It’s been four years since SYMPHONY X released a new album, so I’ve been getting pretty antsy over the last couple of months waiting for my opportunity to hear Underworld (out July 24 via Nuclear Blast Records.) This is nothing new; I always get overly excited when they announce a new album and I’m rarely disappointed in any aspect of the production.
I’m a huge fan of the band and all of their albums, but I did have a few worries going into my first listen. 2011’s Iconoclast was solid, but I felt that some of the songs later in the disc were a little too similar to each other. I also have not been a fan of Russell Allen’s work with ADRENALINE MOB, so I was really hoping that the vocal style wouldn’t transfer to this new recording. On both counts, my fears were unfounded, and I’m happy to say that this is one hell of a great record.
SYMPHONY X recorded this disc in The Dungeon, their custom built studio, and continue their production of dark, heavy, and in-your-face progressive metal. They’ve retained much of the aggressive tone that made Paradise Lost and Iconoclast huge successes, yet still managed to revive some of the classic SYMPHONY X sound from the first half of their career. Songs like “Nevermore”, “In My Darkest Hour”, and “Kiss of Fire” constantly smack you in the face with their intensity, while “To Hell And Back”, “Underworld”, “Charon”, and the closer “Legend” really take the listener back to earlier albums like Twilight In Olympus and V: The New Mythology Suite.
SYMPHONY X excels at writing ballads that become instant classics, and they definitely didn’t leave them out of this release. The band knows how to write about loss effectively in a manner that rips the emotional response out of you. “Without You” is amazing, and “Swan Song” is the highlight of the album for me – it makes my eyes leak every time.
Michael Romeo remains one of the most talented guitarists in American progressive metal, and his writing and playing are never less than excellent to me. Michael LePond and Jason Rullo remain the best rhythm section in progressive metal as far as I’m concerned, and while Michael Pinnella’s keyboards had taken a bit of a backseat over the last couple of releases, they really stand out and shine all over this album. Russell Allen continues to floor me with every SYMPHONY X release – he’s able to separate his singing styles from his various projects, and they don’t cross over into the sound of the band. He still sounds great after two decades of an intense vocal style and incessant touring.
Overall, this is an excellent release with no shortcomings, and it’s been well worth the wait. It’s quickly become one of my favorite SYMPHONY X releases, and I’d wager that it is going to be in many top ten lists at the end of this year, including mine. I’m going to find it extremely difficult to break away from it to listen to some of the other bands in my queue.
If you enjoy great progressive metal, pick this one up when it comes out. You will not regret it.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM