riffs that would almost qualify as groove riffs, minus the odd time feel and proper amount of development. “Incantations of the Apprentice” and “The Turning” are more up tempo and draw heavily from power metal influence, complete with plenty of double bass action. All of these songs are neatly tailored for accessibility, clocking in at 4 to 5 minutes, and having shorter solo sections than previous albums would tend to have.
The ballads on here are in good form, resorting to the nostalgic and heavily keyboard driven aspects of their classical influences, yet also lasting longer and having more involved song structures. “Accolade 2” is highly melodic and sorrowful, accurately portraying a person remembering a dead friend. “Awakenings” is a bit more agitated, flirting with non-tonal devices at times, yet maintaining a ballad atmosphere. Both of these tracks see a more melodic side to Michael Romeo’s soloing style to contrast his more Malmsteen influenced shred leads on faster tracks.
The title track of this grand album is the obvious highlight, owing to influences from Rush’s “2112” and Fates Warning’s “The Ivory Gate of Dreams” for its multi-sectioned approach to musical storytelling. It resembles the former more than the latter in terms of structure, playing on recurring melodies to give it a more opera like feel. However, technically this work is more in line with the latter, and contrasts melodic sections with tonally progressive elements. Influences from both Beethoven and Bruckner can be found in the orchestral sections, while the clean guitar sections are heavily reminiscent of 1970s era Rush. Although this song is consistently riveting from start to finish, the high point is the final part “The Fate of the Suitors/ Champion of Ithaca”, owing to one of the most triumphant choruses ever put to CD.
In conclusion, this is a brilliant blend of Power Metal and Progressive Metal, and can appeal equally to fans of both individual genres. Fans of shred, particularly fans of past Symphony X albums, may be a bit let down by the shorter solo sections. The solos still shine with the best of them, but they are methodically structured to appeal to a broader audience, unlike the consistent efforts of Malmsteen on all his releases. But Symphony X is not defined solely by its guitar lines, and that is more than obvious on here.
Symphony X’s latest masterpiece, THE ODYSSEY, is such a surprise hit for me that I am nearly kicking myself with regret for not picking this one up months ago! Honestly, I meant to pick it up when it was released. Honestly, I meant to pick it up after their excellent live performance with Blind Guardian. To tell the truth, I wasn’t in any big hurry to pick up the album, since Symphony X’s previous releases, V, and LIVE ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER were little more than passing fancy to me. Seeing the album in the shop, I was intrigued by the excellent cover, and nearly enthralled at the concept of a 24-minute track retelling the Homeric epic with which this album shares its title.
Getting the album home and into my CD player, I am hit right from the start by Michael Romeo’s ultra-technical guitar assault on “Inferno (Unleash The Fire)”; this time, instead of coming across as solo after wanking solo, the guitars are “punched up,” more aggressive, and with crunchier riffs. This five-minute shredfest of a track carries along at a blistering pace with the fury and intensity any opening track ought to have. Without dropping any of the progressive elements of the band, Symphony X has created a more “in your face” sound all around. In addition to the guitarwork, Russell Allen’s vocal performance is just as powerful, clean and well executed, but with somewhat of rawer edge to his voice. Speaking of Russell Allen, his wild performance during the final two minutes of the next track, “Wicked,” is some of the best he has ever done. “Wicked” is a mid-paced track with a catchy, groovy riff. The song builds as the lyrics tell of a traveler who is seduced by the evil spirit of a woman, while Romeo complements the tale with his tasteful guitar licks.
One of my favourite tracks is “Accolade II,” which is a truly beautiful song. The star of this track is keyboardist Michael Pinella who paints the backdrop for this story of the honour of knighthood. “The Turning” is power-speed metal, plain and simple with drummer Jason Rullo laying down a menacing battery for some excellent soloing and an angry sounding Russell Allen. This one will kick your ass!
THE ODYSSEY has had its share of great tracks, but the absolute highlight of the album is the 24-minute epic title track. Words cannot describe the sheer awesomeness of this track, which one must hear to believe. The intro sets the stage as well as any of the great Hollywood film scores to engulf the listener and sweep him along with Odysseus on his journey home throughout the song’s seven acts. Galloping rhythms, majestic keyboards, passionate solos, and frantic drumming all work synergistically to capture the hardship, danger, despair, and finally the joy and triumph of Ulysses. While no song or even a full album could ever hope to completely capture the entire Odyssey in all its glory, but Symphony X hit the important parts in this amazing rendition. If anything, I feel that the track is too short. Even if the rest of the album sucked, the title track alone makes the album worthy of purchase.
