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Before starting this review, I have to say that I used to think that this album was Symphony X's worse by a long shot. I don't consider myself a power metal fan in the slightest; my metal listening diet is mainly death, thrash and grindcore. The first SX albums I ever heard were Paradise Lost and Iconoclast; when I first heard The Divine Wings of Tragedy I didn't really enjoy it because of the power metal elements. It grew on me with time and I decided to check this album out. Needless to say, nothing could have prepared me for a track like Evolution. "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS OVERLY HAPPY FIST PUMPING EUROPEAN FESTIVAL CRAP!?", my brain screamed several times. I don't remember if I actually heard the rest of the album or not, I was so damn frustrated.
Fast forward about two years, I've finally gotten the idea out of my head that "melody is bad/gay/whatever". I decide to give the album I loathe for reasons I can't recall a second chance; after all, this is the band that released The Damnation Game, The Divine Wings of Tragedy and Twilight in Olympus, all of which I love at this point. So. Intro: a bit cheesy but does the job right. Evolution: "A-HA!", I remembered why I hated this frickin' song in the first place, "It sounds like some other band wrote it and SX are playing other people's material!!", but I'm enjoying it more than I thought myself capable of. Strange. And then the rest of the album happened. And an hour later I sat there, mesmerized, wanting more.
Composition-wise, V: The New Mythology Suite has both a lot more of a power metal style (mainly the STD-catchy choruses in songs like Evolution or A Fool's Paradise) and a lot more progressive influences than previous albums (The Bird-Serpent War and The Death of Balance in particular), but manages it well and at no point sounds over-the-top just for the heck of it (see: The Odyssey). Although not explicitly mentioned in the album credits, the band members have stated over the years that several parts on this album (never actually mentioning which parts) were originally one long song that was meant to appear on Twilight in Olympus but was cut do to time constraints. It makes sense to me that this album (their last truly amazing album to date) was the last that had music written by Michael Romeo, Michael Pinnella and Tom Miller writing as a "team" of sorts; the same team that wrote the first albums (as opposed to their most recent outings which are basically The Michael Romeo Experience). And Miller doesn't actually play on the album; by then he'd been replaced by Michael LePond.
Speaking of LePond, props to him (or whoever was responsible) for the bass tone on this record. I'm a fan of Tom Miller's more "jazzy" tone, but the more gritty one presented here works really well in the mix. The guitar tone isn't the best they've ever achieved, but stacked up against the systematic aberration that is the guitar tone on The Odyssey, it's not really bad at all. Also, MAJOR props to Eric Rachel for the mix (assuming he did the mixing). You can hear everything perfectly at every moment of this album: drums, guitar, bass, keys, vocals, choirs and extra orchestra-thingys. I mention this because after this record the bass and keyboards started to get pushed further and further back in the mix with each release (again, The Michael Romeo Experience).
I'm dedicating an entire paragraph to Russell Allen just because. To my ears, his performance on this LP is the perfect balance of the "majestic" Russell and the "angry/growly" Russell; not terribly unlike his parts on Divine Wings, but with more intermediate steps and subtleties. Tracks like Communion and the Oracle and Abscence of Light showcase his melodic range pretty well, while Fallen or The Bird-Serpent War highlight the lower register that he now so fondly uses and abuses. However, the real standout tracks for Mr. Allen are Egypt and The New Mythology, where he uses both these "styles" to create truly memorable vocal passages.
This album is definitely a grower. While it may not capture the aura of some of their first efforts, I think it embodies the scope of what Symphony X are capable of when they don't give a crap about being metal or selling records. This is the band at its best: five prog dorks that wrote an hour-long power metal concept album about Atlantis, not caring about pleasing anybody but themselves. But I guess artistic integrity doesn't put food on the table...
