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Symphony X - The Odyssey CD (album) cover


Symphony X


Progressive Metal

3.95 | 526 ratings

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5 stars "The Odyssey" is the last studio release of Symphony X. It was published in 2002 after their conceptual masterpiece "V", with an improved sound, new ideas and Michael LePond. He's still the bassist and fresh ideas again as well as a revised sound. The name already illustrates thoughts of any wanderings. However a more accurate view on the cover indicates the proper meaning of the title. It's the story of Odysseus, hero of Homer's Odyssey! I think everyone knows his story. Odysseus, after the victorious battle of Troy, returns to Ithaca, but he has to overcome several adventures/dangers. The last song on this album, the 24-minute long epic, "The Odyssey" traverses some different themes of Odysseus' journey back home. Anyway I have the feeling this is kind of a concept album. In every track there are keywords and the story itself points out my notion.

I have collected some extracts to prove or rather show it.

Inferno "we ride through stormy skies of fire"

Wicked "I travelled through the mountains"

Inc. of the Apprentice "I journey for nines moons of the year"

Accolade II "returning to his land"

King of Terrors "I slip away.into black I fade away"; "Inch by Inch and Line by Line"

Awakenings"So many paths of promise, indecision poisons my mind"; "Still I'm searching yet the truth is unknown"

"Awakenings" is a great example for the topic. As you read, this person is going to find the truth, which is "yet unknown" and there are many "paths of promise". Furthermore there are tracks like "King of Terrors", based on Poe's story, "The Pit and the Pendulum", the journey to the afterlife, Although there are no keywords in "The Turning", the story gives information about it. It describes the metamorphosis to a werewolf. This could be regarded as kind of a voyage as well. In my opinion, this shows that "The Odyssey" is partially a concept album. I know that all could be coincidence, but I can't really believe that! The music turned to a heavier and darker direction. Let's assume, this is a concept piece, the overall theme is odysseys, which are very dramatic, as you might know, so that could justify the "darkness" and the heavy style. The most conspicuous change is the vocals. The incredible Russell Allen crosses the edge to the trash-metal several times and the guitar became heavier as well, I think a bit away from this "Dream Theater"-progressive-metal-sound and more to a metal direction like "Pantera", but still very original.

I will describe every musician now. I think that's a good way to describe the album and everyone's role here.

Michael Romeo

His compositions (songs/solos) are quite controversial. One the one hand they are less melodic than the other albums. But the feeling is much darker now and they distanced themselves a bit from the melodic power metal. His solos are still great and fit perfectly into the songs. In my opinion he knows how to build in the perfect solo, regarding speed, feeling and melody. He's definitely a player of joy and he is always looking for demanding solos. Anyway if there should be any slow solos, they aren't missing. Furthermore, if he's really supposed to be such an awful shredder, wouldn't he ever play in that speed like he does in "King of Terrors"? He can play extremely fast, but he doesn't ever make use of it. Technique is more important for him and I even believe that he knows how to build up a song so that he can solo fast. The perfect example is "Accolade II". The song is growing up and building up more pressure with this instrumental part, so that he can start with a fast solo, which descends to a slow solo to create the best changeover and it perfectly merges with Russell's vocals. He's kind of the mastermind of Symphony X and responsible for the most compositions. Alone, he wrote the track "The Odyssey", one of the best songs ever. This track is so well-thought that it's able to represent every part of Homer's "Odyssey" with its special moods. Most obvious it's in the Wagner inspired classical part from 16.-20. minute that leads over from the "sirens" to the final arriving in Ithaca, so convincing that you could believe this is a real orchestra and perfectly build into the track! And this is just one of the parts of this varied song. The acoustic guitar arpeggio part at the beginning is also amazing and shows that Michael Romeo is not simply a metal-demoniac, but rather that he is very diverse and full of ideas. What I don't like are the sometimes monotone, "easy" riffs, you can find in "Inferno" and "King of Terrors". Well, the riff in "King of Terrors" is still quite accessible and I don't know if there would be a change in the feeling/mood of the song, if you would replace it, but I think the riff in "Inferno" (not the fast, the one during the verse) could have been done better. There's even no keyboard, just Russell's powerful voice drowns the guitar out a bit. Nevertheless there are still great riffs, for example in "Awakenings", the galloping riff in "Accolade II", the fast one at the beginning of "Inferno", the groovy one in "Wicked", or the fast riff in "Incantations of the Apprentice", following after each of Russell Allen's lines during the verse or the one in the chorus! And not to forget "The Odyssey" with those typical Michael Romeo riffs, usually played alone first without vocals, which join later, as you might know if you are a Symphony X fan. So you can get over those "simple" riffs, there's still enough to be happy with! What I also noticed is his laxness. In "Incantations of the Apprentice" for example! It sounds as if he would watch a comedy show along the way! But, I also think that he's not always perfect in technique. In "Inferno" for example, I've the feeling that he's overestimating himself a bit. I don't think that he played the solo proper. He once aid that it's the most difficult solo of all his stuff, at least at working it up to speed. There is this stagnant passage, where he doesn't play all the notes. Although this solo is quite difficult, it's a pity that he couldn't play it perfectly. But that's marginal criteria since this is the only time I noticed it. Even in the extreme fast string-skipping solo in "King of Terrors" he plays everything clean and alright!

