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Symphony X - The Odyssey CD (album) cover

THE ODYSSEY

Symphony X

 

Progressive Metal

3.93 | 435 ratings

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JLocke
Prog Reviewer
4 stars THE ODYSSEY was the first Symphony X album I ever listened to, and based on what I have heard, I will definately be checkling out the band's other works. A great experience on the whole. But there are weak points to it that detract that last star from my final verdict.

''Inferno'' Is a very solid heavy metal effort with some truly crunching guitar riffs and hard-hitting drumming. Russel Allen's voice is actually something I am very fond of, and am quite surprised to discover that many people find it annoying. It is very majestic and is very effective in creating the overall epic feel of this album. Even the straightforward metal songs feel alot more grand because of hus power- singing. Michael Romeo is quickly becoming one of my favorite metal guitarists, and as far as prog metal goes, he may not be as technically proficient as John Petrucci, but he comes pretty damn close, and besides, I have never been a fan of all that showoffy style anyway. While Romeo dishes out some truly finger-twisting licks, it never feels like too much, which is always great. The melody of the verses here are quite lovely and preview where the record will ultimately go by the end of it all, as it only gets more epic and more beautiful from there.

The next song, apporpriately titled ''Wicked'', starts out with some truly devilish riffage that would make any Sabbath fan proud, but the song as a whole doesn't lose any of that epic, mythic aura, which is good, since this album focuses around the epic tale of Ulysses, and speaks of a ruler of an ancient kingdom who gets lost at sea, but ultimately has many interesting adventures during his journey back . . . but we will discuss this subject matter a bit later, as the only song on the album that directly addresses this story is the title track.

''Incantations of the Apprentice'' begins with the first hist of an orchestra on the album, but soon loses that vibe completely and breaks into yet another hard-hitting metal riff. Y'know, I can headbang with the best of 'em, but when I pick up a progressive metal album, I'm looking for more originality than this. Not to say this song doesn't rock, but I don't think that is what a proghead wants to hear when he spends money on a special edition of an album by a highly-acclaimed symphonic metal band. Nevertheless, there are some really great tunes to be found here, as well as the first real metal-esque voice work from Allen. Also to note, is the first truly great guitar solo from Romeo. What makes it great? Well, it has substance, it never gets boring, it kicks ass with it's power, and it lasts only a fraction of the time it usually takes for one John Petrucci to feel satisfied with himself. Truly great heavy metal music. It just isn't progressive, that's all.

Ah, ''Accolade II''. Now we finally have something to be excited about. A truly breathtaking intro thanks to a grand piano solo accompanied by some brilliant strings. Even when the song takes off into it's heavy side, the progressive side of the song stays prominent, with the piano and strings closely flanking the powerfull guitar work, and that makes for the first truly moving track on the entire album. Again, Allen's work on vocal duties in above par when compared to most other vocalists in this overly-crowded genre. This song takes many miniature breaks along the way from the heaviness so that the listener can digest what has transpired, and the softer orchestral side of the track shines very brightly during these moments. I suppose then if I will compliment Russell Allen and Michael Romeo that a shout out to Michael Pinella is in order, as he I suppose is the one providing the wonderfull piano work found on this truly fantastic track. See, we don't see enough acoustic work from keyboardists in this genre; so often they only focus on the fucky side of the instrument, but sometimes it is just good to put some good ol' traditional piano work on a record of this caliber. The result is an awe-inspiring combination of clean and electric intrumentation. Wonderfull. Oh, and finally the song becomes just as heavy as it's predecessor's, with some great rhythmic drumming from Jason Rullo, but the truly shining moment here is the best guitar solo on the album, courtesy of the great Michael Romeo. It starts off as just another solo, but then soon transforms into a very moving experience full of emotion and power. Allen then follows it up with more epic voice work, giving this track a very uplifting, grand feel to it all. Second best song on the whole of THE ODYSSEY.

''King of Terrors'' is more-or-less the same old song, once again. Really good metal riffs, but not much originality to be found here. This to me is a shame, because the three or four really great tracks on this album are so great that had the duds on the record been removed, we could have been looking at a true masterwork, here. Instead, we get a typical prog metal elabum with some really epic moments, but not enough to save it as a whole.

''The Turning'' brings a yawn out of me quicker than I think any other song on the record, just because based on the loud, in-your-face opening, I know deep down that it will be once again more of the same. Nothing special here.

