Symphony X

Metal Blade Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Isn't it a little ironic that Symphony X's fifth album, appropriately titled V, is their first major release in the U.S.? (At least, this is as far as I've been able to find around the Web.) Guitarist Michael Romeo and crew have developed quite the following around the world (including some very dedicated fans in the States), but they've never had the chance to make their mark on the American progressive metal scene.

Finally, though, it looks like that might be changing. Progressive rock/metal is starting to gain a significant following - enough for a two-day festival dedicated to this genre to be launched. There's even enough interest where an American label has given Symphony X the chance to work their magic on listeners in the States. V is that disc - and while there is plenty to sing about on this release, it's not always the most listener-accessible at times.

I know. I spent all day with just this one disc going back and forth on certain songs, trying to capture every nuance and wondering why I wasn't always getting sucked into the storyline that flows through the disc. Oh, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this album. But if you're exepecting the band to lay out the story in a nicely bound book for you, you're going to be disappointed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band - guitarist Romeo, vocalist Russell Allen, keyboardist Michael Pinnella, bassist Michael Lepond and drummer Jason Rullo - show their musical influences throughout V. Yes, there are touches of several European acts I've heard over the years (could it be that what I've called "Viking metal" actually has progressive roots?), but stronger than those are nods to bands like pre-1980 Genesis, Marillion... and even UFO. (Listen to Pinnella's keyboard work on "Communion And The Oracle" and tell me you don't hear traces of "Love To Love". I thought it was a nice touch.)

Romeo and Pinnella both get plenty of chances to show their mettle in solos, though there is more control in these than one would expect. In a sense, maybe that disappointed me a little bit. Yes, there is flash from both players, and what they come up with is indeed exciting. But, had there been a little more willingness to break free from the structure the story line added to the music, maybe we'd have heard some really blistering guitar solos from Romeo or out-in-space keyboards from Pinnella. (Then again, had they done this, I'd probably be complaining about it. Guess there's no satisfying me.)

The tale of good versus evil played out in V seems to be pretty standard fare, with one major exception: in this tale, the battle is not completed when the story ends. Sure, you could claim on one side that evil has won out, while some still hold out for the resurgence of good. "Rediscovery (Part II) - The New Mythology" suggests that the story will continue on long after the CD spins down to a stop - and could well be an illustration of modern-day life.

V also makes me think that this album is just the latest stop in the musical journey that is Symphony X - and that if you haven't heard their previous albums, it's like coming into a movie halfway through. Maybe some of the band's fans who have the earlier albums can back me up on this, but I'd tend to think that V is a disc which can only be fully appreciated by someone who is familiar with all of Symphony X's work.

As it stands, V is a decent enough release, though it's not necessarily a disc you'll get into on the first listen. In the end, the effort proves to be worth it.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.