CD Reviews

Symphony X - 'Iconoclast' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     June 14, 2011    
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You are unlikely to be disappointed.

Symphony X is an already well established progressive metal band from New Jersey USA. The group is the brainchild of former Gemini guitarist Michael Romeo. Their first full album, which was self titled ‘Symphony X’, appeared back in 1994. The follow up release came just six months later in 1995 entitled ‘The Damnation Game’. But it was their third record ‘The Devine Wings Of Tragedy’ that really broke the band to the metal circles when it came out in 1997. Over the following 5 years between 1998 and 2002, Symphony X released a further five albums including a two disc live record and a compilation. 2007 saw the arrival of the bands last full release, the darker themed ‘Paradise Lost’. They then proceeded to tour for fourteen months, including a full European Tour at the end of the year with fellow prog stars Dream Theatre. Despite being around for over sixteen years, the Symphony X line up has remained fairly constant with just three changes over that time, one of whom returned to the fold after time out for personal reasons. The current line up for Symphony X is Russell Allen (vocals), Michael Romeo (guitar), Michael Lepond (bass), Michael Pinnella (keys) and Jason Rullo (drums). SyX as they are sometimes called, are back with their latest offering ‘Iconoclast’ which is released by Nuclear Blast Records on the 17th June 2011.

Symphony X opts for the brave decision of the title track ‘Iconoclast’ as the opening song for the new release. This is an interesting choice as it happens to be the longest of the nine tracks and also one of the most progressive and diverse. After a two and a half minute solid progressive metal intro, singer Allen finally bursts forth with a roar. The chorus is particularly harmonic and memorable despite the overall heaviness of the track. SyX follow this surprise with another, that being possibly the best track on offer of the nine which is ‘The End Of The Innocence’. The verse has a dirty grinding riff before an infectious keys supported chorus. This may already be familiar to some English fans having been played at the recent Scala club concert in London despite the album being months from release. It comes as no surprise that this is also the first single release from ‘Iconoclast’. Both tracks follow the formula of a raucous boisterous heavy verse but with a cleaner, less intense chorus. ‘Prometheus I Am Alive’ and ‘Children Of A Faceless God’ very much follow this route, but all doing it in slightly different ways so that it doesn’t become boring as the album rocks on. But the band also makes time for some tracks that show that they can seriously let rip when the urge takes them. This is perfectly evident on the likes of ‘Dehumanize’ and ‘Electric Messiah’; the latter being the heaviest offering on the record. As if to bring the album to a suitable end, SyX bookend the album with the second longest and without doubt the most progressive entry ‘When All Is Lost’. This number is very different to the rest of ‘Iconoclast’. The opening is full of soft keys and violins in a very ballad like style with Allen delivering a more emotional vocal performance. The guitars do eventually fire up mid way through the first verse with a crunchy but not overly heavy riff. This last offering has several changes of style and pace giving it a very epic and progressive feel.

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This is an excellent progressive metal beast from Symphony X. Whilst it may be heavy it is not oppressive enough to put off listeners of other genres. It may well be the case that lovers of hardcore thrash and death metal may be left wishing it was heavier and to hear the band really unleashed yet further. But by keeping to the level that SyX have, they make the album accessible to listeners of softer genres. The more you listen to ‘Iconoclast’ the more there is to find and enjoy. Those that feel SyX are too heavy for their palate should definitely give this album at least a couple of listens; they could find themselves surprised that they are humming the harmonic, catchy, almost melodic choruses for days. Performance wise there can be no doubt that Symphony X can play their instruments and well, intricate ability on the six string is abound on the release. Allen has a rare ability in metal in that whilst his vocals are driven by a growl, his roar is not only in tune but almost in pitch with the music. Production wise this is a crisp and clear release, but it does retain a raw edge that gives it a richer feel. Nothing is over emphasised nor dominates in the music. Current fans of Symphony X should find all that they love and adore in plentiful supply on this record and are no doubt already counting down to its release. Whilst this is not a must buy for every single guitar loving listener, it is certainly an album that any heavy and progressive metal lover should take a serious long look at. There is more than an air of very heavy Queensryche about this album which will enthral most of these fans. With its infectious melodies it should also interest some less heavy genre listeners as well. In short if this is a purchase you’re planning on making, clear an afternoon in your schedule, find a comfortable place and let it unwind over several plays. You are unlikely to be disappointed or find this a waste of time.

Dave Scott

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