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Symphony X

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4 stars From a promo copy.

May be the best Symphony X album.

Yes I love Divine Wings and Odyssey...the most epic albums with the longer prog songs.

I also love Twilight...another epic with shorter songs.

I didn,t like too much Paradise Lost but, I can t deny that songs were pretty good.

In iconoclast you can find a mix of epic quite long songs with some shorter ones but mostly every one very good...,with the accustom power and quality of this band.

So I felt this album as a collection of the Best of Symphony X

Maybe Symphony X has destroned Dream Theater to be the best USA prog metal band...

As SX maintains and increase their quality DT is every time decaying.

Mention apart the every time better vocals of Sir Rusell Allen.

Report this review (#461172)
Posted Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars There are few albums worth waiting 4 years for ... This is one of them.

It really has been quite a while since Symphony X released their last full length effort: 'Paradise Lost', a grand, ambitious concept album about the battle between Heaven and Hell thousands of years ago. With this new album, we dive to the complete other end of the spectrum - the future. A very apt subject indeed considering what the band have achieved here.

In previous interviews, Russell Allen told fans that the new album would 'look to the past'. He wasn't joking - the chorus' are catchier, the guitar sound has been modified and Allen sounds more like Dio than ever, which gives the feeling on first listen that this could have been released way back in the 80s. However, the prevailing feel I was left with after repeated listens was progress.

Every single part of the band's approach has been improved for this album. Michael Romeo had been relying on a similar form of soloing and riff writing for years, but this time he experiments a lot more, and with a great deal of success. One must only look at the solo six minutes into the first track as an example, and this is quickly followed by and excellent keyboard solo by Michael Pinnella. As such a brilliant keyboardist, I have always thought it a shame that in previous releases, the keyboards have been pushed further and further into the background, but here they leap out from the mix and really add an extra layer of detail and finesse.

Allen sounds as good as ever, the only difference being a noticeable increase in voice effects and retention of the 'gruff' vocals he started using in Paradise Lost. This is in no way a bad thing, they sounds great and very appropriate for the album's concept, but it would be nice to hear a bit more of his trademark clean vocals.

Nuclear Blast decided to release two versions of the album - the single disc and the special edition. The special edition being the songs the band actually wanted on the album, in the preferable order, while the single disc being more accessible to newcomers. In reality, any fan would be ignorant not to go for the special edition, which contains twenty minutes more content, including the fantastic 'Reign In Madness'. (Note: this review is for the special edition)

Iconoclast: (10:53) Their first 10 minute+ song since The Odyssey, this is the introduction to the album. Starting with ominous electrical ambience, it soon explodes into a jazzy, but powerful descending riff. Trademark choirs accompany the guitar. At almost 3 minutes we get Allen's vocals built around an militaristic refrain: 'We are strong. We will stand and fight'. At 6 minutes Romeo explodes into a wonderfully crafted solo, then we get that jazzy riff again. A couple of new riffs are introduced an played around with a bit. They're having fun at this point. A break and then the vocals come back in. 'Infernal machines arrive. Flesh and steel combine. Great stuff. Then the song dies down to distorted guitar noises. (9.5/10)

End Of Innocence (5:27) The first single released along with Dehumanized. The label wanted a more mainstream song, and they got it. That's not to say it's bad though, it just doesn't quite reach the heights of the rest of the album. A keyboard focussed intro leads into the catchy verse x 2 then we get the chorus, and you can really hear the vocal effects here. Not sure what I think of them, I would probably rather have heard Allen's voice pure here, as I did live. Then we get to a break section. 'The world is dying, the precious sand of time are running out', with that brilliantly heavy guitar. Then an above average solo and more standard verse chorus stuff, and the song ends. (7.5/10)

Dehumanized (6:48) Released as a B-side with the previous track, this one's a bit heavier, and a bit better as well. We start off with just guitar, and a masterfully created riff, that just about works rhythmically, which is a good thing. Vocals come in with a 'groovy' guitar underneath. the lyrics aren't great though, but hey you can't have everything. We get a simple chorus and another idea is added, then segues into a more positive section around 3 and a half minutes. This ends up turning into a guitar solo, and a pretty unconventional one at that, it starts off slow and builds quickly, and then repeats this idea. Then Romeo messes with some longer notes and leads into a modified main riff and chorus. A nice change. (8.0/10)

Bastards Of The Machine (4:56) An odd title for this one, and a clear favourite in my opinion for the next single. Short and sweet (if you think 5 minutes is short). A boisterous into leads to an infectious verse, and a really 'old school' style chorus. The riffs are great here. At 2 and a half minutes we get a new riff and some odd chanting, then a nice keyboard solo, leading into a guitar solo. This sounds like something Judas Priest were writing in their heyday, just with more keyboardist. Another great keyboard solo and a tiny break for LePond to remind us he actually exists. Another chorus and this one's over. (7.5/10)

Heretic (6.25) This is new - fast and heavy, but done well. Not sure what this reminds me of, but it's good. The intro is quick and we end up at a riff. Lot's of notes here. When the vocals come in, this is unquestionably Symphony X again. 'Still we choose not to believe .... On your knees'. After a hard hitting chorus, that riff is back again. At 3 minutes we've got something new, sounds like a modified verse, then an almost scream from Allen and a new riff. Very nice. Then a classic instrumental section, then a guitar solo that brings to mind the track 'Paradise Lost', ending with double guitar effect. That's all folks. (8.0/10)

Children Of A Faceless God (6:21) I love this track. Could easily become a fan favourite. Very catchy, but complex at the same time. Chugging intro then a simply perfect riff. You won't want it to end. When the vocals come in, the guitar creates a very moody feel. Then it rocks a bit harder, and a nice little pre-chorus. Then the chorus comes in, and it's not one you'll forget in a hurry. 'Can't you see, you and me, we're children of a faceless God'. Then that brilliant riff again. Another chorus and we get a new, much darker atmosphere at 3 and a half minutes. An almost Eastern sounding solo cuts Allen's vocals off, a short one this. Then the same moody guitar effect is used differently, and to a new melody. I can feel the anguish here. Now another guitar solo, it's brilliant, so you won't be complaining. Very frenetic and technical. Chorus and outro. (9.5/10)

When All Is Lost (9:10) Easily the best song on this album. The quickest 9 minutes I've ever experienced, it was just so good. We start off with a beautiful piano and vocal duel. Then a piano ostinato, and the guitar enters. not used to this sound, but I like it. Very different as the guitar plays fills in the second verse, which builds to a very power metal section. Allen displays his impressive set of lungs. 'What went wrong, where have all the heroes gone?' Then the guitar continues to get more complex underneath the vocals, and we hear Allen's clean vocals. He really is one of the best around. Back to piano and vocals at 4 minutes. The drums build and a screaming descending guitar lead to an instrumental section. Is that Hammond Organ I hear? The riff is constantly changing, then we break to an acoustic guitar and piano interlude. Nice. This is followed by the best solo of the lot. You just have to hear it, I can't describe it. Then some riffing around and another solo, it's a beaut. Back to vocals and then down to acoustic and vocal to finish. Possibly the best song this band has ever written (10/10)

Electric Messiah (6:14) This one reminds me a lot of a hybrid between 'Children of A Faceless God' and 'Heretic'. that's not a bad thing trust me. A slow, heavy intro builds to a oscillating riff. It's good. Then the verse, and the chorus. Very groovy and memorable. It's impossible not to smile. At 3 minutes we get a very heavy section indeed. It's well done, but it doesn't feel quite right in this song. A mandatory solo later and a keyboard solo too (haven't heard one of them for a while). Chorus, and this one's over. Excellent. (9.0/10)

Prometheus (I Am Alive) (6:47) While I do like this song, it does not sound anything like the Symphony X I'm used to. This must be what's called progress? A fully instrumental beginning to this song utilises the Dehumanized riff and messes with it a bit. When the main riff settles, we get a guitar solo instead of vocals. It settles eventually into a crushing verse. It ends up even more 'plodding' at 2 minutes. I'm not too sure about this part. The chorus is another groovy one, but the lyrics let it down a bit. After an even slower verse (was that possible?), and another chorus, the modified Dehumanized riff comes in again, even more modified. Then we get a bit off fun with time signatures and a duel between the keyboard and the guitar. Almost makes up for the verse! One chorus and modified riff later and the son's faded out. Maybe a grower? (8.0/10)

Light Up The Night (5:04) This is a throwback to the early years of 'power metal' Symphony X. it's done quite well too. On first listen I hated this track, but it's merits showed through after a couple of listens. The intro is a bit silly, but leads into a classic power metal chug under a nice melody and optimistic chorus. The chugging is occasionally punctuated by a heavier version of the intro, which adds some variety at least. Interesting guitar patterns in the instrumental, then a good solo. 3 and a half minutes and a couple of weird voice clips, and we've got another keyboard solo. The guitar helps out at 4 and a half minutes. The chorus makes a welcome return, and then it's over. (8.0/10)

Lords of Chaos (6:10) This one is the album's only weak link. It's pretty standard, nothing memorable or exciting at all. I can't even remember much to write about and I'm listening to it now.... The chorus is ok when we get to it, but the verses use yet another 'Dehumanized-esque' riff. It's pretty dull by now, even for the sake of spreading musical ideas across the album to link the tracks musically. At 3 minutes there's a break where riffs are recycled. Yay. Then a heavy section and vocals. When the solo comes in it's actually welcome, and quite well crafted, but it doesn't make up for the rest of the song. (6.0/10)

Reign In Madness (8:38) The 'true' ending to the album, according to the band members. It's an insult that this was left off the single disc edition. An interesting electro introduction and then the riff. 'Strike them down. Strike with power'. Allen shows his talent in the chorus, and you'll want to join his revolution. A heavy riff around 3 and a half minutes calls to mind marching. Allen shrieks over the top, the general of his own army of followers. This one tells a great story. After 4 and a half minutes the heaviness subsides and an acoustic guitar compliments the vocals perfectly. Piano dissonance reminds me of 'Awakenings' from the Odyssey. This, of course. leads to a new, slow riff, but quickly warps into music fit for a battle. Quick riffing and tight drumwork lead to a keyboard solo, and then to a guitar solo, then back to the keyboard. I'm loving this. Then in comes the anthemic chorus. 'Let the madness reign'. A heavy riff abruptly ends the piece, and unfortunately; the album. (9.0/10)

What can I say? It's a classic - you owe it to yourself to go out and buy this, if you've ever had an interest in Progressive Metal of any kind. You won't regret it.


(I liked it so much I bothered to write this huge chunk of text about it, at 1 in the morning - It's that good.)

