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Monday, July 25, 2011

Symphony X - Iconoclast review

Year : 2011
Genre : Progressive Power Metal
Label : Nuclear Blast
Origin : United States
Rating : 9.2 / 10

Buy it now

Premiere Yngwie Malmsteen product Michael Romeo and band bring you supertight sonic stimuli as result of four years of creative work, declaring extremely convincing reasons to soak your ears in the mecha-polyptic vision the group's latest release to date chooses as its direction to keep the focus on.

Talking about the instrumental portion of this ripe and extremely well chiseled creation, it sounds safe to say that Symphony X's Iconoclast is the mere sound of the music video games like Quake IV should have contained instead of the excuse for the music they got beaten to the death of the aspired mood with. Iconoclast is well researched, crystal clear, accessible-, yet intricate metal music that has a properly vulgar urge to relentlessly submit to all things cyborg, mecha and chrome at - oops - heart. It is nothing wrong at all with an intent to give all things to the cyber to see what music it will spout back at you, and Iconoclast manages to introduce a unique kind of vocal field to succumb to the atmosphere it attempts to picture. Read on to find more, or this Grade 3 Security Warbot will end you in 3, 2, ...

Michael Romeo and Co. took the time and focus to create the intricate cybernetic metal that you secretly - and, well, silently - knew it would be possible, and now, here it is, to you to behold. The instrumental work on these tracks tolerate nothing less than the steepest of recognition. The riffs, while accessible at heart, show constant tendency to offer elegant, brave and effective variations of themselves without any occasion to lose their pure musculature focus on, and the rhythmic changes always will take you to a field you can regard as a place worth checking out, considering how the preceding musical developments decided to take you there. The compositions are eventful, flamboyant, extremely complex and keep a focus on sole, super-solid guitar work. It is a privilege to hear. Samples or industrial noises are not being utilized to make you believe that : "this is cyba', dudette, because it is sampled", it is all the music's agenda to make you believe it is. Guitar solos are one of the favorite fetishes IF not the favorite of a proper guitar psycho, and Michael Romeo, riding on 111% Malmsteen-Octane influence, - it is very indicative of Romeo's Malsteen fetish that the title track contains a duel between a soloing guitar and a synth, "Far Beyond the Sun" much recently????,,, - no doubt knows how to offer a solo that commits the Fatality - Flawless Victory against your musical awareness.

With some exceptions of brilliance, only acceptable and moderate-at-best intellectual efforts were put into the lyrics though, delivered along pretty traditional power metal singing language. This decision of giving progressive power metal a good rep by rendering a sci-fi atmosphere instead of the "we fight to the end and we have swords!" fantasy vibe, shows mixed, nevertheless always charming results. It is only that sometimes you will find the stench of meat sweat whereas you hoped to touch a set of dainty, lethal cybernetic fingers. The melodic arches of the singed lines sometimes - and not frequently, logically enough - refrain from giving the aforementioned cybernetic middle finger to everyday average - nevertheless solid - power metal singing, and, even the vibe of fantasy related power metal will surface on the record on some occasions. The opening track is a good example : while the song itself is a monumental mechanoid declaration consisting of riffs that can nuke a secret military base, a power metalish "we! are! strong! we! will! stand! and! fight!" simply "had" to be incorporated into its pure titanium fabric. It is not to say that it is bad - it simply seems/sounds to be hyper-cheese, considering its much more elegant surroundings. It is more efficient when you FEEL this inner stance, and it simply loses from its efficiency when you NEED to state it. Why harass and state the Evident?

Addendum to this review on 2015. 6. 25. : The hooks on this release could be praised much, but could not be praised TOO much. I have heard appalling opinions on how Russel Allen could not come up with "memorable melodies" and whatnot, frankly, I have no idea which TV show these individuals are watching. Do yourself a favor and listen to this album in separate sittings, - I do not suggest to blow yourself up, I mean, not until I'm there to videotape it (joking, I have a terrible senCe of humor and null concept of proper typing) - and you will hear that pretty much each and every song has a magnificent hook incorporated - even the "we! are! strong! we! will! fight!" - cheesefest becomes tolerable. 

But check out the hooks/structure in songs like: "Prometheus"! - total melodic Pantera! Very uplifting, and filled with a galaxy of bullballs. How about the hook of "Light up the Night"? - simply amazing! Quite reminiscent of the best songwriting contained on Malmsteen's vocal-filled tracks - check out "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" for a truly badass Yngwie Malmsteen vocal song - as the vibe is definitely power metal, but with a furious vibe, the vide power metal works the best with! The whole structure indeed is coated in flames and raging hopelessness. The vibe is of an individual who decided to embrace the hopelessness, and then pulls it to a clinch and jumps off the cliff - that is crumbling, anyway, so no point in not doing it - to die with it. Embrace the leftover-dignity when you have to die, or die miserably, so in their soul everyone will secretly think that you suck so severely saggy goat tits. Anyway, another fantastic hook!

