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V: The New Mythology Suite

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Average Rating
★★★★½
(133 Reviews)

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  • Well, this is a great album. I recommend it to anyone who likes prog and/or metal, esp if you’ve never listened to Symphony X. Each member of the band contributes unique musical ability that creates a flavor that is different from most other bands. To understand this uniqueness, it is helpful to compare them to their oft cited counterparts, Dream Theater. To begin, let’s clear up a misconception: this is not a DT wannabe, nor can you say they are similar. They are straight-up different. Different tastes, different styles, different musical structure, different sound. Some people will compare them because they share the same type of instrumentation at times. For example, both rely on keyboards (and esp the Strings effect) to create melodies, fill in voids, and create slower and more melodic passages. So they both have that similar slow-fast-slow-fast feeling with some depth and good vocals. However, that’s where the similiarities end. I don’t really want to compare them, but since everyone brings up DT, let’s continue the trend…. Symphony X is a METAL band. While DT uses distorted guitars and heavy bass to support their music, this band uses that well-known crunch sound with double-bass pounding at 4/4 time. (Why do you people think that DT is really metal?) They differ quite a bit. Symphony X has less crazy soloing and fewer odd interludes, so strictly from a songwriter’s perspective they might write tighter songs. If long whacked-out solos and odd-beat passages bother you, then you’d appreciate Symphony X for their very tight transitions, hooks, and song structure. There aren’t any parts that make you want to fast-forward through because of repetitiveness or boredom. Their vocals are a bit different too. I’ve never heard Symphony X live, so I don’t know how the singer really sounds naturally. But on their albums, the vocals are great partly because of recording tricks… great layering, reverb, harmonies, etc. I do have to say that they sound very majestic, and in fact I like the vocals more than DT’s. And you can’t deny that they have very catchy tunes and melodies. I could talk all day about technique and pros/cons of their musical style, but the bottom line is that they sound great. Very addictive. But on the downside, Symphony X has some problems. Their sound starts to sound bland after a while, as the entire album sounds basically the same. Same crunching guitar, same keyboard-created Strings sounds, same Chorus-type vocal effects. Even if the songs are different, they feel the same. Perhaps people like the slow interludes better because these slow interludes are where the band’s musical aptitude for newness emerges. In contrast, it is Dream Theater’s originality and surprising little turns that I find quite exhilirating. Also different are the musical capacities of the two bands’ musicians. No doubt that Symphony X players are talented, but they seem to be limited to their very particular style–they don’t seem robust. DT shows its robustness by making every song a different style and drawing on different musical techniques and using different instruments. DT appears to be a more versatile band, which I also like a lot. Again, it’s this lack of versatility that makes Symphony X become boring after a while. Incidentally, speaking of musical capacity, I disagree with the so-called “classical influence” of this band. I know fans will kill me, but I don’t think this music is classicaly inspired. Perhaps it’s the use of some nice arpeggios in unstandard modes that provides this classial-type feel, but except for some particular runs (which are very beautiful and obviously classical), there isn’t much of it here. (And yes, I do have credibility, I studied classical piano for a long time and specialized in counterpoint). Lastly, I disagree with Romeo’s exemplifying a “shredder” (at least in this album). Most of his work is fast but not really of the Malmsteem-type traversal of all 6 strings. A large chunk of the album is confined to the bass strings. So all in all, this is a different beast than DT. I really like this album and if you don’t know Symphony X it’ll expand your horizons. If you’re interested in music, it’s good to have a breadth of exposure. The songs are tight and sound great. But the album can get boring, as it lacks versatility and depth. Oh, and the vocals are really cheesy. I don’t know how anyone can say they are “sufficiently intelligent”–I guess perhaps on a one-line basis they are okay, but they remind me of 80s Dio-type cornball cheese lyrics. But a good album overall.

    Posted on January 30, 2010