We have all been waiting impatiently for a follow-up to 2002’s “The Odyssey”, an album that stretched the boundaries of progressive metal and blurred the lines between genres. It was gothic, epic, symphonic, complex – everything a prog fan could want.
And now, finally, after a 4-year absence, Michael Romeo and company have finally delivered an album that lives up to its predecessors.
Though one could argue that no album released this late could match the standards fan have set. And in a few ways, it does not (there is no promised epic). However, the beauty of “Paradise Lost” lies in its consistency and impeccable production. Mastermind Michael Romeo, on top of being a gifted guitarist with a penchant for being a classical virtuoso, is also a talented songwriter with a knack for perfectly blending crunching guitars with soaring choruses and symphonic passages.
This album is, without a doubt, the most melodic album the band has created, start to finish. The opening symphony-meets-metal track, “Oculus ex Inferni” is reminiscent of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem” and (for video game nerds) extremely close in construction to Nobuo Uematsu’s “Liberi Fatali”, the prologue from Final Fantasy XIII. It is deliciously ominous, foreboding and the best symphonic introductions in metal since Shaman’s “Ancient Winds”.
“Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies)” is a trademark Symphony X opener (see: “Evolution (The Grand Design)”, “Of Sins and Shadows”, “Inferno”), with squealing guitars underlying Russell Allen’s rough vocals, which only seem to get heavier with each new album. “Domination” and “Eve of Seduction” increase the speed, turning prog into power, tearing up Allen’s throat and shredding Romeo’s fingers. “Paradise Lost” and “Sacrifice” are the album’s ballads, recalling such gems as “Communion and the Oracle” and “The Accolade”. Everything we have come to appreciate about Symphony X is in these tracks.
So far, we have nothing terribly new. Everything I have listed can be found in earlier material. So what are the standout tracks?
Combining brilliant guitar work with choir-work that can make the hair on your neck stand is “The Walls of Babylon”. The fusion between Romeo’s guitars with the ambient choir-work in the song’s chorus is absolutely sublime. It is here that the production value in this album truly stands out. It is a truly gothic piece that never forgets its progressive metal roots. Finally, the album’s closer, “Revelation (Divus Pennae ex Tragoedia)” is more than just a mouthful of a name. It is a song that takes the intricate, multi-passage nature of “Awakenings” and tightens it to make a 9-minute masterpiece. Combining the odd time signatures that made symphonic passages in “The Odyssey” such a challenge with the band’s typical intense vocal harmonies, the song soars.
Though I would have liked another 20+ minute magnum opus, I am more than content with “Paradise Lost”. It is the first Symphony X album that has no jarring flaws. It has no needless interludes (See “V: The New Mythology) no mediocre songs (See: “The Odyssey”) no thoughtless construction of solos (See: “Twilight in Olympus”). It is simply fantastic.
See also: Symphony X – The Odyssey, The Divine Wings of Tragedy