Year : 2015
Genre : Progressive Metal
Label : Nuclear Blast
Origin : United States
Rating : 10 / 10
Buy it now
After 2011's Iconoclast, Symphony X returns with a - logically - consecutive sonic declaration, one that sounds to showcase a commitment to the formula that already has been established and pretty much been perfected even with the latest full length contribution of the group. Once you reach a type of supposedly attainable near-perfection in your selected craft, repeating the results is sufficient enough, as long as your work retains the quality that is high enough to be able to reign above the immediate reach of the tentacles of a random music critic.
Luckily/unfortunately for you, I'm not JUST a random critic, and so I will immediately say that this release is super-similar to Iconoclast, and I will second this notion with a "AND thank god & co. and Symphony X for that, because, frankly, Iconoclast was a blast, hell, even a Nuclear Blast, just to give you a terrible pun(ishment.) Sorry for doing it again.
While the former delivery of the band remains a pleasure to listen to, and it is still easy to spot new-found and delicious things in it, the group just toppled this abundance with a whole new batch of data, which, is mentioned, evidently bears the hallmarks of songcraft and compositional tactics that have been introduced on the 2011 delivery. Yes, the sound is the same, too, and you will fucking love it. (Once again.)
Symphony X has come full circle with this disk, exhibiting and solidifying their stature as an ensemble which is extremely adept at producing songs that follow clearly identifiable compositional strategies, but, here is why it all works: ALL conceivable elements on display is given their absolute dues plus unfathomably advantageous interest. In other words: the rendered music, while its structure is clearly and gratefully identifiable, is sculpted with such care and rigorous attention to perfect definition, that one pretty much is spoiled when listening to it.
The holy innards of the potentialities of music are once again get adeptly exposed and delivered on these releases, - via the exact same methodologies as they have been exposed, but these techniques are extremely intricate and meticulous. To be honest, the quality did not even have to grow/ or be altered all that much, simply as result of having nowhere else to grow, having no previously unreached "ideals" to reach to.
The ideals - TALL, tall ideals - were precisely grasped and were admired even on the previous disk, and now the working formula is invited to stick around for yet another spin. There is not a single thing wrong with this decision, since this formula has a lot of stuff to offer in it yet, if asked for it with devotion and rigor.
If and when the employed strategies of musical storytelling have been decided to remain essentially unaltered, - which is the exact case here, spawning from 2011 to today - then the "only new things" that a group can bring to the table, are new found musical thoughts and musical ideas, that will similarly be loaded into a proven production process in order to produce clearly identifiable results, which though are free to reflect the same, superb quality, with a sense of freshness AND identifiability - thank you, thank you - to them.
It is not to say that the WILL to evolve is absent from the release. Not. At. All. Michael "Look, Yngwie, I can do what you can, too!" Romeo showcases superb rhythm guitar playing which, in the context of 1. ambition and 2. freedom, evidently has evolved beyond the playing of the Master, who is still dandy playing harmonic minor at 12million notes per second, but hell, this is why we love tHe Malmsteen for.
Nevertheless, if you soak your ears into what Romeo is doing in the meticulously and maniacally - a good thing - detailed rhythm guitar sections, it is quite evident that he is seeking/demanding AND finding new ways to expose the suspected boundaries of a given harmonic structure, essentially looking for what he CAN'T play on a given spot, as opposed of looking for elements that he is safe to play. "Oh well, I will bang on this here deepest open string for a bit, it seems to work." His rampant melodic deviations are a true pleasure to listen to, as I personally believe that this guy, for example, is doing something for the evolution of metal. His rhythm guitar playing reveals an exquisitely interesting field of intersection where riffing collides with soloistic approaches. For an immediate example, listen what Romeo is doing in the background while the great melodic hook of "Nevermore" is progressing. He essentially is soloing, while still respecting the constraints of having to paint the center of gravity for the harmony. The guy is clearly doing relevant things to propose legit ways to evolve metal through, and he has all capacity to validate his well places urge to do so. I'm not fervent at giving out such compliments, so tap yourself on the back with Julia, Romeo. Truly awesome concept of music!
Symphony X is relentlessly metal, is relentlessly faithful to a working formula, a formula that indeed has elegant of a stature to be faithful towards for a second time. It remains to be seen what the next delivery will bring, but do not run THAT forward already, not when here is a whole new release which sounds to be able to give you an abundant amount of memorable hooks and moments.
It ALL is a matter of what can you do within the constraints and boundaries of the established rules that you have invented and amended, as this band has cultivated a formula, "just" to emerge as Masters of it. What I particularly enjoy about this formation, is that they remain pretty much totally free of pseudo-über-emotinal bullshit and introverted ego-drivel, which both is a sub-optimum staple and super-overused trope in progressive metal.
Their refusal of relying on those affectations is a clear and evident indicator of their dignity and maturity, so, if you ever wonder which progressive metal band you should listen to, then I strongly think that you truly can't go wrong with these guys, as they are giving a rendition of music which remains but a dream-, an ideal for MOST musicians. It will be super-interesting to hear and see their consecutive material. (Not the material of the slouch artists, but the material of the Symphony X dudes.)
Have no doubt whatsoever though that what makes Symphony X work, is - well - work, work, and work that has been put into these records. No music such as this gets created without a tremendous amount of work. The band has developed a recipe, and the orders of this recipe is tall enough to warrant both exquisitely delicious compositions, and, to warrant a prolonged stay indeed at the feet of this recipe, just to see what other wonders it might give out still. This is a treasure room, but clever, and inventive compliments need to be given to it to unravel its gems that worth the most attention. What's not to like?
Naturally, the knowing of the record is an intimate process that demands time, so I might return to this review in the near future, to further address my related sentiments of the hooks and/or themes of it, because a superb hook demands that you know it, that you get accustomed to it. I have a suspicion that this disk has a whole lot of fun in store, and, since the whole idea of listening to music is to have this fantastically intriguing feeling, I fortunately and gratefully have no other choice - nor do I seek for one - to give a perfect score to Symphony X's latest.
Rating : 10 / 10
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