Review Summary: This album of epic proportions offers the best of American heavy metal. Being a sure contender for album of the year, Paradise Lost is everything beautiful, everything harsh, and most definitely everything awesome.
The thought of a neoclassical/progressive/power metal band from New Jersey is a little weird… even a little scary. The act of one band mixing European power metal with an American heavy metal trend might turn out to be, lets say… disastrous. Did Symphony X try to hard with Paradise Lost?
Not at all. In fact, this is an unexpectedly great album. I say “unexpectedly” because, well, I don’t own any other Symphony X and didn’t know what to expect. I picked this up because I like power metal, I like progressive, but mostly… I believe New Jersey is the greatest place in the world. Hands down. Of course, Symphony X only furthers my point. Hailing from none other than the greatest state in America, Symphony X releases the power metal album of the year. Paradise Lost
is everything you would expect out of great music – heavy riffing, epic vocal performances, melodic interludes, teary-eyed ballads and shredding solos to make your hairs stand.
Now, I believe Paradise Lost
is supposed to have a main focus around John Milton’s work, “Paradise Lost”
. For those who don’t know, it’s an epic poem about the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden – I’m sure the names Adam and Eve ring a bell. However, I haven’t bothered to make the connection and don’t really plan to - I’ll just make this easy and stick to why this album is so freakin’ sweet. Aforementioned, I have never listened to Symphony X prior to this, so I was open to absolutely anything. What did I get? Upon hearing the short intro, Oculus ex Inferni,
I knew I had made a good decision by getting this. A full orchestra goes through two and a half minutes of what you would expect from a prominent Norwegian black metal band. After an impressive intro, the full band comes into play as we head back to American metal with Set the World on Fire (Lie of Lies)
. Upon hearing the heavy riffing and keyboards turn into a thrash-fest of guitar abuse and an intro of harsh vocals, you may wonder if Symphony X really did abandon their power metal roots. Well, when the chorus comes in, you are assured Symphony X has maintained the power metal standard of extremely awesome and catchy sing-a-long choruses.
About the vocals… outside of the admittedly awesome chorus they’re not that impressive in the first song. Russell Allen’s attempt at harsh yelling (maybe rapping?) made me grimace at first – though, lucky for the listener, he abandons that style throughout most of the rest of the album. In general, Russell’s vocals are great – you only need to listen to songs like The Sacrifice
and Eve of Seduction
if you doubt that. As for the rest of the band, they put on an impressive show of skill. Michael Romeo reminds me of Yngwie Malmsteen, only he plays the guitar right. Michael is a humble guitarist – the man could melt your ears if he felt like it, but he’s matured enough to realize the difference between quality shreds and pointless shreds. His solos are literally close to perfect, they’re so diverse and fluent that it’s hard to daze off while he’s playing. His riffs are just as impressive as his soloing. From the smorgasbord of bone-crunching madness in The Serpent’s Kiss
to the majestic, bone-chilling intro of Revelation (Divus Pennae ex Tragoedia),
you know that Michael goes beyond the call of the average guitarist to not only provide a good shred, but quality music too.
Of course, what would power metal be without the keyboards? Michael Pinnella, Symphony X’s keyboardist, resembles Romeo’s guitar playing. In songs like Eve of Seduction
Pinnella takes the spotlight with a comfortable yet exciting intro. You can’t go wrong in the chorus either; hearing the keyboard arpeggios backing up Russell’s dominating vocals is just flat-out-awesome. Besides his soloing duty, Pinnella sets the tone for many songs with his presence, providing an essential progressive element to the mood of the album with an array of pianos, organs, synth pads, and other neat effects. The third Michael of the band, Michael Lepond, does what a lot of American bassists don’t do, and by that I mean he doesn’t allow the rest of the band to overshadow him. Romeo even backs off in a few songs to let the bass take the stage here and there. If you want to get a taste of his lightning fast fingers, consult Domination.
The drummer Jason Rullo has quick feet and fast hands to keep up with the 180mph pace of some songs, however Jason is clearly more of a progressive metal drummer than a power metal drummer (all power metal drummers sound the same). His creative side is always evident, and he’s not afraid to change tempos or to allow an unexpected fill to accompany a transition into one of Romeo’s solos.
is so fluent because all the members above work together so well. Like a system of checks and balances, no member greatly outshines the next, making this a unique American band. I hope you now realize how this album is a great heavy metal record, but there’s one final aspect of this album that really stands out: the two ballads. Who would have thought that the two best songs on an American metal album would be the slow ones? Paradise Lost
and The Sacrifice
feature beautiful combinations of clean pianos, acoustic and classical guitars, and Russell’s best vocal performances. Whip out your bic to these great songs, they are an essential break from the heaviness of the rest of the album. The piano arrangement of Paradise Lost
and the chorus of The Sacrifice
are enough to die for. I actually paid attention to the lyrics in these songs, and I have to admit they got my emotions swirling inside me. These two songs serve as a reminder that the guys of Symphony X aren’t only talented musicians, but excellent songwriters as well.
This is where I usually put my Standout Tracks section,
but I’d rather just tell you what tracks to stay away from. Domination
and The Walls of Babylon
are where the album slips. Domination
features some cool riffing in the intro, but besides that the song is pretty boring, as if the band is trying too hard to be a bunch of badasses with the abandonment of their progressive and power metal style. As for the The Walls of Babylon,
after the painfully irritating intro there is a fairly entertaining performance by Romeo and Pinnella, but following that it’s just a sad attempt at being epic. But when I say that the rest of the album makes up for these, I really
mean it. I’d like to say that all the other songs are equally great, but I’ll be happy to do some quick descriptions of some highlights:
The Sacrifice –
The easiest listen and possibly the best track on the album. Not one instrument is focused on anything but musical beauty – this song showcases pure emotion.
Such a diverse song. Constant switches between harsh yelling and comforting singing, crushing riffs to speeding bass, and haunting vocal taunts keep you all but bored. You’ll catch the epic proportions of this song when you hear Russell growl “Gonna bleed you… dry!
” Well, if you’re not distracted by the unexpected guitar shred backing up Russell’s yelling, that is. This song epitomizes Symphony X’s style.
Revelation (Divus Pennae ex Tragoedia) -
Being the epic song of the album, it shows the band’s team effort to create incredible music. A progressive instrumental section is done extremely well, while the intro and outro contain fresh riffs and vocals to help make the final track of the album perfect.
is what a great band ought to sound like. All members play to their potential, but don’t outshine each other; rather they act as a team. And if that’s not what a true band should be – a team, then I don’t know what is. Not to mention, the songs are freakin’ sweet, ranging from being beautifully arranged to terrifyingly awesome. So, unless you have no sense of musical taste whatsoever, you should check this out. There’s something for every metal fan: thrashy riffs, harmonized solos, acoustic melodies and fun vocals. It goes above your average heavy metal band and beyond stereotypical power metal, taking the best of both worlds. You can’t go wrong with Paradise Lost,
so do yourself a favor and give this a spin. There’s no turning back!
Russell warns you in the first song, you’ll be stuck in this Paradise Lost
for a while.