Report this review (#462207)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars In a previous interview,Michael Romeo mentioned that the name Symphony X is a combination of the classical and majestic elements (Symphony) along with the dark heavy riffs(X). It seems that they now emphasize on the X factor. I honestly have no problem and in a period where heavy riffs and aggressive music is dominant, a band should try to modernize some of its sound without sacrificing its quality. Symphony X did this with a very satisfying result. So,the tracklist and critic is as follow:


Iconoclast- The beginning is jazzy,proggy and very technical. It reminds me both of Symphony X and Dream Theater. Then Allen releases his bombastic and powerful voice which renders you aware for what is going to be unleashed. Constant changes of rythm and music style along with very heavy/thrashy riffs accompanied by some modern keyboard work and sinister(in terms of emotion,not in performance) classical choirs. One of Symphony X's magnum opuses and ideal opener. My only disagreement in the chorus,too catchy I think. Apart from this a very good song (4.5/5)

End Of Innocence- A typical Symphony X song with catchy keyboard intro and a very characteristic chorus along with accurate rythm section performance and with some inspired riffs and guitar solos. An interesting song but not one of the best. Maybe it ios a problem that I have heard it so many times as it was released more than a month (3.5/5)

Dehumanized- Something different from Symphony X. Mid tempo song with riffs with a doom metal feeling and angry ferocious vocals. The opening riff is one of the discs remarkable moments. This song is the second song released after End of Innocence and it has it's own 'character'. It is a love or hate song. I vote love (4/5)

Bastards Of The Machine- From the beginning you are being ear-raped with very quick keyboard and guitar work. They each fulfill each other with impeccable synchronization and balance. One of the fast killer songs of the album. And a very memorable chorus (4/5)

Heretic- One of my favorites. Mechanical type keyboards,very heavy almost death metal riffs and a very up-tempo song with excellent performance by Allen and Rullo. I do not mention Romeo because his playing ius outstanding. I like very much the ending with the drum parts. A perfect example how heavy metal should be played in 2011. Excellent! (5/5)

Children Of A Faceless God- Did I mention that Allen is singing like an 80's rock singer in many songs? In this song,the chorus proves my allegation and there is a tribute in Ronnie James Dio by the means Allen sings. Mostly mid tempo song with its outbursts and one of the most catchy choruses. The music keeps flowing brilliantly (4.5/5)

When All Is Lost- If you are getting tired by the fast and super heavy riffs this is your chance to relax. Piano intro and a half ballad,half epic song by Symphony X. Their best mellow song till now along with Accolade II. Allen has reached his zenith in terms of vocal performance. It reminds me also The Odyssey due to its epic factor. At last,we discern the work of Michael Lepond in some parts. One of the top notch moments of the album. This is the melodic side of Symphony X,elements that established them as one of the most skillful and harmonic progressive metal bands (5/5)


Electric Messiah- This is of the same material like Bastards of the Machine and Heretic. Furious,aggressive song with mechanical type keyboards and thrashy riffs and drumming. If you like this new direction of Symphony X then you will surely like it. Another very good song (3.5/5)

Prometheus(I Am Alive)- Dark,quite oriental and doom song. Something like dehumanized but more 'infectious' with a groovy chorus. Modern song and different from what Symphony X have got us used t. One of the most interesting moments (4.5/5)

Light Up The night- If you do not own the 2-disc edition then you simply lose a magnificent song. It is again in the vein of heavy, fast songs accompanied by ALlen's very powerful performances. And yes,again very memorable chorus( they have done a very good work in the choruses in almost all of the tracks). One of the nicest parts of the disc comes after Allens sings about destructive destiny and then there is a combination of Romeo/Pinella's solos. Pinella has a strong participation in this song, something right in my opinion. After Heretic maybe the next best killer track (4.5/5)

Lords Of Chaos-It was the time to experience a mediocre song. Even if it begins potentially, it is a more mid tempo song with a quite boring chorus and not the most memorable music. There is a part in the half of its length that has some interesting musical expresses but this is all (2.5/5)

Reign In Madness- The sirst riffs remind me of Metallica which is actually not bad at all. Pinella can be heard in the background with his modern and atmospheric keyboards. After 3:30 Romeo delivers some of his most brutal riffs that simply blow out your mind. Allen growls,screams till 4:50 where Pinella enters with his piano and then there is a very melodic part with Allens softer vocals. And of course it could not finish withous some really heavy riffs and quick bass work.Very satisfying song due to its changes and musc overall (4.5/5)

So, a very good album by Symphony X,maybe a less inferior than Paradise Lost but better in some points such as vocals and some of the killer songs. The album needs to be heard many times before you judge it. So, I judge it as an excellent addition to any heavy metal collection.

PROS -Romeo's guitar and super heavy riffs -Allen's voice, harsh and hard-rock type of singing -Excellent production -Modern sound without sacrificing the music quality -Some very memorable and uptempo parts -A different interesting concept

CONS -Mostly 2-man show(Romeo,Allen) -Lepond cannot be heard in most of teh songs -Maybe there should have been 1-2 more progressive and calm songs(not ballads)

Report this review (#462220)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Symphony X has done it again!

They had one hell of a challenge following up both "The Odyssey" and "Paradise Lost" but they did it.

The New Jersey prog metal masters have proven that the key to continual success is progression. They continue moving in the direction from "Paradise Lost", a more metal direction. "Iconoclast" is the heaviest, darkest album Symphony X has ever put out, continuing to shed it's symphonic, neo classical elements. Indeed, the power metal style riffing, present on all their albums, is largely absent here, replaced with a mechanical style: heavy, angular, often groovy, sometimes disjointed and wild. There is some serious groove on this album. Adding to the mechanical feel is increased use of off tempo stuff, and more cold keyboard sound. The fantasy, mythological and epic lyrics are also gone, replaced with the grim theme of technology being our downfall.

"Iconoclast" is more straightforward and less outright progressive, though it is still there. Instead of varied sections, (though that does still happen here) the progressiveness is more subtle, mainly in the riffing and overall texture. It does take some time to really sink in, since at first it can sound a bit samey. "Iconoclast" really ups Rullo's drumming in the mix, it is loud and you can hear every hit. Thank goodness! His drumming is great as always, featuring more off tempo playing then ever. Allen's vocals are also perfect as always. He maintains the lower, hard edged tone from "Paradise Lost". Needless to say: the riffing is awesome, the solos mindblowing and the song structures are subtle and well composed. Note: While a bit different this is clearly Symphony X, the sound is there and unmistakable.

The album begins with an 11 minute epic featuring some old Symphony x standards, including epic choirs. The title track pretty much contains it all. "The End of Innocence" contrasts the new mechanical feel with mid tempo thrash and soaring vocals, with some melodic and extreme groove sections thrown in and some synth sprinkling the background.

"Dehumanized" is perhaps the most brutal song on the album, complete with riffing and drumming to die for. Also, one of the best performances by Russell Allen. Really, there is no bad song on the album, and there's not even a weak one. "When All is Lost" is the Symph X ballad, and "Reign in Madness" is a synth laden song that really moves. When it first hits you the keyboard is odd (almost 80's sound), but damn it works perfectly. The parts with synth over crushing power chords, and Allen singing out to the heavens "Bow your heads and abandon hope, we're the gods of pain. Raise your hands if you'll join with us, and let the madness reign" can only be described as EPIC.

With "Iconoclast" Symphony X continues to move in incremental steps, producing a sound pretty different from their older albums, yet still identifiable as them. No doubt this is Symphony X. It is heavy, groovy, mechanical, sometimes very moving, sometimes soaring epically. Besides retaining their sound while moving forward, there are few weak moments from start to finish. At first it could sound a bit samey but every song is different, and there is more subtlety and texture than outright progressiveness. The guitar work is epic, drumming perfect, synth has its role, Allen's vocals are flawless, going where needed and never over doing it. Every member of this band is immensely talented, and they each can showcase it though rarely in virtuoso style, they also each know their place and every thing fits together perfectly. It's why I regard Symphony X as one the top metal acts of it's time, and hope with this album more will come to think so.

Superb Album


bump: Four

Report this review (#466333)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Who ever said that 2011 was a bad year for Prog?

This has indeed been a spectacular year considering that many of my favorite artists have new releases coming my way (at least the ones I pre-ordered). Even though there were a few less interesting albums in the batch, I can safely say that the overall score has so far definitely been on the plus side!

I wasn't actually planning on hearing the new Symphony X release even though I'm a fan of both The Divine Wings Of Tragedy and V: The New Mythology Suite. I've basically been sensing a fatigue in the band's output all throughout the last decade with Paradise Lost being the low point of their career, even though many fans might disagree with this statement. Either way, it's safe to say that I was completely blown away the first time I heard the opening album-titled track off Iconoclast. This composition has pretty much everything I hold so dear about Symphony X; memorable guitar riffs from Michael Romeo in combination with nicely structured and upbeat Progressive Metal progressions!

Unlike most of the band's previous output, this one clearly keeps away from pure Power Metal references in favor of Progressive Metal compositions and neatly crafted arrangements. I don't want to praise Iconoclast to skies since it's not a perfect album but I can easily declare it to be the band's most consistent release to date, which is something I can't even say about V: The New Mythology Suite! Even tracks like Heretic which I consider to be the weakest moment here, due to it's predictable outline and somewhat uninspired chorus, has nice qualities throughout the verses and the instrumental sections.

Cloaking at just over 80 minutes, it's quite spectacular to see that the album actually manages to be this consistent all the way to the end. For anyone who still haven't decided whether you are enough of a fan to by the complete special edition version, let me simply state that you'll be missing out on a lot of great material. This is after all the track order that the band originally intended to release but were eventually overruled by their label. The final 'so called' bonus tracks actually serve as the proper conclusion to the epic that is Iconoclast and the final track Reign In Madness definitely proves this in all it's glory!

Symphony X have once again managed to win me over with one of their releases. These are clearly not the words that I ever could dream of writing again but how can I not do it when Iconoclast is truly worthy of such a recognition!

***** star songs: Iconoclast (10:51) Children Of A Faceless God (6:21) When All Is Lost (9:10) Light Up The Night (5:04)

**** star songs: The End Of Innocence (5:27) Dehumanized (6:48) Bastards Of The Machine (4:56) Heretic (6:25) Electric Messiah (6:14) Prometheus (I Am Alive) (6:47) The Lords Of Chaos (6:10) Reign In Madness (8:38)

Report this review (#466436)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars here i am reviewing the first album i've managed to get before its official release in my 20+ years of collecting music! being a big fan of SX, i did pick the 2-CD "special edition" which is only "special" because it has all the songs meant to be on the record...

"Iconoclast" for me would have been a 5-rater if it were by a band called "X" but i docked them the 1 star because its "Symphony X". let me explain why:

Romeo says when asked about the band's style "We are a metal band, we have progressive tendencies and incorporate classical ideas into the music." but "Iconoclast" is almost purely a metal album with a few twists thrown in for good measure.

dont get me wrong, the stuff is great - the songs Iconoclast, Dehumanized, Heretic, Children of a Faceless God, Electric Messiah, Prometheus, Reign in Madness are all fantastic and full of super riffs, powerful instrumentation and excellent vocals and When All Is Lost is a great "ballad" along the lines of The Accolade and Candlelight Fantasia but where is the symphonic brilliance of "V" and "The Odyssey" or even "Paradise Lost" (check out the songs The Walls of Babylon and Revelation (Divus Pennae ex Tragoedia)" ?

i would say 3.5 stars but give it ehe extra .5 simply because they are one of my favourite bands and i would like them to come back in a couple of years with something even better...

Report this review (#467787)
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars I'm pretty sure that nowadays prog metal fans are needy of an event of big proportions in order to see a much more clear horizon for the future. The problem is that sometimes they don't really ask for it. They simply accept what's out there and even applaud to it. And with "Iconoclast" we can say it is the same case.

Previously, I really enjoyed listening to SYMPHONY X because of their somewhat recycled but fairly amusing sound and musicianship, that essentially consists of quick guitar shreding, high volume percussion and long vertical keyboard scales. But when ten years pass us by, it becomes very clear that their style becomes more and more self-indulgent and zombiesque, falling into the excesses of marketing propaganda and vacuous musical spectacle. You might say that I'm being too harsh, but I think we have the right to demand more from good musicians like Michael Romeo and Michael Pinnella, so that we can somehow stop this escalade of awful prog metal albums coming form fairly decent bands.

