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Review: Symphony X - The Divine Wings of Tragedy
Symphony X
The Divine Wings of Tragedy

Label: Inside Out Music
Year released: 1997
Duration: 65:26
Tracks: 9
Genre: Progressive Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: October 12, 2006
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
The Divine Wings of Tragedy

Rated 3.96/5 (79.23%) (52 Votes)

I go on record a lot as saying I don't like Prog Metal, but I'm going to have to make an exception for Symphony X, who are one band that don't forget that the word "metal" is supposed to be as important as the "prog" part. The Divine Wings Of Tragedy was their third full-length, released damn near a decade ago, and many fans still consider it one of their defining moments, and a landmark on the US metal landscape.

Like I've said, one of the things I really like about this band is that they lean more on the metal than on the prog. A lot of prog is merely showy without any other kind of content, and a smug air of self-indulgence mars a lot of prog albums, not here. Symphony X are all about songwriting first, and showing off a distant second. This album just kicks right in – no intro track, no long acoustic/keyboard build, just chunky rhythm riffing flying right out of the gate. Some of the songs here border on technothrash, and some people have made Nevermore comparisons here, but Symphony X have 2 things Nevermore do not. One, an actual sense of melody, and two, they have the seemingly all-powerful voice of Russell Allen, who can do pretty much anything, and hits any note he pleases without sounding like he's even breaking a sweat, all without losing a nicely rough, textured edge. All the performances here are first-rate, as would be expected from a band in this genre, but once again, songwriting is never secondary to showy playing, and a lot of the high quality is in the subtler details than non-musicians may not even catch. Like all prog releases, this one rewards repeated listens.

Fine songs like "Sea Of Lies", "The Eyes Of Medusa", and "The Witching Hour" are representative of what this album is all about. I have to say "Pharoah" is not the greatest song, and the chorus sounds forced and does not really work well. But two songs here stand out as absolute monsters: the giant epic of the title track, and my favorite song by this band – the searing, emotional, melodic masterwork that is "The Accolade". Prog/Power Metal just does not get better than this song.

A lot of people call this Symphony X's best album, but I still think "The Odyssey" is a bit better. The presence of masterful tracks like "The Accolade" makes it an arguable point though, and any way you look at it, this is a first-rate album by the prog band for people who don't like prog metal. Recommended.

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