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More Metal, Less Prog - 85%

CFH, June 6th, 2007

For six years and five albums, Symphony X came off as more of a progressive band than a metal band. From their self-titled debut (1994) to V (2000), they were labeled as progressive metal, but fans and critics alike pointed more often toward their ambitious, choir-like vocal arrangements, classical influences and long guitar and keyboard solos. Even though biting and moderately heavy neo-classical metal riffs have been a calling card for guitarist and founder Michael Romeo from the beginning, Symphony X has not stood out as a metal band to the degree that symphonic/progregressive metal bands such as Nightwish and Therion have. With The Odyssey, however, it seemed as if Symphony X was on a mission to do something about this.

If I have ever listened to an album that should be split into two discs, it is this one. While the final sentence of the previous paragraph applies to nearly every song from "Inferno" to "Awakenings," the 24-minute title track contradicts it completely. After an onslaught of head-banging music with ferocity that Symphony X had never delivered before comes the nearly sleep inducing, seven part title track. While I do not disdain epic tracks, and even love "Through the Looking Glass" from 1998's Twilight in Olympus, this one belongs in the dictionary under overkill and absolutely does not belong on the same album with the other seven songs. As I stated at the beginning of this paragraph, "The Odyssey" should have been released by itself, or on a second disc. Parts I and VI feature low key piano and acoustic guitar melodies, plus totally cheesy keyboard effects, which for the millionth time sound extremely out of place after the previous seven songs. Last but not least, even the somewhat heavier parts of "The Odyssey," which could have redeemed the song, sound out of place because they come across as forced due to the track's overall context. As for the seven songs that come before "The Odyssey," not a single bad spot exists within them. Every bit of "Inferno," "Wicked," "Incantations," "King of Terrors" and "The Turning" explode with intensity. Specifically, Michael Romeo's tone displays much more edge than before, Michael Pinella's keyboard work features darker melodies almost exclusively and Russell Allen's vocals sound more rough and vicioius than ever.

In conclusion, metal fans who have dismissed Symphony X in the past for being progressive, pretentious, ridiculous or who knows what may want to check out this killer disc that truly is Symphony X's most metal album to date.