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SYMPHONY X

Symphony X

Progressive Metal


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FloydWright
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I think this may be the highest rating I've ever given to a band's first album. Even with all of the amateur problems I'm going to discuss, I don't think I've ever heard a first try that was so indicative of a band's future, and that's why I'm forgiving of its mistakes. I'm going to look at this from the perspective of someone who would have been considering awarding a record contract based on this submission.

Yes, MICHAEL ROMEO's guitar solos are really muffled-sounding, and yes, there aremany other sound quality problems, but I urge people to look past them. You'll find, if you do, that all of the talent and potential in this band is there and ready to go. Even though his synth is old and rather tinny, MICHAEL PINNELLA is doing the best he can with it, and particularly shines on "Premonition", "Absinthe and Rue", and "A Lesson Before Dying". It should be no surprise that these same songs are also the proggiest and the most indicative of the band's future direction. ROMEO shows off his already-impressive skills on "The Raging Season", "Absinthe and Rue", and "A Lesson Before Dying", especially. While not always very audible, bassist THOMAS MILLER impresses on "Absinthe of Rue" (of course!), "Shades of Grey", and (you guessed it!) "A Lesson Before Dying". Unfortunately, JASON RULLO's drums suffer too much from a mixing problem giving them a very irritating treble, but at this point, it's at least obvious he can keep up with the band quite well.

Perhaps the most controversial element of this album is vocalist ROD TYLER, for whom some fans express a vicious dislike. I certainly don't hate him--in fact, I think he's a good singer...just not a good singer for this style. He has a very high, gentle voice that works well on "Shades of Grey" (so sue me, I'm a sap and I like that one!) and "A Lesson Before Dying", but sometimes I get a distinct feeling he's straining for notes too low or too loud for him, especially on "Rapture or Pain" and "Thorns of Sorrow". ROMEO even seems to try to cover for him on "Rapture or Pain". At times, he seems to try to imitate JAMES LaBRIE of DREAM THEATER, and this doesn't always work. The transitions from his more comfortable range and tone to other things tend to reveal his difficulties.

However...TYLER does have his strengths. He can hold a tune well, records some very nice vocal harmonies, like on "The Raging Season" and "Premonition" (I love that chord he hits on the line "...brings me to my knees!"), and on "Taunting the Notorious", which I otherwise find little to interest me on, he proves he has quite the lung capacity. He even does an interesting quasi-Arabesque take on the chorus once on "Absinthe and Rue" that I enjoy. It is not that the guy is a bad singer, by any means. I can tell that he tried very hard, and in a weird way, it's actually kind of endearing. The problem is that he's out of his element on many songs here ("Masquerade" especially comes to mind...he tries to sound threatening and flubs it), and as the band began recording The Damnation Game, all parties, TYLER included, realized it, and the phenomenal RUSSELL ALLEN (a friend of TYLER's, in fact!) would be put in his place. Personally, I hope that he's found a mellower gig that would be better suited to his voice. Heck, I think he could sub in for JONSI of SIGUR ROS, if he worked at it a bit...I candefinitely imagine him pulling off that eerie wailing on the second half of Track 8 on ( )...which is actually kinda metal...maybe he just needed to try a very different approach?

In terms of song composition, I can hear a bit of a DREAM THEATER resemblance, from which they would move away rapidly with later albums. Part of it is TYLER, who I think tries sometimes to mimic JAMES LaBRIE, and the other part has to do with some of ROMEO's riffage. Still, this band is not and never was a DT-clone, and they'd really drive that point home with later albums. The songs are already, even at this early point, very coherent in terms of structure in a way that even supergroup PINK FLOYD certainly can't claim on their first album, and nor can prog-metal contemporary OPETH. Pieces like "A Lesson Before Dying" especially prove what they will do later...you hear all sides of them on Symphony X: the whimsical ("Masquerade"), the heavy ("Taunting the Notorious"), the melodic ("Shades of Grey"), and the dark epic.

So what is the final verdict? Based on this, SYMPHONY X would most certainly win a contract, with expectations that they would use their advance to clean up the sound problems--pronto!

(Note: Some will be angry that I rated this album the same as The Odyssey. Personally, I like listening to this one better. While on technical ground The Odyssey has advanced a lot from here, my reasoning is, if you're just starting out, some goofs are inevitable because of lack of resources and/or experience. But if you've been in the business for awhile, you ought to know what you're doing, and if you mess up even in smaller amounts, you'd better expect a grilling for it.)

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Send comments to FloydWright (BETA) | Report this review (#7074)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A good but somewhat insecure debut album, which often was the case of those early 90's prog-metal debuts, and the band would get better by the time of their next album. The production is awful but the playing displays the bands talent well enough barring some uneven songwriting. Im glad they got rid of Rod Tyler on vocals after this one though as he really drags down the music in spots (could be the unbalanced production that does this to a degree though) and his voice doesn't complement the music as well as Russel Allen would do on later SymX albums. You can hear hints of what to come and tracks like the 12 minute closening epic really do stand out here. Personally I prefer Michael Romeo's solo debut (also released in 94) over this one but I urge any SymX fan to check them both out.

