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Probably the best power metal out there - 99%

EzraBlumenfeld, October 9th, 2018

I've never been a huge power metal fan; there's too much that could go wrong, too many opportunities for cheesiness to overtake the high-energy operatic vocals and magnificent guitar parts that originally defined the subgenre. That being said, I've managed to find a few bands that I can enjoy. Among the ones who stand out most to me is Symphony X, whose deeply progressive riffs and unconventional song structures resonate with my other musical tastes. Having become a frequent listener, I came to the rather obvious conclusion that The Divine Wings of Tragedy is unquestionably their best album.

In 1999, Ronnie James Dio and Yngwie Malmsteen collaborated on a cover of Aerosmith's well-known hit "Dream On." And while this version of the song is laughable at worst and decent at best, it's the concept that really stood out to me: why not take a masterfully shreddy guitarist, pair them with a fantastic singer, and make it a band? Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was an idea that had already been executed several years earlier by Michael Romeo when he formed Symphony X. What happens when you take a guitarist on the level of Jason Becker, a vocalist like Russell Allen who could've passed for Dio himself, and throw in a healthy dosage of Rush-inspired progressive riffs? You get this album, of course.

I'm a big fan of pretty much every aspect of this album. Compositionally, every song is very strong and it's obvious that they weren't just written on the fly. And while most of the focus of The Divine Wings of Tragedy is obviously on melody and complexity, there is still plenty of time given to head-bangable riffs, possibly best exemplified on opening track "Of Sins and Shadows."

The nine-track album is mostly comprised of average-length songs, most of them very well-executed and definitely fun to listen to, especially throughout the haunting melodies of "The Witching Hour." But where the band really lets themselves shine is on the longer songs; three songs clock in over six minutes, and these are the moments that really stand out from the rest of the material: "Candlelight Fantasia" is on the softer side, but is the perfect ending for this album; "The Accolade" is an epic, shred-filled song that finishes after nearly ten minutes and may just feature a chorus that could define the entire subgenre in itself; and most importantly, the 20-plus minute title track is simply astonishing to behold and is undoubtedly the best song ever recorded by the band, and I would be skeptical if anyone could listen to it and then claim it is not one of the greatest metal songs of all time afterward.

Writing an album like this takes talent, time, and effort. It's obvious that Symphony X has a chemistry between their musicians that is hard to come across, and it shows: hear the dueling keyboard-and-guitar leads on "Sea of Lies" to for one of the best examples of this. This is personally one of my favorite albums of all time, and I imagine it'll always stay near the top of my list. This has captivated me in a way most power metal has failed to, and I'm very impressed.