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Symphony X - The Divine Wings Of Tragedy CD (album) cover


Symphony X


Progressive Metal

4.12 | 536 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars The divine music of Symphony X

This brilliant album kicks off excellently with Of Sins And Shadows. The song starts in an interesting way and it is clear right away that this is not conventional metal music. During the first track alone we are treated to a Yes' Close To The Edge-like vocal break, a Brian May-like guitar break, a Queen-like operatic vocal section, a guitar/keyboard duel strongly influenced by the ones between Yngwie Malmsteen and Jens Johansson in Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force. With all this going on they still manage to keep the song focused on the strong melody and riff.

The lead guitar playing of Michael Romeo is obviously and most strongly influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen's style, but also influences from Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore and other guitar heroes can be detected. Romeo is able to mimic Malmsteen well, and very few other people (if any!) could do that. The reoccurring guitar/keyboard duels very often sound like those between Malmsteen and Jens Johansson in Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force. A side note: Romeo actually played together with Jens Johansson on an album called The Last Viking by a group simply called Johansson which is led by Jens and his brother Anders Johansson. A great album by the way!

However, even if the guitar and keyboard sound often is highly derivative. Romeo and keyboardist Michael Pinella incorporate this influence into an often quite different musical framework making the end result not so derivative. The overall musical influences on Symphony X's music probably include Queen and Rainbow as well as European Power Metal and Classical music. Anyway, this music is more epic, elaborated, progressive and complex than anything ever done by Yngwie Malmsteen (even if some of his material is clearly progressive in my opinion).

The vocals of Russell Allen have a wide range from quite gruff to almost falsetto and it is clear that he is a very competent vocalist. Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson might be good reference points for the vocal style involved (even if Allen is hardly as distinctive as those rock icons).

After the opening track, the album continues with two further high powered, melodious songs with great heavy riffs and lots of things going on. Out Of The Ashes is strongly neo- classical and I love that kind of stuff! The Accolade is the first song of the album that slows the tempo down and it offers a welcome respite from the onslaught of the first three tracks. This almost 10 minute piece is perhaps not exactly a ballad though, but in relation to the other songs it might perhaps be called a ballad. It speeds up a bit after a while and transforms several times, it is clearly the song that comes closest to classic Symphonic Prog. It features violin and reminds a bit of Kansas at times. I find this song quite brilliant and it clearly contributes to making this album as varied and diverse as it is.

Pharaoh, The Eyes Medusa and The Witching Hour once again raise the tempo and again the third of these is the most strongly neo-classical. The acoustic beginning of this song is fantastic, but once again it could have come straight off one of Yngwie Malmsteen's better albums.

The 20+ minute title track begins with a somewhat sacral, yet strongly Queen-like a cappella vocal section. Then enters a marching beat and heavy riff and on top of that some Brian may-like guitar notes. This epic song then moves us trough all the different aspects of the band including some somewhat surprising Jazz-Rock Fusion influences! It is in this track where Symphony X reminds the most of their biggest competitors Dream Theater, but not that much I would say. At first I thought this was the weakest part of the album, but it grew on me after some listens.

The album ends with a lovely song in Candlelight Fantasia that might be labelled a ballad. It has a very strong vocal melody that will leave humming for the rest of the day. This is based on a lovely vocal and piano. But it also includes a few surprises. A great way to end the album!

I did not like the music of Symphony X very much at first, I used to find them a bit cheesy and far too bombastic and over the top. However, I got used to it after some listens and now I find the cheesyness and bombast rather charming! Overall, I consider The Divine Wings Of Tragedy, together with Dream Theater's Images And Words, to be one of the very, very best progressive Metal albums of all time. Very highly recommended!

SouthSideoftheSky | 5/5 |


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