Sunday, August 9, 2015

Symphony X - Underworld (2015)

There is no metal band in the world that can mix progressive structures with heavy and technical riffs as good as Symphony X. The band really brought the metal to the progressive music scene when they emerged back in 1994. Sure, Dream Theater was more or less the first band to have metal influences mixed with prog, but it was Symphony X who took it to the next level. So whenever the New Jersey boys brings forth another album, I celebrate, especially this time since the lead singer, Russell Allen, has scattered away several times during the 4 years since the last album took place to do some side work, both successful (Allen/Lande) and not so successful (Adrenaline Mob, Level 10). Feels good to see him back again in his rightful element.

Following the 2011 release "Iconoclast" (one of my favourites from that year), the band's 9th effort "Underworld" does have some resemblance to it, making it a very logical follow up, but it has enough own intentions to make it strong and independent among the other 8 Symphony X creations. The heavy, hard hitting attitude that defined the predecessor is certainly back, but it is being mixed with a couple of slower ballads to give the album more dynamic. I do like these songs ("Without You" and "Swan Song") and think that they show a new nice side of the band, but I came for the metal, and it is the thing that appeals to me the most in the end.

The band sets its foot down instantly with the song "Nevermore", a heavy assault that shows exactly what Symphony X knows and does best. And even if the song does have some similarities to Adrenaline Mob, it just goes to show how good that band could have really been if they just got their head out of their asses. The band keeps hammering on in the same style in a title track that contains a bone chilling chorus. "Underworld" is certainly not as heavy as "Iconoclast" was, but it is still a heavy piece that has more melody mixed into it.

Another thing I notice is the reoccurring theme of hell and darkness in this album, and that is because the whole album is loosely based on the all time classic "Dante's Inferno" by Dante Alighieri. It is not a pure concept album, but the theme is still clear to see and easy to recognize, especially in songs like "To Hell And Back" and "Run With The Devil". The band manages to keep a strong, cohesive sound throughout the album, a dark sound that still has a glimmer of light in it, making it hauntingly beautiful. A strong imagery that suits the band extremely well.

Overall, this is another strong outing by the X, and surprisingly, a step up from their latest effort. "Underworld" shows a nice variety, and also still contains a good, cohesive thread throughout all of the songs, making "Underworld" a very pleasant experience. The band shows once again why they are one of the top dogs within the genre, and will be for the years to come. The high quality records keeps on coming, and I do not mind if they keep coming up with some more, even if I have to wait another 4 or 5 years.

Songs worthy of recognition: Underworld, Nevermore, To Hell And Back, Swan Song

Rating: 8,5/10 Legends

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