Michael Pinnella

Unfortunately the keyboards have been reduced. Not really much in their presence, rather in sound. The fantastic synthesizer-background is still there, it's much more quiet now. And of course there are still the keyboard-guitar double- leads and the keyboard solos, sadly no stunning guitar-keyboard battles, like those in "Of Sins and Shadows" or "Smoke and Mirrors" for example. His most impressive work you can find in Awakenings. After 1 minute you easily notice it. The awesome keyboard part, actually it's the "Prelude nr. 24 in D-minor" by Chopin, with Russell Allen's great vocals. Afterwards, in the middle of the song, there is a Jazz-part, I read that Michael Pinnella is a passionate Jazz musician and plays it really often, so I hope there will be more Jazz in the coming albums of Symphony X. Directly after that part, it changes perfectly to a neo-classical piano session. I really like his work in the track "The Odyssey". This deep part after the guitar arpeggio, the solo (sadly there's just one), this nice piano line afterwards and the piano/keyboard during the classic part. Another highlight of his presence is "Accolade II". It already starts with a piano and some strings. And, what's also remarkable is this keyboard line! Yes, while he used to play quiet synths in the background during the last 3 tracks, now his moment has come, and he plays a varied melody of the first one out of "Accolade", you can find on "The Divine Wings of Tragedy", besides the galloping guitar rhythm and this time good audible.

Russell Allen

He really never sounded heavier, than here. You can really compare it to trash- Metal sometimes, of the same tenor as Pantera, etc. I can tolerate it, but it's not really necessary! Luckily, there are still many "normal" vocals, where Russell Allen shows that he's can still sing like a siren! The beginning of "Awakenings", for example, where he sings while the piano plays the melody of Chopin's Prelude! Another example is the "Overture" in "The Odyssey". Anyway his heavy growls show his enormous power and range. On the one hand he can sing deep and extremely heavy as in "King of Terrors" and on the other hand he can calm down to such a soft in the and soulful way as in the "Overture"/"Reprise" of "The Odyssey". One more sign for the variety of this album - Russell's jaw-dropping vocal acrobatics! What I also noticed in some passages of the album, that he sometimes (strongly) some words/lines and in combination with this short sustain it appears like an opera extract. He has an enormous range. You can easily notice that on the whole album. Just listen to "Wicked", "The Odyssey" or "Awakenings". On the one hand he sings heavy, powerful and deep, nevertheless always with a sense of melody, but on the other hand he is able to sing like a child in the church or a pop-vocalist and then he slaps out such an amazing vocal solo in "Wicked" - WOW!

Jason Rullo

First, the drums sound very good! Sadly some parts, too quiet, e.g. the bass drum. So I would recommend that you listen to it in a special bass mode, you will notice much more of his stunning work. His best pieces of work you can find in "The Odyssey" of course and in "Incantations of the Apprentice". He slaps one by one staccato riff out, while playing the normal rhythm as well. Also great it this part during the verse. As a start he plays the normal rhythm and then he play each single note of this fast guitar riff with his bass drums! He's one of my favourite drummers and one of the reasons are his innovative, unusual riffs that appear illogical, simply meaning that it's brilliant! Another cool thing that stands out is this drum melody during the intro of "Incantations of the Apprentice". He plays it 2 times, first with the cymbals and then with the rest, accompanied with some effect-synthesizers! I really like his playing and also his alternative and unusual riffs. He exploits everything available! His style is a blend of complex, stagnant jazz-, fast and powerful metal- and usual rock-drumming.