And the record just keeps throwing these amazing hooks at you, that are easy to not notice at first, simply as result of the length of the record. The length indeed is prone to induce attention fatigue, so the release is definitely best listened to on separate occasions. Here is another hook-, in fact, a whole structure that I love from this release: "Lords of Chaos", which contains a hook that is the anti-thesis of the hook I have deconstructed before that, which was "Light Up the Night". In "Lords of Chaos", the prospects are idealistic, you and Co. skim the multidimensional surface of the existence field as cosmic immortals, doing whatever you desire with whoever you desire, but doing it with 111% efficiency, because you have potentials enough to be able to do that - what's not to like? Also notice the verse structure in the song, how the guitars going kind of melodic Meshuggah on your hide! Allan Russel's melodic vocals riding on their skillfully warped sonic volumetrics with ballsy elegance and efficiency. Fantastic ideas all over that are very easy to notice if you pay attention, and very easy to miss out on if you are exhausted as result of attention fatigue. Which is a real thing, and it affects you the more you listen to something. (OR someone, oh baby.) 

Another hooks that are very strong: "Heretic", and its relative sibling, "Bastards of the Machine" - these two are similar, but quite-quite decent. I very much like the hook of "When All Is Lost", too, even though the verse is a little but too cheesefest for me, - and for you, too - because the lyrics in the verse do not make particular sense. "I hope you understand. Someday." - oh boy, I hope I won't, EVER. But it is OK, I have no problem if and when Russel Allen - who is a superb singer in my opinion - comes up with alibi lines from time to time. He and his peers had the assumption that a fathery "I hope you understand, someday" is a line that simply never fails. Oh, you guys got that ALL wrong. For a proper music snob, a line like "I hope you understand, someday" : is an immediate and timeless fail. Russel also has this fascinating Angel-seeking fixation, probably as result of cultural conditioning. Good luck escaping THAT one! (Cultural conditioning, not the angel or Russel). On his solo release, "Atomic Soul" - a fantastic record I must say, because he exhibits his raw voice without any and all effect fuckaroundery, an in-your-face, raw, melodic hard rock release with superb compositions - so he has this "Angel" song, with lyrics along the train of thought: "Angel, where are you now, no one can save me, only you know how" - which is fine, fine. But he has a 2007 -first of a series of - collaboration with another performer - Lande - and there is a song on that release which features quite similar trains of thoughts. My point is that Russel has his own share of inner fixations, which is totally acceptable, but, provided we are yet to see a third occasion by which Russel is searching for the Angels, we will have to conclude that he is not doing something right, otherwise he would already have found them, correct? Or it might be the simple case that Russel secretly has them, and only PRETENDS to be looking for them, which, once again, is totally acceptable, as you do not have to be miserable in order to be eligible to pretend that you are, for the fun of it, for the art of it, for the entertainment of it. 

There are some other hooks on the release yet that I like, too! "Dehumanized" has a superb structure all over, and notice the verse, as well: kind of Pantera vocals. A nod to Pantera is given in the song "Reign in Madness" : the middle section is so obviously and admittedly built on Pantera's "Walk" that no copyright holder would every think of voicing this fact, because it is an obvious tribute to Dimebag, and the gesture is beautiful enough to reign galaxies above considerations of copyrights and stuff. Wow, a listening to it and tears filled my eyes! Shit, Cthulhu is here with a beer! Addendum on 2015.06.25 ends, article continues based on the thoughts formed on 2011.07.25. 

Many things could have been said about this outing yet, but, ultimately, it still remains a disc that luckily seeks to offer tons of luscious, integral and straightforward stuff to be listened to, and not stuff to offer layered lamentations about. Iconoclast is an instrumentally brilliant experience, which though has a tame, but noticeable tendency to deliver lyrical content that is easy to laugh out loud out at, regardless how it meant to be taken ice cold serious. On the other hand, some lines and related cyber-thoughts are pretty solid, but these are rare to find. The intricacy and beauty of the music will smash you anyway, so there will be not much time to whine too fervently about those. This easily would be a 9.5 or even above if to feature legit thoughts all over the place. Yet, the music is so good that it would be a 9.0 even with Kermit rapping on the tracks.

Rating : 9.2 / 10

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