This studio album perfectly shows if band members are talented, their product doesn't have to be equally good. It's impossible to record this, and preform it live later, unless you want to troll people. It's almost impossible to make heavy metal album without an excellent song. But they did it, 'cause they belong to this group of intelligent progressive metal people, so they have to experiment with everything, even with crap songs. This is not a good representative release for heavy metal, 'cause it doesn't have much heavy parts to enjoy. Amount of weak vocalists who preform vapid chorus and endless weak classical elements is simply too much. They even surpassed Stratovarius and some other bands with melodic approach which abuse keyboards.
There are 13 songs, impressive it seems, but there are so many goddamn intros which are bull-crap, and add even more nerdy feel for songs which come right after them, specially chanting in Latin in such ridiculous way. Short introductions and overtures are fine, but these are too weak and childish. The only great intro song which leaves good impression is Transcendence, yet it's 38 seconds long... that's the art of trolling. Michael Pinnella was probably the busiest band member, since he dominates almost in each second of every song with his mediocre keyboard work. Russell Allen's voice is powerless and too much lazy in general, but there are some energetic performances in fast songs. Michael Romeo didn't make many great riffs, besides some in Evolution (The Grand Design), Absence Of Light and A Fool's Paradise. His guitar solos are very rare, and those he made are nothing comparing to his solos on other releases.
Mike LePond wasn't notable at all, and along with Pinnella, Jason Rullo was busy band member too, but without any serious memorable work. It seems that all of them didn't have will to live, specially not to make creative and better stuff. Oh, I almost forgot, there is only one very good song here. Evolution (The Grand Design) has excellent riffs, cool refrains and great ambient. It's not their maximum, they could have done this one better if they removed slow part, and if Romeo played better and longer solo. That's all folks, the rest has been already described.
Good sides of this release:
Bad sides of this release:
Avoid this release, and don't spend your money on it, or time listening to this. You won't miss anything. If you really want to hear something great this band did, go, and listen to Divine Wings Of Tragedy, The Odyssey and Paradise Lost. The rest, well... better not to tell again.
Symphony X has been cited alot as being the counterpart of Dream Theater in the progressive metal world. The two are constantly being compared to each other, and while I prefer Dream Theater hands down overall, Symphony X have made themselves a conceptual masterpiece that matches any album by Petrucci and company. This is music that paints a very exotic locale, and has a very classical Greek/Egyptian feel to it, as if it's the soundtrack to a badass, metal version of 'Jason & The Argonauts.' While there's a point where the cheesy power metal approach the band takes in their music can become a bit too much, there's just enough progressive magic here to balance it out and make for a hell of a wild ride.
Judging from 'The New Mythology Suite's name, it's understandable to think of the album has not a mere collection of songs, but a multi-part epic, much along the lines of Fates Warning's 'The Ivory Gate Of Dreams' or The Mars Volta's 'Cassandra Geminni,' spanning the course of many tracks.
Despite the instrumental brilliance that the band adopts, I have never been a fan of Russell Allen's voice, and most likely never will. He's obviously a very technically accomplished vocalist, and is able to hit an impressive range, but the tone of his voice simply contrasts with my personal tastes. While his vocals detract a little from my overall enjoyment of the work, it's still an album that is excellent and enjoyable throughout.
The highlights are always the parts where the band opts to go very progressive and technical. The instrumental parts (for reason mentioned above) are my favourite. Stand-out songs include the epic 'Communion And The Oracle,' the exotic sounding 'Egypt,' the highly progressive and abstract- rhythmic 'Death Of Balance/Lacrymosa' and the fantastic, grandiose closer 'Rediscovery Pt. II.' This is a very neoclassically-arranged piece of progressive metal. I'm sure every prog-metal fan can enjoy the greatness of this album. It's not the superior masterpiece of progressive metal, but it's definately up there, and stands as being Symphony X's most impressive work to date.
