Roundtable Review: Underworld by Symphony X
Posted by RiffRaff
Release Date: 24 Jul 2015
Length: 64 Minutes
Genre: Thrash/Power/Progressive Metal
Studio Albums: Symphony X (1994); The Damnation Game (1995); The Divine Wings of Tragedy (1997); Twilight in Olympus (1998); V: The New Mythology Suite (2000); The Odyssey (2002); Paradise Lost (2007); Iconoclast (2011).
Location: NJ, United States
WarpRider – I am a relatively new Symphony X listener…meaning I only just got into them with 2011’s Iconoclast. An album that blew my mind and ended up #4 on my Top 15 list that year. Their progressive formula mixed in with melodic riff-tastic 80s thrashy bits is just addicting as hell. With Underworld, things seem to get a bit heavier especially with the self-titled track Underworld, the opener-after-the-intro Nevermore, and Kiss of Fire to name a few. In My Darkest Hour, Without You, and Swan Song offer a smoother harmony to balance things out a bit. To Hell and Back is just shy of the 10-minute mark…probably a bit too long, but it does have some cool guitar work and in natural progressive style, changes its tempo frequently. I have to admit, this album didn’t hit me right away, but after an 11-hour flight across one of the big ponds I had plenty of time to let it sink in. And it sunk in very well. Underworld captures all of the stylishness of Iconoclast and notches up the heaviness a bit more. I really need to start looking at their older material. 4.5 out of 5.
RiffRaff – Unpopular opinion time: I prefer SX’s darker edged albums than their neo-classical roots. Twilight and Mythology are outstanding records, but Paradise Lost and Iconoclast just rock my freakin’ socks off. While many pine for SX to return to more guitarstabation I cry for that groovy darker edge. Well, why can’t we have both? Underworld offers more of that neo-classical approach than their past two outings but is still rooted in that groove that they branched out to in modern outings. The result, a suite of incredibly tightly written songs that let me enjoy the wide berth of what SX has to offer throughout their stylistic repertoire all on a single disk. Songwriter/guitarist Michael Romeo has really outdone himself on all of his fronts here. Sick groove riffs, bombastic solos, Russell Allen’s blistering heavy metal voice, ballads that are actually fun to listen to. There’s just so much to love for all SX fans here that you’d be brain-dead to pass this one up. 4.0
Irmelinis – This band used to be a huge favourite of mine, until they started making albums that sounded pretty much the same (The Odyssey and after). I’m still following the band and get excited with each new release, so “Underworld”, although it’s not a concept album this time, was going to be an interesting experience. The theme of the record is loosely based on Dante’s Inferno (great choice!), and provides us with high quality edgy, thrashy progressive power metal. Nothing new there! Surprisingly, it still works well even though the tracks all move around in familiar territory. The melodies and songwriting are genuinely good, the guitar noodling is fast and fat sounding, Russell Allen screams his heavy metal heart out complimented by keyboards and an abundance of heavy riffs . The only part lacking a bit of a punch is the drums, and there are unfortunately no real unexpected twists and turns in these songs. “Without You” deserves a special mention for being a particularly well written ballad.
Final verdict: solid headbanging! 4.0
ChristopherMammal – SX is a band you can rely on. If you know what they’ve been delivering this century, you can be assured they’ll continue presenting the same quality service, album after album. They’re as much a power metal band as a prog metal outfit, and they blend the two genres with great deftness. After listening to “Underworld” I let iTunes randomly play songs from “The Odyssey” (2002), “Paradise Lost” (2007), “Iconoclast” (2011) and “Underworld”. They’re a perfectly matched set. If you love their previous work, you’ll love the new album. It’s the kind of prog metal that drew me to the band in the 1990s. I confess it sounds somewhat stylised and predictable to me now, though. There are some mighty tracks on “Underworld”, especially the Overture, the title track, and “Legend”, the closing song. However, I could do without songs like “Without You”, a soppy rock ballad that could have been written for Bon Jovi. 3.8
A Metal State of Mind Score – 4 out of 5