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Send comments to Bj-1 (BETA) | Report this review (#7075)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Symphony X are often compared with Dream Theater, and certainly on this album justified, but still different, I compare them myself more with Dio (Ronnie James Dio's band), certainly in the vocal harmonies, and the symphonic progression of the metal, with short riffs and melodic guitar/keyboard parts played over it. Some classical influences are heard also, the beginning of Masquerade includes Bach's Tocata, quickly evolving into Elton John's Funeral For A Friend, and than becoming great metal, with hints of Yngwie Malmsteen in the guitar play.

Symphony X are:

- Michael Romeo / guitars ; A good guitarist, not as flashy as Petruci, and on this album not really very dominant, with not many solo's to distinguish himself with.

- Michael Pinella / keyboards ; great keyboard work on occasion, stays mainly in the background, providing some accents to the music, but has some nice solo's in there also.

- Jason Rullo / drums ; Strong drummer, heavy when required, but knows when to stay still.

- Thomas Miller / bass ; together with the keyboards the backbone, no upfront sound, but continuosly present.

- Rod tyler / vocals ; somewhat reminds me of a poorer version of Dio and LaBrie, but he sounds to young and fragile on the higher notes, and not enough power to convince on the lower regions of the vocal lines, a nice effort, but not convincing.

Best songs on the album include "Premonition", with a beautifull keyboard intro and great build up of atmosphere, the already mentioned "Masquerade", The with guitar overloaded "Absinthe and Rue". The exciting "Rapture of Pain" and the twelf minute long'" A Lesson Before Dying" But really no fillers on this album.

Overall a very enjoyable first release from this great progressive metal band, for starters I'd recommend The Oddessey, V; The New Mythologie Suite, or The Divine wings Of Tragedy first, but after that this is surely a good next purchase.

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Send comments to tuxon (BETA) | Report this review (#40184)
Posted Sunday, July 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I'm surprised by this debut album by Symphony X, because it's better than I expected.

The Symphony X's personal style was starting to develope here. In songs like The Raging Season or Masquerade we can hear the dirt guitar style of Michael Romeo between the neoclasical sound of the elaborated choirs and keyboards, a trademark of this band. The Yngwie Malmsteen's influence it's obvious, like the power metal smell that this record gives, but I'm still thinking that Symphony X is one of the most influential bands of the 90's itself.

One thing I don't like of Symphony X, it's that if you compare this first record to their fifth, for example, you'll see that the sound has improved, like all the instruments and the voices (Russen Allen he's very much better singer than Rod Tyler, who sang in this album)... But the style it's very similar. They has not changed almost anything throughout the years, a fact that makes this band very predictable and repetitive... Nevertheless, I'm still thinking that this is a great band, and a must for Prog Metal lovers.

This album could be better, because it's repetitive and the production isn't good enough to show the great potential of the band, but the instruments sound good and all the musicians make a very good work (specially the awesome bassist Thomas Miller...) except Rod Tyler, a weak singer in my opinion. But it has great moments...

Best songs: Masquerade, Absinthe and Rue (with a tipical Romeo's riff...), the fast Taunting of Notoruous and the epic A Lesson Before Dying.

Conclusion: maybe not recommended for everyone who loves progressive, because this album it's too Power Metal oriented, but I'm sure that this record can be enjoyed by every Prog-Metal's fan.

My rating: ***

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Send comments to The Crow (BETA) | Report this review (#44888)
Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I picked up this album on the recommendation of a friend the other day and I very much enjoyed it. The compositions are excellent, with an obvious classical music influence and the instrumentalists are excellent technically. However the vocalist cannot quite reach the higher registers, but doesnt sound menacing enough to go into the lower register. He sounds flat alot also. Romeo sounds a bit to Malmsteenish at times, but overall this was a good album I look forward to checking out more of their work.

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Send comments to walrus333 (BETA) | Report this review (#55095)
Posted Monday, November 07, 2005 | Review Permalink
GWeed@woh.rr.
4 stars As you may already know, this is their last album with Rod Tyler. I think that the vocals are great on this CD actually (not saying that they're better than Allen's). This CD is probably not produced as well as any of their others but I think that the tone of the guitar is actually very good, and the sound is still good and I don't find it to take away from the songs. This album has a good representation of both ballads and metal often in the same song such as "A Lesson Before Dying" which I think is one of the best songs here but not at my initial impression. There are no songs that I don't like on this album.

I could be mistaken (Although I have listened to this many times) but I don't think that there is as much alternating guitar/keyboard soloing which I think is sort of a unique thing about Symphony X(having them that is). But the guitar solo's are excelent, and Example of a great one (though they're all great) is the one in "The Reaging Seansons". But as usual for symphony X (and as it should be) the fancy guitar work is not all saved for the solos, and same for the keyboard.