Report this review (#468469)
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars While this may not be my favorite Symphony X album, I think it might be the first I'd recommend to Metal fans of other sub-genre's, though the jury is still out between Iconoclast and Paradise Lost. As a fan of all things Progressive, my favorite tracks on the album are the title track, and When All Is Lost. While Symphony X does still show off their Progressive creds in those two tracks, the album as a whole is possibly their darkest to date, and has more Power Metal elements, with an often mechanical feel (to go along with the subject matter of the lyrics). As such, this may be their most widely appealing album, and would be one I'd be proud to recommend to a fan of other Metal sub-genres. The opening track, Iconoclast, is a great introduction to the band for anyone who hasn't heard them - kind of summing up everything they're about. It opens with a bang, with some very heavy, speedy, dark, complicated riffs. This complex/heavy feel dominates the 11 minute epic, and is sure to appeal to both fans of their dark side and fans of their complex, progressive side. And the album (or the first CD, if you bought the 2 disc version) finishes with another epic - When All Is Lost. This one has a much lighter feel to start out, but builds to a fantastic crescendo, and contains some impressive instrumental sections where SX shows off their technique of layering instruments with different rhythm patters on top of each other. Throughout the disc, Russel Allen's vocals shine - his vocals are always pure man, and I've always considered him to be one of the top Metal vocalists.
Report this review (#469212)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars So Symphony X hadn't released anything for four years. So this album was extremely anticipated by most Symphony X fans. They did a terrific job teasing for many months until the album dropped, but the few songs they released were pretty standard and generic SX songs and one could basically only wait for the album to make a fair judgement. There are two versions of the album, a one disc and a two disc version - and there might be a reason for just getting the one disc version after all - and you'll see why below.

So the album drops, and the first track and also title track is absolutely mindblowing. It presents a lot of what Symphony X does best in the heavy department, and the riffage is absolutely brilliant. The complexity of the riffs and the almost screaming vocals work for this song perfectly. It is also the longest track on the album. The next two songs are the previously released, and they're fairly generic but the solo's are definitely really good. Then the heavy onslaught continues.

The songs remain consistently heavy and generic, and sound just like typical generic Symphony X songs. The heaviness never stops, and all the songs sound alike - which is a really sad thing. There is an obvious exception to this though, that's the track When All Is Lost, the seventh track and last track on the first of the two discs in the special two-disc version. That track displays EVERYTHING Symphony X does best. Very mellow opening but evolves into a Symphony X style ballad, and the piano dances around Michael Romeo's guitar riffs. And we also get some REAL singing by Allen, in contrast to the near growling on the other tunes. The break in the middle of the song has a real epic 70's feel with the organ and the solo's are wonderful. But this is just a temporary high point.

The second disc fails to do anything noteworthy in catching the attention of the listener, except for the last track Reign in Madness. They are all just heavy typical SX songs that we've heard before. The riffs are just rehashed riffs that we've heard on previous releases. Some riffs sound like they come straight off of Twilight in Olympus or V and they don't bring anything new to the table.

The album also feels like a really lengthy affair, event though it's a fairly standard length for prog metal. The problem is that it's all too same so it gets old. And it gets old pretty fast. I would have given this a two star if it weren't for the title track and When All Is Lost, and possible Reign in Madness which has its fair share of bright moments. This is why the one disc version might be a better listen, it's more condensed and it's not as consistently generically heavy.

Three stars, because of the few wonderful parts of this album.

Report this review (#470414)
Posted Sunday, June 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars EVEN BETTER!

"Iconoclast", the new Symphony X album ,really struck me.I really thought they had peaked with the previous version of "Paradise Lost", but this album is proof positive that they are improving their sound.

Some say "Iconoclast" is darker than anything they've done, I do not see it, the sound is really quite heavy, but not so dark it that her two previous albums for example.Current album is also quite short but has a few songs (seven in total, making it the album with the fewest among all the band's songs)

As stated before, the sound is heavier, as only one track running to this rule ("When all is lost", which is pretty cool). Actually there is not a weak track here, as each has its potential, but I needless to say, the title track that opens it is truly EPIC!

4.5 stars!

Report this review (#471357)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Most of the reviews I've seen have rated this album based on the comparison to past works. Iconoclast should be rated based on what it is - a masterpiece of modern progressive rock/metal. No, this doesn't sound at all like DWOT, TIO, or V, but I'm perfectly ok with that. I have already heard and enjoyed all of those albums, but I am not one to sit idly by waiting for a "V-part 2" because they perfected that style the first time around (remember what happened with Pain of Salvation's Perfect Element part 2? It was quite the letdown).

Iconoclast is the heaviest album Symphony X has released to date, and I perceive it as being a bit heavier than Paradise Lost. I do however see this album as a bit better than PL, because of the insane amount of singable choruses. I mean, choruses that are stuck in my head every night, even though I haven't that song for 3 days! That my friends, is what a hook is all about.

Iconoclast - Begins a bit on the power-metal side. You have all the elements here you expect from the Symphony X boys - dizzying time signatures, Russell's "growly" voice, a good chorus, and the return of something I've been waiting for - Pinella keyboard solo! This is a great way to begin the album.

The End of Innocence - Very catchy, and the first single released. Easy to see why. Great keyboard and guitar work abound in this one, and that catchy chorus again....

Dehumanized - Begins very Meshuggah-like. This is probably the heaviest Symphony X song to date, since it is a very industrial and thrashy riff, characterized by low-tuned buzzing guitars. Breaks into yet another catchy chorus. Seeing a pattern yet? This one is a bit more grinding, which is a nice change of pace from the speed-metal work seen in other parts of the album.

Bastards of the Machine - This one gets extra energy from the chorus chants towards the end, and sounds like a song meant to induce a riot. Rullo's drumming really sticks out as tasteful in this song. This one ends with a fantastic guitar and keyboard duo that is very tight and well-written. And what was that? A bass solo? Only for a second or so, but still nice to hear.

Heretic - this one is pretty good, but perhaps my least-favorite song on the album. That doesn't mean it's bad, and it is probably still better than most "good" songs on anyone else's album. This is another grinder, and sixteenth-notes galore from the guitar.

Children of a Faceless God - One of the catchiest songs on the album, and a bit more like classic Symphony X, which is a nice throwback. Great chorus and solo on this one.

When All Is Lost - this is quickly becoming my favorite Symphony X ballad of all time. This song is a nice change of pace for the album and we see elements not seen before, like some distorted B3 organ. This one begins with a lovely piano pattern, reminiscent of Tubular a bit creepy, but still beautiful. This one reminds me the most of V in the chorus. Probably the most purely progressive song on the album because of the many feel changes, but so well-done that it is amazing. Ends with a great guitar solo and a powerful chorus that fades back into nothing, a la The Sacrifice.

Electric Messiah - the headbanger of the album in my opinion. Can't say anything bad about this, it is quick, brutal and heavy all at the same time.

Prometheus (I Am Alive) - this is another one reminiscent of V just a bit. Many instrumental layers, but with very growly vocals overtop. Some nice feel changes and time-sig changes in this one.

Light Up the Night - Russell reminds me of Dio on this one quite a bit. Soaring vocals, dizzyingly fast instrumental work in sections. The drum intro is another area where Rullo really shows off, which is quite nice to see since in the past he pocketed the rhythms so much it was hard to see his creativity.

Lords of Chaos - This one begins with a grungy triplet feel. This one is one of my least- favorite, but still very catch and can't keep the chorus out of my head...

Reign in Madness - Ah, the intro is so 80's! But it very quickly gets fast and heavy a few seconds in, and we are back in familiar territory (in a good way). This song is pretty epic, and has some of my favorite vocal melodies by Russell. The song evolves into a very power-metalesque chorus, complete with choral background vocals. Then it gets very interesting - the feel changes and it slowly changes into fantastic moment with the acoustic guitar and piano playing off each other. Pinnella does a great job laying down some atonal atmospheric piano riffs. This evolves into some great keyboard and guitar solos to wind this one down. Very reminiscent of Divine Wings in moments, and ends with the big chorus. Great way to wind this album down.

All things considered, I consider this a masterpiece of progressive metal because EVERY element is present and well-done: amazing vocals in many styles, fantastic technical riffs and solo from the guitar, great keyboard atmospheric work and solos, solid bass lines that make it all just a bit heavier, and the best drumming ever on a Symphony X album. The mix is also very clear, and with customs in my ears, I can hear every single nuance in the mix. Some have said that the bass is still too low, but I disagree. I can very easily place the bass lines, and the keyboards seemed to have come up a bit in the mix compared to Paradise Lost. This is the modern masterpiece by Symphony X! It stands on its own as being an amazing work of progressive metal, and even though it is different than past releases, it deserves to be known for the amazing standalone work that it is.

Report this review (#471397)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars On my first listening to Iconoclast, I'll admit that wasn't really taken with this release. It seemed to have a bit too much thrash here and there, a few unpleasant speed-metal passages, and the "voice of doom" which I will always find off-putting. But...

As happens with all good tunes, much of it has worn rather well over time. How could anyone who was a fan of the Dio-era Blackmore's Rainbow not enjoy the majority of tunes on this Special Edition release? Imagine where they would be now. To me it seems that there is a lot of this influence explored on Iconoclast, mixed with a bit too much thrash here and there, a few unpleasant speed-metal passages, and the aforementioned "voice of doom". Slide past those awkward moments. The rewards are the blistering guitar breaks and Dio-powerful vocals that are both truly awe-inspiring.

The following tracks were the standouts for me: 2) The End of Innocence 3) Dehumanized 5) Heretic 6) Children of a Faceless God 7) When All Is Lost 8) Electric Messiah 11) The Lords of Chaos 12) Reign in Madness

And concept be damned, I would suggest skipping past tracks 1, 4, 9 and 10 for the first while. At least until the power and quality of the music on this release reveals itself (patience - after a few listenings).

Could Iconoclast be perceived as leaning towards a semi-commercial metallic formula for Symphony X? I'm an old fart. What do I know about this new-fangled prog-metal stuff? You'll need to figure that part out for yourself.

Report this review (#472407)
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm going to have to give this 5 stars.

Inevitably this won't be rated as highly as say, The Divine Wings Of Tragedy, or, V: The New Millennium Suite, because it is not as progressive. Here Symphony X are continuing the sound they established on Paradise Lost. The music is heavier, less progressive, but this by no means degrades the album. Here is an album that will go off every time you listen to it. You will be headbanging along, but you will also be able to admire the technical virtuosity of the players (especially Michael Romeo) and the incredible vocals of Russell Allen, who is truly one of metal's best, and the songwriting is first class.

The best track on here is probably the most progressive one, When All Is Lost, which has some beautiful vocals and piano with the highlight being the instrumental section where complex guitar and piano lines interchange and move the listener to new heights of ecstasy. The whole song is filled with such emotion and flows so well from one section to the next it is the natural highlight of the album for me.

Nearly everything here is first class. Some of my other favourites include: Dehumanized, Heretic, Iconoclast, and Children of a Faceless God.

This is an album that probably does not quite reach the heights of a couple of their earlier, more progressive albums, but I don't think we should hold the lack of 'prog' in the traditional sense (long songs, classical like suites, etc) to the detriment of the record, because as a record it gets better with every listen, and it is testament to the talent of this band that it warrants so many, calling you back, searching desperately for the repeat button on the stereo.

