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Pinnacle of power metal - 98%

Bent__Canoe, August 3rd, 2019

Symphony X is one of the few bands in the genre of power metal that manages to put out music that just isn’t too cheesy to taint the listening experience. Though Symphony X is a power metal band through and through, they manage to use certain characteristics of power metal that I find unappealing in such a way that it is not just enjoyable, but brilliant.

The main aspect of power metal that is a turn off for me is the cheesy vocal style most bands use. However, Russell Allen pulls off the style amazingly well, delivering beautiful vocal melodies throughout every track with vocals. He pulls off some of the most epic choruses on this album on tracks such as “Falllen”, “Absence of Light”, and “A Fool’s Paradise”. Russell never sounds like he is trying too hard, sounding genuinely emotional in his singing throughout the album.

Vocals aside, the songwriting and instrumentation throughout this album are beyond brilliant. Every single one of the tracks has at least one memorable riff, my favorite of this album being the one in the chorus of “Fallen” with its mind boggling rhythm that perfectly suits the melody in the chorus. The riffs can be heavy, melodic, or both, depending on what the song calls for, but this is quite possibly in my top 10 or so albums riff-wise.

The keyboard parts on this album are straight up genius. They bring in a lot of melody and atmosphere to the music with their orchestral timbres. The keyboard intros to “The Death of Balance/Lacrymosa” and “On the Breath of Poseidon (segue)” are some of the best moments on this album, both kicking off into amazing riffage still accompanied by melodic keyboard parts. I can not even begin to imagine how much effort was put into the intricate keyboard parts on this album. There are even keyboard solos on this album which are just as good as the guitar solos (which we’ll get to later), and there are even subtle keyboard riffs in the background at times.

Ahh the guitar solos. It is well known that Michael Romeo is a technically skilled guitarist, though many accuse his neoclassical style of playing as “having no feel” or being “Yngwie Malmsteen worship”. While I cannot speak to that second statement because I don’t listen to Yngwie Malmsteen, his solos and leads are incredibly emotive, even if he is indulging a little more than necessary in his technical skill.

The drums on this album are good in their weaker moments and spectacular in their highlights. On this album, Jason does more than just play to suit the music, but actually adds an element of rhythmic complexity to the music with his amazing drum fills and odd grooves. He pairs really well with the rhythm guitar on this album which is apparent on every track, especially “The Death of Balance/Lacrymosa” with it’s odd yet mesmerizing songwriting which jumps into rhythmic bombastness with the drums and rhythm guitar going wild along melodic keyboards and lead guitar after a brief atmospheric orchestral intro.

The last instrument that hasn’t been discussed is the bass. If I’m being honest, I pay almost no attention to bass on this record, or 75% of metal records out there as it gets lost in the mix, plus I find it unnecessary to make good metal music and think of it as a bonus when it can be heard AND does something other than mimick the rhythm guitar, but for me, a lack of bass has never made me enjoy an album less.

Overall, one of the craziest, most imaginative, and creative releases in power metal. The keyboards and vocals are beautiful and emotional, the drums and guitars make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster, and the natural ebb and flow of the songwriting makes this album an experience unique from any other album I have heard. I would recommend this album to anyone despite genre preferences, as it is quite accessible, and contains well thought out compositions with no filler tracks at all. This album is of the highest quality in terms of production, songwriting, instrumentation, and style.