I have heard that Symphony X would like to Record a new version of this Album, if they do then I recommend buying both versions.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#62692)
Posted Sunday, January 01, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars For any progressive rock fan, this is the CD for you. Many people disregard this album because of the supposidly poor sound quality (?) and the absence of Russell Allan, but I think this is their best album, only rivaled by Twilight in Olympus.

The opening song Into the Dementia is an instrumenal that sets the tone for the whole album, and segues into the first real song, The Raging Seasons. I was blown away by this song the first time I heard it. The middle section is wicked...I was instantly reminded of the middle section of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (I see a little sillouhette of a man...) and I basically jumped with joy...not really...but I came close. Next comes Premonition, which isn't bad...the chorus is catchy, and I like it. Next...MASQUERADE. Best song on the album, and probably the most progressive as well (which isn't saying much, this is probably their most progressive album). The intro with Bach's Tocatta & Fugue is simply breathtaking.

The next songs, Absinthe and Rue, and Shades of Gray, are both good songs, but by no means their best. Other than that, the only songs worthy of individual recognition are the original Thorns of Sorrow (I love the guitar/organ part in the beginning), and the 12 minute epic A Lesson Before Dying.

Complaints about the album? Of course. The sound quality is definetly worse, but I didn't really notice it until going back and listening to the others. The only noticable thing is that Romeo's guitar seems more quiet that usual. And the vocalist? Well, its different than Russell Allan, but Rod Tyler isn't NEARLY as bad as people make him out to be. He struggles on the higher notes and he doesn't really "roar" well on the lower notes. But who cares? He isn't terrible and this was his only album. Overall I find it very hard to resist this album. I would recommend buying Twilight in Olympus and Divine Wings of Tragedy first...but after that? This CD then the Damnation Game. These are the most progressive...and the best.

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Send comments to queenfreak27 (BETA) | Report this review (#63049)
Posted Tuesday, January 03, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars In a certain way, you can compare Symphony X to a seed of a rose, that grew up to cherry-tree! You know that there would be a rose (something good), but you would have never had expected that there would have grown something so great and amazing. I think nobody expected such great albums as "The Divine Wings of Tragedy", "V" or "The Odyssey", I think even Symphony X didn't estimated their stunning further work. There first album was released in 1994. After Michael Romeo had finally finished his solo-album and sent it to several labels, it made its way to Japan and he was asked if he would have a band with the style of his solo album. Michael Romeo always had the idea of a band but this request led to the foundation of Symphony X. Michael Romeo had known Thomas Miller for 10 years and often played with him. He was the first one who joined Michael Romeo. After a short time the band was complete and they recorded a short demo first, called "Dance Macabre" in 1994 and directly afterwards they recorded this album. There are 10 tracks on that album and it is 53 minutes long! Here is a list of the tracks and some commentaries.

1. (Instrumental / Guitar solo with symphonic synthesizer)

A typical Michael Romeo Solo, actually reminding me of "The Dark Chapter", cornerstone for the foundation of Symphony X. So this solo kind of connects the 2 albums and is also a good introduction, besides all the bad critics about it.

2. (power metal)

Typical power metal song with a nice Queen-passage.

3. (ballad/power metal)

Starts like a ballad, very atmospheric with this wonderful piano and this great guitar arpeggio. Strangely, the whole mood changes very abrupt to a more hopeful and kind of cheerful spirit. The first verse uses the same accompaniment you can find in "Candlelight Fantasia" and in the last part of "The Odyssey". During the whole song I asked myself, how the solo would be. Finally when the short classic solo ceased and the real solo began, I knew this solo is simply perfect and still better than I expected.

4. (neoclassic power metal)

Starts with a classical part, afterwards normal power metal, nothing really great, in my opinion. Except that pre-chorus: "Save us from this masquerade of lies!" with a really short lies, that makes it really funny and generates memories of Frank Zappa, which could be possible considering Michael Romeo is a big Zappa fan. After the second chorus there is a short part introducing the fantastic classic solo (a piece by Bach). This part right before this solo is one of my favourite moments of my whole music collection. This great progression causes an awesome feeling. By the way, the whole thing (part before classic solo-classic solo-solo) sounds much better and more convincing in "Masquerade 98". The actual solo is fantastic (the 98' version even more). Very long, fast and a nice rocker! The solo starts with the same notes as the solo in "The Raging Seasons"

5. (progressive metal / power metal)

Mostly power metal with a catchy chorus, but with a nice and interesting instrumental part, starting with a bass solo, slow beautiful guitar solo, a complex part follows with a fast bass interlude, another guitar solo, closing with a fast guitar bass double. The end of the whole song is a slow and dark piano part.

6. (ballad)

One of the most beautiful ballads I've ever heard with a great piano and guitar arpeggio. Very sad but more cheerful in the chorus. The part right before the first verse reminds me "Candlelight Fantasia", I'm always expecting the first verse of it. The solo is fantastic, wonderful and fits perfectly. A long solo and at the end an additional fast guitar is added playing around the slow solo. The often repeated chorus and the song at all, could be a good radio track, rare for a band of Symphony X.