This is the album that basically splits the sound of the old Symphony X, who released albums like The Divine Wings of Tragedy and Twilight in Olympus, and the newer sound of Symphony X, who released albums like The Odyssey and Paradise Lost. Basically they blended elements that made Twilight in Olympus into this album, which are mostly the neoclassical solos, and the segue tracks. Twilight in Olympus had an instrumental track that was basically a sonata. They used that idea into three songs for this album, all of which are generally orchestral based instrumentals that fall under two minutes or so.
Now these little segue tracks aren’t the problem. The problem is however is that this album just feels as if it was just recorded just for the sake of having another album out. A lot of the band members are doing more of a half-assed job on this album than any other album before and after this album. The rhythm guitar is rather simple, it’s generally tuned the same and at times sounds like an annoying chug for all the songs, and the only song that really stands out on this album is “Egypt” mostly because of the opening riff, and that song isn’t even that good. You get past the cool intro to that song and you find an almost eight minute song that goes nowhere. The bass is inaudible on this album which was a first for Symphony X. hearing the bass on the previous albums was always a treat; Thomas Miller always made his bass worth listening to with his groove sections, his fretless slides on some songs, and his general speed. The new bassist Michael LePond doesn’t do anything wrong, he’s just inaudible which is just a drag.
Russell Allen is still doing a good job being the vocalist. He doesn’t seem to be singing a whole lot on this album compared to previous albums with him. A lot of the choruses take over his job it feels like. Not to mention all the solos which all still have that neoclassical touch to them, there’s more keyboard work on this album though. With all the keyboard work in this album its clear that the Symphony X is heading for are more orchestral oriented metal, although they didn’t necessary go for that approach for The Odyssey of Paradise Lost.
This album is kind of an odd one. I like to look at it as if it’s a bridge between old and new Symphony X. It still is full of the neoclassical guitar solos that early Symphony X is known for, and it is the basis of new Symphony X also. Fans of the newer sounding Symphony X will probably like this. Fans of the older sounding Symphony X will most likely find it to be a weak effort, yet they will still like it also.
I know I really love a band when I have complete confidence in that band. I don't have to sample their albums online before I buy them, I will buy their albums full price, and I have total faith that I will receive a good product. Some examples of bands that have achieved this for me are Iron Maiden, Manowar, Ayreon, and of course Symphony X. I put so much faith of my knowledge and listening experience of these bands that I trust them as if they are close friends. But, this is not always a perfect plan.
I have purchased albums by bands I thought could do no wrong, to discover that they could indeed do wrong. Which brings me to "V: The New Mythology Suite" by Symphony X. While this album is far from bad, it did leave me unsatisfied after the first listen, and still discontent after the next few spins. Having been amazed by Symphony X's albums, "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy", and "The Odyssey" prior to hearing this fifth outing by the band I was expecting a lot, and I was sure I was in store for another masterpiece. As I already stated, this album is not of bad quality, and if it had been made by a band I was less in love with, perhaps I would have enjoyed it much more over the years.
It took me a long time to get to writing this review. When I first purchased the album I was so dissapointed I placed it into my collection and didn't listen to it again for nearly a year. Eventually I decided I would listen to it again and write a review. During my second listen I was more prepared for the album that the first time, and I did enjoy it more, but I was conflicted on how to go about writing a review and even more conflicted on the score I would give it. Bringing me to the time I am actually writing this review I have listened to this disc several more times and am more in tune with the music than in the past. While this album hasn't exactly grown on me, I have become more comfortable.
Symphony X's own, "Divine Wings Of Tragedy" will always be in my mind a masterpiece and one of the greatest metal albums ever. This album in comparison is just plain weak. It contains all the musical wizardry of "DWOT" but without the passion. The emotion has been stripped and replaced with a new approach more relative to classical music. We have orchestral interludes, segues, songs with multiple movements, and music which is complex but not always accesible. Not to say that these elements aren't present on Symphony X's other releases, they certainly abound in "DWOT" and "Odyssey" alike, but they are more prominent on this release. Here on "V" they become the base and the theme of the music, unlike on the band's other releases where they are only aspects of a larger picture.