In addition to 66 minutes of some of the finest progressive power metal, THE ODYSSEY limited edition also contains the bonus track, “Masquerade,” a mix of neoclassical shred guitar and quirky prog metal. It is not a bad song at all, but I am somewhat disappointed that this version of the album does not end with the glorious closing of the title track.
Every fan of power and progressive metal should not hesitate as I did to score this album. Hell, any metal fan should rush out and buy this amazing piece of work. The new, aggressive style is definitely a winning touch, and one which I hope the band maintains on future albums.
(originally written by me for www.metal-rules.com, January, 2003)
Some of the tracks here were forgettable, though. I have to say that. Alot of them stick with you, like Incantations, but a few just don't matter.
Now, onward. The vocals are grand. They have that almost operatic, prog-powwer feel. Fitting lyrics roam the album, with extravagent singing and at some points, it just breaks into yelling, but it carries a tone that makes it feel perfectly fitting.
Guitar riffs are pure genius. Solos are everwhere, and with Romeo going, you know it's going to sound good. I don't even have to say how good these riffs are. They work with the music perfectly. Beyond that, I never knew it was even possible to headbang to power metal. I guess you learn something every day, eh?
And behind the kit.. everything works out well, too! I'm not suprised, but it's still not the perfect drumming. I like it, but theres certainly something better. It tends to be more paced.. and slower. Still, undeniably good.
On a side note most of the songs ARE slower. My favorite, Awakenings, was probably the slowest track on the album. Some of the other songs, such as King of Terrors are faster, but with a cool little classical feel behind the best vocal performance on the album.
Anyhow, the keyboards and piano used... I can't dislike any keyboard or piano work unless it downright sucks. Since it's awesome, moody and almost tranquil... I don't dislike it.
Overall, the album passes... but theres tons of better ones in the sea of metal. Still worth getting. Amazing first few listens, and after that you still can't help but listen to some of the songs on the album. Namely, King of Terrors, Incantations Of The Apprentice and Awakenings.
First of all, let me begin by saying I hate to give out a score like 100%, because that implies that an album is perfect. Nothing could ever be absolutely, 100% perfect; there is always some small problem here or there. However, this album is so good that I have to give it the highest score possible. This is one of the few albums that I could just listen to all day and not get bored. Needless to say, it is a must buy. BTW, this is NOT a concept album like the last reviewer said ---- there is only one song about Odysseus; it is not a concept explored through the whole album.
For those not familiar with the band, Symphony X is considered progressive metal, although there is some general disagreement over that classification. Whatever you want to call their music, it is extremely technical metal that never falls into boring lapses such as a lesser band like Dream Theater tends to. No matter how technical the music gets, it is always pleasing to the ear and sounds like it fits in perfect.
Every track here is a stand out. The album starts out with "Inferno", an aggressive five and a half minute track with vocalist Russell Allen sounding downright angry and menacing (taken even a step further on the track "King of Terrors"), something that he hasn't really done on Symphony's previous albums. As always, Michael Romeo's riffs are top notch, from the all-over-the-place intro riff to the short and aggressive riff during the verses. It is obvious right from the get-go that the band is going in a heavier direction on this album.
"Wicked" is slightly less agressive, though no less impressive song, featuring some great back and forth guitar and keyboard soloing in the middle. "Incantations of the Apprentice" features horror-tinged lyrics that sound like they're straight from an H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe story. Allen's vocals almost sound Graham Bonnet-like during the verses, and Romeo once again shines with his riffs and soloing, although there is not a lot going on with the keyboards during this song. However, this is made up for almost instantly once "Accolade II" starts off, featuring some beautiful piano from Michael Pinnella. There is also nice bass riffing right before the first verse starts for the alert listener. This is definitely a softer song, being a sequel to "Accolade" off of Divine Wings of Tragedy. The piano provides beautiful melodies throughout the entire song, and one of the best parts of the song is about four minutes in when only the piano is playing and Allen sings a few lines ---- very powerful stuff. Romeo has some excellent guitar parts starting at the five and a half minute mark and continuing through his solo. A very moving and powerful song, the type of songs which Symphony X just seems to have a knack for writing.
