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Michael Romeo > The Dark Chapter > Reviews
Michael Romeo - The Dark Chapter

Worthy Shredding Exhibition - 88%

Human666, October 1st, 2011

'Michael Romeo', the mastermind behind Symphony X and a spectacular guitar player, was 26 years old when he released this first type of musical exhibition of him. I don't know what the fuck he did until that point, but it's better to start at age 26 then not start at all, especially if you possess such an outstanding guitar technique and brilliant composing skills. 'The Dark Chapter' is basically the foundation stone of what will be one of the most epic progressive metal bands out there. This full length is loaded with highly progressive instrumental tracks with great baroque influence over them. 'Michael Pinnella', who will later form up Symphony X together with Romeo, exhibit some of his own skills with some occasional synth leads here and there that sign of a topnotch virtuosity.

This album has a seriously sinister and dark timbre. The track titles are often referring to the horror writings of Edgar Allan Poe ('Masque of the Red Death', 'The Premature Burial' etc..) and the cover art itself reflects a gloomy atmosphere as well. Michael Romeo managed to combine technique and melodies quite well, you won't feel that there is much of a flat instrument masturbation here as opposed to many shredding albums out there. 'Masque of the Red Death' is probably the most varied track here. There are tons of sweep pickings and alternate picked riffs at the speed of light, but they always keeps on a high level of curiosity due to the enchanting themes and progressive structure of the track. The guitar tone of Romeo sounds so clean and powerful, you can't miss him not missing any note in any fretboard attack. The Paganini tribute is a marvelous, pounding and melodic orgasm that beats any Paganini guitar tributes out there. This could be a great ending to this album, but instead we get 'Noit Al Ever', a beautifully stunning tune with a powerful orchestra of fast classical guitars, majestic choirs, piano and a victorious lead guitar that closes this album with a great and promising climax.

'The Dark Chapter' is a wonderful journey to the realm of neoclassical metal. There are some many things going in this 42 minutes of highly progressive record that you just can't miss. This is the album that led to one of the most creative bands in the history of metal, this is a must have for any Symphony X fan. With that said, I would really like to see 'Michael Romeo' releasing another solo effort one day, to see if he can overcome such a high level of creative shredding.

The Dark Ambition. - 90%

hells_unicorn, July 15th, 2007

Back in the dark ages before there was such a thing as Symphony X, there was an ambitious fellow from New Jersey who didn’t get the memo that technical guitar oriented music was on the wane, and thank God for that. The music that he, being Michael Romeo, would create would fly in the face of a legion of mind numbed trusties of conventional wisdom who were spoon fed the dual lie that Malmsteen was a sham and that Kurt Cobain was some sort of hero. For those who still deride this music as being passé, you would do well to take note of the fact that we who love true guitar heroics are still here and we have no intention of going away. For the rest of you who are curious about the history before there was Symphony X, the music found on “The Dark Chapter” is something of a surprise actually.

This album listens like the long lost son of the line of Malmsteen’s “Rising Force” and Dream Theater’s “Images and Words”, albeit the child is mute and expresses itself only by instruments, conceived and born in the darkness by the unholy spirit of metal. From start to finish you run through a maze of endless streams of rapid scale runs, arpeggios, mixed meter turnarounds, and the occasional reference to a baroque/classical/romantic maestro that had an influence upon Romeo’s sound. The album kicks off with “Carpathia”, a 2 minute electronically orchestrated prelude with the axe man throwing in his sinister leads, switching back and forth between sounding like Brian May and Malmsteen. “Cask of Amontillado” listens like one of Symphony X’s speed metal tracks off of “Twilight in Olympus”, keeping the meter of the music mostly in common time and relying upon rapid drum and guitar work to impress the ears, and only occasionally letting up to provide a slower melodic section.

“Psychotic Episode” and “Masque of the Red Death” are both excellent early examples of Romeo’s keen sense of metric manipulation and off-the-cuff tempo changes, both sounding as dark and looming as the events and stories they depict. “Sevil Alucard” is another consistently fast track that contains some early examples of the more groove driven ideas that were heard on “The Odyssey”. “The Premature Burial” is the simplest of the lot riff wise, although painted pretty heavily with harmonic lead fills and occasional church organ interludes. “MJR #13” is an early example of the somber ballad sound that would come into play in such well known Symphony X tracks as “The Accolade” and “Lady of the Snow”, the intro melodic line is beautifully realized, and the occasional addition of an acoustic guitar line mellows the sound quite a bit. The remake of the Paganini concerto in a speed metal style is among the best I’ve heard, even rivaling Olaf Lenk’s rather astounding remakes of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The album then closes on a lighter note with “Noit Al Ever”, which is heavily keyboard drenched though still being another technical extravaganza where Romeo leaves no note unexplored.

The only real weakness in this album is that the production, which suffers a little from a lack of real instruments when compared with Symphony X’s material. The drum machine makes the entire arrangement sound a bit mechanical, as does the heavy reliance on synthesized orchestra sounds rather than a mix of keyboards and real instruments. That being said, the music on here is quite impressive, especially considering that it is entirely self-produced and almost completely recorded by one person. (Mike Pinella did do some of the fancier keyboard tracks on here) I was particularly impressed with Romeo’s incredible guitar sound, which he has not really altered very much since this time. You can definitely tell just by heaving excerpts from this album that it is the same man who set his fret board ablaze on “The Odyssey” and “V: The New Mythology”.

Fans of shred metal and Symphony X are strongly encouraged to track this down, especially considering that it was recently re-released and is easily found. It is a bit green compared to the more recent offerings put forth by this man of ambition who would otherwise be your typical big haired rocker from New Jersey, but it is a testament to the fact that metal was not dead in the 90s, regardless to what the propagandists in the larger recording industry would say to the contrary.