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Symphony X - V: The New Mythology Suite CD (album) cover

V: THE NEW MYTHOLOGY SUITE

Symphony X

 

Progressive Metal

4.14 | 531 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Draith
5 stars Now that I'm in my own account... there is quite a bit to this review, and if you've listened to this album before, you might discover much about it you never realized before, for I've done some pretty good research, and many of the things I've discovered are quite astounding. Classical buffs and symphonic proggers should especially enjoy this album, which is probably why it's pretty highly rated. There is A LOT to this album, and I probably haven't even covered much of it, really.

V: The New Mythology Suite is, by far, my favorite Symphony X album, and it has come to be one of my favorite albums of all time, especially regarding progressive metal. In fact, it may be my favorite metal album of all time. The achievements the band made in this album, especially regarding head spinning changes in asymmetric time signatures, counterpoints, poly-rhythms, musical quotes, melodies, riffs, atmospheres, solos, almost everything one finds delicious in prog and otherwise massively intellectually stimulating music. There is a strong link with classical music, much stronger than almost any prog metal album out there. There are even musical quotes to Mozart, Kansas, and I'm sure other artists that have influenced their music, especially in a classical sense. The musicianship is wonderfully showy and top-notched, and recorded and produced to near perfection. Russel Allen's vocals have never been more competent, cleaner, and inspired, and is rough when it is quite appropriate for the music, and almost operatic (I use that term a bit loosely, for I actually listen to opera) when it fits best, especially with the more classical parts. The meter and riffs complement each other perfectly, as occasionally, especially in progressive metal, a riff that might sound better in four is put into something like seven-eight just for the sake of being in an odd time signature. This is found to never be the case in this album. It all flows wonderfully, from measure to measure, section to section, and song to song, and as an album as a whole from start to finish. All musicians show off their capabilities to the max, which is incredibly high, astronomical in fact. The interactions between the guitar and keyboard parts are simply astounding, as well as the atmosphere the keyboard helps to create, made even more unique with the inclusion of the organ setting. A keyboardist has perhaps never had a more prominent and important role in a metal album, making it quite close to symphonic prog, even compared to anything else in the band's discography. This band knows it's classical music theory inside out, quite rare even for many great metal bands.

The album is also a concept album on mythology, focusing mainly on the story of Atlantis, its rise, conflicts, and fall. The lyrics presenting the story, and the music emphasizes the mood the lyrics present very well, as is the case with any concept album masterpiece. It's all relatively complex and I could definitely look more into it than I have, and probably will after this review, for there is a lot to it really. Symphony X has (almost) always had knowledgeable lyrics regarding literature, especially Greek Mythology, and this album serves as the best example of this knowledge. The way the music compliments the storyline goes back to Yes' days of "musical portraits," in which the goal of the music was to paint a portrait in one's mind and imagination. As I gain more knowledge about the storyline, I can almost see the incidents happening to the music without the help of lyrics, and astounding quality of any album, and the pinnacle of artistic quality in progressive rock, and especially metal.

I will say a slight warning to those thinking about giving this album a try. The first time I heard this, it seemed like the most pretentious thing on Earth and I could not understand why it was highly rated on this site. It sounded like intense musicians noodling around on their instruments with no real point, mainly because I didn't understand the album the way I do now. It took me several spins for it to grow on me, all in different states of mind (for that often determines how much I enjoy an album). With every listen, it grew on me just a little more, eventually to the point of it becoming one of my favorite albums of all time. So if you do give the album a listen, be sure to not let first impressions deceive you. I find my opinion on an album after five or more attentive listens vastly changes, for better or for worse. And boy did my opinion of this album change for the better.

Prelude: This starts the album with an intense inclusion of classical music with powerful strings and a chorus of voices singing Latin, and the structure of the prelude overall serves as a very fitting intro to the rest of the album. The band definitely doesn't hesitate to a bombastic entry rich with classical influence. One of the greatest one-minute-long tracks out there.

Evolution (The Grand Design): Quite something you'd expect from the band as far as the its structure goes, this song shows the band's song writing capabilities and musicianship quite quickly. The inclusion of the organ is introduced to the bands music, and is evident throughout the album, and sadly would be the only album in the band's discography so far to have played a prominent role. It helps the band sound much fuller in my opinion. My high school rock band Occam's Razor actually tried to cover this song once (lol). We found out how beyond our reach it was quite quickly, and we're pretty competent musicians to start with. It's the first great song in the series of great songs that span the album.

Fallen: Poly-rhythms are introduced at the beginning of the song between the keyboard and the the other instruments in the song (which would come up a few more times later in the album). The band's use of effects regarding guitar, keyboard, and vocals are also showcased first in this song. This song probably has one of the catchiest choruses and riffs on the album. Organ is very prominent in this song as well. Odd meter and poly-rhythms abound in this song as well.

Transcendence (Segue): We're completely in the realm of classical music with this thirty-eight second interlude, and an incredibly majestic realm it is. I get an immense feeling of wonder and adventure upon hearing this track, which leads very nicely into one of my favorite tracks of all time.

