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Symphony X: Iconoclast (Album Review)

By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal

Release Date: June 21st, 2011
Review Date: May 18th, 2011
Label: Nuclear Blast

My rating:

    Track Listing:
  1. Iconoclast
  2. The End of Innocence
  3. Dehumanized
  4. Bastards of the Machine
  5. Heretic
  6. Children of a Faceless God
  7. Electric Messiah
  8. Prometheus (I am Alive)
  9. When All Is Lost

Ever since they released their incredibly epic sixth studio album 'The Odyssey', the New Jersey progressive metal masters in Symphony X have been one band that has constantly blown my mind away with whatever they've done since that monumental release. The Odyssey indeed made my list of the top 10 albums of the 2000s, and 'Paradise Lost' wasn't inferior by any means either. Enter 2011, and they are ready to unleash their eight studio offering, titled 'Iconoclast'. While the themes for previous albums have been somewhat fantasy-based and drew largely from mythology, Iconoclast goes into a different direction altogether as it deals with the battles between man and machine. I listed this album as one of my most anticipated albums of 2011. Musically and in every other aspect, it has lived up to my expectations, and then some.

The title track itself starts off the album in true Symphony X style, decorated with Russell Allen's solidly powerful vocals, brilliantly composed guitar solos, heavy rhythm section, and nicely crafted keyboard parts that give it the atmosphere it aims to create in the listener's mind. This brilliant beginning leads into "The End Of Innocence", a track I have already seen being performed live on the very recent Symphony X US headline tour. While it still retains most of the elements I just talked about, the lyrics and chorus are certainly catchier, and should make this a song that appeals instantly to fans, and judging from my own experience, certainly a great live tune. The album goes from strength to strength, and the third track "Dehumanized" comes across as a very steady tune subtly varying between the heavy and the melodic.

"Bastards Of The Machine" sounds like another tune that could turn out to be great in a live setting, the fastest and most compact tune on the album. While this one showcases Michael Romeo's genius in plenty, the following track "Heretic" is a beautiful composition that just exemplifies the songwriting wizardry of this quintet, and proves that even though a new Symphony X album takes its time to develop and be released, it's definitely worth the wait every single time.

"Children Of A Faceless God" is a mid-tempo tune that takes a while to build up, but once it does so it turns out to be a well-rounded song on the whole. This won't be an instant classic but will grow on the listener with repeated listens, as I found out in my case. "Electric Messiah" definitely picks up the pace, and like The End Of Innocence, this is another tune that should catch on pretty easily, because even though it's quite progressive in nature, the chorus, solos and drumming style should appeal to fans of straight up power metal. "Prometheus (I Am Alive)" on the other hand is an extremely interesting tune in a completely different way. I can feel textures in the music that totally comply to the lyrical theme of the song as well as the album as a whole. It creates a very 'man vs machine' type of image in my mind when I listen to it, thus I would definitely pick this as the tune that best represents what the album is about. As if these eight tracks weren't already enough to make you reach the conclusion that the album is several times worth the few dollars you spent on it, it takes your breath away with its final track, "When All Is Lost".

Overall, Symphony X have come up with a terrific album that is sure to meet all the expectation and hype in the progressive metal circles. For Michael Romeo and co, sky is really the limit when it comes to great songwriting and this album proves just that. Everything about the album is top notch, including the track listing. It flows from song to song excellently well, so much so that it's hard for me to even pick out a favorite tune at this point and I would rather just listen to the whole album. I look forward to giving this album countless spins in the months to come, as I wait for the band to return for another tour this fall, hopefully with lots and lots of new material in the set list.

A breathtaking opus from start to finish.

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