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Symphony X - The Divine Wings Of Tragedy CD (album) cover

THE DIVINE WINGS OF TRAGEDY

Symphony X

 

Progressive Metal

4.09 | 431 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The inspired songs of majesty

This album was my introduction to the music of Symphony X. If the trademarks of the band in terms of their name, album/ track titles, and sleeve artwork draw you to them, you won't be disappointed with what you get here.

Symphony X make melodic, symphonic prog metal, pure and simple, of the type also propagated by the likes of Statovarius and Helloween. They embellish thunderous guitar riffs and heavy rhythms with operatic and orchestral sounds, giving the music an almighty power. This works better on some tracks than others, but as a rule, the more the tracks are enhanced, the better they are.

Released in 1996, "The divine wings of tragedy" consolidates the progress made by the band through their two previous albums, while offering a highly polished product. The opening "Of sins and shadows" actually has the feel of a Dio era Rainbow song, such is the strong melody, but the heavier beat and occasional operatic style vocals add additional colours. A couple of similarly styled shorter tracks follow both of which once again exploit the band's exceptional ability to incorporate a memorable melody into the piece.

The album has two long tracks, which might be considered epics. The first of these, "The accolade", builds from an acoustic beginning through some Dream Theater like varied riffs to a slightly more reflective vocal passage. Russell Allen's lyrics here emotionally portray the crusade of a Knight of the Templar. The soft, organ backed vocalised core of the piece is supremely atmospheric. There are many twists and turns throughout the 10 minutes of the track, indeed for me this is prog metal at its absolute best; adventurous, varied, melodic and most of all highly enjoyable.

"The accolade" leads seamlessly into "Pharaoh", which includes a fine synth and guitar instrumental. This in turn segues almost without pause into "The eyes of medusa", a track which somehow does not quite work. This may be because the melody tends to ramble a bit, without the focus of its peers. Interestingly, the brief instrumental interlude, which is radically different to the rest of the song, is given its own sub-title "The Isle of Deadly Shores". "The witching hour" has a haunted atmosphere through the mellotron like backing sound. The track reminds me of the music of Rhapsody, perhaps due in part to the lyrical content.

The feature track of the album through is the 20+ minute title suite, in seven parts. The piece opens with a-cappella harmonised vocals not unlike the Beach Boys(!). This leads into a "Mars" ("The planets") inspired instrumental as the suite comes alive. It has to be said that this epic is not for the feint of heart. It weaves its way through many varied moods demanding the full attention of the listener. Some of the earlier tracks on the album may lead you to think that this is an easy album to get into. Such notions are blown apart by this piece, which requires a number of listens before it even begins to reveals itself.

For me, the best track is the sublime "Candlelight fantasia" which closes the album. As the title suggests, this is a mellower piece, although it does break out into a full on metal section about halfway through. The chorus is particularly uplifting and ethereal. It is first introduced as a guitar solo, then repeated to a fade at the end. My only complaint is that it fades too soon, and could have been developed and exploited far more ("leave them wanting more" I suppose).

In all, a highly accomplished, confident album by Symphony X which is arguably their best release. Even those who generally avoid this type of music may find something to their taste here, although the epic title suite is probably for the faithful only.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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