After four long years the charismatic American Progressive Metal band comes back after a strong predecessor with more than eighty minutes of music. Already the first epic title track "Iconoclast" proves that the band has put all their technical skills, all their passion and all their creativity into this release. The title song varies a lot and every musician delivers the best he can without losing a clear line and forgetting about catchy passages. This song is probably one of the best songs this band has ever done and the album is worth to be named after this monster of an opener.
While many Progressive bands lose themselves into long solo passages that are technically excellent but emotionally cold, SYMPHONY X orientate on heavier structures and are sometimes more Metal than Progressive like in the really addicting "The End Of Innocence" or "Dehumanized" that have already been performed very well during the last concerts of the band. The good but too similar "Bastards Of The Machine", the darker and slower "Prometheus" which is one of the greatest tracks and the Thrash orientated epic "Light Up The Night" that reminds of the older works of the band could also be great live performances and are three songs that stand out on this record.
One must especially underline the gripping and unique vocals that keep the pieces together and add many memorable passages to those shorter and straighter songs. While many Progressive bands have excellent musicians but often rather limited singers, SYMPHONY X can be proud to have one of the genre's best and most charismatic vocalists in their rows. He simply does an outstanding job on this record and impresses me even more than the musicians do.
The problem is that a few too many songs head for that heavier direction and some patterns are repeated for example in "Heretic" or "Electric Messiah" which creates sometimes a lack of experiments, surprises or changes in style. That's why I take off ten percent for this technically brilliant masterpiece.
Russell Allen proves his skills once more in the only ballad of the record which is "When All Is Lost". The song lives from his powerful vocal skills and continues in the vein of the last album's brilliant title track. Within many overloaded, heavy and ambitious tracks, this one is a needed and yet breathtaking break.
Any fan of Progressive music should buy the extended edition of the album that includes a total of three more songs and where the music has been separated to fit on two discs. I must underline the closing masterpiece "Reign In Madness" where the band shows once again all its skills and delivers an as detailed, diversified and gripping performance as in the opening title track and where the circle is closed in a suitable way.
The only problem with this album is that one simply gets delivered too much material. Many good songs get buried or lost beneath the mentioned masterpieces in over eighty minutes of music. This record requests several tries and much attention before it truly grows. I would have preferred if the band would have released an album with only eight tracks and would have released the other four ones with some new material one or two years later. Now, we have an overwhelming record and must nevertheless wait several years for the next great output and that's not the ideal solution by any meaning. I take off five little percent for this little mistake they have done in my opinion but add another percent to underline the positive tendency of the record.
In the end, we still have the best Progressive Metal record of the year in here and the bar is set quite high for the upcoming release of the American concurrence of DREAM THEATER. I must underline that I'm quite sure that the new release of SYMPHONY X will eventually slightly grow above the rating I give today as there is not a single bad song on this album.
(Online December 28, 2011)