Report this review (#475280)
Posted Monday, July 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first time I listened to this album, my initial feeling was: "This is decent, but not as good as Paradise Lost". I'd caution people against that train of thought (I had to throw in a Dream Theater allusion somewhere!), because I quickly realized that I was very wrong.

This album does have a similar sound to "Paradise Lost" at times, especially in the riffage department, but the compositions and phrasings of the melodies are in fact quite different. If you loved "Paradise Lost", you'll probably love this too, but even if you didn't like "Paradise Lost" at all, you could still enjoy this album. The one thing that bugs me about this album is that a lot of the songs follow an intro/verse/refrain/chorus/verse/refrain/chorus/bridge/instrumental/chorus pattern. I think they probably could have varied the song structures a bit more. You'll notice this as with seemingly every song I comment on a verse, then a refrain, then a chorus, then an instrumental or solo section... The choruses of this album were definitely the highlight, to me. In the past Symphony X's verse riffs have usually been what impressed me the most, but it seems like the chorus is my favorite part in almost every song.

With that out of the way, lets look at this album objectively, forgetting Symphony X's past music and looking purely at each track for what it is:

Track 1 - Iconoclast This is a really chaotic and busy song. It's driven heavily by rhythmic guitars, but has some nice power chord ballad-esque sections as well. Some of the operatic voice synths from the opening of "Paradise Lost" are used throughout this song, and they do add a bit of flavor. The guitar solo is an alt-pick shred fest, and reminds me of Carl Johan Grimmark on Rob Rock's album "Holy Hell". Although it's a bit different-sounding in parts, Romeo still winds up getting his signature sound in as well. This is a pretty enjoyable song; I'd probably give it a 4/5 overall.

Track 2 - End of Innocence This song has a bit of a lackluster intro, but the verse riff is heavy-hitting and dirty. The chorus is a fairly catchy power metal style chorus. It's kind of straight-forward, but catchiness isn't necessarily a bad thing and it works. The section after the second chorus is pretty cool, switching from soft to heavy before heading into the guitar solo, which starts out with some experimental sounds and gives way to a typical Romeo solo. This song is pleasant, but not amazing. I'd give it a 3/5

Track 3 - Dehumanized This is an upbeat, heavy track. The lyrics are a bit silly at times... "Hit the switch, you son of a bitch!" but the song is good. The riffs all flow well together and will keep your interest. The pre-solo section is toned down, but builds up well into the solo, which is quite long and alternates between some nice melodic phrases and some pure shredding. Good song. 4/5

Track 4 - Bastards of the Machine This track bores me a bit... I'm not sure why. The intro and the verse/chorus riffs seem to just be "there" to me - they don't really stand out as anything amazing like some of the other songs' riffs do. The drumming stands out as pretty tight, so the song isn't completely lack-luster, but usually you hope for the music to have something memorable. The solo is a more bluesy style solo, and it's almost interesting enough coming from Romeo to save the song, but too much of the song is boring for that one section to totally salvage it. Meh. 2/5

Track 5 - Heretic This is one of my favorite tracks... It's a headbanging metal massacre. The 12/8 riff that comes in right before the first verse and after each subsequent chorus is downright nasty. The first time I listened to this album that was the first riff that brought a huge smile to my face. The first verse is a bit lackluster, but the catchy refrains "Even though the sky is falling..." saves it. The chorus is really catchy to me. This is the first song I started singing along to. The guitar work in the chorus is complex without being complex to the point where it distracts from the mood. The instrumental section is interesting, and the solo is a finger-tapping and alt-picking fun time. This song rocks. 5/5

Track 6 - Children of a Faceless God The riffs in this song are catchy and melodic but still pretty heavy. The verses are toned-down, but sound good. I'm not a huge fan of the section in the middle of each verse, as it doesn't seem to fit, but oh well. The chorus is really awesome; really catchy. The bridge part of this song is a nice dramatic interlude leading into an aggressive solo section. I like it. The chorus really drives this song. 5/5

Track 7 - When All Is Lost This is the best song on the album, in my opinion. Starting with beautiful piano and tame vocals, this song slowly builds itself in a way that is rare in the musical world. Every single note, inflection, beat, etc. in this song complements one another in a near-perfect fashion. This is honestly one of Symphony X's best songs ever, and as a long-time fan, that's saying something. As the guitars eventually kick in, the song builds its tension up, and the refrain builds it even further before a lovely chorus captivates you. The spectacular riffage from the chorus remains for the next verse, building things up further. The song drops everything back down to piano and vocals before going into a very memorable instrumental section. The guitar solo in this song is very different from Romeo's normal style, but in an amazingly good way. It's really cool broken arpeggios with slides. Hard to explain, but it's awesome. Best song on the CD. 5/5

Track 8 - Electric Messiah This song is really aggressive and driving. The brutal riffs are fast and in your face constantly. The chorus is strangely catchy; strangely because it's not really something I would expect to stay in my head, but it does. The instrumental section of this song is really dissonant and awesome, and finishes strong with a whammy-induced shredding session. Metal heads rejoice, but softer prog fans may not enjoy this one. 4/5

Track 9 - Prometheus (I'm Alive) The intro to this song seems a bit longer than it should have been... About a minute and 15 seconds into it you get a guitar solo, so at least the structure is different. The verses are heavy but upbeat, with good rhythmic variety. The chorus is really the highlight of this song, kind of the pinnacle of momentum, hitting hard. The instrumental section is solid, but not really anything spectacular. Blazing speed picking and some nice keyboard shredding. If the verses were better, I'd rate this higher... 4/5

Track 10 - Light Up The Night Another aggressive intro. The verses do a good job at keeping momentum and building into the refrain, which leads perfectly into the chorus. The chorus, again, is pretty fun. The bridge section gets quiet for a moment before heading into a pretty cool instrumental section. This instrumental section reminds me a lot of Symphony X's older, pre-millennium material, which is always a good thing. There are some great guitar and keyboard leads throughout it. Pretty solid track. 4/5

Track 11 - The Lord of Chaos The intro riff made me think that if Godsmack was prog, it would have fit on their last album, "The Oracle". Not sure why, I just had that feeling from the first listen and it has stuck through time. The verse and refrain are both pretty solid, but again the chorus is the strong point. The bridge in this song is really awesome and tension-filled, and the solo is a lot of cool shredding, both speed picking and traditional tapping.

Track 12 - Reign in Madness This intro is synth keyboard-led, which is a nice change up from how most of the other songs begin. The drums are especially sexy on this song. The verses are pretty upbeat and fun and build well intro louder refrains. There are two verses before hitting an anthem-like chorus, which goes straight into a headbanging riff section. This eventually gives way to a clean guitar part with vocals, with a tense, even eery feeling. After this, a really slow, mulling riff is introduced before going into an aggressive riff that is accentuated with nice keyboard and guitar shredding solos. I like this song... It's not amazing, but really good. 4/5

Overall I gave this album a 4/5. It's not the best album of all time, but it is really good. After a few listens you'll probably start singing or humming along to a lot of the tracks. There are one or two weak spots, but they're made up for by the really bright strong spots like "When All Is Lost". If you like Symphony X, you need this CD. If you've never heard them before, you ought to pick this up because it is a pretty good example of what they're all about.

Report this review (#475385)
Posted Monday, July 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars With Paradise Lost, their last album, Symphony X released one of the best prog metal albums of the last ten years. No, forget the last ten years; Paradise Lost can stand head and shoulders with any prog metal album of any decade you'd care to name. High praise indeed but the combination of brutal precision power metal and prog elements, along with some great hooks and melodies made it a hard album to beat. Iconoclast was going to have to be pretty special to match it and has been an album I've been anticipating with considerable excitement for some time. Having lived with it since it popped through the letterbox the week of release I've had the opportunity to really get to grips with it before jumping to any rash conclusions too soon. Fortunately I'm happy to say that it's every bit as good as their former masterpiece.

Firstly I have to say Iconoclast sounds great! The production of this album is superb. Everything you want for a metal album starting with a powerful drum sound where every beat cuts through the brutal riffing including a kick drum sound that'll nail you to the wall. If you start with a lousy drum sound then forget it, you've lost, at least with metal anyway. Of course of equal importance is the guitar sound and Michael Romeo's guitars are sounding stunning.

Naturally a great production doesn't make a great album without the material to back it up but Iconoclast has it in spades. To my ears it seems like a natural follow up to Paradise Lost, with a similar sound and feel. The difference is that it has less prog with more emphasis on metal, though the same could be said of Paradise Lost and The Odyssey before that. In fact Symphony X do seem to be moving more away from the prog metal style of earlier releases and while all those elements are still present, including the classical inspired touches they are diluted by the metal elements which happen to be fantastic. Iconoclast is in fact one of the best metal albums I've heard in many years. Its true strength lies in the sheer consistency of the entire CD's and that includes the tracks on the second disc of the special edition which incidentally is an essential purchase. From the stunning opening title track to the Reign Of Madness closing the second disc it's a relentless display of brutal and complex metal played with jaw dropping precision. Jason Rullo's drumming is superb and whilst double kick drum playing has been done to death it's an essential element of prog metal and here he uses it to great effect both rhythmically and for fleshing out his busy fills. Naturally Michael Romeo doesn't disappoint with some extremely heavy riffing, his heaviest to date, that's both inventive and memorable and of course some great lead work too. Whilst the keyboards aren't often up front they're nevertheless an essential element of the band's sound as is the magnificent vocal work of Russell Allen. Is there a better vocalist in metal at present? If there is I can't think of who it might be, especially since the sad death of the great Ronnie James Dio with whom he bears a resemblance at times.

Whilst some followers of the band may be disappointed in the more direct metal approach the band appear to be going in Iconoclast is such a strong album that it's sure to be making plenty of album of the year top ten lists in six months time, including mine.

Report this review (#478131)
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars I've heard a lot of great things about this Symphony X's newest work. I read peoples opinions on forums saying it is one of the best progressive metal releases in years and I would have to disagree greatly. Its a descent album. Not great by any means. I think Symphony X is just getting heavier as they mature which is disappointing to me. Dream Theater tried to play the heavy metal card to attract new fans with Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds and Silver Linings and they failed in my opinion. With Paradise Lost and Iconoclast it seems Symphony X is trying to be the new Heavy Metal guys in the progressive rock spectrum and I think its not a good niche for them. Symphony X should have went back to their prog power days. Their mixture of Classical sounds and shredding guitars is what made them famous and frankly they did it better than any one else. But now days they are trying to use heavy riffs and harsher vocals to get new fans i think. And its just not working. Russel Allen has always been one of my favorite singers of all time, he is truly amazing. But i prefer his softer vocals from pre Paradise lost albums. One song on Iconoclast which is an instant classic is "when all is lost" it probably is my favorite Symphony X ballad ever made. But the rest of the songs are mediocre and boring. I love Symphony X I'm just not the happiest with the direction of the past two albums. This is a talented band but I can only recommend this to fans.
Report this review (#480485)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Since their formation in 1994, New Jersey-based progressive power metal band Symphony X has established themselves as one of the genre's most influential and important acts. With classics like V: The New Mythology Suite and The Divine Wings of Tragedy in their backcatalog, it'd be shocking for any prog metal fan to not be at least mildly familiar with these veterans. Iconoclast, the eighth album from Symphony X, is yet another top-notch release from Michael Romeo & company and possibly my favorite of theirs so far. Symphony X continues their trend into a heavier, slightly less progressive sound on Iconoclast and delivers a masculine prog power metal album filled with technical mastery, terrific songwriting, and spot-on execution. This album may even further alienate fans of the band's neo-classical roots, but I think that just shows what a versatile band Symphony X truly is. Eight albums into their career, and Symphony X is still evolving and even creating some of their best material ever. If you enjoy edgy modern prog metal, it's hard to go wrong with Iconoclast!