7. (power metal)

Power metal song with a stunning guitar-bass solo battle and a nice sweeped solo at the beginning.

8. (power metal)

Another power metal track, with a nice beginning and for the first time a keyboard solo, but together with the guitar most of the time.

9. (power metal)

The first part is kind of a call and response of the guitar and the keyboard. I really like this choir/organ-synthesizer Michael Pinnella uses. Afterwards there is an awesome riff, reminding me partial of the riff in "Sea of Lies" and furthermore a great keyboard besides. The chorus is again very catchy and nice. Another Queen inspired choir part introduces the solo that starts like the solo in "Masquerade" and "The Raging Season". A nice keyboard-guitar battle (the first one of Symphony X ever and you all know how great they are).

10. (progressive metal / power metal)

A really nice longtrack, with nice ideas, very varied, again a power-metal song and it furthermore shows that Symphony X are really good song-writers.

So this a really nice, strongly power metal influenced, album with great ideas, e.g. the multi voice Queen passage in "The raging Season", the dreamy part after the change in mood or the first verse accompaniment in "Premonition", the "Zappa-chorus" and the connection of metal and classic in "Masquerade". There are already really good and stunning song writing abilities. Every musician is amazing. Michael Romeo shows of great riffs and solos. Michael Pinnella plays fantastic piano passages and nice synthesizer-riffs. Thomas Miller convinces with his fast bass playing and great solos. Jason Rullo's drum work is also great but the sound is mixed up very bad and partly sounds like a drum computer. And at last, there is Rod Tyler. I never really liked him, but that changed now. I don't think he's a bad singer, his style is simply arduous. His only problem is the low notes, but he has a nice sustain and he almost hits every note. Anyway he's nothing against the incredible Russell Allen! Maybe the sound is also a reason for his disagreeableness, I don't know. Overall the sound is not really great. As I said the drums and the guitar also sounds quite strange and nasty. The best example is "Masquerade". The new version ("Masquerade 98") sounds so much better, especially the solo! This was the first album of Symphony X, created in a short time and really nice for this short development-period. You can already notice typical Symphony X signs. This album is still a bit imitated but fortunately that changed with the later discography of Symphony X. This album might please fans of Symphony X, of course but also Dream Theater, Dio and maybe also Black Sabbath fans could like it.

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Send comments to W.Chuck (BETA) | Report this review (#65399)
Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the first Symphony X record. I must say this CD is not as prog as the followers, for example "The Divine Wings of Tragedy" or "The Odyssey". The power metal influence is very notable, if you hear the typical double bass drum pedal (generally used in choruses) combined with fast guitar riffs, that's power metal. You can also see some thrash metal influences. All the choruses are very "catchy" and there are obvious Queen influences in that choirs!! (it's used too much). There is notable the unexperience, especially in the guitar solos that sometimes used "play fast just to play fast" and finishes boring you. The only keyboard - guitar duel (Symphony X classic) is on "Thorns of Sorrow". The guitar - bass duel on "Savage and Notorious" is great as it is tha beggining of the song. I like very much the instrumental part of "Absinthe and Rue", with a very melodic Romeo solo, then a heavier part and explodes with another very fast guitar solo. Also, the intro should be longer... The best song is the last one, "A lesson before dying", really, the only total prog metal song, with excellent instrumentation and intermission and a crazy guitar solo. And this song's chorus is very similar to "The raging season" 's pre-chorus.

It's a good album but not essential because it's not a "full" prog metal album.

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Send comments to Martín (BETA) | Report this review (#69522)
Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Right, now don't me wqrong. It's a good enough album if you want something happy to listen to. And I love al the songs - they are all musically sound and very well written, the album is well pieced, there are some good guitar solos and the drummer has great talent and is able to prove it at some points HOWEVER... one thing I feel that this album lacks is a powerful vocalist. Yes Mr Tyler can sing (and if you're reading this, you have a good range too. ;) ) but I feel that the lack of power in the voice brings the songs down. In facty, at some points it sounds more like pop music. Now I hate writing reviews based on a 'Good' opinion but when I listened I thought "Good, but not great" and that's exactly how I feel it should be reviewed. But other than the vocals, the album is sound! :D

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Send comments to yface1 (BETA) | Report this review (#84267)
Posted Thursday, July 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album has received just 3 starratings by prog reviewers so far. And guess what I am going to give. It's no coincidence, I'm sure of that. This album is no way good enough for 4 stars and is in the end too good for 2.

At the start of their career Symphony X was not yet with their great singer Russel Allen. Also bass player Michael LePond was not yet present. Singer Rod Tyler is not really competition for Russel Allen and that's already a big minus for this debut line-up. Another thing is the compositions. Most songs are just average with exception of Absynthe and Rue and the epical Lesson before dying. These are two great tracks showing that this band had potential already in 1994.

But other than that this is a mediocre debut by Symphony X. A good album but non-essential which explains all the 3 starratings so far. I add one more of those.

