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Symphony X - The Damnation Game CD (album) cover

THE DAMNATION GAME

Symphony X

 

Progressive Metal

3.33 | 254 ratings

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FloydWright
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I'm really surprised nobody's done a write-up on this album yet! This is where SYMPHONY X first started to find their direction. During the production of The Damnation Game, the band all realized that their first vocalist, ROD TYLER, wasn't working out, so they brought in a friend of his by the name of RUSSELL ALLEN. This one change probably made SYMPHONY X; ALLEN really is that good. It's true that his voice in this album isn't quite as deep as it can be at times in albums like V, but that's understandable--he's younger and this is his first outing. Yet for a first recording, his technique is already impressive. For proof, you need only go to 4:05 in "The Damnation Game" for an absolutely inhuman demonstration of vocal control. Pop singers only wish they could do this, and use computers for the effect--but this is 100% natural. Unfortunately he follows this with something a bit...silly (variations on the word "damn"), but still, this is a very nice opening song.

In "Dressed to Kill", the song has a wonderful rhythm courtesy JASON RULLO and a lovely clean electric guitar; unfortunately, there are a few sound problems that mar the song. The entire album, as a matter of fact, is recorded a bit too soft, and that's one of the few reasons I have not to give this one 5 stars. However, "The Edge of Forever" is definitely a forecast of wonderful things to come in SYMPHONY X's catalogue. The harmonies are more obviously influenced by KANSAS here than they are in any other place, and probably this is one of the more proggy songs on the album. The chorus is nothing short of breathtaking, and it's hard to tell if the bass is real or a synth; it's not normal for a bassist to be able to play that fast! I have to wonder if it's a real bass or a synth! "The Savage Curtain" is a nice, standard metal track that's a bit short, but fun to listen to. I have to wonder if this title and the one before it are a bit Star Trek inspired!

The next truly outstanding song on The Damnation Game is "Whispers", which really rivals "The Accolade" from The Divine Wings of Tragedy as a ballad-type song. Again, the wonderful RUSSELL ALLEN harmones appear, and the lyrics tell a heartwrenching story of mourning for someone lost. "The Haunting", while musically not as distinctive as "Whispers", seems lyrically to be a sequel, taking place years later as the grieving man begins to doubt his sanity. I'm not exactly sure what kind of secret is being described in "Secrets", but lyrically that song seems to describe the cost of keeping something painful or shameful bottled up inside. Musically, it actually seems a bit 80s in the mixing at times, but not in a bad way. What mainly recalls this is the heavy revern on the drums and vocals, in addition to the synth-organ choir from MICHAEL PINNELLA. ALLEN's backing harmonies somehow manage to sound like RICK WRIGHT of PINK FLOYD; the ability he has to transform his voice is absolutely amazing, considering that at other times he sounds a lot like James Hetfield of Metallica!

The final track, in two parts, is also one of the best "prog moments" on the album--"A Winter's Dream". My favorite section is the beginning "Prelude", which almost seems to be from the point of view of the spirit this time, as perhaps he tries to reassure the person he left behind in the world of the living. This may well be the best vocal moment on the album (which is tough to pick out when you're dealing with a vocalist like this!), where the harmonies turn into a multi-layered round. The main vocal line actually seems to resemble Billy Joel a bit, but that may be in part because of the similar accents the two Northeastern vocalists have, and ALLEN's youth at the time. The lyrics are genuinely touching, if you don't mind getting sentimental. This then crashes into the more typical metal section, "The Ascension", which makes a fantastic closer for the album.

I may not like the cover art so much--but don't judge this "book" by it! Overall, this is probably SYMPHONY X's first truly excellent album; while obvious sound problems are apparent, and their symphonic side is not yet as fleshed-out as it will later be, I think every fan of the band's ought to have this.

FloydWright | 4/5 |

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