|Review: Symphony X - Underworld|
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2015
Genre: Progressive Power Metal
Review online: June 30, 2015
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Rated 4/5 (80%) (33 Votes)
I've now been listening to Symphony X's latest offering, 2015's Underworld pretty much non-stop for a week because the band has sunk their hooks so deep into my ears I simply cannot bear to press "stop." Symphony X's last album, the exemplary Iconoclast, was my top album for 2011 and Underworld is now the early favorite for 2015. This band is just so damn good at EVERYTHING they do it never ceases to amaze.
Underworld's lyrics deal with dark, emotional journeys from personal loss ("Without You") to visiting Hell itself ("To Hell and Back" "Charon") but is not a concept album and that means each song stands on its own. Of course the band wanted to make sure the album flowed and does it ever. It isn't often a reviewer mentions sequencing, unless it utterly sucks, but Underworld is a masterwork of emotional highs and lows. The bombast of "Nevermore" and "Underworld" is followed with the understated yet powerful "Without You" before roaring back with "Kiss of Fire." The ride continues for the album's entire one-hour plus length leaving you as breathless as if you've just gotten off a real roller coaster. It's hard to pick favorites when every song is so good but I'm going to single out "To Hell and Back" for its ride-within-a-ride encapsulation of the entire album experience, from the soft intro to the pounding riffs to the superbly catchy chorus, and the mesmerizing "Swan Song" where singer Russell Allen gets to show that Metal singers can be just as soulful as those in any other musical genre. Speaking of the performances, Symphony X may possess the most talented lineup, front to back, of any band in Metal today. I could write a whole paragraph on each musician and their individual contributions to the whole that is Underworld but you really need to experience for yourself.
Symphony X is, at heart, a Progressive Metal band with keyboards, challenging song structures, unusual time signatures and all the other things we reviewers say about Prog bands. When you step back, however, you realize Symphony X is simply a damn fine Heavy Metal band and any fan of any genre can find value because the quality of the product is unparalleled. I wondered how Symphony X was going to top or even equal Iconoclast. Hard work notwithstanding they simply wrote another fantastic set of songs, played their instruments with skill and feeling, injected a depth of emotion rarely heard in any music and put out another masterpiece. And they call it Underworld.
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