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Symphony X - Iconoclast CD (album) cover

ICONOCLAST

Symphony X

 

Progressive Metal

3.78 | 370 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TheMasterMofo
4 stars The first time I listened to this album, my initial feeling was: "This is decent, but not as good as Paradise Lost". I'd caution people against that train of thought (I had to throw in a Dream Theater allusion somewhere!), because I quickly realized that I was very wrong.

This album does have a similar sound to "Paradise Lost" at times, especially in the riffage department, but the compositions and phrasings of the melodies are in fact quite different. If you loved "Paradise Lost", you'll probably love this too, but even if you didn't like "Paradise Lost" at all, you could still enjoy this album. The one thing that bugs me about this album is that a lot of the songs follow an intro/verse/refrain/chorus/verse/refrain/chorus/bridge/instrumental/chorus pattern. I think they probably could have varied the song structures a bit more. You'll notice this as with seemingly every song I comment on a verse, then a refrain, then a chorus, then an instrumental or solo section... The choruses of this album were definitely the highlight, to me. In the past Symphony X's verse riffs have usually been what impressed me the most, but it seems like the chorus is my favorite part in almost every song.

With that out of the way, lets look at this album objectively, forgetting Symphony X's past music and looking purely at each track for what it is:

Track 1 - Iconoclast This is a really chaotic and busy song. It's driven heavily by rhythmic guitars, but has some nice power chord ballad-esque sections as well. Some of the operatic voice synths from the opening of "Paradise Lost" are used throughout this song, and they do add a bit of flavor. The guitar solo is an alt-pick shred fest, and reminds me of Carl Johan Grimmark on Rob Rock's album "Holy Hell". Although it's a bit different-sounding in parts, Romeo still winds up getting his signature sound in as well. This is a pretty enjoyable song; I'd probably give it a 4/5 overall.

Track 2 - End of Innocence This song has a bit of a lackluster intro, but the verse riff is heavy-hitting and dirty. The chorus is a fairly catchy power metal style chorus. It's kind of straight-forward, but catchiness isn't necessarily a bad thing and it works. The section after the second chorus is pretty cool, switching from soft to heavy before heading into the guitar solo, which starts out with some experimental sounds and gives way to a typical Romeo solo. This song is pleasant, but not amazing. I'd give it a 3/5

Track 3 - Dehumanized This is an upbeat, heavy track. The lyrics are a bit silly at times... "Hit the switch, you son of a bitch!" but the song is good. The riffs all flow well together and will keep your interest. The pre-solo section is toned down, but builds up well into the solo, which is quite long and alternates between some nice melodic phrases and some pure shredding. Good song. 4/5

Track 4 - Bastards of the Machine This track bores me a bit... I'm not sure why. The intro and the verse/chorus riffs seem to just be "there" to me - they don't really stand out as anything amazing like some of the other songs' riffs do. The drumming stands out as pretty tight, so the song isn't completely lack-luster, but usually you hope for the music to have something memorable. The solo is a more bluesy style solo, and it's almost interesting enough coming from Romeo to save the song, but too much of the song is boring for that one section to totally salvage it. Meh. 2/5

Track 5 - Heretic This is one of my favorite tracks... It's a headbanging metal massacre. The 12/8 riff that comes in right before the first verse and after each subsequent chorus is downright nasty. The first time I listened to this album that was the first riff that brought a huge smile to my face. The first verse is a bit lackluster, but the catchy refrains "Even though the sky is falling..." saves it. The chorus is really catchy to me. This is the first song I started singing along to. The guitar work in the chorus is complex without being complex to the point where it distracts from the mood. The instrumental section is interesting, and the solo is a finger-tapping and alt-picking fun time. This song rocks. 5/5

Track 6 - Children of a Faceless God The riffs in this song are catchy and melodic but still pretty heavy. The verses are toned-down, but sound good. I'm not a huge fan of the section in the middle of each verse, as it doesn't seem to fit, but oh well. The chorus is really awesome; really catchy. The bridge part of this song is a nice dramatic interlude leading into an aggressive solo section. I like it. The chorus really drives this song. 5/5

Track 7 - When All Is Lost This is the best song on the album, in my opinion. Starting with beautiful piano and tame vocals, this song slowly builds itself in a way that is rare in the musical world. Every single note, inflection, beat, etc. in this song complements one another in a near-perfect fashion. This is honestly one of Symphony X's best songs ever, and as a long-time fan, that's saying something. As the guitars eventually kick in, the song builds its tension up, and the refrain builds it even further before a lovely chorus captivates you. The spectacular riffage from the chorus remains for the next verse, building things up further. The song drops everything back down to piano and vocals before going into a very memorable instrumental section. The guitar solo in this song is very different from Romeo's normal style, but in an amazingly good way. It's really cool broken arpeggios with slides. Hard to explain, but it's awesome. Best song on the CD. 5/5

Track 8 - Electric Messiah This song is really aggressive and driving. The brutal riffs are fast and in your face constantly. The chorus is strangely catchy; strangely because it's not really something I would expect to stay in my head, but it does. The instrumental section of this song is really dissonant and awesome, and finishes strong with a whammy-induced shredding session. Metal heads rejoice, but softer prog fans may not enjoy this one. 4/5

Track 9 - Prometheus (I'm Alive) The intro to this song seems a bit longer than it should have been... About a minute and 15 seconds into it you get a guitar solo, so at least the structure is different. The verses are heavy but upbeat, with good rhythmic variety. The chorus is really the highlight of this song, kind of the pinnacle of momentum, hitting hard. The instrumental section is solid, but not really anything spectacular. Blazing speed picking and some nice keyboard shredding. If the verses were better, I'd rate this higher... 4/5

Track 10 - Light Up The Night Another aggressive intro. The verses do a good job at keeping momentum and building into the refrain, which leads perfectly into the chorus. The chorus, again, is pretty fun. The bridge section gets quiet for a moment before heading into a pretty cool instrumental section. This instrumental section reminds me a lot of Symphony X's older, pre-millennium material, which is always a good thing. There are some great guitar and keyboard leads throughout it. Pretty solid track. 4/5

Track 11 - The Lord of Chaos The intro riff made me think that if Godsmack was prog, it would have fit on their last album, "The Oracle". Not sure why, I just had that feeling from the first listen and it has stuck through time. The verse and refrain are both pretty solid, but again the chorus is the strong point. The bridge in this song is really awesome and tension-filled, and the solo is a lot of cool shredding, both speed picking and traditional tapping.

Track 12 - Reign in Madness This intro is synth keyboard-led, which is a nice change up from how most of the other songs begin. The drums are especially sexy on this song. The verses are pretty upbeat and fun and build well intro louder refrains. There are two verses before hitting an anthem-like chorus, which goes straight into a headbanging riff section. This eventually gives way to a clean guitar part with vocals, with a tense, even eery feeling. After this, a really slow, mulling riff is introduced before going into an aggressive riff that is accentuated with nice keyboard and guitar shredding solos. I like this song... It's not amazing, but really good. 4/5

Overall I gave this album a 4/5. It's not the best album of all time, but it is really good. After a few listens you'll probably start singing or humming along to a lot of the tracks. There are one or two weak spots, but they're made up for by the really bright strong spots like "When All Is Lost". If you like Symphony X, you need this CD. If you've never heard them before, you ought to pick this up because it is a pretty good example of what they're all about.

TheMasterMofo | 4/5 |

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