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


Symphony X


Progressive Metal

4.14 | 741 ratings

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5 stars This band, given to me on recommendation, admittedly took awhile to grow on me. In fact, when I bought their most recent album, The Odyssey, unlike some, it nearly put me off of SYMPHONY X altogether (though since then, that album has grown on me). Yet after that unfortunate first experience, I still held on to The Odyssey. And when I happened to find V: The New Mythology Suite, I couldn't help my curiosity at the gorgeous cover art. Now this looked a lot more refined than the rather overblown art of The Odyssey...two mysterious opposing figures, hooded, cloaked, faces painted, with glowing eyes--I couldn't resist. But would the album live up to the artwork? Well, aside from a few ill-considered areas, the answer turned out to be a resounding yes! SYMPHONY X had redeemed itself...with this amazing conceptual work, I realized their catalogue really was worthy of exploration.

This is one of those albums that kind of sneaks up on you, and while my earlier inclination was to give it 4 stars, I've come to realize over time that if any SYMPHONY X belongs in the collection of fans and non-fans alike, it's this one. While I certainly would not have this album compete against The Human Equation or The Dark Side of the Moon, the kinds of albums that one rarely ever finds, there is definitely enough here to keep the listener entertained. There are a surprising number of moments where I find myself backing up my CD player to hear a particularly cool riff or effect again. This band is certainly not lacking in talent; all of the musicians and vocalists are precise almost to a fault. At times, the technical prowess can make the album sound a bit mechanical, but if you can approach it without expecting the kind of emotional involvement you might get from an album with a more personal story to tell, you should manage well.

The story certainly is grandiose indeed: a strange reconception of mythology speculating on a supposed prior civilization of Atlantis that reached great heights before annihilating itself and nearly damning all of mankind with it--a mythology that supposes we are an experiment by energy beings gone badly awry! While there is a conceptual similarity to AYREON's Universal Migrator set, I would not accuse either band of getting too close to the other. Both stories are quite distinct from each other in the musical styles and particular plot points. The symphonic arrangements are stunning in the harder parts--don't scoff at this, but there are undertones of Metallica's S&M collaboration with Maestro Michael Kamen here, and I mean it in a good way.

In the softer parts, however, I find my usual quibble with SYMPHONY X--sometimes the band's vision overreaches the synthesizer technology available to them. While this problem seems much improved on V, sometimes it's still there. I've never (regardless of who uses it) been a fan of the Korg synth SYMPHONY X seems to like, and I lay a fair amount of the blame for the inadequacy of certain sounds--most particularly the brass sections--on the feet of this machine. Kudos, however, go to the pipe organ sound they use, which is probably the best thing the SYMPHONY X keyboardist Michael Pinnella has going for him. The ideas are good, so is the talent, but I admit sometimes I wish they'd get a new synth, or even if they can't afford a full orchestra, perhaps they could have a small number of session musicians handle problem instruments during the softer parts where other instruments can't help mask the synth issues. Still...if one can get accustomed to the synths of the 60s through 80s, where problems abounded even on the best of albums, I think it's quite possible to get past this and hear the album for what it is.

Highlights of this album include "Evolution", which features some amazing riffs from Michael Romeo, "Fallen", "Communion and the Oracle", "Egypt", but most of all "A Fool's Paradise", which to me has just about all that you could possibly ask for in a SYMPHONY X song. The closing song, "Rediscovery", is a very long closer (nearly 12 minutes!) for the album--but it doesn't ever drag like DREAM THEATER can. Perhaps the variety and rapid pace of SYMPHONY X's songs helps with this.

The only real mistake on the part of the band that I can't pin on a technological weakness is the choral arrangement of "Lacrymosa", which unfortunately hurts the wonderful "Death of Balance" that came before it. Despite repeated listening, "Lacrymosa" still seems rather laughable and out-of-place. This could have been rearranged in some way, with a different vocal approach by Russell Allen, or if not that, the vocal section could have perhaps been removed without hurting anything. Although after hearing the original "Lacrymosa" on Mozart's Requiem, I admit my opinion has softened some. SYMPHONY X is an acquired taste...but once the taste is acquired, you've got a masterpiece on your hands.

FloydWright | 5/5 |


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