Sound — 10
My first encounter with the music of Symphony X was through a good friend who let me listen to "Sea Of Lies," from this album. I was very impressed, but I had yet to hear the rest of the album, which I did when he let me borrow the cd at one point and eventually bought my own. This is one of those CDs where you just cannot ignore every song. I loved the distortion of the guitar. Kinda reminded me of Dimebag Darrell in heaviness, while the guitar technique is influenced by neo-classical metal guitarists such as Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen (by the way he even looks like him a bit to me). You got to check out the fast guitar-tapping/solo in "Sea Of Lies." Seriously, few can do it at that speed, and its sounds extra-beautiful with the keyboard accompaniment. Michael Romeo is one of the guitarists that keep the flame of prog-metal musicianship alive. I had to get this online, for they don't sell it or any other SX CDs in any store this area of Florida. Keyboards (Mike Pinella) really stand out while they solo. There is super-technical bass work also (by Thomas Miller). Jason Rullo I also praise for keeping up the intricate rhythms with drums.
Lyrics — 10
Very skilled singer, Russell Allen. He has many influences in his singing, from rock to country, etc. He can sing very forcefully or go smooth balladic. He can go rather high in the smooth singing, and when he goes low he does it strongly so his voice is still distinguishable. Gotta love him. This is the best singing compared to all those screaming death-metal vocalists that repeatedly scream or whatever. The lyrics are what you'd expect in the medieval and mythical themes of fantasy metal. Lyrics are written variously by singer R. Allen, guitarist M. Romeo, and bassist T. Miller. 01. Of Sins And Shadows - starts out with a driving heavy rhythm, then the harmonizing keyboards jump in. Somewhat dark-ish lyrics here, and there are choir-backup vocals that would, at times, remind you of Bohemian Rhapsody (lol), which is a positive thing. Great work - 9/10. 02. Sea Of Lies - the song that got me into SX. Starts off with a keyboard chord with a fast bass riff, and the M. Romeo crushes in with speed metal riffage, and we have powerful singing by R. Allen, and after he finishes the first verse there is some hard-ass guitar sweeping before entering the chorus (I like the keys during it). After the 2nd chorus, enters the first solo, then the signature guitar tapping part with keys, the BEST moment of the song. There is another solo after that, and when the riffs seem to tell you that the song is wrapping up, here comes that tapping part again! (All of you MUST admit that Romeo is one hard-working guitarist, man). We go through another round of rhythm (Russell sings "Lies... lies... ") and the song's done. For a 4-minuter, this is a quality song. You have to hear it - 10/10. 03. Out Of The Ashes - awesome progressive keyboard leads and guitar rhythm at the beginning. Powerful singing in the verses. Clean singing in the choruses accompanied by some chorus-y backvocals. Very good, worth giving fullest attention - 8/10. 04. The Accolade - We slow down with this 9 minute plus song with softer singing. Lyrics of a knight in armor being accepted into knighthood and a code of honor through an accolade. Still powerful guitarwork, but we hear a lot of clean sounds too, and makes the music glorious with brilliant melodies as the lyrics are very honorable and graceful. We have several guitar and keyboard solos here and there. So much this great band has to offer, what more could you ask for? Also, watch out for its sequel on 'The Odyssey' - 10/10. 05. Pharaoh - this is a great piece. Arabic-style keyboarding to match the obvious topic of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh king. Good driving guitars. Singing style: slow, forceful and catchy to match the lyrics. "Pharaoh's curse upon you, those who invade his sacred ground" - 8/10. 06. The Eyes Of Medusa - wicked song. Lyrics and singing style passionate here, talks of endless, timeless, faceless terror, ageless torture, when caught by the eyes of Medusa (the only mortal Gorgon according to mythology). I like the tempo changes that occur suddenly during the choruses. Nice instrumentation, I'll say - 9/10. 07. The Witching Hour - more lighter tone here in singing, more melodic, but not balladic; strong guitarwork/keyboarding. Definately worth listening - 8/10. 08. The Divine Wings Of Tragedy - the epic track spanning over twenty minutes. I. 'At The Four Corners Of The Earth' - there is only a choir here that fills your ears with pure melody. Lyrics are by M. Romeo and M. Pinella. "Eternal is my pain that leads me into thrones of temptation..." II. 'In The Room Of Thrones' - instrumental with driving rhythms, an guitars, keys and bass (sort of) take turns in soloing. III. 'A Gathering Of Angels' - harmonious clean guitar and piano here, smoother singing. "Feel my wings slowly fading, forever lost in time- I cry..." IV. 'The Wrath Divine' - gets a bit powerful here. Talks about when a peaceful world falls to a level of chaos. V. 'The Prophet's Cry' - the heaviest part of the epic, R. Allen's at his most powerful. The prophet predicts war and doom in the future. VI. 'Bringer Of The Apocalypse' - instrumental sequence, very extended, filled with guitar/keyboard solos and dynamic tempo changes. It becomes more melodic as it goes on, and leads to... VII. 'Paradise Regained' - smooth singing that tells of a new world rising, and paradise beginning again. Very encouraging, and ends the epic gracefully. left an impression in my heart that would remain forever. By all means, hear this one straight through - overall 10/10. 09. candlelight Fantasia - ballad-style song, depicts inner pain and depression, sort of about being held captive by yourself or something. However, sung beautifully, with occasional tempo changes. Melodic and passionate music. The chorus is just so beautiful. Exemplary way to wrap up on the album - 9/10.
Overall Impression — 10
Very underrated CD from 1997. Compares to The Odyssey, their album later in 2002. Other bands comparable are Dream Theater, Stratovarius, Yngwie Malmsteen, Ozzy Osbourne (Randy Rhoads) and maybe even King Diamond. This is a very awesome CD that barely gets any widespread attention. Get the special edition for a multimedia video bonus track. Definately for metal and prog lovers and a recommendation to classical-lovers as well. It's awesome they are coming down here in August on that Gigantour with Megadeth, Dream Theater and Nevermore. I hope to see them if possible. This is a Symphony X classic. I encourage you to buy it.