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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.