The music here is unquestionably Symphony X, but with a few extra notches of heaviness and very minimal neo-classical tendencies. Iconoclast is a very heavy album, filled to the brim with masculine guitar riffs and dark atmospheres, but still contains enough melodic sections and technicalities to satisfy any prog metal fan. The opening to the title track alone should rest any concerns that this is a straightforward metal album, despite the overall heaviness of Iconoclast. None of the songs here are particularly soft (melodic choruses aside), except for "When All Is Lost", an absolutely beautiful prog metal track featuring some terrific organ work from Michael Pinnella. Despite Iconoclast's near- 83 minute playing time, it never loses any steam and remains powerful during its entire duration. I'll let that speak for itself for how strong the songwriting is here.

One thing worth mentioning are the two different versions of Iconoclast on the market. There is a 1-CD version containing 9 songs, and a 2-CD version containing 12 songs. If you're going to buy Iconoclast, make sure you get the 2-CD version! This version is the full album released as Symphony X originally intended. You're missing out on some great material if you get the incomplete single disc version.

Of course, when talking about Symphony X the musicianship is unquestionably terrific. Michael Romeo's powerful metal riffs, combined with the intricate keyboard work from Michael Pinnella, fantastic rhythm section of Jason Rullo (drums) and Michael Lepond (bass), and Russell Allen's top-notch vocals makes Iconoclast simply a joy to listen to. Russell Allen uses a rougher vocal delivery here than on previous albums, but he still sounds just as powerful and emotional as ever. The man is simply one of the most talented metal vocalists out there, and that's never forgotten on this album. Iconoclast also sports a sleek modern production that suits the music perfectly. This is a professional sounding album that just reeks with class, and the mix is also spot-on.

Iconoclast is yet another winner from Symphony X, and quite possibly their finest achievement thus far. Anyone who even mildly enjoys heavy-edged prog metal needs to get this in their collection - it's one of the year's best for sure. Iconoclast is an album filled with virtually everything that makes for a fantastic modern prog metal effort; fantastic riffs, sleek production, soaring vocals, and complex compositions galore. Though very far removed from the band's neo-classical power metal roots, Symphony X seems extremely confident in this new sound and have delivered a killer album to prove it. 4.5 stars are well- deserved.

Report this review (#483944)
Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars I hate to say it, but with this album Symphony X confirm that they have lost their creativity: the symphonic passages in "Divine", "V" and "Odyssey" are completely gone, making way only to purely "power metal" songs, having not too complex structure. The beautiful interweaving with piano, keyboards and guitars of the past are now a distant memory and the keyboardist Pinnella now plays a secondary role in the band. The songs all have the same structure: powerful riffs, screamed vocals and simple melodies: especially in "The end of innocence", "Children of a faceless God", "Electric Messiah", the refrains are really trivial. The best songs are "Iconoclast", for the epic tone, and "When All Is Lost", which have a structure reminiscent of the great songs of the past, but with very few ideas from the compositional point of view. For me, a disappointment. Goodbye, Symphony X.
Report this review (#491110)
Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars So far this year one of my most anticipated releases already turned out to be a dud. That is definitely not the case here. Iconoclast is perhaps one of my favorite albums by Symphony X, with V: The New Mythology Suite at the top of the list. Since V was my introduction into Symphony X it will probably stay at the top of my list, but Iconoclast definitely comes in a close second. One thing I like about this newest Symphony X album is that it is really dark. V was very symphonic and grand, so to say, and then Paradise Lost was a little darker, and now Iconoclast is perhaps the darkest of them all, but is still like V in a way because of its grandness and dark symphonic melodies.

Being the fanboy that I am, I had to get the deluxe edition 2-CD set, and am I glad I did. The three extra songs ("Light up the Night", "The Lords of Chaos", "Reign in Madness") are all exceptional, and I can't imagine the album without them. My favorite of the three is definitely "Reign in Madness" which Michael Romeo, Symphony X guitarist, says "is the proper close to the album". Also, of the three, it seems more symphonic while the others seem to be straight up metal. If you haven't gotten this album yet, the 2-CD package is definitely the way to go; it also is some really cool packaging.

As always the musicianship is absolutely superb on this album. But, to most fans of the band this shouldn't come as a surprise at all. The keyboards on this album, played by Michael Pinnella, are some of the best I've heard in some time, and the wonderful heavy, yet symphonic guitar work from Michael Romeo really backs up Russell Allen's great vocals. As with most of Symphony X's albums you can expect some cheese, but to me it actually adds to the album. Their sound is so original, and well thought out that the cheese, which there isn't much of, makes this album all the better.

My favorite track of the album is "Children of a Faceless God". I just love the riffs and melodies throughout this piece, and Allen's voice is yet again superb on this track. This track is also a very original sounding power metal gem that combines both heavier riffs to go along with softer sounding choruses. Another great track is the prog epic "When All is Lost". The organ work on this song is awesome, to say the least. This album definitely has enough to satisfy any power or prog metal fan out there. Through its 80 some minute play time it stays strong and never gets boring, ever.

I'm happy to say that Symphony X has put out one of the best albums of this year. There is no doubt that this is the best progressive metal release of the year, and definitely one of the best metal releases as well. It has everything a prog metal fan could want; great vocals, complex song structures, very clean production , and wonderful soaring riffs. 4.5 stars are well deserved here for this great album that has landed Symphony X as one of my top bands ever.

Report this review (#492383)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars After four long years the charismatic American progressive metal band comes back after a strong predecessor with more than eighty minutes of music. Already the first epic title track "Iconoclast" proves that the band has put all their technical skills, all their passion and all their creativity into this release. The title song varies a lot and every musician delivers the best he can without losing a clear line and forgetting about catchy passages. This song is probably one of the best songs this band has ever done and the album is worth to be named after this monster of an opener.

While many progressive bands lose themselves into long solo passages that are technically excellent but emotionally cold, Symphony X orientate on heavier structures and are sometimes more metal than progressive like in the really addicting "The End Of Innocence" or "Dehumanized" that have already been performed very well during the last concerts of the band. The good but too similar "Bastards Of The Machine", the darker and slower "Prometheus" which is one of the greatest tracks and the thrash orientated epic "Light Up The Night" that reminds of the older works of the band could also be great live performances and are three songs that stand out on this record.

One must especially underline the gripping and unique vocals that keep the pieces together and add many memorable passages to those shorter and straighter songs. While many progressive bands have excellent musicians but often rather limited singers, Symphony X can be proud to have one of the genre's best and most charismatic vocalists in their rows. He simply does an outstanding job on this record and impresses me even more than the musicians do.

The problem is that a few too many songs head for that heavier direction and some patterns are repeated for example in "Heretic" or "Electric Messiah" which creates sometimes a lack of experiments, surprises or changes in style. That's why I take off one point out of five for this technically brilliant masterpiece.

Russell Allen proves his skills once more in the only ballad of the record which is "When all is lost". The song lives from his powerful vocal skills and continues in the vein of the last album's brilliant title track. Within many overloaded, heavy and ambitious tracks, this one is a needed and yet breathtaking break.

Any fan of progressive music should buy the extended edition of the album that includes a total of three more songs and where the music has been separated to fit on two discs. I must underline the closing masterpiece "Reign In Madness" where the band shows once again all its skills and delivers an as detailed, diversified and gripping performance as in the opening title track and where the circle is closed in a suitable way.

The only problem with this album is that one simply gets delivered too much material. Many good songs get buried or lost beneath the mentioned masterpieces in over eighty minutes of music. This record requests several tries and much attention before it truly grows. I would have preferred if the band would have released an album with only eight tracks and would have released the other four ones with some new material one or two years later. Now, we have an overwhelming record and must nevertheless wait several years for the next great output and that's not the ideal solution by any meaning. I take off five little percent for this little mistake they have done in my opinion but add another percent to underline the positive tendency of the record.

In the end, we still have the best progressive metal record of the year in here and the bar is set quite high for the upcoming release of the American concurrence of Dream Theater. I must underline that I'm quite sure that the new release of Symphony X will eventually slightly grow above the rating I give today as there is not one truly single bad song on this album.

Originally published on on June 18th of the year 2011.

Report this review (#499355)
Posted Sunday, August 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Iconoclast' - Symphony X (6/10)

Beginning with their last album 'Paradise Lost', American prog metal legends Symphony X took a new direction with their music, abandoning some of their neoclassical and progressive roots in favour for a harder-edged metal sound. As with most stylistic changes a band can take, this divided the band's fanbase, and while I do find myself preferring the unique and complex sounds they had with 'The Divine Wings Of Tragedy', I was not entirely opposed to the new, darker sounds Symphony X was going for. The band's latest album 'Iconoclast' continues exploring the same style as 'Paradise Lost', and keeps the same high quality of speedy riffs and intensity of the band. Despite Symphony X's consistent technical brilliance here however, I can't find this latest installment of the Symphony X saga nearly as engaging or interesting as they used to be.

Although sold in single-disc format as a budget alternative, Symphony X's 'Iconoclast' is a sprawling double album, composed of eighty minutes or hard hitting progressive-tinged power metal. Taking main stage here is the neoclassical shredding and vicious riffs of guitarist Michael Romeo, and the acrobatic howls of singer Russell Allen. When compared to the band's earlier work, the most noticeable difference is the seeming lack of keyboards here for the most part; 'Iconoclast' is an album that relies almost exclusively on gritty riffs and guitar-based songwriting, with the other instruments like keyboards only taking center stage sparingly. Although ten minute songs are no stranger here to 'Iconoclast', Symphony X are a much less proggy band, instead focusing more on the intensity and bite of their ideas rather than their inherent complexity.

Despite the change that Symphony X has made to their sound, they still play absolutely incredibly. Michael Romeo may very well be one of my favourite guitarists of the entire power metal spectrum, always managing to find that perfectly heavy guitar tone for his perfectly executed neoclassical sweeps. The production here is also very professionally done, and the package as a whole really feels polished. The songwriting and riffs here are even quite well done, but even despite the fact that the band executes things perfectly here, much of 'Iconoclast' sadly sounds alike, and especially for the sake of such a long album, this tends to really test my patience. Also, I have never been a fan of Russell Allen's voice even despite his obvious talents and skills as a singer, and on 'Iconoclast', I am finding myself liking his vocals less and less. There is warmth being exchanged for angry shouts, and while it's still difficult not to be impressed by the man's range and ease of delivery, there is not much about Russell Allen's performance here that really attracts me to it.

The songwriting is good, but often feels a little cut-and-pasted together, and the choruses are sometimes outweighed by cheesiness rather than that sense of 'epic' they so strive for. 'When All Is Lost' is the highlight here for me, beginning quite softly, but building up to some of the most impressive vocal melodies from Allen on the record, as well as the always- incredible lead work of Romeo. The songwriting is fairly consistent on 'Iconoclast', although the album's length does make one wish there was some more variety here to freshen things up, especially by the time the first disc is over.