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#158700)
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The self-titled debut from Symphony X has rarely been truly praised not just on this site, but on the whole world wide web in general. I'd like to see it be judged for what it does well, not on its shortcomings.

I'm assuming that if you are reading this review, you know plenty about Symphony X including their lineup changes, future albums, and history so i won't go into that much.

Even with the less-than-able Rod Tyler as the vocalist, what we have here is quite amazing under its own merit. Unlike most SX fans I've come across, this was my first exposure to SX and therefore my introduction to the band. I had heard their future material a little, but this was the first whole album of SX I listened to. After reading reviews, and hearing what others have stated, I expected a terrible purchase to say the least. A part of me didn't like the idea of buying it before their later albums. I was surprised to find this is a fantastic first effort.

Despite the obvious technical limitations, the creativity shines quite well. I love the dirty unpolished guitar sound of Romeo. Pinnella's key/synth sound has an eerie cathedral/choir/organ tinge to it which I love--It has a nice classical vibe to it that is somewhat absent in their later releases. "A lesson before dying", "Shades of grey", "Thorns of sorrow", "Premonition" and even "Into the dementia" are the standout tracks for me. Rod's singing isn't as bad as people let on. I prefer Allen's vocals more over Tyler's, but for this album, with this material, he works. There is a mood and atmosphere about this album that stands out. Maybe it's that "we gotta get that first album out, demo" quality about it and for that reason it deserves more credit than it gets.

You take a prog metal band, strip away the egos, boasting, pretentiousness, etc. and this is what you would be left with: a raw imperfect album hinting at a band's amazing future. As it stands there are plenty of flaws, but there is so much here to admire that I can't possibly say it doesn't belong in any SX fan's library right alongside the Damnation Game and Twilight in Olympus. I give it 3 stars although I really want to rate it higher but I won't because there is some very obvious filler material here and the production does suffer, but the great moments are so stunning and on-par , in my opinion, with anything they would later do on V or The Odyssey.

My final thought? If you are an SX fan and don't have this album, I recommend that you should venture "into the dementia". If you are simply a fan of prog metal, then I would say it's somewhat non-essential--newcomers of SX are probably better off skipping this and going straight to their sophomore effort, the Damnation Game. Then later on, if you like what you hear, go pick it up.

Simply put, if SX would have used the material on this album, weeded out the filler, and used the excellent 50% on a later release with Allen (they did re-do Masquerade w/Allen but that's all), they would have half of a masterpiece written.

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Send comments to culexearth (BETA) | Report this review (#161715)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The self titled debut album from Symphony X is the last album from the band that I have listened to. I always postponed purchasing this album because I heard that it was badly produced and that there were another singer than Russel Allen. Those two things are true about this debut album from Symphony X, but on repeated listening I don´t think Rod Tyler is such a bad singer. In fact he has a very similar vocal style to that of Russel Allen. He is not as accomplished as Russel Allen, but on the other hand he might not have had the same oppertunities because of the bad production.

The music style is very similar to the one Symphony X play on The Damnation Game which means it´s pretty complex neo classical US power metal with progressive metal tendencies. Symphony X is first and foremost a metal band and then a progressive band. Mind that when you listen to their albums so you don´t expect this to sound like more conventional progressive metal. Compared to many progressive acts Symphony X have much more balls and they are harder edged. The guitar riffs are especially fierce and at times even brutal. The rest of the music is more conventional. There are some really beautiful Queen ( and almost Gentle Giant) influences choirs that are a big part of Symphony X vocal style. There are some really great powerful songs like The Raging Season and Masquerade on the album but also semi ballad songs which is something Symphony X have always been good at.

The musicianship is great and even on this premature debut album guitarist and main composer Michael Romeo sounds like he is on fire. He is obviously influenced by neo classical guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen but he has a much more agressive and diverse style. Agressive eighties/ nineties metal/ thrash bands like Pantera and Metallica also seem to have had a big impact on him and of course german power metal legends Helloween has to be mentioned as an influence too. They are not the most obvious influence though, but somewhere every power metal band is influenced by them somehow.

The production is really thin and bad sounding. This destroys the music somewhat and it´s a real shame.

