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Michael Romeo > War of the Worlds // Pt. 2 > Reviews
Michael Romeo - War of the Worlds // Pt. 2

Cinematic progressive metal at its best - 85%

lukretion, June 12th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, CD, InsideOut Music

Prog metal fans take heed because the progressive metal album of the year might just as well be here already. Symphony X guitarist Michael Romeo’s second installment of his War of the Worlds saga, based on the homonymous novel by H.G. Wells, is a powerful, riff-laden, hook-loaded beast that is so craftily constructed that must surely find place among the all-time classics of the genre.

This album has it all. The line-up is superb. Romeo obviously needs no introduction. He handles guitars and keyboards here, successfully combining monstrous riffs and trailblazing, shredding solos with film score-like orchestrations, to give the songs an epic and cinematic vibe. The rhythm section is comprised of drummer John Macaluso (ex-Ark, ex-Jorn, ex-Labyrinth, plus a tons of other bands) and John DeServio (Black Label Society), who had both also played on War of the Worlds Pt I. Together they provide a powerful yet groovy backbone to the songs. Their experience as musicians allows them to know when to hold back for the betterment of the song and when to let loose in impressive displays of technicality. And then there is the newcomer for this release: singer Dino Jelusić, who some may remember guesting on Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall’s 2020 We Are the Night album. In his day job, Mr Jelusić plays keyboards and provides backing vocals for Whitesnake as well as singing in his own band. The name “Whitesnake” should give you big neonlight cues about Jelusić’s voice. The man possesses that powerful, bluesy, gorgeously expressive voice of the best David Coverdale. Jorn Lande is another obvious reference point. Two of my favourite singers in hard rock & metal, nonetheless.

However, talent means little without strong songwriting, but War of the Worlds Pt II does not disappoint in this department, either. The way Romeo has put together the tracklist for this album is just perfect. It offers a mix of heavy hitting metal belters at the beginning and end of the record, leaving the middle for more adventurous and melodic tunes. “Metamorphosis” and “Maschinenmensch” are the proggiest tracks here, and by far my favourite. The riffs are really exciting. Romeo is a master in combining melody, rhythmic sophistication and just plain headbanging power in his guitar playing. The riff that runs through “Maschinenmensch” is especially astonishing, with its twists and turns that resolve in a beautiful melodic phrase. There is more than riffs, though. The orchestrations, as I mentioned earlier, play a big role here too – perhaps providing a distinguishing element between this album and many other prog metal masterpieces. And then there are the hooks. Both songs climax in masterful choruses where Jelusić does not hold back and provides some of the most powerful vocal lines of the whole album. Besides the prog epics, the central part of the record also contains a mellower piece, the power ballad “Just before the Dawn”. The term “power ballad” often evokes sappy, slow pieces with tear-jerking choruses that trigger more cringes than applause. Romeo knows better than this, and “Just before the Dawn” is powered by an odd metric and understated melodies that keep things interesting and fresh even when the songwriting slows down.

The way the album unfolds is masterful, also thanks to the use of cinematic instrumental interludes that revolve around the same, recurring melody, giving the record a sense of continuity and flow. This is probably what I appreciated the most of this LP: its ability to take the listener on a voyage, by traversing different moods and atmospheres across its 10 tracks. This is much more than a simple collection of songs, which is exactly what a progressive metal concept album should be.

War of the Worlds Pt II hits the mark fair and square, in all possible aspects. Some may lament that the album does not really break any new ground. This is true, although the combination of big, soundtrack orchestrations and classic prog metal is something that carries some novelty, perhaps. Most importantly, I think covering new ground was beside the point here. This album should be enjoyed for what it is: an unashamed, magnificent throwback to early 2000s prog metal glory that vastly surpasses most releases in the genre, old and new.