'Iconoclast' is a good album for Symphony X, and even great for fans of the gritty power metal they are doing here. I do find myself really wishing they could go back to their more unpredictable, well-rounded and epic progressive metal of the earlier days despite the quality here though, and although Symphony X's performance here is technically brilliant, I find myself a little bored by what they are doing here.

Report this review (#500777)
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars SYMPHONY X fans might want to get used to waiting 5 years between albums as this has happened with the last two releases. As usual Michael Romero comes up with the lyrics, in fact he actually brings complete demos to the studio where the other band members will then give their thoughts and ideas.This is a method that seems to work for them.This particular album has technology as it's theme and in particular how it will one day rule the planet.They look at it in different ways from weapons to the social networks on the computer to electricity and more. While "Paradise Lost" had choirs and orchestration added to fit the theme, this one has a lot of mechanical textures. And while "Paradise Lost" was a heavy record, this has to be their heaviest album to date. In fact I think for most fans this will be a grower simply to get used to the style. Not much in the way of Symphonic stylings on this album.They hit us hard and they are relentless. So be warned.

"Iconoclast" kicks in hard rather quickly then it picks up speed before 2 1/2 minutes as synths then vocals join in.The background guitar 4 1/2 minutes in and later reminds me of JUDAS PREIST. A ripping instrumental section comes in after 6 minutes. A nice Power-Metal rhythm before 8 1/2 minutes. Just a killer track.

"The End Of Innocence" also sounds pretty amazing. Again more angry vocals and we get a guitar solo after 4 minutes. "Dehumanized" has this dark and heavy sound then the vocals kick in. Love the chorus on this one. A guitar solo 4 minutes in and I love when he slows the solo down as it reminds me of Lifeson.

"Bastards Of The Machine" has this galloping rhythm and the vocals come in before a minute. Heavy stuff 2 1/2 minutes in when the vocals stop. "Heretic" is some heavy [&*!#] i'll tell you that. A killer intrumental section begins before 3 1/2 minutes.

"Children Of A Faceless God" features more heaviness with vocals. I really like the intro. It's almost a little lighter (shocking I know) on the chorus.The guitar lights it up 4 minutes in and before 5 minutes. Great tune. "Electric Messiah" has these heavy drums that kick in quickly and the vocals follow. Amazing sound 3 1/2 minutes in. We get a keyboard solo then the vocals return.

"Prometheus (I Am Alive)" has some dark atmosphere early then it builds until it's kicking ass after a minute.Vocals join in. It sounds cool when the vocals slow down. Ripping guitar 5 minutes in.

"When All Is Lost" ends the album,or at least the version I have. For the first time really we get a mellow tune and a time to actually exhale (haha). Piano only to start as reserved vocals join in. It does get fuller after 1 1/2 minutes as we get a crunchy sound. We're galloping now.The guitar and sound soars 6 1/2 minutes in but then the guitar starts to shred. I knew they couldn't keep this mellow stuff going ! But then it calms down to end it.

The boys are back and heavier than ever, so put your seatbelts on for this ride because your going to need them.

Report this review (#506543)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Okay, let's make no buts about it. If you are into Symphony X's grandiose and epic, but at the same time progressive and incredibly groovy, power metal, then you are in for a treat. The band carry on where they left of on 2007's "Paradise Lost", and that's fine by me because I think that was one of the best metal releases of that year.

There are goodies for both progressive metal fans and power metal fans on this album. Power metal fans can look forward to epic, melodic and catchy choruses as well as grandiose atmospheres with symphonic elements and all that stuff. And power metal fans can look forward to odd time signatures, complex guitar riffage and at time unconventional song structures. And, on top of that you can add Symphony X's trademark awesomely groovy guitar riffs, which might also be of interest to fans of Pantera-pioneered groove metal.

The band's vocalist, Russell Allen belongs to the group of power metal vocalists whose voices are more raw and potent than the typical European power metal vocalists and his awesome singing can be compared to that of rock and metal icons like Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Apollo Papathanasio, and Tom Schluchter. Allen's raw and potent voice fits Symphony X's brand of power metal perfectly.

Virtually all of the tracks are awesome, but if I had to pick a handfuld of favorites, it would be the epic opener (and title track) which contains all the trademark elements of Symphony X's style) and the more straightforward "Bastards of the Machine" as well as "Heretic" with its old school midtempo thrash breakdown, and "Electric Messiah" with its Megadeth-inspired elements and epitomic American power metal chorus.

"Iconoclast" delivers prog power metal at its best. There are plenty of twists and turns and challenging stuff, but there is still an obvious catchiness and epicness to the music, and then there is all the groovy riffage which also makes this very headbanging-friendly. Fans of progressive metal and power metal should check out this release.

If they do not already hold the title of kings of power prog metal, then Symphony X surely will be enthroned with this release.

(review originally posted at

Report this review (#514149)
Posted Sunday, September 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Symphony X were always and above all, metal. Sure the prog part was always present, as neoclassical or progressive power metal, call it what you want. Actually in V the prog elements were dominant, but 7 years later in Paradise Lost they delivered their heaviest effort...or that 's what we thought.

So now they proove that it can be more power or even thrash, simply more metal. Well some people even accused them of abandoning prog. IMHO, not at all, the prog elements are still here in the usual doses, under the mindblowing heaviness.

I only wish to say that Romeo's guitar and Allen's voice are from another planet! This cannot be human, many steps ahead of all the other guitarists/vocalists of this style of music. Also all the other great musicians that form SX are not drown by the production, they deliver a monstrous performance. You can focus on each one of them.

SX show to us that you don't have to be more crossover, to break the mould, to choose a different path in order to deliver new, fresh and enjoyable music. They still do what they always do. And the technical complexity, virtuosity and performance makes it prog, not in the avant-guarde way but in the "we define the whole genre" way. OK, some parts seem familiar to a fan but let's face it, all the melodies, riffs, rhythms, solos come from an almost unlimited arsenal that every prog metal band yearns to possess.

Unavoidably another 5* album from these guys. I press again the repeat on Children of A Faceless God (or When All Is Lost - depends on the mood) and wonder what more they can do in the future.

By the way, the special edition is a must, no fillers in here.

Report this review (#516838)
Posted Wednesday, September 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Iconoclast" is the 8th full-length studio album by US progressive power metal act Symphony X. The album was released in June 2011 by Nuclear Blast Records. "Iconoclast" is available in two versions. A one-disc "regular" version and a two-disc special edition digipak with three extra tracks. Apparently the two-disc version is how the band had envisioned the album but the label wanted a one-disc version too. "Iconoclast" is a concept album where the lyrics evolve around the "man against machine" theme. It´s a thematic concept rather than a storyline that goes through the entire album.

So how does Symphony X sound 4 years after the release of their arguably most heavy and aggressive album to date "Paradise Lost (2007)"? Well first of all they lost none of the heaviness that characterized the music on the predecessor but they´ve succeeded in combining the extreme heaviness with a more melodic and memorable approach too. I can see some of the fans that turned away from the band because of the aggressive approach on "Paradise Lost", returning to the fold. The keyboards have a much more prominent role in the music again even though Michael Romeo´s groove based and hard edged guitar riffs and Russell Allen´s raw and powerful vocals dominate as usual.

Even though most people will probably want to purchase the two-disc digipack version of the album to get the three extra tracks and hear the album like the band intended it to be, I actually think the one-disc version contains the most important tracks. Out of the three bonus tracks the only track I really miss on the one-disc version is "Reign In Madness". Both "Light Up The Night" and "The Lords Of Chaos" are great tracks too but held up against the material that is featured on both versions both of those tracks do come off as high quality filler. The two tracks "Electric Messiah" and "Prometheus (I Am Alive)", which appear on disc 2 of the two-disc version of the album along with the three bonus tracks, can also be put into that catagory. I know it sounds spoiled to call quality material filler but the rest of the tracks on the album are simply of such an outstanding quality that it´s hard not to notice the difference. From the symphonic and progressive opening title track to the raw and heavy "Bastards of the Machine", "Dehumanized" and "Heretic" to the clever and epic closing track "When All Is Lost", the album is one long amazing journey.

So if you like your progressive power metal as raw and heavy as possible yet with a rare melodic sensibility delivered by exceptionally well playing musicians and packed in a powerful and clear production, "Iconoclast" is the answer to your prayers. It´s not like we´re introduced to anything new on the album or that Symphony X reinvent themselves, but "Iconoclast" is one of those cases where a band takes all the good things from their previous albums, put them into a stew and make sure that the outcome work wonders. I´m not sure the album is THE essential Symphony X release but it´s damn near the top of the best albums the band have released so far. A 4.5 star rating is well deserved.

Report this review (#553926)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Were you there to watch the earth be scorched?

New product from Symphony X is becoming increasingly rare, so expectations were high when this new album for 2011 was announced. Coming some 4 years after "Paradise lost", "Iconoclast" is the album which truly does put the Symphonic in Symphony X. Where other albums have been largely standard prog metal fare, this album is overloaded with the wonderful pomp and theatrics of fellow travellers such as Therion and Rhapsody of Fire.

Based on a suitably prog metal concept of the relationship between man and machines, the album explores the futility of man's surrender to the demands of automation. The basic components which have served the band over the years, including the distinctive vocals of Russell Allan and the lead guitar of Michael Romeo, remain intact but the greater use of keyboards and programming make for a more rounded sound overall. The heavy riffs and pounding rhythms remain of course, but they somehow seem more refined and in keeping with the band's adopted name this time around.

The tracks here are developed well, generally running to over six minutes, and some to nine or ten minutes. This allow the band to extend the instrumental passages nicely, while offering bifurcations and diversions from the main themes. The heaviest side of the band is not ignored of course, but even "Dehumanised" boasts a strong melody and lush arrangement.

Russell Allen's vocal similarities with Ronnie James Dio are well documented, and at times they are as apparent as ever. "Children of a faceless God" for example could have been lifted straight from the "Rainbow rising" album from all those years ago. That of course is very much a recommendation, the track boasting one of Symphony X's strongest melodies. The nine minute "When all is lost" is the "Candlelight fantasia" of the album, Alllen's supreme vocal being at the centre of a truly exceptional prog metal ballad (and more).

The album comes in two versions, the deluxe double CD having three additional tracks. While the first two of these "Light up the night" and "The lords of chaos" are enjoyable but standard Symphony X songs, the closing 8+ minutes of "Reign In Madness" renders the expanded edition worthy of the additional investment.

Overall, a fine addition to the already impressive Symphony X discography. While the album retains many of the characteristics of the previous albums, it may also offer something to appeal to those not yet convinced.

Report this review (#570757)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Catchier than a flock of sheep in a velcro factory...

Symphony X have tried a slightly different approach with this release and they've totally nailed it. Whereas the ratio between metal and symphonic elements on some of their older albums was almost 50/50, Iconoclast shows a more straightforward approach, with the rich layers of orchestration all but gone.

It's comparable to what Dream Theater did with 'Train of Thought' in terms of trying to write a 'classic' whilst still maintaining their progressive sound. You could argue that by deliberately reducing the scope of your material you are essentially writing songs with one hand tied behind your back, but I think Symphony X have achieved a level of consistency that Dream Theater's effort lacked.

