Newest Review: ... - Jason Rullo / Tom Walling Keyboards - Michael Pinnella THE TRACKS 1. Masquerade ’98 (6:01) 2. A Winter’s Dream – Prelude (part 1) (3... more
Prelude To The Millennium - Symphony X
Member Name: Frankingsteins
Prelude To The Millennium - Symphony X
Date: 30/07/04, updated on 17/09/04 (119 review reads)
Advantages: Original, creative metal, Diverse collection of tracks, Value for money
Disadvantages: Difficult to find, A little unnecessary
I’ve seen many elaborate descriptions of Symphony X’s music, usually involving the popular and fairly meaningless term “neo-” somewhere, but their music is most commonly classed under ‘progressive metal.’ The incredibly talented band members alternate their style from pounding, speedy heavy metal to piano-led ballads and orchestral-influenced epics and introduce many elements of classical instrumentation and choral arrangements into their music. As such it can be little overwhelming or ‘arty’ for someone interested simply in some thrashy guitars, but all of their albums contain songs that will appeal to all types of rock fan.
Symphony X are:
Vocals - Russell Allen
Guitar - Michael Romeo
Bass - Thomas Miller
Drums - Jason Rullo / Tom Walling
Keyboards - Michael Pinnella
1. Masquerade ’98 (6:01)
2. A Winter’s Dream – Prelude (part 1) (3:03) *
3. The Damnation Game (4:32) *
4. Dressed to Kill (4:44) *
5. Of Sins and Shadows (4:56) †
6. Sea of Lies (4:18) †
7. Out of the Ashes (3:39) †
8. The Divine Wings of Tragedy (20:41) †
9. Candlelight Fantasia (6:42) †
10. Smoke and Mirrors (4:58) ♂
11. Through the Looking Glass (parts I, II and III) (13:04) ♂
* Taken from ‘The Damnation Game’
† Taken from ‘The Divine Wings of Tragedy’
♂ Taken from ‘Twilight in Olympus’
Russell Allen is an excellent vocalist, so good in fact that his popularity has led to this album effectively disowning the band’s original vocalist who appeared on the seld-titled debut: the first track, ‘MASQUERADE `98,’ is a re-make of a song from that album with Allen on vocals. The rest of the tracks appear in chronological order and are taken from the albums ‘The Damnation Game’ (3 tracks: it’s a pretty good album), ‘The Divine Wings of Tragedy’ (5 tracks: it’s their best album) and ‘Twilight in Olympus’ (two tracks: it was a little disappointing).
‘A WINTER’S DREAM – PRELUDE’ and ‘CANDLELIGHT FANTASIA’ are the two melodic ballads on the album, both spaced out amongst the harder offerings but not too much to seem contrived: the arrangement of tracks is actually very good at maintaining diversity, even though they’ve basically been selected chronologically. These tracks rely greatly on Michael Pinella’s keyboard skills and show a lighter side to Russell Allen’ voice, but these reflective offerings are clearly the rarity rather than the norm.
Symphony X’s main strength lies in their speedy metal anthems that still manage to keep the progressive, experimental edge while providing a more accessible track to heavy metal fans. ‘THE DAMNATION GAME,’ ‘DRESSED TO KILL,’ ‘OF SINS AND SHADOWS,’ ‘SEA OF LIES,’ ‘OUT OF THE ASHES’ and ‘SMOKE AND MIRRORS’ form the bulk of the album and are all fast-paced, guitar riff-led power metal at its best. As the band’s 1997 album was (arguably) their creative peak, it’s the songs originally from this CD that are the most interesting: ‘Of Sins and Shadows’ has some excellent guitars, ‘Sea of Lies’ is aggressive and melodic at the same time and ‘Out of the Ashes’ has the best sing-along chorus on the whole CD.
The two longest tracks are the most intriguing however, although not necessarily the best. It’s inevitable that a band as experimental as Symphony X would want to create the occasional overblown epic to impress themselves and their peers, and ‘THE DIVINE WINGS OF TRAGEDY’ is an incredible achievement. Ruthless and with enough changes in direction to remain interesting, it seems to contain both angelic and hellish influences and is a song I can listen to at any time, provided I’m not in a hurry to do anything. ‘THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS’ is less astounding, and I always find my concentration drifting as it seems to drag on for far too long, but it provides a nice ending to this collection.
It’s always the nature with reviews on ‘Best-of’ compilations that I have to comment on how it’s always the nature with ‘Best-of’ albums to lend themselves to a couple of common criticisms: some favourite tracks aren’t included, and it doesn’t give a fair overview of the band. In this instance, the collection fares quite well on both counts, mainly as it only has three albums to draw from, but there are still a couple of tracks I would have liked to see included: ‘The Eyes of Medusa’ from Divine Wings of Tragedy is my favourite Symphony X song, and it seems a little unnecessary to include both of the lengthy epics on the same CD. The range of styles shown here does give a full overview of the band’s albums from the nineties, although the follow-up albums ‘V’ and ‘The Odyssey’ have expanded on some of these concepts even further.
Symphony X have since released a double-CD live album that includes many of these tracks as well as songs from ‘V,’ rendering this collection little unnecessary and obsolete. The band’s official website still includes it in their discography, but within a couple of years the necessity of this CD as an overview of albums 2, 3 and 4 will have reduced considerably. A good collection that is value for money to introduce yourself to the band, but quite difficult to come across and ultimately not really worth it. Symphony X are back in the studio creating the follow-up to 2002’s ‘The Odyssey,’ so it’ll be interesting to see where they take their musical direction now.
Anyone interested in Symphony X should check out some of the tracks here or invest in the ‘Divine Wings of Tragedy’ album itself, or others from their catalogue. This collection is interesting, but outdated.