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Articles Home » 2002 Articles » Symphony X - 2002 The Odyssey
Symphony X - 2002 The Odyssey

ARTIST: Symphony X
ALBUM: The Odyssey
LABEL: Inside Out/SPV
YEAR: 2002


LINEUP: Russell Allen - vocals * Michael Romeo - guitars * Michael Lepond - bass * Michael Pinella - keyboards * Jason Rullo - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Inferno (Unleash The Fire) * 02 Wicked * 03 Incantations Of The Apprentice * 04 Accolade II * 05 King Of Terrors * 06 The Turning * 07 Awakenings * 08 The Odyssey (Part 1- VIII) * 09 Masquerade '98


I remember hearing Symphony X for the first time. It was 1996 and they'd just released their 'Divine Wings of Tragedy' album. Its heaviness and intensity frightened me a little. This was, of course, during a period of time when I wasn't listening to much rock music. I'd listened to rock music all through the eighties and by the mid nineties I found I'd completely wimped out and even Harem Scarem's 'Mood Swings' and 'Voice of Reason' were too heavy for me. However, a long time has passed since then and I've since had a rejuvenated interest in things at the heavier end of the musical spectrum. I thought on Arjen Lucassen's 'Star One' project Russell Allen performed brilliantly - his powerful and charismatic voice was one of that album's strengths. Since hearing that, I looked forward to hearing the much talked about forthcoming Symphony X opus.. and here it is.

The Songs
The album begins with 'Inferno (Unleash The Fire)' which features furious playing from Michael Romeo, who sounds like he's grown an extra couple of fingers to make his lightning work on the fretboard easier. The rhythm section of Lepond and Rullo is also rock solid, proving that Symphony X are definitely one of progressive metal's tightest musical units. When Russell Allen eventually puts in an appearance, his vocals are initially quite harsh with a Dio-esque metallic presence. During the 'choruses', though, he appears a little more restrained, singing with the richness previously heard on the Lucassen project. There are moments when this song's arrangement reminds me of 'Right Between The Eyes' era Rainbow and even Yngwie J Malmsteen's work from his most accessible album, also coincidentally entitled 'Odyssey'. 'Wicked' is an enormous slice of metal opening with a Pantera style riff (circa 'Cowboys From Hell'). This is a great example of the simpler and heavier direction which the band said parts of this album would take. It's still undeniably Symphony X though. The more metallic approach is also adopted for 'Incantations of the Apprentice', the stars of which are definitely guitar virtuoso Michael Romeo and drummer Jason Rullo, who gives his bass drum pedal a severe hammering.

'Accolade II' is a continuation of 'Accolade' (one of the band's earlier compositions from the 'Divine Wings' album), and it has a beautiful and majestic piano and strings intro. The vocals again lean towards a metal style; that shouldn't worry many of you though, as Russell is in fine vocal standing this time out. The edginess leaves his voice during the song's softer passages, returning the fairly user friendly sound heard on 'Star One'. There is some really classy playing from the other guys in the band too. 'King of Terrors' is another heavier arrangement with a killer riff which is more metal than prog and the guitar work features a couple of superb horse-noises (technical term). For all you drum freaks, Rullo has his extra legs attached for the hard and fast double bass drum parts. With lyrics inspired by the writings of Edgar Allen Poe, this is metal at its finest. Again, Romeo goes for another Pantera riff for the bridge section.. nice and heavy. (For those of you who may be interested, it's 'I'm Broken' from 'Far Beyond Driven') By contrast, 'The Turning reverts back to a more old style, Malmsteen-esque musical approach. 'Awakenings' has a softer beginning, based mainly around the piano and vocal which is quite similar to Enchant in feel. The second half of this track though is a return to progressive metal with all the Symphony X trimmings.

Closing the album is the title cut, inspired by Homer's work of the same name. It's absolutely huge, clocking in at over 24 minutes. First off, the orchestral arrangements here - during the overture - are superb. A full orchestra can be heard in a tug o' war with Rullo's powerhouse drumming and excellent lead guitar work from Romeo. This is worth the price of admission alone. The track then turns acoustic based, with Russell's earthy vocals taking a David Coverdale tone. During the instrumental break which follows, each of the band members sound as if they're trying to out-play each other and Romeo's solos are impeccable as always. Upon Allen's return, it's time for some more Dio-esque metal, but of course played with typical Symphony X flair and time signatures. In true progressive tradition, some earlier musical themes are repeated before things settle down again. Pinella's keys take centre stage for the next turn, as accompaniment to one of Allen's softer edged vocal performances. It's been a long time since I heard something of such epic proportions! I won't say any more, as you'll want a few surprises left for yourselves, no doubt.

In Summary
In closing, I would like to say that this is one of the best progressive metal albums I've heard in a long time.. If not ever. Who Theater? Six Degrees of Inner What? lol!

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#1 | jefflynnefan on March 24 2009 22:29:52
Great album and nice review. But I think I still like 'Devine Wings of Tragedy' better. If you like these be sure and get 'Visions' by Stratovarius.
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