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Symphony X - Paradise Lost CD (album) cover


Symphony X


Progressive Metal

3.79 | 505 ratings

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5 stars Another stunning work by Symphony X, Paradise Lost contains both the greatness the band is known for while still branching out into new realms - as progressive music should be.

Overall, the album is heavier and darker than their previous installments. It is a "concept album", however unlike V it does not appear to be one continuous story but rather nine or ten individual ones linked by the the theme of John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost. The band's skill is still tip-top-notch. Allen and Romeo are still as unbelievable as ever; Rullo plays his role fiercely and (regretfully I'm not a drum expert); Pinella's teamwork with Romeo is still so good it's hard to distinguish the two. HE also takes an interesting role in many of the songs as a background ambiance rather than a standard pianist; and LePond is arguably better than ever, when he isn't unfortunately drowned out by everyone else (one point I think could have been done better). Here's a brief track-by-track synopsis:

Oculus Ex Inferni - An orchestral instrumental that quickly sets the mood for the rest of the album. Very nicely put together and serves well as both an intro to the album and an intro track for the next song, which it seamlessly flows into.

Set the World On Fire (The Lie of Lies) - If Symphony X's favorite theme of deceit wasn't apparent already this clinches it. While said alternate title is a little quirky the song overall is excellent and one of my favorites on the album. Classic Symphony X style is tweaked with the album's heavier and darker trend for noticeable similarities and differences all at once. If any one song could sum up the entire album this would be it. True progressive power metal.

Domination - I actually don't like this one as much as others seem to. I feel like Russel's vocals could have been applied better here; less bluntly. Great bass intro reminiscent of Sea of Lies and overall good instrumentals but it just seems to lack that special something in the band's greater songs. Fans of the heavier, 'thrashier' styles may like this one more.

The Serpent's Kiss - This may well be the best song on the album and it's one of my favorites. The Serpent's Kiss brings the band's music into a new direction that some seem to love and others just don't. Although it's probably the darkest song they've ever made, what really makes it stand out are the vocals. Russell shows a darker, soft yet powerful side of his voice we haven't seen yet that works very well.Some people seem to be under the impression that it's because his voice has been damaged, but this is clearly not true as he uses his 'normal' clean vocals at times as well. Quite the contrary this song shows he's better with his voice than ever. The song's one fault is that it's very distorted which, while adding to the 'feel', makes a lot of it blur together at times. A well-placed orchestral keyboard solo does help offset this, though. Paradise Lost - This is the first of the album's softer songs providing a nice break from the almost overwhelming heaviness thus far. Even so, no 'power' is lost here, Allen makes sure of that as he takes the spotlight again. Penella plays a more prominent role with a clean piano melody yet still somehow seems less included than he has been in the past albums.

Eve of Seduction - Now this is a song worthy of attention. Every part of it is played beautifully and I must say, this is probably the heaviest love song I've ever heard that loses none of its message in the force. The main guitar riff is incredible and has found itself stuck in my head for days. Lepond gives what may be his best work yet, but you have to listen closely for it. The lyrics are well written (although the line "I'll tear it apart" still throws me off) and Russel's voice shines here even for him. Of significant note may be Romeo's solo, which appears to contain the same technically impossible chromatic move he pulled in Ayreon's Dawn of a Million Souls. If there's one thing that bugs me it's this one riff that screams "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" to me (good a song as that is).

The Walls of Babylon - A good song overall, but there isn't much that makes it stand out from the rest of the album. Perhaps a Judas Priest-esque scream Allen uses at points? Oh! Penella finally gets a proper solo on this album for one... I feel bad for not having more to say about this song.

Seven - Starts out with a fancy neo-classical bit with subtle hints at the later parts of the song. I hate to say, but Russell is probably the weakest link for once here. Aside from the pre-chorus I think he could have done more than he did. Keep in mind though, that less than average for Allen is still great. The "catch you when you fall" line seems just a teeny touch overused, but enough to bug me. It's probably irrational. I'll let the nice "So damn you all" line cancel that out. Geez, I hate to say, but this song is hurt by Russell.

The Sacrifice - Here's Russell's chance to atone; he delivers. The second softer song which I feel is better than the first if only for the emotion conveyed by Allen. All of the band members just work together here to make a soft, beautiful, melodic love song that still, somehow, someway, has the power of a train.

Revelation (Divus Pennae Ex Tragoedia) - While still darker, this song is probably the closest to the older Symphony X songs. The most distinctive part, the chorus, is a new approach lyrically for the band but it's not a big difference. The multi-instrumental solo about halfway through the song is one of those wonderful prog medleys and is definitely one of the album's strongest points. No band member is hidden behind the others here, which has been an issue throughout the album. It may well be the most well put-together song of the album but it still seems overshadowed, in my mind at least, by Eve of Seduction and maybe another or two simply for it's lack of a good catchiness. The outro of this song will be a small treat for fans of the one of the band's earlier and greatest works.

Overall it's a great album. I may have lauded it quite a bit through this whole piece, but it isn't perfect. I've already covered the overshadowing (no pun intended)... I used the word "heavy" a lot. Probably because it's a heavy album, maybe too heavy for some people to fully enjoy. While it still contains Symphony X's unparalleled musicianship, it's very distorted much of the time and at points the complexities are blurred by that. Tact seems just a little sacrificed in favor of force. In most bands this would be overlooked, but Symphony X... Like all of X's works it takes quite a few listens through to fully appreciate it all; all great prog bands are this way but none more so. Even to a trained ear some of their intricate work can sound a blurry mess at first so the untrained ear will probably not accept this album nearly as well. This is both a demonstration of the band's technical greatness and a presentational weakness.

So it's not perfect, but it's still ridiculously good. I give it a 5-star rating not automatically because I love the band, but because nothing is perfect and few things deserve the recognition more. Whether or not you like the new direction the band has taken with this album, the quality of it is undeniable. The band consists, without exception, of sheer virtuosos.

Zaenos | 5/5 |


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