The title track which opens Iconoclast is also probably its weakest, but it still provides an enjoyable listen. Conversely, my personal favourite is the album's closing track, When All is Lost. It does take a while to get going and with lyrical contributions from Elton John you might be tempted to write it off altogether. But once the instrumental section kicks in, all is forgiven. Neovintage keyboard sounds and a series of absolutely barnstorming guitar solos from Michael Romeo rank this amongst my all time favourite Symphony X tracks.

The other standout aspect of this release is the immaculate production. Like their previous two albums it was recorded in the band's own studio, but better equipment and more experience means it sounds a million miles away from the flaky drums and relatively shallow mix of 'The Odyssey'.

Given a choice between the two editions in which Iconoclast is available, I would recommend the single disc standard edition as I don't feel the bonus tracks bring anything substantial to the release. That said, the cover art of the double disc limited edition is more pleasing on the eye!

The Verdict: A pristine example of modern metal.

Report this review (#595507)
Posted Saturday, December 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album has been with me couple of months already and only now I have a chance to write my view about this one. Let me tell you why it has taken so long for me to write about this latest album by Symphony X - it's just for a simple reason: almost all tracks are truly metal or heavy compositions. The first spin of the album created an impression: when these guys would provide me a room to breathe as from opening track to five tracks they bombard me with heavy music. Yes. I was not originated from metal side of prog music, that's why listening to this album at the first time created me a feeling of being tired and waiting for when the torture would end? So then, I did not spin this album for quite sometimes until last week when I was driving alone in my car I played this album loud. Wow man! It's so energetic and I enjoyed the music very much even though most of them a re heavy tracks. Yes, this is considered as metal progressive album as so many metal elements, may be 60- 70% and some prog elements (the rest).

The turning point of this album was when I listened to third track Dehumanized (6:48). Yeah, I really love the musical riffs resulted from guitar work and make me really energized with the music. And then I also enjoyed another heavier track Bastards Of The Machine (4:56). These two tracks really introduced me to enjoy more this album. So after that experience I finally re- spin the album and found out the whole album comprising beautifully composed metal progressive music. Yes I find the heavy components of this album mostly are demonstrated by the heavy guitar riffs backed with drums and bass guitar. But not only that, there were many inventive keyboard solos that enrich the overall musical composition.

For some reason, since the band's Odyssey album I found that Symphony X was something to me like Kansas plays metal because the voice quality of Russell Allen is quite similar with Steve Walsh when Allen is not screaming. Try the seventh track When All Is Lost (9:10) and observe the first lyrical verse sung by Allen - you will find the similarity of Symphony X with Kansas. Of course their music are completely different.

Well, most people always compare this band with Dream Theater even though to me these two bands sound different. Just compare to recent Dream Theater's album A Dramatic Turn of Events - you would hardly find where they share similar vein. That's why I never compare the music of Symphony X with DT.

But I have to admit this album is really excellent as it has everything you need in melody as every single track has its own good to excellent melody - name any track! The harmonies created through bass guitar, drums, guitar, keyboards and vocal are really great from one passage to another - all are mostly delivered in relatively fast speed. There are many changes of styles and moods in any track and there are elements of complexities in any segment. As an album this one has structural integrity where the whole album is cohesive as an album.

Overall - it's an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Enjoy the intertwined guitar and keyboard work of Michael romeo and Michael Pinella. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#759200)
Posted Saturday, May 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Okay, I must admit that my first thoughts after hearing the opening (title) track were: here we go again. Symphony X sounding like its good old self. I own all their previous albums and am therefore familiar with their sound and style completely. Downside of this is that the formula tends to wear thin (see my DT's latest !) after all this time.

On the other hand Symphony X is one of my most favorite bands ever which obviously means I'm extremely fond of this sound and approach. So I was thinking: bring 'em on again, what the heck. Of all previous albums Iconoclast has most resemblance with the predecessor Paradise Lost. In fact I could have started the review with Paradise Lost II but that's a bit too negative I feel.

Still I have to admit there's not much new under the sun but same as with DT's latest I have not a real big problem with that. Symphony X is a superb prog metal band and you can wake me up in the middle of the night for them so to speak. And since there's not a weak track to be found here and the quality (both production and execution) is huge I can once again go for one justified rating: 4 stars it is and the recent average of 3,84 is pretty accurate.

Report this review (#779244)
Posted Thursday, June 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Iconoclast continues Symphony X's experiment begun in Paradise Lost of refreshing their sound by steering their power-metal flavoured progressive metal approach away from the seas of cheese and plumbing the potential of the style to explore darker themes. It's another success and is also rather accessible - there's an Iron Maiden tone (circa Seventh Son of a Seventh Son) to some of the material which I think really helps support the sort of material they're tackling here.

The set offers up a thematic concept album surrounding the idea of machines taking over humankind Terminator-style, and whilst the concept may not be very fresh (remember Black Sabbath's Dehumanizer?), the material is - to the point where the 2CD version of the album flies past as though it were a 1CD album, a sure sign that this is one of those rare double albums which isn't afflicted with filler. On that basis alone it deserves a thumbs up, but the fact that it builds so successfully on the advances made on Paradise Lost makes it a real gem in the Symphony X discography.

Report this review (#851631)
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Incredible.

On first listen, this album didn't strike any major chords. But this album is a grower. After a few listens, I realised that this album is something really special.

The album is a concept album, which singer Russell Allen said in an interview was based upon "the idea of machines taking over everything, and all this technology we put our society into pretty much being our demise." He also said that the album didn't really have a storyline, instead a concept. The listening experience for me is quite an adventurous one, and I think many will agree with me.

What has made me sceptical of the reviewers of this album more than anything else, is the fact that they say this album is lyrically flawed. This album has a stronger theme than any of Symphony X's previous albums, and the lyrics brilliantly communicate it with anger and emotion, and they leave the story open to interpretation, which I think is a great way to make an album really speak to someone. I think they musically hit the theme spot on, with the music being heavy and angry, yet emotional with hints of hopefulness.

The opening title track is probably the greatest track on the album, but this in no way detracts from the rest of the album. In fact, if you are a real fan of this album, it will just leave you stunned. The opening riff is a summary of what i to come; unexpected, chilling, heavy, somewhat exotic, and completely crazy. The orchestral backing strengthens the rest of the track musically, delivering a powerful and unique punch. Russell Allen's vocals are spot on as ever, and I can think of no other vocalist that could bring what he has bought to Symphony X in this release.

"The End of Innocence" is a great, and the string line is something very special. "Dehumanised" is another key track and lyrically one of the best. The chorus is just incredible, Russell sings with more passion and emotion than we have seen in any prog vocals within the last few years. "Children of a Faceless God" is one of the heavier tracks, with some truly incredible riffs, and some stunning lyrics. "When All is Lost" is beautiful and heavy, and I am sure many people will find this to be the greatest track on the album. "Reign in Madness" is an epic track, a true finale. Here we see many of the previous musical motifs repeated with gusto.

I would highly recommend this album to ANY fan of Prog Metal or Heavy Metal. The digi-book packaging of the special edition is also quite collectable, and although I usually prefer vinyl by tenfold, the CD sound really suits this release. I do know that a vinyl edition is available, and is a fairly reasonable price for those wanting a collectable edition.

4.5 stars.

Report this review (#921130)
Posted Friday, March 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Symphony X is getting tired of the symphony. They have been stripping away classical influences in recent albums so all that remains is basically a thrashy power metal with some keyboards. There is nothing wrong with this approach (not original but at least a change) , as long as the riffs are good. And they are. But everything else is perfunctionary. The same old overpowering gruff bellowing gets tired after many songs (Russell Allen seems to be reserving his melodic side for his side projects), the lyrics are bad, the obligatory ballad is a carbon copy of their previous ballads, and don't even get me started about the concept. Rule of the machines. Come on. Guys, you remain a talented and often imitated band, but if you want to stay relevant, you gotta try better, in my opinion.
Report this review (#1075881)
Posted Tuesday, November 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars For me, Symphony X was originally one of those bands where you buy their albums but don't really "get it" until you see them live. That was my experience when they delivered an exceptional performance in 2002 in San Francisco in the absence of tour-mates Blind Guardian. After seeing them perform songs like "Egypt" and the "Odyssey" live, it just clicked. Fast forward 9 years and we are now seeing a very different band from what I once heralded as the perfect marriage of progressive and power metal. The release of Paradise Lost was a dramatic, even jolting departure from most everything I loved about this band as they took a less symphonic, more stripped down approach toward more straightforward instrumentation and composition.

The release of this year's Iconoclast was a day that I was both eagerly awaiting and dreading. Would they be delivering an album that could come close to the meticulously motif driven era of V: The New Mythology Suite? I wasn't really expecting that, but I hoped and prayed that it wouldn't be another Paradise Lost. Strangely enough, it kind of was, but somehow they managed to capture the Paradise Lost style in a way that, disregarding a few clunkers, turned out to be a collection of pretty good songs.

To put it plainly, this is a decent 80 minute album that would have been a great 50 minute album. While there wasn't anything that recalled the epic scope of the Symphony X of old, there is about 50 minutes of really great songs. Anyone who knows me can probably guess the songs that I hated (and consider to be the worst songs of the band's career), but even if you don't feel the same, I think that most people could agree that Symphony X could've really tightened up the awesomeness of this album by cutting it down to include only the absolute best songs.

So, without further distractions, the review:

The ugly: As Symphony X is an extremely talented band, please take into account that I do not mean to criticize them as musicians or artists. I do feel that my review should reflect my honest opinion of the album. I'm not gonna lie, as far as my tastes go, there were a few songs that left me very disappointed. Dehumanized is the only one I'll mention by name. While this one sports very uncreative and painfully repetitive lyrics, sludgy riffs that are very uncharacteristic of the band, and hooks that get stuck in my head for the wrong reasons, I'll leave it up to you guys to decide which tracks you might have left off the album. In all fairness, there is a lot of great material on this record; I recommend making use of the skip button because you will still have plenty of great tracks to listen to. Don't let the ones you don't like ruin it for you.

The awesome: As I've been getting more and more into cyberpunk and distopyian themes lately, the content of this album thrilled me. Technophobia and the disembodied and image ruled alienation of internet culture, there's simply a great textbook approach to sci-fi going on here; plus, it comes out more and more with every anime I watch (Serial Experiments Lain, anyone?).

Musically speaking, Symphony X manages to write a bunch of songs with really killer in your face guitar riffs. By the way, we see a slight return of the keyboard in the production, which really made me happy. The opener, Iconoclast opens up with an ultra-dark theme and sets your head spinning with wild riffs in odd time. From there we get a number of songs that find a good balance between powermetal, progmetal, and thrash, with smart rhythms that are still rocking, good atmosphere, and pretty decent vocal melodies.

The songs that ended up doing it for me the most where the final tracks off each disc: "Rein in Madness" and "When All is Lost." "Rein in Madness" seemed to be the only song that truly captured the sci-fi/cyberpunk/dystopia mood, from the synthy and grooving beat that kicks off the piece, to the hauntingly beautiful clean section about 5 minutes in where we get a moving vocal delivery from Mr. Allen that spells out a clear message of future dystopia. However, "When All is Lost" was the true surprise and gem of this album. What seems to open up as merely a decent ballad suddenly evolves into a fine example of progressive rock which melds a tiny bit of the glorious feel of "Through the Looking Glass" with a blend of modern and classic prog elements. Did you really hear a Hammond style organ in there? Indeed, and it was glorious as this song goes from amazing to incredible at about the 5 minute mark. This piece really shows Symphony X doing everything well without having to be really metal, adding some much needed variety to their latest output. In terms of vocal composition and melody, this is a song that completely reminds us that once upon a time this band really delivered majestic and soaring melodies rather than the quick "hooks" of late. If there's a piece that holds hope in my heart that Symphony X will do great things with their next release, it's this song.