The next song is again worthy of a listen, as it begins much slower, and has a very classical music overtone to it. Oh, might I also say that this is the first time I can actually HEAR bass player Michael Lepond, who it turns out can also play his intrument very well-- who knew, huh? This song (Aside from the title track) has the most space as far as instruments go, as it leaves room to catch one's breath, and isn't nearly as ferocious to begin with, which helps the listener get more into it later on when it finally does take off. See, had more songs started out like this on the record, I may have given it a complete five rating, but even then thay would have been pushing it. Well, some needless guitar wankery from Romeo for the first time on the release, but thankfully it is still tastefull, or at least as tasteful as guitar wankery can get, as it only lasts a few seconds. Soon we get a taste of keyboardist Michael Pinella's more carnival-like sounds, as well as his very classical-style virtuostic grand piano playing. Overall, this saves the song from ending in a predictable manner, which is always nice. This song by the way is titled ''Awakenings''

Okay, here it is-- the reason this album, despite it's obvious shortcomings, recieved a four-out-of-five rating from me. This is the magnum opus, the gem, the (frankly) only real reason why you as a listener should slam your money down to buy this album. Yes, folks, this song is THAT good, and while I don't normally encourage picking up a record simply because of one song, this is an album that breaks those rules, simply because this one song, ''The Odyssey'', which has a running time of 24:09, features some of the most beautiful orchestra work on any rock album, and always leaves me feeling incredibly uplifted and ready to hear it all over again, is the reason why you got into symphonic metal. Here we go, part one: Odysseus' theme/Overture:

Well, where do I begin, the symphony work here is simply jaw-dropping, and sets the mood for the epic tale that is about to unfold . . .

Part two: Journey to Ithaca Great acoustic guitar work here, and it begins peaceful enough, whith the title character speaking of his love for his family and about how this journey he is about to embark on will only keep them apart for a little while. The lyrics here are provided by both Allen and Romeo, and they are delivered in a way by Allen that really works in the context of telling this mythical story. Soon, things get a bit for frantic and heavier, with Romeo unloading some really great guitar work that truly fits the song's purpous, and doesn't sound out-of-place at all. It then calmes down a bit for some great piano work, backing up the vocals as they sing in a beautiful tune: ''Onward we ride - nine days we brave her might, We are, we are, we are, coming home . . . ''

Part three: The Eye This is a great one, as it speaks of impending doom, yet escape. Once again the musiciansship here isn't frilly or over-the-top, it just seems to fit the song so well, it is unbievable. Though it doesn't last very long, as it gets ferocious, then dies down to a more calming experience, and that is where part four takes over . . .

Part four: Circe Keep in mind also that the orchestra is playing alongside the rock intruments, yet nothing in this composition sounds too busy or run together, it just is a perfect marriage if all of the elemts to create this amazing piece of musical art. So, this section of the epic features more Pinella mastery, as the main character of this tale says ''We sit adrift on the open sea, the gift of wind, by Zeus, so carelessly.'', and this clam cool stream lasts for a while, but soon becomes engulfed by the fiery Michael Romeo, displaying some of the best rhythm guitar work in history, accompanying the lyrics: ''We carouse with the maiden, bedneath her eyes, the madness lies in mystery . . . '' Underneath all of this, the keyboards have taken on the role of incidental music that subconsciousely adds a sense of tension, making the story all the more real. Another brilliant tasteful guitar solo from Romeo, lasting a little longer this time, but not without merit, as it really adds the power to this part of the song.

Part five: Sirens This section of the song bursts in with really awesome guitar riffs, followed closely by Rullo's power playing. ''Dire warnings - told by the sorceress in white 'False bringers of love' - Sirens . . . the lyrics say, as the song takes yet another interesting turn, towards probably the most straightforward metal moment of the otherwise symphony-clad track.

Part six: Scylla and Charybdis Well, just as the previous section went all-out heavy, this section features only a small bit of guitars, and ultimately becomes completely orchestral. This section alone is probably the greatest thing Symphony X has ever done, and certainly Odyssey the song as a whole is, but since the rest of the album is not nearly as well polished, it still doesn't get a full five starts from me, but whenever I listen to this section, it is the most beauitful thing I have ever heard, and I often hate myself for rating it only four stars, but I know as a whole album, I must, because it isn't fair to the other truly great albums I have given the same rating to include this one just because of one song. Anyway, it starts out fericious, then becomes very peacefull, and like I said earlier, as far as orchestra music goes, this is the most moving piece of music I have everheard, so yes, this song alone-- hell this SECTION of the song alone is enough reason to buy the whole album.

Part seven: The fate of the suitors/ The champion of Ithaca So, this is the second best part of the song (part six being the first), as the brilliant guitar work and godlike singing really makes my spirit soar. The main character has returned, has taken care of his enemies, and become champion of his kingdom. Great ending to a great story (you should go and read the original tale), presented in a masterful way through the beauty of music, and what better way to do so than to combine the two most epic forms of music there is: classical and metal? Now the track ends with the main character reprising a line he said earlier near the song's opening, and the guitar being played now is not acoustic like before, but clean. This gives the reprised lyric a sense of familiarity, but enough difference to conclude that things have changed for the better, and the journey is now complete.

THE ODYSSEY is one of Symphony X's greatest albums, and the title track in itself is enough reason to buy the thing, but sadly the rest of the album falls short with the exception of a couple of tracks, and while this would normally merit only three stars, the one song that is worthy is so much better than most, that I think it deserves to be considered an excellent addition to any collection, because it is. Had the other songs been as great as the title track, maybe it could have been a masterpiece, but it is still worth anyone's time-- anyone who likes the marriage of a symphony orchestra and rock intruments. This is truly an epic, four stars.

JLocke | 4/5 |

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