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Like a Symphony - 95%

Hidius, September 16th, 2008

They’re having fun, but they sound like they’re serious this time.

Witness the visual vomit they’re trying to pass off as album art. It’s the first clue, then the album title. I imagine them laughing at their own bombastic hilarity as they put this thing together. But then the music starts and I imagine something else entirely.

Musically this is really an amalgam of the previous two albums. The same superficial elements from Inhuman Rampage are present, that video-gamish overall sound and whatnot. The only thing missing, surprisingly, was the growls or grunts that were in the background on the last album. I liked that as a counterpoint to the main singing, even though it wasn’t really a major thing. I thought they would push that further on here but there was no attempt at all. They were completely gone.

The rest of their sound is made up of elements from Sonic Firestorm, most notably to my ears the riffing. It seems the guitars have gotten their edge back, they were smoother on Inhuman Rampage. Also majorly noticeable was the return to song structures with slower moments to change the pace a little and keep you listening, and these were more atmospheric than what SF had. One thing I did not notice for quite some time was the drumming, and much was made of their new drummer. This was not due to any flaws in the drumming or the production, it’s just that he followed the music and remained merely a foundation for the rest of it all. The drumming here is the same as it was on past albums.

The only thing to note about the production would be the edgier guitars and the fact that the singer is not so in-your-face this time. Otherwise all the changes here would come from the actual songwriting, which I found to be more interesting than what’s come in the past. The most interesting song I heard on here was The Last Journey Home. It slowed things a bit in spots but lacked nothing in speed when it was required, and essentially represented in one song everything they’ve done for this record as a whole. In a way they have summed themselves up with this album, and with this song in particular. All that they’ve developed in their career is on display here, except their brief experiment with darker vocal styles.

That in particular would have been cool to hear on at least one song, with a little development from when we heard it last time. It would not have been out of place on several songs, and since they’re enjoying themselves so much and doing whatever they want regardless of criticism, using it on some songs but not all would have only increased the variety. The lyrics seem serious at times but the music is always fun and the package as a whole is corky as hell, similar to what else they’ve done but more developed than any of their other albums.

The more you listen to it, the more the beauty of the work as a whole comes into focus. I noticed this more when listening to this album than their previous work. There is greater variation in the songwriting here than there was in the past, making each song seem like a separate movement of a symphony, even though none of it sounds like it’s classically influenced. This isn’t like Symphony X’s music, but the album succeeds in sounding less like a string of new songs for the fans and more like a cohesive project that the band was very involved with.

The first impression you get from it is that they had a ton of fun, almost like they’re so cocky this is a joke to them. Later on they come to seem like they take themselves seriously, thinking of themselves less as a metal band and more as a metal orchestra. That they could create something so intricate while simply having fun is testament enough to this band’s skills. It takes many listens to fully appreciate, but the time is worth it, and you won’t be bored at all.