Next up is "King of Terrors", which is on the total opposite end of the spectrum from "Accolade II". This is probably the heaviest song the band has done up to this point. The riff is a little more simplistic and repetitive than what Romeo usually writes, but it accomplishes exactly what it's supposed to: it's supposed to be HEAVY, and it certainly is. Allen's vocals (as mentioned before) are taken to a new level of aggression during the verses, calming down for the pre-chorus with some piano thrown in. The chorus features some nice double-bass drumwork while Allen's vocals soar. Right in the middle of the song, there is a spoken word section with a quote straight from the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Pit and the Pendulum", which the song is based on. Allen utilizes a deep voice to read the section and sounds similar to the deep voice that Geoff Tate sometimes uses. Some nice keyboard work leads into a very nice section of the guitar and bass playing a complex riff together, and from there Romeo goes off on another amazing solo.
"The Turning" starts off with a frantic riff that almost reminds of something Yngwie Malmsteen would do. This is one of the shorter songs on the album, but is another excellent, straight ahead heavy song. Things calm down a little during the pre-chorus, but the chorus features the intro riff prominently while Allen sings, giving the chorus a strong sense of urgency. "Awakenings" is quite different than anything else on the album; it starts out with a lot of keyboard, piano and some nice bass rhythms, and it reminds me a lot of something from the video game masterpiece Castlevania: Symphony of the Night if anyone is familiar with it. From there, for a good part of the song Allen sings while only the piano plays, and this section is beautifully done. Once it ends though, the song gets quite heavy with Romeo interjecting some nice riffage and leads. This is probably my second favorite track on the CD, with my favorite being the next track - the epic "The Odyssey", which clocks in at just over 24 minutes long. One of the best things about this band is that when they write long songs, they vary things and keep things fresh throughout the whole song. To me, when listening to "The Odyssey", it only feels like six or seven minutes have passed, not 24. That, to me, is the mark of a great epic song --- it shouldn't ever feel like it's dragging on too long or become boring. The song is divided into seven parts, starting out with some orchestral playing and then running the gamut from slow, acoustic material to fast and heavy music. I won't describe everything in detail, but this song should be heard by everyone who considers themselves a fan of music ---- this may be the best song I've ever heard. This song makes you feel as though you're accompanying Odysseus on his journey and conjures up a lot different images and ideas. Very, very epic. There is a bonus track on the limited edition called "Masquerade", which is basically a re-working of a song from Symphony X's self titled debut with Russell Allen on vocals. Another excellent song, and I would suggest tracking the Limited Edition of The Odyssey because it's worth having.
Overall, this is a fantastic album, and I'd have to put it up there as one of the best albums of all time. How these guys can consistently pump out such awe inspiring music is a mystery, but I hope they can keep it up for a long time to come. I would encourage metal fans of all genres to give this album a listen - almost everyone I introduce to this band loves them, no matter what their musical tastes are.
Scenes From a Memory, back the fuck up because a new concept album is in town and doesn't wank all over god's green earth and sound like an ass-raped puppy. It's called The Odyssey by a little band named Symphony X.
Ok, I'll be serious now, seriously. I just thought that would be an interesting way to start a review since I've been noticing that my review-writing has become a bit formulaic lately. What we have hear is the latest album from progressive/neoclassical metal gods Symphony X. This time, we're dealing with a concept album about Odysseus and his perilous journey to Ithaca. Obviously, the lyrics are going to sound silly and pretentious, but people who enjoy Greek mythology and English teachers will highly enjoy this album. The Odyssey marks a somewhat prominent change in musical styles from their previous album V. This is more of a straightforward metal album, and though I appreciate V more, I can groove to this better.