In a genre like the neo classical heavy metal genre Symphony X is definitely one of the best bands. Along with names like Stratovarius, Rhapsody ( Of Fire) and Sonata Arctica they were definitely one of the most exciting names in that genre in the late part of nineties and the first part of the new millinium. This album isn´t their best by a long shot, but it´s a start and if you´re a fan this one should be of interest to you. I´m in doubt if I should give this one 2 or 3 stars and the bad production speaks mostly for a 2 star rating but the music is very good so my rating will be 3 stars.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#171158)
Posted Friday, May 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The now legendary first Symphony X album brings memories of times when most prog-metal fans around the world were getting acquainted with this band destined to become the major icon that it is nowadays for some years... and while they were getting acquainted, they were getting impressed by the sequence of albums that lead to the band's first masterpiece, The Divine Wings of Tragedy. "Symphony X" shows the band still on the working process for the installment of its proper voice in the realm of prog-metal. Tyler's timber and style do not fit here but it doesn't mean that he's not an efficient vocalist: he would fit better in a glam heavy rock band such as (Twisted Sister) or a hard core band, but not a prog-metal unit with heavy neoclassical overtones and a pompous gusto for dramatics in both lyrics and vocal arrangements. Regarding the instrumentalists, you can tell that Pinella was the last entry by the way in his keyboard inputs are drowned by Romeo's riffs: the use of layers, orchestrations and solos is far lesser than in subsequent albums. The sound production doesn't help etiher when it comes to translating the band's intended cohesion into the recording environment. Arrangements are unevenly unsuccessful all along the repertoire: you can tell that most of the genius at writing is already present in 'Absinthe and Rue', 'Shades of Grey' and the epic 'A Lesson Before Dying', but you can also imagine (being a prog expert melomaniac) that the linkage between motifs and the tempo variations don't always gel. The powerful sequence of the introductory instrumental and 'The Raging Season' doen's accomplish its full power because of that, precisely. 'Masquerade' and 'Premonition', on the other hand, are very successful. The former is a standard for future 4-minute songs with mini-epic pretensions that will abound in the band's following albums. The latter is a rare example of Symphony X's romantic side, sounding more related to Marillion than to Kansas or Yes (their most usual prog references) in its symphonic nuances: it is almost like a lost Fish-era marillion song with Satriani as additional guest guitarist. Weird as it may sound on paper, actually the global arrangement flows perfectly. 'Absinthe and Rue' is an awesome mini-epic that unfortunately fails to fulfill a 100 % of sonic cohesion. 'Shade of Gray' is a lovely ballad that could have been more moving than it actually is had the arrangements and sound production been more inspired. 'Taunting the Notorious' is wild, effective nd catchy, while the sequence of tracks 8-9 bears better arrangements and less impressive melodies than 'Absinthe and Rue' or 'The Raging Season'. The closing epic is magnificent to an important degree: the sung parts are mostly slow (the lyricial vibe is preserved even when Rullo turns his drumming fast), depicting the emotion and mentality around a person's inminent death, and it is in the sung parts that we find the best arrengements. The last section features magical classic guitar and eerie synth mingled with a typical thrash metal coda. The instrumental interlude is ambitious and each motif is very interesting, but the whole doen't totally work as such. In a few words, 'A Lesson Before Dying' is a very good closure with much potential to become great that wasn't ultimately accomplished. "Symphony X" is indispensable for the SX converted who aim to understand the origins of the music they love; for any prog collector with a prog-metal sensibility, it is only a very good item that may interest those who generally enjoy the band's catalogue.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#182687)
Posted Wednesday, September 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The debut album of this US band is much more than just a metal album.

''Symphony X'' does really sound symphonic at times. Mostly the interplay between lead and backing vocals are giving this mood. Of course, the typical ''wall of sound'' so many times heard in this genre is well present, but when it is mixed with less conventional (which here means melodic) elements this is quite enjoyable and it's a trade mark of this album (''Premonition'').

This debut is dominated by the powerful guitar riffs from Michael Romeo: he gives the cue; but the powerful backing rhythmic section is rather efficient as well. Some might say (accordingly) that these sounds have some similarities with another metal band, but I actually prefer the music from ''Symphony X'' than its illustrious predecessor. A strong song as ''Absinthe And Rue'' just confirms my feeling.

The emotional start for Shades Of Grey'' is another example of their versatility: even if vocals are not the strongest department on this album, they convey some peaceful feeling. Not that this aspect is on the forefront of the album, but it has sufficient impact to be noticed. This song is far from the cliché of the rock ballads that the genre has produced so many. I really like the great guitar solo.

There are some basic heavy metal tracks as well which I consider as fillers (''Rapture'' and ''Thorns''). Some sort of a hors d'oeuvre before the epic of this album and also the best song of this self-titled record: ''A Lesson Before Dying''.

''Symphony X'' is mixing again melody and metal music and to be honest, the combination works quite well. Metal freaks should also be pleased since the pace is quite sustained. It is a twelve minute showcase for musical maestria.

This album is quite an encouraging debut. It doesn't hold weak moments but might lack of some real gems. Therefore, three stars seem to be the appropriate rating.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#190197)
Posted Saturday, November 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars As far as debut albums go, this is a great, ambitious release by Symphony X. Obviously we have all the usual setbacks with debut albums such as reasonably weak production and the singer being a little painful to listen to at times, but overall this is a great album, and definitely worthy of a four star rating.

The first six songs are all really good, and for a band's first record, it leaves most other bands reeling in the dust. However, the last four songs all sound like they were thrown in there to boost the duration of the album. They're good songs, but nothing special that you'd likely write home about.

The members are showing off their unmatched playing abilities early on, and you can hear that this band will one day be a force to be reckoned with. Michael Romeo's guitar playing steals the show, and Michael Pinella's keyboard playing is always a nice contrast to Romeo's heavier guitar riffs.