In the end, I think there's a little something for everyone in Iconoclast. Figure out which songs you like and pretend that you're the producer. Take the good songs and use the skip button on your player to pretend the others don't exist. I'm pretty convinced that you'll find that there is still plenty of great material on this album where you could trim it down by 4 or 5 songs and listen to a fantastic 50 minutes of music that will make you smile? and bang your head? of course!

Report this review (#1287619)
Posted Saturday, October 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Symphony X's 'Iconoclast' is an album which sees the prodigious American metal band continue with the style established on 'Paradise Lost' and move further away from their earlier symphonic sound. I commend any band which seeks to evolve and try out new approaches to their music but unfortunately, for me, this new direction Symphony X have taken is the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear from them. They have become a bit more straight-forward in their compositions, and a bit more hard edged.

What I have always loved about this band is their utterly bombastic melding of progressive metal with symphonic classical music. That style has been largely replaced on this album with a far more aggressive style and reduced classical influence. For me they have lost a little bit of what made them such a special band for their earlier career.

But focusing on the music and songs on this album there can be no doubt that this is fantastic quality, both in composition and musicality. Michael Romeo and Russell Allen get better and better with each album. The pair of them are an absolute force to be reckoned with. The songs are exciting and varied, but they don't carry the same weight as previous efforts. Some of the riffs and drumming on this album could easily be found in a melodic death metal band rather than Symphony X, such is the ferocity on display here.

What really fills me with fear is that we may never hear another 'The Odyssey' or 'Divine Wings Of Tragedy' from this band. I keep hoping with each new Symphony X release that they will re-discover their epic song writing style - but if anything they are moving further away from that.

Final thoughts are that the music on 'Iconoclast' is extremely talented and well composed, but when I compare this album to 'V: The New Mythology Suite', 'Twilight In Olympus' or 'The Odyssey' I find it less enjoyable. Fans of progressive metal will still enjoy this album though, myself included. 3-stars.

Report this review (#1436564)
Posted Tuesday, July 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
5 stars Right out of the gate you'll know that Symphony X's Iconoclast is going to be that sort of prog-metal album that hits-hard; it'll get your fists pumping, your brain melting, and speakers blasting... and just plain smash the hell out of the competition with a massive show of technical and stylistic flourish. Iconoclast is amazing.

The title opener kicks in the door with fairly standard power-metal atmosphere: epic choirs, big crunchy guitar chords, symphonic keyboards. Then the riffing starts, that powerful, irresistible chugging of Romeo's guitar that grinds with dexterity and aggression and skill - your attention is captured. Then Russell Allen's gravely, masculine, powerful vocals begin - your hairs start to raise. Then the whole band freaking explodes in a world- shattering series of melodies, time changes, instrumental showcases, and excellent soloing that just gets better and better as the 11 minute song unfolds.

And then the next song begins, and then the next, and the next... and it just gets better!

Let's be clear: Iconoclast is not going to win awards for being the most creative prog-metal release. In fact, there's predictability in the band's songwriting, and they use a lot of the tropes that define the genre. This isn't to say it's not top notch among their peers though; these songs are so freaking good, they just aren't experimental. And you know what, listen to Iconoclast and I can guarantee that you won't care. This album is everything that a great prog/power metal album should be, and maybe focusing on the basics is what makes it so good. I don't think I've heard a more addictive metal album.

I'm amazed that the band is able to sustain the momentum throughout the album's massive running length (although you'll probably need break half-way). The first disc especially is packed with more metal, more demonstrations of technical ability, and more memorable moments than you can count. Romeo proves he's a guitar giant throughout (especially in his soaring solo on "Dehumanized"), while Pinella impresses as well with very smart use of his keyboards, such as in the dynamic and more subtle piano work at the album's conclusion. They're never overdone or cartoonish, and his solo moments fit in very well with the tone of the songs. The rhythm section may be one of the highlights of the album. Thanks to an excellent production, we can appreciate all of Lepond's aggressive basslines and Rullo's personality-filled drumming. Symphony X was always sort of a side interest for me, as I got swept up in Dream Theater fandom during my mid '20's... but this album has seriously changed my mind.

To wrap up, I want to spend a few words talking about Russell Allen, both his vocals and the lyrics he's singing. First off... the guy is a beast. Try singing along and your voice will be gone in a few minutes. Try keeping up with the guy's range, and you'll be sounding like a you've got a cold, or are a puny little girl because he can scream and bellow with the best of them. Simply put, he's great. The lyrics, telling a loosely connected story about the synthesis between man and machine, are gloriously corny. Emphasis on the glorious. I'm a big fan of fantasy and sci-fi in my metal, and the lyrics deliver here in a BIG way. The rhymes are epic and memorable, and while listening I frequently daydreamed all kinds of robot on human violence. To me, this is the mark of excellent song-writing: not they convey some deeper message, which is all too often just a bunch of bathos bull[&*!#], but they instead are genuine and fun for the audience. And Allen completely nails it.

So bottom line, if you're a fan of metal music, get Iconoclast, dim the lights, and be transported to a world of massive sci-fi battles and explosions of musicianship that deserve to be at the top of the genre.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 5 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Report this review (#1472001)
Posted Friday, October 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Peace Sells"-era Megadeth with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, everyone on steroids. A cyborg keyboard player whose voice is what he plays. That's my impression of this album.

My initial impression was not so warm. "V: The New Mythology Suite" was my introduction to Symphony X and I loved that album. So I had high expectations. The first comments I jotted down were not very flattering.

The first song, "Iconoclast", includes a choir and a symphony and it's a powerful, heavy, and great song with which to kick off the album. The music is heavier and far more intense than anything from "V".

The next five songs are all excellent metal tunes: fast, furious, brutal, and intense. Like an avalanche that can halt in an instant and become a bulldozer or a quick flourish or artillery assault and then back to an avalanche. The guitars are fast and change from charging riff to machine gun spray of notes to battering thunderous riff. The drums are incredible at abrupt rhythm changes, speed, and unanticipated restraint. The keyboards not as prominent as on "V" but when they are, they're very suitable with a mechanical sound and rarely pretty or delicate.

Russel Allen's vocals sound beefed up compared to ten years earlier and he manages some great Dio "Aahhh-ohh-oh" hollers.

But after five excellent metal tracks, the progressive and symphonic aspect seems to have been abandoned. "When All Is Lost" makes up for it by bringing back the real piano and acoustic guitar and the softer melodious side of the band while still being heavy. This one song is where the band really flex their symphonic muscle and shades of "V" flicker by, reminding us that this is the same band. More of this would have made a more symphonic progressive album, but I've really come to love the heavy side.

Of course I had to buy the double disc. I heard the record company wouldn't release the double album unless a single disc would also be released simultanneously, their logiic being that sales would be better if some members of the public were only willing to shell out for a single disc.

The second disc continues with what we've heard mostly so far: 6-minute fast and furious metal tracks. There are more excellent songs and to be clear each song has its own unique opening so that there's no confusing one for another. I just feel the overall atmosphere of brutally sharp and tight heavy metal remains unchanging. "Reign in Madness" is a longer track so once again there's more room to stretch out the song and add some acoustic guitar and piano. Nothing pretty like "When All Is Lost". The piano here is haunting and the guitar riff heavy. This part is a brief interlude in the otherwise intense track.

A few final words, Allen's vocals remind me also of Luke Easter of Torniquet. There's good melody in the tunes, so it's not just savage shouting or hoarse singing. The music is heavier and beefier with more weight than "V". Though a bit disappointing at first, I now enjoy the album. The sound is well produced; it's not dense and muddy like many heavy albums. Everything is pumped but clear. The guitars and drums work together to emphasize one another and add power to the riffs and playing.

As a metal album, I'd say this one really delivers. For a symphonic/progressive metal album, I think it could use a little more like the title track, "When All Is Lost", and "Reign In Madness". Not an excellent addition to any prog collection but an excellent album overall for those who want a lot of thunderous bang for their buck with very highly skilled musicians.

Report this review (#1527157)
Posted Tuesday, February 9, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars 2007's 'Paradise Lost' is, in my opinion, one of the heaviest albums of all time, and having developed their sound over the years from a neo-classical progressive metal act to an extremely heavy, almost power metal-sounding band, it seems Symphony X have settled on a style that suits them perfectly, as 'Iconoclast', the bands eighth studio album, released in 2011, follows on from its predecessor as a possible candidate for one of the heaviest albums you'll ever hear.

What makes Symphony X so heavy, you ask? While people measure heaviness in different ways, in my opinion, it's the 'weight' of the music. The production and the sound, and in this case, the massive and beefy-as-hell guitar riffs. 'Iconoclast' is like a ten-ton hammer crushing a thousand skulls at once, and incredibly, despite the sheer intensity and brutality, the album is full of wondrous and beautiful melodies too.

Taking the energy of power metal and the songwriting arrangements of progressive metal, Symphony X's music is very upbeat and ambitious. With complex orchestrations and masterful musicianship, these guys are at the top of their game, and on par with the genres finest musicians. In particular, guitarist Michael Romeo and vocalist Russell Allen have an absolute synergy rarely seen these days, with Allen's incredibly versatile range being a perfect match for the guitar riffs.

Released on two discs, or as a one-disc edition for people not willing to spend too much dollar (I wonder how many people actually bought that one), 'Iconoclast' is an incredible album with very few flaws. With absolute monstrous beasts such as 'Electric Messiah', 'The End of Innocence', 'Bastards of the Machine', 'Dehumanized', 'Children of a Faceless God' and 'Reign in Madness', this shows that, while Symphony X may not feel inclined to do many classically- inspired prog epics these days, they've refused to relent with age, instead, getting heavier and constantly finding ways to update their sound and remain relevant.

'Iconoclast' belongs in every metal fans collection. Simple.

Report this review (#2043236)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yet another solid Symphony X release, albeit a retreat from the high-caliber V and Odyssey. Symphony X left the leading Progressive Metal pack and returned to the more conventional and less ambitious territory. "Paradise Lost" presents the band in change: Still firmly rooted in progressive metal, coming back on earth and with visible power metal traces.

The album is very well executed and melodies belong to the best that Symphony X ever created. The record is filled with energy, enthusiasm and appetite; after 5 years on hiatus, that shouldn't be different.

Gone are overblown song sections with orchestra, layered keyboard and vocals; more conventional song structures prevail. Guitar and keyboard solos are easy to find; some tracks feature pleasant organ-like chords, just like the eight track "7". The trademark tracks are "Set the world on fire", "Paradise Lost" and "Seven". Vocals got rougher and the music heavier; intensive riffs win over speedy muscular chords; but there is enough guitar variety to show.

"Paradise Lost" used to be my favourite album when I was hungry absorping progressive metal; by now I prefer their earlier releases. On the other hand, "Paradise Lost" is stronger then 2011's "Iconoclast" and 2015 "Underworld" that I consider disappointing in terms of development and new ideas. "Paradise Lost" is a mature, very-well crafted piece of progressive metal music, easy to consume and yet staying a long- standing favourite record to resort to.

Report this review (#2202718)
Posted Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | Review Permalink

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