It begins with Inferno(Unleash the Fire), which goes straight for the throat right from the beginning. The guitars and keyboards complement each other very well on this song. Next is Wicked, which slows things down a little, but just barely. This song has one of the best rhythms Symphony X has ever made. Michael Romeo himself said so. The chorus is absolutely kick-ass. The drumming is great as always and Russell Allen's vocals shine. Following this is Incantations of the Apprentice, which begins with horns that sound like they came from Nile's Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka album. Then it morphs into a full-blown power metal monster, with some Nine Inch Nails-inspired synth which lasts for a few seconds. Next up is Accolade II, which is obviously a sequel to the first Accolade from The Divine Wings of Tragedy. I'm not totally sure where this song fits in lyrically, but it sure isn't a downer musically. This song is much slower, with the keyboards much more prominent. Beautiful piano-playing abounds on this song and you can easily hear some classic rock influences from the likes of Journey, etc. The chorus is absolutely to die for as well. Following this is Kings of Terror, which has Megadeth-inspired riffing and strings that hearken back to the days of horror video games such as Super Ghouls and Ghosts. Later on is a spoken word interlude that is reminiscent of the narrator on Michael Jackson's "Thriller". Following this song is The Turning, which is the quickest, most volatile of the album. Frequent time changes abound on this song. Later on is more Middle-Eastern inspired riffing which gives way to more turbulent soloing, etc. Jeez, I see what O'Sheaman means about the Middle-Eastern style of playing riffs occurring too much in metal nowadays.
Anyway, next is Awakenings, which is another ballad, which begins with nice strings, a Police-like bass sound, and more beautiful piano-playing. The song moves at a tranquil pace until about the three-minute mark, where it erupts into a fury of guitars. Some awesome piano playing and Kansas-inspired keyboards surface at about the 6:00 minute mark. Following this is the epic, 24-minute title track. This is GODLY, at least at the beginning. Listen to it--it's so magnificently powerful and symphonic and will make you want to jump in jubilation. The separate parts of the song are less distinguishable, but the riffing is superb and the band does an adequate job of transitioning from one part to another. A real highlight of the song is the last part Fate of the Suitors/Champion of Ithaca. The chorus is especially uplifting.
Finally, the album closes with the bonus track "Masquerade". This is a reworked version of the first "Masquerade '88", which can be found on an EP. This song has more neoclassical elements than any Symphony X song I've ever heard and you can definitely tell the band was influenced by classical artists such as Mozart, etc. This is my favorite song of the album. Yes, it doesn't fit the theme and it's not as heavy as many other songs, but it has a great attitude, the backup vocalists are especially prominent, and the soloing is especially tight and weaves well with the piano. Overall, this is another excellent release from arguably the best power metal band around.(I don't know why this site doesn't list the word 'power' to describe their overall sound. It's much too powerful to just be progressive/neoclassical.) Highly recommended.
Symphony X is a band I'd always heard a lot about. Finally I decided to pick up an album, and being a fan of mythology and the like, I decided to pick up The Odyssey. Little did I know I would be blown away, much like when I had first hear Yngwie and Iron Maiden...
The first song on the album is one of my favorites. Inferno (Unleash the Fire) starts with some insane guitar licks. A good introduction to the album, I must say. The trade-off's with the keyboard and guitar sounds good as well. The main-riff of the song has some good pinch harmonics. The vocals start very aggressive, but melodic nonetheless. The chorus vocal melody is really good. When the solo comes, there is some insane sweeping; it's generally just a kick-ass solo. The keyboard solo is good competition, howeverl...this is a damn good song.
Wicked is the next song on the album. A rather catchy riff starts the song aggressive and low, until it finally bridges into the first verse. Not much aggression, but great melody. The chorus is one of my favorites on the album. There's also a keyboard part in this song before the solo that reminds me of Dream Theater a bit. The solo that follows is fairly short, as is the preceding keyboard solo. Both are decent. The soft section somehow keeps the song at it's peak...the solo that breaks out afterwards is pretty good, though fairly simplistic.The riff that ends the song is my favorite, however. Another riff that reminds me of Dream Theater.
Ever see the Mummy? The start of "Incantations of the Apprentice" reminds me of the soundtrack for some reason....except with heavy metal guitar. This is another of my favorites off the album. Sounds very mythical. The main-riff rids itself of the mythical sound, however, and replaces it with some sweet pinch harmonics and solo breaks. The vocals shine as always, and the mini-drum fills strewn throughout the verse (where there is no guitar) sound pretty good, though simplistic. The string sound in the background is great; it's not overpowering, yet it still adds the nessecary amount of atmosphere. As always, the guitar solo is great. The dual section is pretty damn sweet, may I add.