The album as a whole is great though, and you can clearly hear what Symphony X are going to go on to become. Clearly there is a lot of maturing to be done, and a better singer could be (and will be) enlisted, but overall give this album a go. Maybe one day they'll remaster it or maybe release a live album with more tracks from this album. These songs with a modern Symphony X sound would be great!

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Send comments to Valarius (BETA) | Report this review (#204020)
Posted Sunday, February 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Symphony X's debut album, this self titled release displays their progressive, neo-classical, power metal sound and is fairly impressive musically but unfortunately not that good of an album.

First, the vocals are pretty bad. Russell Allen was not the vocalist on this album, and while it may be unfair to compare someone to Allen, (who is one of the best vocalists out there) Tyler is honestly just not very good. The vocals sound terribly forced often, and even when not they are flat out painful.

However, while the music is good, (sometimes great) it feels odd at times. While it is all there, it is not quite put together yet. The Symphony X sound still needs to be developed, not too surprising for a debut though. The only standout songs are "Absinthe and Rue" and "A Lesson Before Dying" which is a brilliant 12 minute prog metal epic.

The production is also not very good. While usually not an issue for me at all, here it detracts a bit from the album.

All that being said, this album has the pieces. The progressive thrashy power metal sound, Romeo's shred solos, and some real good songwriting. It is just inconsistent and undeveloped, and the vocals are pretty horrid. Only recommended for hardcore fans or those looking to complete the discog.

Two Stars

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Send comments to JJLehto (BETA) | Report this review (#229280)
Posted Friday, July 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Symphony X's debut is really nothing too special, like most debuts of Progressive Metal bands. Even from this first effort the band expresses their theatrical and dramatic style in their songs, like many Power and Neo Classical Metal bands, as well as Neo Prog ( Fish-era Marillion, Pendragon). This element will always be part of 'ymphony X's characteristics, but some of these characteristics are still yet to develop, and will eventually when "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy" will be released.

As I said, this album isn't particularly good, even because of the band's singer at at the time, Rod Tyler, who isn't nearly as good as Russell Allen's powerful voice. In fact, the singer's vocals are flat, tired, and give no expressions whatsoever.

What makes this album good are the songs, some of them, great, some of them not bad. The solos aren't as spectacular as the ones from following albums, but still, some arrangements are enjoyable for me. The melodies are, like I said before, theatrical, and some times they can be effective, some times they just can't. The musicians already show an impressive technical preparation, but still they don't prove it completely.

An immature album, that is definitely the best way to describe this. Not very promising, but we all know that the band later on reached their maturity with the already mentioned "Divine Wins Of Tragedy", possibly the best and finest Neo Classical Metal album of all time. But when this debut was released, back in 1994, the band had still much more to prove.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#327838)
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Site and Forum Admin
2 stars A premonition

Symphony X is one of those bands that emerged in the 90s as a fusion of power metal and the quickly growing genre of progressive metal. At first, like many others, they stumbled, making more generic power metal than anything else. The compositions were pretty uninventive, with some quick neo-classical tricks and standard proggish tendencies to spice up the music with some cheesy symphonic effects and layers. Symphony X's debut album follows this formula pretty well, outlining what much of the band's discography will be like in the future. Michael Romeo shows his technical prowess throughout the album, ripping out shredding neo-classical solos meant to wow but are pretty mediocre overall. This particular album is really nothing special; it serves as a decent introduction to the Symphony X sound.

Into the Dementia is a one minute ambient intro with some effects and quiet guitar soloing behind the symphonic atmospheres. The song transitions into the true opener for the album, The Raging Seasons. The track opens with a nice riff and some symphonic layers to back it. This song is one of the better on the album, with some of the proggier and more creative riffs to compliment it. However, the guitar solos tend to detract from the song a bit. They consist of mostly tasteless shredding, with some awkward transitions to go along with them. Overall, the song opens for the album well, showing the listener the general Symphony X style without really showing you anything that special.

Premonition opens with a nice piano and symphonic piece, opening for a nice cheese filled prog/power metal riff session. The melodic qualities for the album are pretty poor, especially with the cheesy choir attempts backing Rod Tyler's voice. My favorite part of this track is the sweeping guitar/synth sounding layer behind the guitar chugging, but sadly it is rather quiet and not mixed well. Overall, the song is another pretty mediocre effort, continuing a theme for the album.

Masquerade is certainly my favorite track on the album and one of the better compositions of this period (the "power metal" period). Although it is very neo-classical centric, the riffing is some of the better seen on the album, and Tyler's vocal work is the best seen on the album. Although the stereotypical amateur mixing problems still remain to hinder the track, it does have some nice qualities and cool breakdowns. Overall, although it still isn't fantastic, it is decent.

Absinthe and Rue is one of the better and the worst tracks on the album. At some points, the riffing is great, with some great foreshadowing to Symphony X's future style. At other times, the melodic breakdowns and instrumental work is a little pathetic, with awkward transitions and other pretty bad qualities. Throughout the song it's really a swinging game, with really great verse and then a wall at the chorus with some pretty cheesy power metal riffing.