Michael LePond

Unfortunately, it's really, really hard to hear him. Often it's really hard to hear him, even in a bass mode. What you can hear really well are some very fast licks he interposes sometimes, e.g. in "Accolade II", or at the beginning of "Awakenings", where he plays that slow line. It's really deplorable! You can't hear his licks / riffs really good and he has no special solos. I hope his sound is louder and he's more highlighted on their next album. Measures like "V" would be enough. Well, maybe it's one of the effects of this guitar-driven metal. Often he plays those typical repetitive fast single-tone-accumulations (changing tones of course) and on the other hand he often adds further melodies, it's just hard to hear them.

Symphony X have ever been a neo-classical progressive metal band. Although it is not obvious there are still many neo-classical parts, e.g. in "Inferno" ("Presto" from "Summer" by Antonio Vivaldi), "Awakenings" (Beginning (see above.), piano solo, guitar solos) and "The Odyssey" of course. There are again quite interesting ideas, e.g. "Wicked", kind of a typical Iced Earth song that really crosses the edge to the "proper" Metal, without falling out of the concept. Also interesting are ideas like the repetition of the incipiently melody of "Inferno" (by Romeo) at the beginning of "Accolade II", indeed in another mood and with the piano this time or another nice one, that they integrated turns of Paul Duka's composition "Incantations of the Apprentice" into their song. I like the story of that song. They said Russell Allen and Michael Romeo saw Disney's "Fantasia" and Russell wanted to use this story for a song. In "The Turning" Symphony X even dive into the speed-metal genre, very interesting and that emphasizes the diversity of the album. What I heard lastly, is the similarity of the drums in "King of Terrors" and heartbeats, what describes the mental situation of the acting person. First the drums are already fast, so he's already a bit scared and unsure, but in the chorus, that worsens and with the word "Terrified" (the first word of the chorus) the drums become very fast, fitting to the word "terrified". Besides those problems in volume (everything I will say now ignores those audibility-problems), the sound went to a positive direction. The whole sound-spectrum is much fuller now. Russell Allen sounds more powerful (if you hear it with headphones, you can even hear his whispers), Michael Romeo sounds cleaner and stronger now, Michael Pinnella's new synthesizer are really awesome and are very pleasant, Michael LePond sounds as usual (nothing special) and Jason Rullo's drums sound good too, more agreeable this time but his bass drums sounds a bit watery-muffled. Unfortunately there are less guitar-keyboard solo battles, but the solos are still awesome. The solo in "Wicked" for example: Michael Romeo becomes faster and faster and is near to go berserk but than Michael Pinnella takes over and leads the solo to that nice arpeggio. The orchestra-samples are quite convincing and hard to differ from a real orchestra. Michael Romeo made a good job. I think those orchestra instruments are really important for Symphony X's classical and symphonic vein. Sadly they can't afford a real orchestra, so luckily those samples are really authentic. In Russell Allen's solo album they are even better and I can't await their new album with the new effects. Michael Romeo said that he uses 3 computers now! In 2002, when "The Odyssey" was released, he used just 1! What I also noticed while listening to Russell Allen's solo album "Russell Allen's Atomic Soul", is Michael Romeo's new guitar effects. Some are really new and uncommon. I think he uses the usual amplifier-effects now again, after using the "POD-XT" during "The Odyssey" and I'm really looking forward for his new sounds on their new album.

What are my critics?

Well, although I have nothing against it, they should omit those growls by Russell Allen and maybe dissociate from this true metal, although they are, in my opinion, more progressive here. But the new album is coming and fortunately there are no growls and it's turning to a darker direction, hopefully not a heavier one. Furthermore the sound, while it is great, is partly bad. The keyboards are quieter, but I don't know how it would work if they would be louder, maybe that would destroy the feeling. And second, the bass and the drums are mixed up to quiet, especially the bass! And third, that it's kind of guitar driven! Most of the points are subjective and are only few marginal critics and if you once tolerated this heavy style and listen to it very often you will discover this awesome album and one of the best songs ever created, the brilliant epic "The Odyssey".

