8 April 2013

Symphony X - Paradise Lost


As an avid fan of progressive rock, I have never been more amazed by the creativity, the multi-layered stylings and the musical content the bands of this genre have offered to the world. Sadly, too many of them were all found wanting and perhaps of being caught up in a vortex of stagnation allowing the floodgates of punk to to wreak havoc. The blessing in disguise was metal which came soon afterwards and I'm delighted to say has been able to grow and branch out in various reaches. 

Hailing from Middletown, New Jersey, Symphony X have been blessed with a largely stable lineup since the early 1990s. Their creative work is almost entirely down to guitarista Michael Romeo and vocalist Russell Allen who seem to know no limits in their prog metal offerings. They have been blighted by a few illnesses however through drummer Jason Rullo, (heart failure early 2013) and bassist Michael Lepond (Crohns Disease, 2006), but largely undeterred bearing in mind they have recorded 8 studio albums in less than twenty years.

Symphony X announced to the metal world that their new work Paradise Lost would lie on darker themes yet attain a more commercial approach. After much anticipation and a few unavoidable delays of up to 2 years, the album was finally released in June 2007 and on first impressions, I can see that the wait was damned well worth it. We start the proceedings with a brief but powerful orchestral-backed Oculus en Inferni which sets the tone for the remainder of the album. Epic, and heavily engaging before moving swiftly on to the fiery but barely contained Set the World on Fire (The Lie of the lies). Domination and Serpent's Kiss lay the foundations of deep defineable riffs and Allen's slightly snarling but tidy vocal ranges until we get to the title track.

Paradise Lost is based on the John Milton poem of the same name and runs on the same theme, a biblical tale of the Fall of Man (to the lay person, it's basically Adam and Eve banished from the Garden of Eden). This certainly ranks as one of their most accomplished pieces though it suggests it soulful through Michael Pinnella's piano work and Romeo's classical guitar. Eve of Seduction follows which for me doesn't fully run well despite Allen's varying overtones reminiscent of Dave Grohl, Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio. It's their weak point, but not a weak effort by any means, so any Sabbath or Rainbow fans reading this I'm sure will take issue. Walls of Babylon and Seven run through a mixture of beats and changes in rhythm for good measure while the final track Revelation (Divus Pennae Ex Tragoedia) opens with Queen-esque arrangements and presses on with Romeo's tireless fretwork until the album ends with the orchestral backdrops first heard at the start.

Bringing us nicely back to the point of progressive metal, if you're new to this field of music, then Paradise Lost is a definitive album highlighting the creative talents of each Symphony X member. It's a well polished, highly strung and purposeful piece with plenty of retro riffs without losing any of its modern edge. Progressive Rock is dead and long buried. Long live Prog Metal. M. Richardson 08.04.2013.

10 out of 10. This is proof there is a god!

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