Shades of Grey is one of the more awkward songs I have ever heard. Although the future style of Symphony X can be heard at times with some really cool use of polyrhythm and adventurous chords, the vocal melodies are painful at times. The attempted jovial feeling of the track is a bit of a failure on the band's part, with Rod Tyler's vocal style not fitting the song at all. Overall the song has the seeds of the band's success, but also contains some of the band's worst moments.

Taunting the Notorious is mostly just a stereotypical neo-classical track, with some steady riffing and double-bass work. Nothing that special comes out of this track, with some pretty standard Yngwie Malmsteen-esque soloing, although the switches between the guitar and bass solos are quite nice.

Rapture or Pain is in the same vein as Absinthe and Rue. It has some really great parts, such as the cool intro, but also has some pretty awkward moments as well. The instrumentation in this song is some of the better on the album, with some cool polyrhythmic moments and atmospheric guitar riffing. However, just like much of the album, the vocal melodies seriously lack at sections. Overall, the song is again pretty mediocre; with some generic riffing and at parts great sections, and at others pretty bad parts.

Thorns of Sorrow is just like many of the other tracks: some interesting keyboard work with some neo-classical power metal riffs to go along with it. Overall it is again pretty mediocre; the majority of the song is just some pretty standard verse-chorus-verse structure and some uninteresting riffs and themes.

A Lesson Before Dying is the 12 minute epic of the album, and a culmination of all the stress of mediocrity that built up over the album. Opening with a mellow acoustic part and some pleasant melodies for a change, the song is the first dynamic to really show up on an album filled to the brim with fast-paced power metal riffs. The track takes a while to get started up, which is a relief, and shows the band's budding progressive metal taste as well. The track has some of the album's best compositional goodies, with some jazzy feels and great proggish atmospheres. Overall, the song is definitely one of the better songs on the album.

ALBUM OVERALL: The immaturity of Symphony X runs amuck on this album, but just like any child, the traits of maturity are sown all over the place. Although the majority of the album is just neo-classical riffing and over-accentuated and muddled soloing, it does have a few (a very small few) select redeeming qualities. From songs that show the band's developing styles to some interesting use of symphonic layers, the album is almost decent. However, the overbearing sense of power-metal and mediocre neo-classical influence, the album is seriously put down from where it could have been alright. Overall, it's not really very good, but is just a shy better than bad. 2+ stars.

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Send comments to Andy Webb (BETA) | Report this review (#430473)
Posted Sunday, April 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is the debut album them, and your worst work(along The Odissey). Russell Allen is not here yet, but this vocalist Rod Tyler is not that bad (but really is that Allen is Allen and no one will be equal to it).

In addition, the band are key elements here: the influences of classical music and mithology, the fast riffs Romeo, the energetic drums, keyboards annoying-yet everything is present here.There are references to the Queen, on the track The Raging Season.

But the real surprise for me this album is Masquerade. Not for what it is-it's just a good song, but because it came as a sort of "bonus" in my version of the album "Twilight in Olympus-needless to say that it is a pirated copy, of course.

2 stars

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Send comments to voliveira (BETA) | Report this review (#470382)
Posted Sunday, June 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Like a lot of debut albums, the first observation from Symphony X is often overshadowed by the rest of their discography, largely due to its mediocre production values and lack of dynamic frontman Russell Allen (who would join the fold with their next album, The Damnation Game). Both of these flaws, particularly the powerless production, prevent this self-titled 1994 release from reaching its full potential, but I wouldn't say that it's as non-essential as most others tend to believe. Especially considering its 1994 release date, Symphony X is quite an ambitious release - I can't think of any other albums that blended heavy-edged US power metal with neo-classical, symphonic, and progressive stylings before this one. It's a unique album when examined historically, and although Symphony X would tighten up the formula on future releases, this observation is still pretty enjoyable.

There are plenty of killer tracks like "The Raging Season", "Rapture or Pain", and especially the highly progressive "A Lesson Before Dying" here, so even though Symphony X is not as memorable as the band's future releases, it isn't anything to scoff at. It's an interesting debut that was unfortunately marred by a powerless production, but it still is a recommendable listen to fans of Symphony X.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#998542)
Posted Sunday, July 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars This was not a bad start for Symphony X. In the mid-nineties, when this album was released, prog- metal was not really in style, and I commend them for getting it out there.

The album seem to do best when the band gets closest to classical riffs (appropriate to their name). Michael Romeo stands out, with his precise guitar technique, giving a clear impression of what Bach may have done had he lived in this age. Other pieces do not fore quite as well, with some prog wedged into all too familiar metal sounds.

Singer Rod Tyler, who left after this album, does a decent job. His voice often approaches Freddy Mercury's range, and the vocal overlay production adds to the Queen-like effect (which I enjoy).

All in all, while nowhere near the best of Symphony X, this has quite a bit going for it.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#1089461)
Posted Friday, December 13, 2013 | Review Permalink

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