Released: 1997, InsideOut Music
For hardcore fans of progressive and neo-classical metal, Symphony X is a familiar name. For those who have only a fleeting interest or awareness of those genres, the name might not be so familiar. Though the band is from New Jersey, they have yet to really score on the American scene. Matter of fact, with the exception of their latest release, the excellent “V: The New Mythology Suite”, they have yet to get a distribution deal in the States. This, my friends, is a travesty of justice. I could instantly name a dozen prog metal bands who have record deals in the States, yet wouldn’t be worthy enough to stand in the presence of Symphony X.
“Divine Wings of Tragedy” may be my favorite prog metal album of all time. That’s saying something, since I’ve been a fan of prog metal, and prog music in general, since the mid ‘80s. There are three key elements to what makes Symphony X, and this album, such a marvel. First, there is the guitar wizardry of the band leader, Michael Romeo. The man is flat-out godly. I’d describe him as a restrained Malmsteen. You get the feeling he could play like Malmsteen, only he understands that great music isn’t defined by, nor should it be overwhelmed by, one instrument. I’m not saying Malmsteen doesn’t make good music, I’m saying Malmsteen is at his best when the music isn’t just a vehicle to showcase his guitar pyrotechnics. Secondly, there is the majestic voice of Russell Allen. Like Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) and Matthew Barlow (Iced Earth), he is the complete package: range, emotion, power and a distinctly unique voice. And just as Dickinson and Barlow did for their respective bands, Allen replaced a singer and took the band he joined to new heights. Finally, the keyboard skills of Michael Pinella are second to none. His playing gives the music texture and maturity.
There are only nine songs on this CD, but when you consider the brilliance of the music and that the title track clocks in at over twenty minutes of breathtaking majesty, you shouldn’t and won’t feel slighted. There is no filler on this album whatsoever, but my favorite tracks are Of Sins and Shadows, Sea of Lies, Out of the Ashes and Candlelight Fantasia. Hey, I like this album so much I’ve bought copies for friends just to spread the word. I urge all metal fans out there to invest the money to get this great album. You’ll thank me for enlightening you.
Official Symphony X website: http://www.mudnet.net/teof/index2.html