Every now and then, you get that one band that makes you question every recent addition you’ve made to your music library. In a world that stresses so much on mainstream pop, it’s easy to overlook the musicians who aren’t airing on MTV’s top hits every two minutes or so. Truthfully, music is a learning experience; and each genre should be appreciated in its own right.
However, I would say that metal deserves some serious appraisal, because it’s essentially music in its purest form—no Auto-Tune needed (looking at you, Kanye West). That said, I have to give the Jersey-based musical men of Symphony X their own merit for being everything a person could wish for in a heavy metal band. With their key elements being immense talent, raw intensity, and evident passion, their recent 11-track album, Underworld, certainly did not disappoint.
Each track plays at a different pace, yet when you listen to all of them in one sitting, they flow together like a grim storybook. With the strength of their ethereal, poetic lyrics, you’d think the entire album was composed by Edgar Allen Poe himself—quoth the second track on the album, “Nevermore.” Gothic, somber verses clearly deriving from corresponding emotions run beautifully alongside the harsh, distorted calamity of the fast-paced drums, guitar, and even the occasional keyboard riff.
Nonetheless, the musicians of Symphony X don’t even need words in their songs in order to leave their mark on the hearts of local metalheads, for the instrumentals alone are more than enough. Overall, I’d say that Symphony X bears a convincing resemblance to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but with a darker, more aggressive vocal and instrumental approach.
The first track on the album, “Overture,” is a wordless piece, with a sound you don’t really hear on many other progressive metal albums these days. What starts out as an anomalous Gregorian chant becomes a distorted provocation of intense, heart-gripping instrumentals. If Hades had his own theme song, I’m pretty sure that this is what it would sound like. With that, I’d also throw “Run With The Devil” into the mix, especially since the entire song is ominously devoted to dancing with death. All of the other tracks elicit a similar threatening, yet prolific notion, like, “In My Darkest Hour,” “To Hell And Back,” “Kiss Of Fire,” and, unsurprisingly, “Underworld.”
With Underworld being Symphony X’s ninth studio album, they have once again reestablished the importance of basic musical elements. Although they’ve pretty much maintained their individuality as dedicated metal musicians, they have also ignited a newfound appreciation for the genre itself.