Accolade II starts off a bit different, with sorrowful piano music accompanied by what I liken to a violin. The intro piano is very good. Sets the mood for the rest of the song. The following riff is real good; inspirational keyboards ocassionaly dualed with acoustic guitar, and always accompanied by heavy chord progressions. The drums sound good as well. The vocals in Accolade II reach heights unreached from the last 3 listed. The mid-section fits perfectly, and the vocals and piano alone sounds very different...but, of course, welcome. The guitar melody that follows is sweet as well. The piano continues, but now an acoustic guitar joins in. Eventually "sweeping" piano comes in, built-up with various chords. The song ends up with more great melodies then I can count, and yet another great guitar solo.
King of Terrors is the next song. It's very aggressive, what with the doom-laden guitar and keyboard. The drumming sounds complex to this guitarists ears as well. The vocals are very good in this song; very aggressive at times, and at other times melodic. The spoken bit leads the song into a mid-section, with very low piano for but a second. The keyboard guitar dual harmony is great, and one of the best on the album. The solo in this song is blisteringly fast, and well appreciated to this guitarists (had to use that one again) ears.
The Turnings main riff is very speedy. The opening solo is one of my favorites, though it's rather short. The vocals actually remind me of the illustrious Bruce Dickinson at times, yet attain anger at seemingly unreachable degrees most of the time. The dual guitar-keyboard melody is yet another of brilliance. The guitar rhythm in the background is sweet as well, building it up very well. The solo sounds great; both the guitarist and keyboard solo at the same time, followed by a solo by only the keyboardist. The guitar joins in again for another melody. The guitar solo follows, and it too is great.
Awakenings is the next song, and it too has a piano intro. However, this piano is accompanied by strings, making it more epic. The guitar has very little gain, which is a bit strange, but it sounds good nonetheless. The vocals in this song are different in a melodic way, but still very good. Of course, that lasts for only so long, and we get another taste of melodic-aggression. The solo at the end of the song is very catchy for some reason or another, and it serves the song well.
The Odyssey is the 24 minute long song on this album, and let me tell you...every minute, every second, is amazing. Very symphonic, very epic...definitely my absolute favorite off the album. There is no denying the brilliance in this track. This song is divided into various parts, with my favorite part being Part 1, "the Overture," or "Odysseus' Theme." The guitar and symphonic elements mix well. I swear this song could make it on a movie, it's theatrical, epic, symphonic, and the mood of it changes quite a bit.
Don't get me wrong, it's a good album. I like Symphony X a lot, and I'm crazy about prog metal and old prog rock. But the problem is, they sort of went more in the metal direction than the progressive direction, and while this is not at all a bad thing, the problem is really that they sound like they tried to be overly technical to make up for the less inventive songwriting. There are lots of boring start-stop riffs like "Inferno", "Wicked", "Incantations of the Apprentice", etc. Romeo relies a lot on them on here, and they're simply not that catchy or inspired sounding. His solos are generally pretty forgettable, technically impressive but boring shredding with occasional bent notes for emphasis or something like that I guess, I can't remember a single solo he does on here that's memorable, and I've spun the album quite a few times. The ominous title track, clocking in at 24 minutes 9 seconds, is quite a letdown. The opening's pretty cool, I love the acoustic section which eventually goes electric ('my eyes have been denied...', that part), but overall it just sounds like a lot of ideas thrown together, and isn't cohesive at all. The song's just pretty poorly structured, and fails to keep my interest-after 10 minutes or so, I've totally lost interest, and I'm all for epic music. This song just doesn't grab me as epic, there are far too many passages which prove they're all sick musicians and very tight as a band but simply sound crappy. And I like technicality, I love Dream Theater, and while DT are often accused of wankery, I'm sorry to say their songwriting far surpasses songs like this. The Odyssey's title track is just a very technical but forgettable song. Give me DT's A Change of Seasons any day. And the whole album here falls into this trap too often, even though everyone sounds great (especially Russell, man can he wail, and I think Jason's a very underrated drummer), the lyrics are good, etc. This album just fails to grab me...though the reworking of their old song "Masquerade" is a thousand times better, and although it's a bonus track, it's probably my favorite song on here. I feel bad giving one of my favorite bands a bad review, because I applaud the descent into prog territory instead of their old power metalish roots, I just don't think they've quite gotten it right yet.