Communion and the Oracle: The magnum opus creation of Symphony X, it starts of very similarly to the Accolade from Divine Wings of Tragedy, with a brilliant acoustic guitar intro in 21/8 time with a mind boggling poly-rhythm with the keyboard part layered on top. No matter how many times I listen to that part I simply can't figure out what time the part is in, it becomes so blurred with the asymmetric guitar part, yet it works so perfectly. And what a complimentary bass line and drum part! This is just the most magical song I can think of. I once found myself snowboarding very fast on fresh powder listening to this song during a snowstorm, with the snow falling absolutely perfectly... it was one of the most magical experiences I have ever had in my life. Easily one of the most classical based and progressive songs of everything the band has made. Russel's singing is just perfect... and the counterpoint... I feel like I'm lifted off my feet to a realm of pure bliss and euphoria when I indulge in this song. "Raise our hands up to the skies, feel the essence of time..." A masterpiece song on a masterpiece album!

The Bird-Serpent War / Cataclysm: Much heavier and more metal, this track somewhat contrasts the euphoria feel of the previous song, musically and lyrically presenting the conflict in the storyline that has arisen. Meter changes very frequently throughout the song and sounds a bit more jagged, as all Atlantis cries out in their downfall, as Neptune's waves rise to make a kingdom's grave. This song marks the sort of half point in the storyline, or the climax, if you will.

On the Breath of Poseidon: Another sort of interlude track, a ship rows away from a drowned, now destroyed Atlantis off to a land unknown. It displays feelings of relief, loss, loneliness, a slight fear of what's to come, as well as hope for the future, with caution. So the emotional ride of the song goes anyway, all in about three minutes.

Egypt: Well, another great song on a great album. It has a very, well, Egyptian feel, as one might expect, especially with the clean Egyptian sounding guitar (?) with the band's excellent use of the melodic minor scale (I think... it always sounded Egyptian like to me...). Great musicianship is demonstrated, asymmetric meter, etc. I especially love the band's use of stereo sound in this song, mainly with the higher vocals, and the instrumental section as well. One of my favorite songs on one of my favorite albums, just dripping with artistic musicality and musicianship while maintaining its sense of being, as I heard Mike Akerfeldt once say, really f***'n metal. I had the privilege of seeing Symphony X perform this and the next track live during their tour on their last album Paradise Lost. Man was it EPIC.

The Death of Balance / Lacrymosa: This song I always thought was reminiscent of Dance of Eternity from Dream Theater's Scenes from a Memory (in fact I wouldn't be surprised if that's were it was influenced from). Further in the song there's a crazy time signature change just about every measure. It's musically insane and awesome, I was so happy to see them play this live, especially the chorus toward the end, which I just discovered listening to Mozart this morning before writing this review (!) is a musical quote from his piece, Lacrimosa dies illa. These guys know their classical music, and their's nothing corny or pretentious about the way they present it - else, you're actually describing Mozart himself as such.

Absence of Light: This is probably my least favorite track on the album - and I love even this one. It's quite metal, like Bird-Serpent War, with a good intro riff, keyboard solo, and chorus. Poly-rhythmic keyboard/guitar parts galore. Again, a great song on a great album, with particularly great keyboard solos being the best part.

A Fool's Paradise: This song took the longest to grow on me of all the songs, but I came to appreciate even this one, even more than the last track. The chorus never made much musical sense to me. Nonetheless, the organ and strings are prominent as ever in the atmosphere of the music. It is overall just as well written as the rest of the album. And there's a harpsichord in a somewhat Trans-Siberian Orchestra sounding part too!

Rediscovery (Segue / Pt. 2): The Segue is quite a pretty little track, almost a bit sad, but it leads into one of the best songs in prog metal with the length of greater than ten minutes, the only one on the album to top that long. The piano background is nice, and is overall very reminiscent of Kansas' Song for America; in fact, it practically has a musical quote (Feel the mystery, so much to see...) with I think the same melody as that song with those lyrics. I've always thought Symphony X's softer songs reminded me of Kansas, Russel's singing very much included, and I guess this musical quote is just stronger evidence of this. The song is a great one to end with, with both very soft and loud parts, very metal and very classical sections, great contrast. I especially love the section where the lyrics say "Bow down to me" and the great down beat piano. This song has many great and somewhat lengthly instrumental sections and powerful backing organ. The ending of this album is one of the most epic endings of any album I think I've heard, right after the lyrics finish at "can we change" plays a theme introduced in In the Wake of Poseidon, with a dozen string and vocal parts layered atop one another to create the finishing of one of the greatest albums ever made.

If you've managed to read this far (or cheated and read the last paragraph) then I need say no more. This album is so jam-packed with the essence of prog, metal, classical, and quality composition, musicianship, time signature madness, chordal structures, use of counterpoint and poly-rhythms... I could go forever about this album. It is certainly one of the greatest albums, in my opinion, of all time. It seems like some of the best bands have one album where I could swear God descended and told the band how to write just one album - and left. There are certain albums that I can fall back on to listen to at any time and have left me better educated in the way of composition and music in general. This is definitely one of those priceless albums. So in case you were wondering, yes, I would recommend this album to anyone.

Draith | 5/5 |

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