And here, for the end, there is a short description of each song :

Inferno : Great starting riff (reminds of "sea of lies"), heavy vocal performance during the 1st verse, but a nice (pre-)chorus and nice solos.

Wicked : A typical Iced Earth song, maybe a bit more progressive. Simple Metal Riff, Chorus and Solo, but afterwards a beautiful arpeggio that introduces a new verse. Very groovy song by the way.

Incantations of the Apprentice : A stunning intro, one of my favourite songs of all times, a powerful verse and chorus, very dark and heavy as well. Inspired by the story of "Disney's" incantation of the apprentice! As I mentioned before the idea developed when Russell Allen and Michael Romeo saw "Disney's" "Fantasia"!

Accolade II : Fantastic harmonic song with powerful, atmospheric refrain, more keyboard/piano use and a fantastic solo as well as wonderful melodies. Sequel of "The Accolade" you can find on "The Divine Wings of Tragedy", Symphony X's 3rd studio album, released in 1997. A great follower, with the same wonderful feeling as in "The Accolade"!

King of Terrors : Based on Edgar Allen Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum. Through the darkness of the story the song is quite dark as well and the heaviest song ever by Symphony X (including vocals). Very atmospheric and a perfect conversion of Poe's story. The Turning : Very fast, something like a speed metal track with a long solo! Very strange vocals sometimes!

Awakenings : What a track! Starts of with a theme played with keyboard, bass and guitar, but always varied. Then a wonderful piano theme, a prelude by Chopin, with incredible vocals. After that it gets a bit heavier, but not too heavy, but dark! Very fluent it proceeds with other verses, 1 chorus and some solos and a jazzy piano intermission, changing to a neo-classical session!

The Odyssey: This track is the best Symphony X ever made. It's amazing that Michael Romeo wrote it alone. It begins with the "Odysseus Theme" (this title really fits to the part), I guess inspired by Dream Theater's Overture of their long epic "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence"! Then a fantastic arpeggio with the acoustic guitar, with a very nice verse. It's played a while and then powerchords are added. After that it gets heavier (like in Awakenings), a solo-session (guitar and keyboard) and the awesome second verse begins with a nice piano. After that the vocals become heavier as well. In the further time there are more guitar driven verses, a piano & vocals sequence, an incredible solo by Michael Romeo and a classical part inspired by Wagner. For the End (Up to 20 minutes) there is a solo first, including the notes for the soon following refrain, then another verse (the accompanist reminds of the on in "Candlelight Fantasia" and "Premonition"), the refrain I just mentioned, a solo and at the end the arpeggio from the beginning played with an e-guitar and a changed text (Reprise)!

Finally you can say that they stepped on another path, a more heavier path, developed further and tested lots of new things but also remained lots of old signatures.

Earlier tended to give it 4 starts, but I in-depth thought about it. "The Odyssey" (the track) is more than a masterpiece (I have more than 3000 tracks and this is by far my favourite one). Tracks like "Accolade II", "Awakenings" and "King of Terrors" (yes, I guess many won't share my opinion, but for me it's an amazing track) are definitely masterpieces and all the other tracks are worth 3/4 stars. Furthermore it really grew much more on me with every listen and it didn't stop, even not now - still growing, especially the title track! I could listen to it one whole day or longer and it wouldn't be boring!

Inferno: 4/5 Wicked: 3/5 Inc. of the Apprentice: 4/5 Accolade II: 5/5 King of Terrors: 5/5 The Turning 3/5 Awakenings: 5/5 The Odyssey 5/5

Now you have to consider that "The Odyssey", "Accolade II", "Awakenings" and "King of Terrors" are altogether 45 minutes long, so 3/4 of this album!


3/4 = 5 Stars 1/4 = 3.5 Stars

Overall: 5 Stars!

I recommend it to (progressive) metal fans, who can tolerate rough vocals, since they are even on the trash-metal level sometimes.

W.Chuck | 5/5 |


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