Taking all this into account and listening to the album, we hear a disc that is very centered on what it wants, and that is solely to show off this band's ability to play their instruments like they are gods. The only problem is that we all already know that they can play their instruments like gods, we have heard it on all their other albums. At this point in the game, what we want is either something drastically new and creative or a batch of really well-written songs. The main issue is that we don't have either of these, and that is where this album falls short of Symphony X's others.
But enough of that, on to the actual music. To partially contradict what I said above, there are actually several really well written songs on here. "Evolution (The Grand Design)" is one of the band's finest compositions, and one I'm sure would feel perfectly at home stuck into the middle of "Divine Wings Of Tragedy". Other highlights include, "Egypt", "The Death Of Balance", and "Communion And The Oracle". And to totally tell the truth this album isn't a bad listen. To tell the truth it is a lot better than what most metal band's release, and while I have sounded quite negative in this review so far, I want to make it very clear: this is in no way a bad album.
Despite not being bad, it is uneven. Following the album's standout track, "Evolution", is the shaky, "Fallen" which discards melodic tendencies for quick bursts of notes assembled in patterns which come of as technically impressive but musically pointless. The album's closer, "Rediscovery", pushes over thirteen minutes, bringing to the table several interesting ideas scattered throughout it's runtime, but overall coming off as disjointed and uninspired. Several other tracks seem to follow this formula and the disc can occasionally become annoying.
One thing that bothers me is to use of the segues. There are four of them on the album, and they occupy their own tracks. If I had been in command of this production I would have taken these segues and put them at the beginning of the next song, thus making the tracklist shorter, but the songs longer. As it is now, the track list makes the album seem bigger than it is, and provides us with little bits of music that many fans will likely press the skip button through, thus being wasted. While I enjoy the segues, I feel they should have been executed differently.
I haven't really said anything good about this album to justify my score, so here goes. Despite being dissapointing among this band's catalog, it is still Symphony X, and therefore is still technically brilliant. We still have fabulous players here, one of the greatest metal vocalists to walk the earth, and a band that is tighter than they've ever been, technically speaking. While the song writing is not as developed, and therefore not as breathtaking, as other albums and while the ideas are scattered and executed poorly we still have a nice release by any standard. To put it plain and simply, this is still better than 95% of the metal music out there today.
Symphony X has only had one worse release, their debut (due to an annoying singer), but this is clearly their worst production yet. Their albums up until this point have been impeccable, but on this, they seem to be toying with new elements, and the resulting album just seems out-of-place for them. They've added heavier symphony elements and a more chunky guitar sound, but the two conflict with each other, the guitars disrupting a beautiful atmosphere part or a too-loud fake symphony hiding awesome guitar work. The band-members performance is at their weakest here also. Romeo isn't as technical as on other albums, Pinnela doesn't have the 'right' presence, Allen seems too quiet and often can't be heard (not his fault though, his individual stuff is still pretty good.) Jason Rullo, however, pulls some incredible drum tracks, easily the highlight of the album.
V starts with a prelude, a simple little choir(The choirs need more power in this album, however) with a riff, and goes into Evolution. Evolution is one of the standout tracks, and provides one of the few catchy parts. Fallen shows the CD losing some steam, with a resurgence on Transcendence and Communion. Then the album has a another lackluster track followed by a segue. (These segues are actually quite good, but they're way too short) Egypt find the second big highlight of the album, while not as good as Evolution, it incorporates some interesting Egyptian-sounding themes.
After this, the album just starts to decay. It goes back for a little bit to quality in A Fools Paradise, but the album fails to deliver after this. Rediscovery has a few interesting bits, but unlike Symphony Xs other 10-minute plus epics, this one falls prey to the beast of feeling drawn-out. Like many of the tracks on the album.
