Released: 2007, Insideoutmusic
Reviewer: Megan Hughes
Symphony X may have just written the best album of their career—and that’s quite an ambitious feat with DIVINE WINGS OF TRAGEDY and V: THE NEW MYTHOLOGY SUITE under their belts. The album satisfies the assorted cravings of prog fans, from the melodic ballad to the neoclassical track to a full-on metal invasion. The band may not experiment with their sound as much as say, Dream Theater, but sometimes consistency is a dish best served hot and often—even in prog. If THE ODYSSEY and DIVINE WINGS were lovers and one of them had an affair with V, PARADISE LOST would be the bastard child of that ménage à trois.
PARADISE LOST begins with the orchestral intro, “Oculus ex Inferni,” à la V’s “Prelude.” But from then on, the album is one riff-tacular assault after another with guitarist Michael Romeo’s Pantera-meets-Yngwie licks. The album has all their trademark elements: epic ballads (though no 20+ minute tunes this time), soaring yet never effeminate vocals, Final Fantasy-meets-John Williams orchestral moments, mythological lyrics and legato tapping up the wazoo. After nearly 5 years of a silent Symphony, Russ Allen has retaken the throne as one of the finest singers in metal. He explores the entire palette: from gritty, borderline-growling territory vocals sung from the perspective of Lucifer/Satan on tracks like “Domination” and “The Serpent’s Kiss” to the heavenly choir of God and Adam & Eve on the title track, “The Sacrifice” and “Revelation (Divus Pennae ex Tragoedia).”
Symphony X is one of the few progressive metal bands that pull off the ballad/metal assault dichotomy so effortlessly. While many metal ballads are cringe-worthy, they happen to be the band’s forte. The band shines brightest when we can hear Romeo flex his compositional muscle and hear Russ show off his bluesy/soulful background. If Allen’s emotive vocal performance on “Paradise Lost” doesn’t send shivers down your spine, you’d better check your pulse. You can almost feel the pain in his character’s voice in this “Accolade”-esque ballad. The pocket-protector prog nerds may whine about Allen’s harsher side, but all I can say to that is: grow a pair. Russ may sound his best on the epic ballads, but unlike most prog singers, he can play hardball too. Could you imagine James LaBrie trying to sing the role of Lucifer?
Fans (myself included) may be wondering the connection between this album and DIVINE WINGS, as the band often hints at the musical theme. While we may dig deeper beneath the surface than what was actually intended, there is without a doubt some kind of musical relationship. And the only thing preventing me from giving this album a perfect score is the fact that their masterpiece “Divine Wings of Tragedy” is not on it as well.