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Symphony X - Twilight in Olympus CD (album) cover


Symphony X


Progressive Metal

3.75 | 385 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars One can think of Twilight in Olympus as the "little brother" of V: The New Mythology Suite, which is perhaps the best work SYMPHONY X has ever released. The underpinnings of V actually came from the same session as Twilight, intended to be part of an epic title track. For various reasons, "Twilight in Olympus" did not make this album, and the pieces of it were used in V. While their sounds are sufficiently separate, it is obvious at times that they came from the same sessions (occasionally similar riffs and experimentation with song seguing), and I think that if you liked V, this one is well worth checking out. And if you particularly like MICHAEL PINNELLA's work, you especially need Twilight.

There are only a few things holding this one back from being a five-star masterpiece, and I'll just get them out of the way up front so I can sing Twilight's praises for the rest of this review. First, JASON RULLO had temporarily left the band for personal reasons, and had been replaced with TOM WALLING. While WALLING's technical skills are basically up to par with RULLO's, there's something about the drumset he's using and the way it's mixed that I find a bit annoying at times. The excessive treble reminds me of why I don't always care for MIKE PORTNOY's drumming on the recent DREAM THEATER album Train of Thought. The other small glitch has to do with "Sonata". Yes, the song itself sounds good, but I really found myself wanting much more than was offered by the band. But on to the good stuff...

Immediately from the mean organ glissando at the opening of "Smoke and Mirrors", and the eerie church bells, we can tell that PINNELLA is going to be the star of the album to a degree previously unheard in SYMPHONY X. Technical but never overly self-indulgent a la RUDESS, he really gets to play on Twilight. "Smoke and Mirrors" is the typical hard intro, but the next track, "Church of the Machine", is quite simply one of the best. The lyrics actually start to remind me of ROGER WATERS on Amused to Death, but the attack seems more clearly confined to idol-worship, to a religion where human beings worship the created (money, their own desires, and the like) instead of the Creator--and when this happens, all of the virtue and peace that is supposed to go with religion is sucked dry. As for the music, this one has a very, VERY creepy introduction thanks to PINNELLA and some eerie moaning from RUSSELL ALLEN that sounds strangely like a tortured RICK WRIGHT of PINK FLOYD. The synth- chanting that appears intermittently completes the package.

The transition to "Sonata" is extremely abrupt and attention-getting. Here, MICHAEL ROMEO proves that he can indeed play slowly and emotionally, despite the snipes of more militant DREAM THEATER fans. It's not at all that he cannot...he just doesn't do it often. There is a big difference. I've already addressed my minor gripe, so I'll move on to "In the Dragon's Den". This one is a little less distinctive, but enjoyable. The drum solo sounds good from a technical standpoint even in spite of the mixing/tone issue with the drumset.

"Through the Looking Glass" begins with a gorgeous PINNELLA/MILLER transition, and another unusual slow solo from ROMEO. This is an unusual topic for a SYMPHONY X song, yet it works well. The song, overall, is cyclic in nature and flows well from beginning to end, never losing itself in mindless self-indulgence. Part II may well be one of the most beautiful moments ever in a SYMPHONY X album at begins with a strange harplike sound and acoustic guitar, and whispers (this may be where ROMEO and PINNELLA supposedly do backing vocals), and ALLEN's vocals take on a strange, weary quality, even breaking his voice slightly. Knowing ALLEN's capabilities, there's no doubt he did this on purpose. The harmonies are, of course, superb on the line "Dream within a dream" here, and almost reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. This moment makes the song what it is...not that the rest isn't good, but it's a bit hard to remember after 1 minute worth of some of the best music ever!

"The Relic" is a little less remarkable, but still likeable, and technically impressive. PINNELLA's harpsichord is interesting if you listen for it, and it's difficult to figure out how bassist THOMAS MILLER manages to keep pace with it. One of ROMEO's guitar lines is fo fast and so buried that it almost sounds like a synth. "Orion--The Hunter" has been referred to as one of the darkest pieces by SYMPHONY X (although I think "Church of the Machine" wins that title), and PINNELLA has much to do with creating that atmosphere. There's even a touch of Wish You Were Here-like synth work. The sound quality messes up very slightly here, and I suspect it was a difficulty in adjusting to the odd sound of WALLING's drumming.

The album closes with the strange, gorgeous "Lady of the Snow", which is based on a Japanese folk tale. It even incorporates the sound of Japanese music with a shukahachi and miniharp moving along a pentatonic scale, which ROMEO then begins to follow. ALLEN's vocals take on an almost feminine quality (fitting for the subject matter) and there is an unusually smooth transition from the soft section to the harder one, for SYMPHONY X, which scores points with me. The dissonant harmonies are particularly attention-getting, too...the song, overall, is strange, spooky, and slow, ending the album on an unusually creepy note.

(Nota bene: the band has said their next album will take on a much darker character; the hope among some fans is that there will be a return to the spooky, keyboard-driven atmospherics of Twilight. Only time will tell...)

FloydWright | 4/5 |


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