Overall, this is more of a skip-to-the-highlights album, and really only serves as a transition to the heavier and much better Odyssey. I'd say to only buy this album if you've already got Symphony Xs other albums and immensely enjoy them.
Highlights: Evolution (The Grand Design), Egypt, A Fools Paradise
Indeed, Symphony X’s worst. I don’t know how many people will disagree but after all, if there always were a general consensus about everything, there would be no point in writing anything. So to come back to our well-known American neoclassical power metal band, one will never enough point out how much Thomas Miller’s departure affected its general sound, and further its overall strength. Not that said departure had been surprising. This guy always gave the impression of coming from some remote, long forgotten century, so this is no wonder he proved to be unable to tour (the reason commonly given for his replacement by Michael Lepond) – and no wonder as well he vanished into oblivion without being ever spoken about again. He simply wasn’t REAL.
Actually, up to Twilight in Olympus the whole band indeed hadn’t looked real; hence the rumours of it simply being a studio project with no actual existence. Nowadays this idea wouldn’t come across anyone’s mind, but the price the act paid to give a proof of its... incarnation may have been too high. And even if The Odyssey will eventually be a tad better than V, especially with its astonishing title track, it still cannot live up to the earlier stuff. However, the change is subtle and far from being striking at first listen. Most listeners (listeners familiar with old Symphony X, I’m not writing for those who discovered the band with The Odyssey anyway) must have thought something like, let’s guess – Well, SOMETHING has changed – Well, it’s the same band which released The Divine Wings... is it? – Well, I like it... but do I really? – Well...
Well, because, what could have changed, actually? Michael Romeo’s characteristic syncopated riffs and arpeggios-based solos are still present. Russel Allen doesn’t seem to have become especially voiceless. Drummer Jason Rullo is back and as strong as ever, even gratifying us with a little solo in The Death of Balance. So, what?
Many things, if you think it twice. The bass, first, is almost non-existent. Miller era Symphony X showed very audible, as well as totally whimsical bass lines, which were part of the originality of the band. By contrast Mike Lepond seems to be devoid of any imagination and (or, thus?) is relegated in the background of most songs – Egypt and A Fool’s Paradise being notable exceptions. Secondly, with years the guitar will be more and more prominent and mixed up, Symphony X more and more becoming Michael Romeo’s, and only Michael Romeo’s band – what will be even more flagrant on the following album. A pity, as the perfect balance between the different instruments accounted for a large part of their overall charm. Consequently, Michael Pinnella’s part is becoming more and more discrete, here often limited to background keyboard accompaniment. Granted, some genuine piano may still be punctually heard, but the golden days are undoubtedly gone.
But there is worse. Orchestrations. Symphony X making use of synthetic orchestrations is an ultimate heresy for a simple reason: they were the orchestral band by essence, meaning each of their songs worked like a classical piece of work, but with metal instruments. Adding extra orchestrations is like superimposing another, fake orchestra on a chamber music quintet, it’s perfectly absurd. But, after all, with V Symphony X have abandoned many of their neoclassical characteristics to lean towards more standard power metal so it’s not that absurd; it’s just pitiful. Without mentioning V is a concept album, so it goes with its handful of orchestral transitions every beginner in the genre could have written. You definitely don’t have to have released Twilight in Olympus to write a pile of crap like On the Breath of Poseidon, or the general Prelude. On the other hand I may admit the short Rediscovery, fronted by an eerie acoustic guitar, is for once rather well-crafted.
Equally pitiful are a couple of other findings, like those mid-eastern melodies on Fallen or Egypt. Even if the concept is centred upon the myths of Atlantis, thus melting Greek as well as Egyptian references, this can’t justify them as they’re in contradiction with everything the band ever did. Furthermore, what could be said about those distorted vocals which can regularly be heard? Distorting vocals of a singer like Sir Russel Allen is, simply put, a crime.
