Much like their previous two albums, New Jersey's Symphony X has been consistently putting out a new album every four years or so. Such is the occasion for Underworld, the band's eighth and latest album. Consistency is likely the larger guiding theme for Symphony X and their most recent works.
For one thing, Underworld is another album with a theme binding the songs together. Not necessarily a concept album, guitarist and principal composer Michael Romeo likens the album to Rush' Moving Pictures or Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Now there's two iconic albums to aspire to. The theme is loosely Dante's Inferno and Orpheus off to hell and back to save his beloved. Intentionally, Symphony X guided the songs to their own fulfillment while also developing the thematic concept. Of additional interest, referencing Dante's writing, Romeo discover the author's use of three, triplets, and multiples of threes in his writing. He went on to write his own "threes" into the arrangements, "a three-note riff or there's a six-note riff, or there's a multiple of three words in a chorus," Romeo explains.
Also consistent is the band's legendary compositional drama. There's their heavy, thrash-like, power metal bombardment that leads the album in Nevermore and Underworld, by example. Yet, that Romero wall of riffage is always and everywhere on most every song, ubiquitous in it's tenor. By this measure, the nay-saying heavy metal Philistines could distill Symphony X down two two words: fast and heavy. But they would be wrong.
Then, of course, there's Symphony X's typical prog metal wonkery, tripping you up and entertaining you with their mammoth talent and mild technicality. All things serve the song, but when you listen to Swan Song, Charon, or To Hell And Back, there's much going on within each. That latter song is probably the most representative, if not for it's length and use of some synth orchestration as well. These dense, modestly complex, arrangements allow plenty of soloing, mostly Romeo revisiting and expanding upon his neo-classical roots, but also some fancy synth work to boot.
Alternatively, in contradistinction to the abundant progressive power metal, Symphony X can tap into their inner rock god. Run With The Devil is definitely on the side of speed or power metal, but yet has this subtle rock groove that rides underneath yet rises with the chorus. Additionally, and without calling it "wussing out" (against the overall heavy SX sound), the band gives you their version of prog power metal anthem/ballad with Without You. You can almost hear some pedestrian pop accessibility in the arrangement, again most notable in the chorus, it's melody.
Fundamentally, Underworld is typical of recent, last decade or so, Symphony X: heavy, fast, mildly technical progressive power. So is Underworld as good as or better than, Iconoclast or Paradise Lost? The short answer is probably, consistency favors Symphony X. Recommended.
Fundamentally, Underworld is typical of recent, last decade or so, Symphony X: heavy, fast, mildly technical progressive power.
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