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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.