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From Mythology to The Matrix! - 92%

Livingwave17, October 20th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2011, 2CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

Symphony X are definitely one of the best progressive metal bands out there. They are defined by amazing soloing and technical performance and powerful awesome vocals with a very unique sound. Also one thing that this band is known for is that they choose amazing concepts for their albums. And as they would usually approach mythological or biblical concepts, this album tales an unexpected turn. Iconoclast is inspired by "The Matrix" movie series and spins around the idea of machines surpassing human intelligence and taking over the world. Such an idea was definitely expected to create some controversy among fans, but nevertheless, the guys did it their way, showing that they will follow their own goals regardless of what people might say. And I can easily say, they did not fail.

This album is one that sets itself aside from the whole Symphony X discography. Other than choosing a different kind of concept, there are some other changes as well. The overall sound of the album is heavier and more badass than ever before in the bands history. While the previous release was already a turn for a heavier style "Iconoclast" pushes the boundaries even further. This is also probably the most technical album so far. The riffs are heavier and more progressive while the solos keep the Symphony X style of extreme shredding alive. The vocals are also quite grumpy and heavy, showing Russel's powerful and raging side rather than his soft side and the overall sound of the album is a bit more electronic. There are no electronic effects but the guitar sound is a lot like the buzzing of an electric circuit. You have to listen to understand. The way the sound mixing is done clearly reflects the concept. The keyboards also start using some digital sounds to fit the atmosphere of the album better. There are also choir organs to create an evil apocalyptic sound that really makes you think of a holocaust. Overall I can say that this album is the most riff oriented in the whole Symphony X discography and that is seen on all the instruments.

To hear this specific sound of the album you should check out the title track. From the first screechy organ effects you will see what I mean. The title track opens the album and kicks you right into that "Terminator" movie atmosphere.

I can say that the only downside to this release is that it is the longest Symphony X album and it isn't exactly the most various or inspired in terms of songwriting. While it brings some new elements it loses some older ones and it will naturally become stale after a while. Don't get me wrong, it's a really tasty cookie, but after some time, you need a different flavor. There is just one song on the album that does just that. "When all is Lost" is the one song to show us that despite feeling the need for some good old heavy riffs and breakdowns, the guys still have the soulful slow songs in them. This song also goes a little bit for the metaphorical type of lyrics and associates that apocalyptic atmosphere with our reality. It mostly refers to how our greed and selfishness will ultimately lead to our downfall, before we even realize it. And across the album you can still find many metaphors that bring the concept closer to reality. The song "Dehumanized" for example describes a person being turned into a cyborg and blending with the machine. But you can associate that idea with the contemporary person's addiction to the digital world. And the album brings forth this idea quite a number of times, showing how we have become controlled by our addiction to digital devices, as if they had already taken over the world.

Besides the metaphors, there is also the image of a desolate area where life ceases to exist and machines roam free. And this comes in parallel with the philosophical side. The image of a wasteland where man and machines battle is best described by the song "Reign in Madness". So if you're into the typical man against machine type of image like in the "Terminator" movies, this is the song for you.

Iconoclast is a really good progressive metal album and while it brings some changes it is still solid Symphony X. The new type of concept and the heavier instrumentals and vocals might not be what the fans of the older Symphony X would prefer but change is inevitable, and while older albums might be better, this one is surely not a bad one. It depends on everyone's taste. However, "Iconoclast" is a great album with a killer concept and I recommend it to anybody who likes progressive metal or heavy metal in general.