To sum it up, V displays a worrying level of ARTIFICE. After all, pretty much everything is artificial here. Orchestrations. Modified vocals. Oriental melodies. The way the different instruments imperfectly melt together. The whole, incomprehensible concept which doesn’t fit the band AT ALL: Symphony X always had a predilection for odd games of lights, ghosts and mirrors which went on par with their once slightly weird, chilling music; here by contrast it sounds like they have borrowed lyrics from Therion and tried to adapt them to their own manner – and failed. There had always been some Shakespearian vibe in Symphony X’s music, and you just can’t put an Egyptian mummy in the middle of Macbeth’s castle (sorry, but the fact Shakespeare has also written about Cleopatra goes beyond the scope of this review, right?).
Then, once you got rid of all this suspect and unpleasant sauce, you begin to notice the main riff of every track is more or less the same, without mentioning actual riffs are pretty scarce in comparison to the act’s older works. Remember, The Divine Wings of Tragedy and Twilight in Olympus counted 17 songs together, 17 genuine songs without a single useless segue or intro, and each of them was unique. You begin to notice The Bird-Serpent War goes exactly nowhere. You begin to notice the long closing track is only a poor summary of everything else on the album. You simply begin to notice this release is simply NOT Symphony X.
... with the exception of the mandatory semi-ballad Communion and the Oracle of course. I don’t think I’ve to present what might have become the most famous Symphony X song. Some may be reluctant to call it even a semi-ballad, but there’s no other way to classify this kind of highly melodic tracks only SX can write, with the eerie, crystalline piano, acoustic guitars and some of Russel Allen’s finest singing moments. Melody devoid of any mellowness or cheesiness, you know. Intrinsic Beauty, good sir.
In fact, I’m far from hating this album, simply because it’s so fluently played, as every other Symphony X release, that no one can really hate it. It even exhibits several agreeable moments: Evolution or A Fool’s Paradise are lively power metal anthems which easily stand above most of their counterparts around here, The Death of Balance with its drums solo at least has the merit of originality though I won’t call it beautiful by any means, and eventually it bears Communion and the Oracle on it. But I nonetheless still feel really, really CHEATED.
Highlights: Evolution (The Grand Design), Communion and the Oracle
Symphony X's finest. A nice concept album,but the real beauty lies in the excellent song writing and lyrics. Everything reeks of polish, and the songs are tight and entertaining. Symphony X has truly created a masterpiece here. Now, after listening to Twilight in Olympus with amazing songs like Smoke and Mirrors and Church of the Machine, and Divine Wings of Tragedy before, I doubted Symphony X could do it again. They did. They even improved in some ways even more on The Odyssey, although the album isn't as good as this one. Everything builds up so nicely, from the epic Rediscovery to the powerful song The Bird-Serpent War/Cataclysm. Wonderful stuff. Highlights are the two songs I just mentioned as well as Evolution, A Fool's Paradise which is awesome, Comunion and the Oracle and Death of Balance (although strange, great).
Weak points? Well, the segues are a bit worthless but don't really detract from the album. Absence of Light and Egypt sound a bit too much like other songs that did it better for me, although definitely not bad. Egypt is still good, Absense of Light being..bearable. It's definitely the weakpoint of the album. Any other bad parts? Nope. The whole thing is epic in scope, builds up awesomely, if that's a word, to the awesome last song which NEVER gets boring all through it's twelve minutes. The only other song that has kept me entranced that's longer than 10 minutes is some Yes songs, Krimson songs, Opeth's The Drapery Falls and Finally Free from Dream Theater. An elite group indeed.
Being one of the only American bands that can stack up, musician for musician, against any European power/progressive/skill act, Symphony X have been equally as consistent. They are also easily one of the most talented in all of metal right now, if their recent output, including this album is any indication. This band has received many accolades and critical acclaim for this skill, because they have a unique style of progressive metal, thanks in no small part to the songwriting talents and musical ability of neoclassical guitarist Michael Romeo. V: The New Mythology Suite continues the consistent trend for this band, as they have successfully crafted a tremendous prog album that is equal in both songwriting and musicianship.
