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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)