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That Other Symphony X Album - 85%

elfo19, April 21st, 2009

I know I really love a band when I have complete confidence in that band. I don't have to sample their albums online before I buy them, I will buy their albums full price, and I have total faith that I will receive a good product. Some examples of bands that have achieved this for me are Iron Maiden, Manowar, Ayreon, and of course Symphony X. I put so much faith of my knowledge and listening experience of these bands that I trust them as if they are close friends. But, this is not always a perfect plan.

I have purchased albums by bands I thought could do no wrong, to discover that they could indeed do wrong. Which brings me to "V: The New Mythology Suite" by Symphony X. While this album is far from bad, it did leave me unsatisfied after the first listen, and still discontent after the next few spins. Having been amazed by Symphony X's albums, "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy", and "The Odyssey" prior to hearing this fifth outing by the band I was expecting a lot, and I was sure I was in store for another masterpiece. As I already stated, this album is not of bad quality, and if it had been made by a band I was less in love with, perhaps I would have enjoyed it much more over the years.

It took me a long time to get to writing this review. When I first purchased the album I was so dissapointed I placed it into my collection and didn't listen to it again for nearly a year. Eventually I decided I would listen to it again and write a review. During my second listen I was more prepared for the album that the first time, and I did enjoy it more, but I was conflicted on how to go about writing a review and even more conflicted on the score I would give it. Bringing me to the time I am actually writing this review I have listened to this disc several more times and am more in tune with the music than in the past. While this album hasn't exactly grown on me, I have become more comfortable.

Symphony X's own, "Divine Wings Of Tragedy" will always be in my mind a masterpiece and one of the greatest metal albums ever. This album in comparison is just plain weak. It contains all the musical wizardry of "DWOT" but without the passion. The emotion has been stripped and replaced with a new approach more relative to classical music. We have orchestral interludes, segues, songs with multiple movements, and music which is complex but not always accesible. Not to say that these elements aren't present on Symphony X's other releases, they certainly abound in "DWOT" and "Odyssey" alike, but they are more prominent on this release. Here on "V" they become the base and the theme of the music, unlike on the band's other releases where they are only aspects of a larger picture.

Taking all this into account and listening to the album, we hear a disc that is very centered on what it wants, and that is solely to show off this band's ability to play their instruments like they are gods. The only problem is that we all already know that they can play their instruments like gods, we have heard it on all their other albums. At this point in the game, what we want is either something drastically new and creative or a batch of really well-written songs. The main issue is that we don't have either of these, and that is where this album falls short of Symphony X's others.

But enough of that, on to the actual music. To partially contradict what I said above, there are actually several really well written songs on here. "Evolution (The Grand Design)" is one of the band's finest compositions, and one I'm sure would feel perfectly at home stuck into the middle of "Divine Wings Of Tragedy". Other highlights include, "Egypt", "The Death Of Balance", and "Communion And The Oracle". And to totally tell the truth this album isn't a bad listen. To tell the truth it is a lot better than what most metal band's release, and while I have sounded quite negative in this review so far, I want to make it very clear: this is in no way a bad album.

Despite not being bad, it is uneven. Following the album's standout track, "Evolution", is the shaky, "Fallen" which discards melodic tendencies for quick bursts of notes assembled in patterns which come of as technically impressive but musically pointless. The album's closer, "Rediscovery", pushes over thirteen minutes, bringing to the table several interesting ideas scattered throughout it's runtime, but overall coming off as disjointed and uninspired. Several other tracks seem to follow this formula and the disc can occasionally become annoying.

One thing that bothers me is to use of the segues. There are four of them on the album, and they occupy their own tracks. If I had been in command of this production I would have taken these segues and put them at the beginning of the next song, thus making the tracklist shorter, but the songs longer. As it is now, the track list makes the album seem bigger than it is, and provides us with little bits of music that many fans will likely press the skip button through, thus being wasted. While I enjoy the segues, I feel they should have been executed differently.

I haven't really said anything good about this album to justify my score, so here goes. Despite being dissapointing among this band's catalog, it is still Symphony X, and therefore is still technically brilliant. We still have fabulous players here, one of the greatest metal vocalists to walk the earth, and a band that is tighter than they've ever been, technically speaking. While the song writing is not as developed, and therefore not as breathtaking, as other albums and while the ideas are scattered and executed poorly we still have a nice release by any standard. To put it plain and simply, this is still better than 95% of the metal music out there today.