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Symphony X - The Odyssey CD (album) cover

THE ODYSSEY

Symphony X

 

Progressive Metal

3.94 | 433 ratings

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FloydWright
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Although it's very hard for me to say this as an avid SYMPHONY X fan, I cannot understand why this album is being compared in the "Key Albums" section to V: The New Mythology Suite and The Divine Wings of Tragedy. The truth is, there is little comparison at all. In fact, The Odyssey is the reason I almost didn't become a SYMPHONY X fan at all. While in retrospect I can see that many things did improve greatly on The Odyssey from prior albums, I can also tell that there was a serious decline in some other aspects, one that I hope will not carry on to other albums. While parts of it are stunning to a degree thus far unmet in previous albums, other parts detract so severely that I find myself unable to listen to it very often at all...or having to skip songs if I do. I can't give this album 2 stars because of how good the good parts are; it would be unfair. However, there is no way I could justify even 4 stars...this is not the album to start out with, regardless of what many people say.

Some people are going to scream when I give Symphony X, their first album, the same rating as this. The difference is, when a band is just starting out, they deserve to be cut some slack due to inexperience and lack of resources. When a band is as far along as SYMPHONY X is now, they should know better. Knowing the full history of the band on one hand makes certain aspects of The Odyssey all the more incredible...and other parts all the more disappointing. I offer the perspective of someone who knows the entire SYMPHONY X catalogue instead of someone who just picked this one up without any idea of the rest of their accomplishments. I suspect Bob McBeath has a similar perspective, and you should pay attention to his words in addition to mine.

On one hand, the sound quality has jumped dramatically in quality. In fact, it's my suspicion that it's this fact alone that has garnered The Odyssey so much attention in comparison to the other albums. For one thing, it seems like keyboardist MICHAEL PINNELLA has bought a new synth and he uses it to great effect...in fact, he and MICHAEL ROMEO may even be using samples for some parts of the orchestra in the title track especially, which become so realistic I literally cannot tell for sure whether they're samples or synth tones. The general production has much more of an almost "surround-sound" aspect to it, for lack of better words, that I noticed immediately. On songs like "The Odyssey", this had a particularly stunning effect. There are subtle intros and outros that we've never heard before, vocal echoes that would've been imperceptible on earlier albums but have a chilling effect on this one, and other interesting studio tricks that they must have lacked the resources for in the past. From a technical standpoint, although it's hard to believe, all of the musicians--especially ROMEO and PINNELLA--are actually showing improvements. This is all the more stunning considering how skilled they all were to begin with--yet it's noticeable here that they've come along even further!

The trouble was, the album was quite simply too long and almost seems to have been recorded in two different sessions--one with very good production and technique, and one that really seems to be a wrong turn for SYMPHONY X. Unfortunately, on some of these tracks--the ones that I suspect came from an entirely different session!--ROMEO's guitar and RULLO's drums are mixed so prominently that PINNELLA becomes inaudible. I literally wound up with a headache from trying to turn these songs up to hear PINNELLA but being forced to turn them back down because it feels like ROMEO and RULLO are beating out a rhythm on my skull. To be honest, this almost pseudo-Metallica or Train of Thought kind of approach is not what I listen to SYMPHONY X for. It's not that I don't like harder metal...in fact, I really do...the problem is SYMPHONY X apparently trying to change their signature sound in places, but what they really end up doing is destroying it. In fact, I could've done without "The Turning" entirely, and perhaps one or two other songs like "Inferno" and "Wicked", though they are less annoying than "The Turning".

Yet where they do keep their "true" sound, the results are absolutely stunning. On the very good songs, PINNELLA's new synth is shown off to great effect, and what's more, he seems to have developed a more emotional, touching piano technique which appears in songs like "Accolade II", "Awakenings", and "The Odyssey" itself. The strings on "King of Terrors" demonstrate very well what he can do in a much harsher setting, as well as the excellent remake of "Masquerade". The orchestrations are nothing short of incredible, and I think that if you already know you like SYMPHONY X, this album is worth getting for these songs. Unfortunately, thanks to the more unremarkable tracks and the ones that just do not sound like what SYMPHONY X ought to be at all, I can only conclude that this album is highly overrated.

I cannot emphasize it more--make sure you start with V: The New Mythology Suite or The Divine Wings of Tragedy, not this one. I almost gave up on the band entirely because of this, and if I hadn't happened to have spotted V, I know that I would not have even come to discover the good parts (and when they're good, they're very good!) of this album.

(Note: it's said that the sound quality will be--somehow!--even better on the next SYMPHONY X album. But it's also said that the sound will be darker. One hopes that this will mean "darker" in terms of "atmospheric" like Twilight in Olympus and not just harder like this one.)

FloydWright | 3/5 |

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