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Symphony X - Iconoclast - 95%

padshiyangel01, June 21st, 2011

US prog metallers Symphony X appear to have aimed for quantity rather than frequency with their latest, Iconoclast. Over 80 minutes of progressive metal is a lot to absorb, but the band are masterful in ensuring the tightness of the material, whilst tackling the newfound lyrical topic of man vs. machine.

The opening 10-minute title track certainly sets the bar high for the rest of the album, continuing the flavor of Paradise Lost in a more epic style. Romeo is on top form in his roles as guitarist, songwriter and producer, creating both heavy riffing and technical solos like on “Prometheus (I Am Alive)”, but still integrate well with the rest of the musicians. Pinella, with the volume boosted this time, delivers impressive keyboard solos and beautiful piano such as in the pseudo-ballad “When All Is Lost”, while Rullo and Lepond showcase a tight and well-mixed if slightly uninteresting rhythm section, from the lighter “The End Of Innocence” to the heavier “Heretic”.

New influences are creeping in; Nevermore can be found in some sections, while “Dehumanized” could have been taken from Cowboys From Hell, right down to the Dimebag-esque solo. Unfortunately, this results in a confusing album where there is little sense of flow, and the placement of “When All Is Lost” in the special edition gives the idea of a false ending, when there are still 5 tracks to come.

Russell Allen, fresh from his ventures in Lande/Allen and Star One, delivers one of his best vocal performances yet, from the harsh anger in “Bastards Of The Machine”, through an uncanny Dio-worship on “The Lords Of Chaos” to trademark emotion-filled choruses on many others. His range is fairly extensive, including a Plant-style high in “Children Of A Faceless God”, although he does tend to overuse the newly-introduced more aggressive side to him. The choral element fortunately saves this from turning into monotony, and in the end balances the album out.

The lyrics, as promised, cover the theme of technology in society, with varying degrees of success. For some inexplicable reason, there is more profanity in the lyrics (“Come on, hit the switch/You son of a bitch”), and a death metal feel in others (“The flesh breeds corruption/Eradicate the insect prey, exterminate”) to match the heavier take on their music. However, he still shows the ability to write great vocal lines throughout the record, creating memorable choruses, and injects a power metal feel into the closer, “Reign In Madness”, showing he’s still got that knack.

Although not a flawless album, Iconoclast has little to complain about in every aspect. Occasionally the album will feel a little bloated, but that is part of Symphony X’s trademark for me: too much instead of too little. “Light Up The Night” and “The Lords Of Chaos” can feel a bit like filler after an album filled with highlights, which justifies the 2CD more than a 1-disc, but overall the CD is a blast from one end to the other.

Long-term fans will claim the band have abandoned their roots, but Iconoclast is definitely a step back from Paradise Lost in terms of bringing a more progressive feel to the direction established on the latter record. Sure to top many Best Of 2011′s, it is surely a record worth experiencing, and proof that 8 records down the line, Symphony X still have a lot of zest left in them.

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