The Highlights: Every song on this album is strong, even the occasional insturmental interludes on this album. The sound of the album brings to mind ballsier Dream Theater or maybe Evergrey, but more keyboard heavy than the latter band, with quite a bit of classical influence. The songs on here seem to run together like a concept album, though I have never seen this album mentioned anywhere as such an album. There are four songs that I think are absolute standouts, and probably only about one or two songs on here I don't love. The songs that take the cake for being the best on here are "Evolution", "Communiion & The Oracle", "Rediscovery Part #2", and "Egypt". "Evolution" and "Rediscovery Part #2" show that Michael Romeo is not just a talented flashy soloist on guitar, but also shows that he can write and play some excellent bottom-heavy riffs. Vocalist Russell Allen is crystal clear on all the tracks that actually have singing on them, but his vocal perfomances on "Communion & The Oracle" and "Egypt" are particularly moving pieces of work. "Absence Of Light" has some baritone vocal harmonies that fit the style of the song very well, and is a welcome surprise, seeing how a lot of vocals normally associated with power and progressive metal are of the falsetto variety. Many Symphony X songs in general actually seem to be a good fit for baritone, but still clear vocals, and they are one of the few bands that can achieve success doing this.
Now one might pop this disc in and complain about all the short instrumental breaks on this album, as well as all the keyboard work, but I think they fit this album very well. They offer a nice transition between songs that do have vocals, and they definitely sound like a lot of thought went into writing them. They almost sound like mini-classical pieces with good guitar riffing, but it definitely does not sound like wankery to these ears. Symphony X also has a track record of being able to maintain their heaviness without getting too disjointed, or getting light or airy, like on some of the ballads many lesser prog and power metal bands are known to write.
The Lowlights: As evidenced by this rating, I can't really see any flaws with this album. Nothing even comes close to sucking, and I play this disc all the way through, without skipping any tracks 9 out of 10 times. That is how good this album is.
Who this album is for: What more can I say? I don't see why any progressive or power metal fan would not want to add this CD to their collection after they listen to this even once. In my book, this is a must-own for any fan of any type of power metal.
The bottom line: This album will live forever as a prog classic, alongside other great prog opuses such as Operation: Mindcrime, No Exit, and Scenes From A Memory. Buy it.
This CD was a major stepping-stone in the discovery of my music taste altogether. I was always interested in something different in music, but I didn't know exactly what, or where to look for it. ...I'm not going to go into the details here of how I discovered it but when I first got this, I loved it and listened to it so much. I listened to it insane amounts the first week, and then every 2 or 3 days for about 3 months. It was the very first thing I bought that wasn't a normal radio band, which had very interesting progressions and instrumental combinations. Before that I listened to the artsy sort of radio bands, such as Tool, Radiohead, Nine inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins (don't get me wrong - I still enjoy these bands today). Tool always had amazing, intricate, progressive, interesting songs, and Radiohead always a unique sound unlike anything on the rtadio, but this CD really inspired my tastes from then on.
In the very short review I wrote about this (on amazon) almost 3 years ago now, I stated that it would never get old. I was right - It never did. I listen to it with the interest level I had the day I got it. Although, I'm not much of a fan of all Symphony X stuff, I only really enjoy this and "Divine Wings of Tragedy." Yeah, 3 years is definitely not very long compared to some CDs people still love from 20 or 30 years ago when they got it, but in my life it is quite significant, and i feel it's going to stay this way pretty much forever.
All right, enough about my personal story. This album is practically perfect from start to finish. The Egyptian atmosphere is nice, although it doesn't sound like it that much. The piano/keyboarding is truly excellent. I would probably pay full price for the CD if it only contained the last 37 seconds of "Egypt," which is one of the most beautiful and flowing, yet short and to the point, piano solo song endings I've ever heard. "A Fool's Paradise" contains harpsichord-sounding keyboard melodies parallel with the guitars, sounding incredibly classically-influenced. Keyboards are usually played underneath all the other music at heavy parts, even if you don't notice them, which add a necessary mysterious atmosphere.
