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

V - THE NEW MYTHOLOGY SUITE

Symphony X

 

Progressive Metal

4.15 | 651 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A Symphonic Rhapsody

"V" appears to have been a popular name for an album in the year 2000, with Spock's Beard also using the letter to signify their fifth album. The more significant sub-title here through is "The new mythology suite", signifying Symphony X's first complete concept album.

The signs are all positive in terms of a prog classic, with a continuing theme of ancient mythology, good vs. evil etc., plus we have a collection of tracks varying in length from just over a minute up to a 13 minute finale. The sleeve imagery too is pure prog, with a hooded man reflecting in negative in a mirror located in a stormy desert.

On a more prosaic level, the power house section of the band has changed since the previous album, with drummer Jason Rullo (the band's original drummer) returning, and Michael LePond taking over bass duties. While the rhythm section is perhaps more important for band such as Symphony X than for bands of other genres, reassuringly the core vocals/keyboards/guitar section remains unaltered.

Listening to the opening "Prelude", you could be forgiven for thinking you had picked up an album by Rhapsody (of Fire) by mistake. The operatic chorale which introduces the album is very like the overtures which adorn their albums. Likewise the double paced drumming, mythological lyrics, and strong melody of the following "Evolution (The Grand design)" would be entirely at home on any Rhapsody album.

The story, which essentially seeks to blend the myths of various ancient civilisations together then add a science fiction element, is told through the lyrics, with brief commentaries being added in the accompanying booklet. An example of these commentaries for the superb 8 minute piece "Communion and the Oracle" reads ".unfortunately, not all were interested in the Ways of Justice, and those of the night gathered to plot the elimination of the great law of One and the death of Ma'at".

As whole, the music here is a wonderful blend of Rhapsody, Dream Theater and Blackmore's Rainbow, the Rainbow elements being emphasised by the Dio like vocals of Russell Allen. Some tracks work better than others, the difference usually being down to the strength of the composition rather than the performance. "Fallen" for example is exemplary when it comes to the arrangement, which includes wonderful synth strings, but the song does not have the strength of is peers on the album.

The strongest track, certainly in terms of vocal performance, is "Egypt", which incorporates a strangely ethereal chorus while maintaining the metallic principles to which the band subscribe. The bass playing is particularly notable here, Michael Lepond (the band has three Michaels in total) adding some wonderfully strong Chris Squire like vibrations. Indeed, this is a good time to mention that albums such as this demand to be heard at a decent volume on a good quality hi-fi, not simply squeezed through a set of PC speakers where the listener is deprived of half the content.

The album cumulates in the 13+ minute two part finale "Rediscovery" which effectively brings together every style, sound and effect which has appeared so far. Romeo and Pinnella throw in a guitar and keyboard duel as the track reaches is climax and the band, oblivious to the chaos all around them, disappear beneath the waves. Well not quite, but that's pretty much how the album concludes!

The tracks are linked together to form a whole, sometimes through segue tracks, sometimes they fit together well anyway. The most notable of the segues is Michael Romeo's three minute instrumental "On the breath of Poseidon". Although he is the band's guitarist, this is primarily a symphonic keyboards extravaganza with classical tones.

The album is liberally embellished with references from classical music, including Bartok, Mozart, Verdi and Bach. These references are not explicitly credited, something the band later acknowledged they should perhaps have done. In their defence, they (with some justification) say that such references are usually obvious.

In all, a wonderfully coherent work which sees Symphony X mastering the concept album with great confidence. Of all the Symphony X albums, this may be the best one to try first for those reticent about their genre. Recommended.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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