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V: The New Mythology Suite

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★★★★½
(133 Reviews)

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  • It’s amazing what happens to metal when you add a rich classical influence — You get Symphony X, a neoclassical/progressive metal band with a unique, dynamic, and intense sound. Heavy, melodic, brilliant, and powerful…these are words that describe Symphony X. “V – The New Mythology Suite” is the band’s best work, showing jaw-dropping musicianship and a story revolving around one of the world’s most intriguing mythologies — ancient Egypt.’V’ is like a single, one hour song divided into 13 parts, as each track flows seamlessly into the next. The album kicks off with the haunting opener “Prelude” then moves into the exhilarating speed metal track “Evolution – The Grand Design”, anchored by its unforgettable guitar riff. Over the next hour, ‘V’ takes you on a musical journey that will leave you speechless in the end. Michael Romeo is an incredible guitarist, fast, melodic, and a complete virtuoso. The keyboarist is a one-man orchestra and his performance adds a rich sound to the music. One of the bands coolest aspects is their approach to solos. The guitar-keyboard switching is simply awesome — when you hear a guitar solo, you know a keyboard solo is close behind (or vice-versa) and the effect is dazzling, with Romeo’s mind-bending shredding and Pinnella’s lightning-fast keys merging tigtly together.Symphony X’s studio production quality has always been excellent, and this is no exception. The bass is crystal-clear, even when layering the heavy riffs, a feat that is all too rare. Drumming is kept to the perfect volume level in the mix, even when the standard speed metal drumming kicks in. All in all, the production complements the music and makes the album even more accessible so it can immediately enthrall the listener. In terms of songwriting, the band was definitely on a roll. Songs are concise, equally dividing instrumental passages with lyrics. This is the band’s most progressive release, with shifting time signatures and a more open approach to their classical influence. Lead vocalist Russel Allen is probably the best singer in metal today — he shows tremendous control in the gamut of octaves. Earlier in the band’s career, Allen sounded much like Dio, but now that sound has been diluted with Allen’s own unique operatic qualities (ignore the connotations that would otherwise denigrate such a description). And just as Queen used rich harmonies to hard rock, Symphony X does the same to metal — and the result is something better than ever attempted with this type of music. Lyrics are something that have to be heard to be believed — the band’s combinations of internal rhyming and parallel structure are incredible.Tremendous in scope and staggering in its delivery, Symphony X’s ‘V’ is the best metal album of the year. Thank you, Metal Blade, for picking SyX up for a North American distribution deal.

    Posted on January 29, 2010