Russell Allen is an awesome vocalist, with incredible range, emotion, and a smooth, flawless, melodious vocal tone. He usually has very climatic, powerful singing in between the softer, delicate, more emotional vocals. There are sometimes such light, crystal-clear, melodic vocals on top of crunchy guitar riffing and delicate piano playing. Two other members of the band also do backup vocals, usually on choruses, which make songs more interesting and harmonized.
I don't think any of the tracks "drag" or are too long or redundant. I don't know if anyone thinks they are, but it's quite the opposite. There are three segues which are little instrumentals between main songs, and are just as good. The songs flow so perfectly into each other, which always important to me, and makes the entire thing seem much more epic. Some songs are so interesting, such as how "The Death of Balance" starts off, it sounds like music to a Christmas movie when a kid is discovering Santa Claus is real or something. But it seriously sounds amazing. The clean guitar melody that starts off "Communion and the Oracle" is so good. "Absence of Light" is a darker, more frightening song with a heavy echoed and harmonized chorus. "Evolution (The Grand Design)" is a great adrenaline-pumping opener with such fast guitar riffing juxtaposed with choir-like vocals at certain parts. "Rediscovery" is an excellent transition between two songs, with an interesting keyboard tone and melody. "On the breath of Poseidon" is another transition with incredible melodies that sound just like a powerful beast or god is rising out of the sea. Sure, it might sound melodramatic but I think it's in a good way.
There are actually a few bad things about this CD too. The cover art and inside booklets is kind of pretentious and cheesy looking, although unique and cool at the same time... not that that has any effect on the music. Something that annoys me a little is are these little solos after one another, sometimes alternating between keyboard and guitar... they seem overused and like they didn't know what to do with the song and just added all those to show off. Don't get me wrong though, this is just a minor thing and they usually have a good melody anyways. The last thing is that the lyrics aren't the greatest; they're kind of cheesy and ostentatious like the artwork, but not too bad.
Overall, if you've somehow stumbled upon this band, give them a try. It may truly inspire some great stuff from now on, like it helped me do.
While The Odyssey was far catchier and perhaps more technical than V, it's not really what Symphony X is about. Symphony X is a progressive band that is highly technical, and they should utilize those two faculties of their sound the best way they can, not write an assortment of straightforward metal tunes. Although I enjoy The Odyssey more, I appreciate this more. Russell Allen's vocals are perhaps stronger on this record and the overall tone of the album is darker, which I think ties in with the ideologies of metal quite well. Also more prevalent on this album are the backing choirs, which are very powerful and operatic, not in the old-school Therion sort-of way, but in a modern choral way. Maybe they shouldn't be described as operatic, but they damn well complement the already strong presence of Allen. The guitar tone is much thicker and buzzing on this record and its great for the dark feel of the album. There are also several instrumentals to be found here, the best one being Lacrymosa/The Bird Serpent War. Wow, the drumming is spectacular here, and the grinding guitars are excellent as well. For concept albums, instrumentals are awesome because I think they draw you more into the overall spirit and atmosphere of the concept and allow your mind to wander a little bit, as opposed to just the concrete collection of regular songs. The epic song of this album is Rediscovery and it's about half the length of the title track from The Odyssey. It's not nearly as memorable as the latter(The opening sequence is godly), but overall it's more appreciable for its overall structure and riffage. Whereas The Odyssey didn't have very many memorable, groove-worthy riffs throughout its 23-minute plus duration, Rediscovery is rife with them. The only detriment to this song is that it tends to drag a little. Still great though. The bottom line is that I enjoy The Odyssey more, but I respect this more. Now this only leaves their other albums such as Divine Wings of Tragedy for me to buy and compare and contrast.