Review Summary: Symphony X experiment with a very power metal release that will leave all but fans of the genre running.
Masterpiece, perfect, brilliant, Symphony X's magnum opus, these were all things I was told about V: The New Mythology Suite before purchasing it. I debated about buying it for a while since iTunes didn't feature it and I didn't have any online music players at the time, but after all the positive feedback it received I decided to buy it.
Looking back I can safely say that this is not Symphony X's best, nor do any of the aforementioned adjectives fit this album. Maybe I was hoping for something less power metal esque or maybe I began to take my music too seriously, either way I found this album to be too cheesy for my taste.
Symphony X has always played a particular brand of power metal. They mixed progressive rock, neo-classical, and power metal together to create something different, something special that while not exactly the most unique, was always done correctly.
I say "was" intentionally. V is just not right somehow, the synths, cheesy background vocals, and poor lyrics all contribute to this. Many people will defend power metal saying that it is "epic", and while I do enjoy listening to those "epic" groups like Nightwish or Kamelot on occasion, I didn't exactly want Symphony X to start playing such symphonic power metal. Now I'm not trying to say that Symphony X should stop play symphonic arrangements (the fact that the group is named Symphony X is not lost on me) as they really can make it work on songs such as Oculus Ex Inferni; the problem I have here is that the album sounds pretentious. On the aforementioned song the orchestra and choir sound real, (I'm not sure if they used a real one on Paradise Lost actually) the song conjures up a phenomenal dark atmosphere that is actually believable. Unfortunately they do not sound believable here and take a lot away from how seriously you can take the music. The lyrics are another weak spot on the album. They are about a fantasy world or a story of some sort, Atlantis I believe it is. It's not exactly the worst power metal has to offer, but it definitely makes the album come off as fake.
Now while I found all these things very distracting and admittedly nearly laughable, the album is not a complete failure. One reason is that all of the members of the band are very technically proficient. Russell Allen has a very masculine, chesty voice, that can be as crisp and clear or extremely brutal. He uses the smooth voice here and while enjoyable, it makes the poor lyrics stand out. Romeo is a fantastic guitarist as everyone familiar with the band knows and his solos have a very ethereal quality here evidenced on Communion and the Oracle in particular. Jason Rullo also rejoined the band after his momentary absence on Twilight In Olympus and is a welcome addition to the band. Michael LePond, while not standing out, does put some solid playing into the album as usual.
Back to the lyrics that I have mentioned. Things like, "Here we are, children of sun and stars", or "Mocking the ways of justice, the serpent's dragon vultures ride storming the gates of seven, no mortal man shall break our stride." just don't sit right with me. I would recommend looking up the lyrics for some of these songs if you plan on buying this-if you can tolerate them maybe you will be won over by the excellent musicianship and soothing vocals.
So if you are a fan of symphonic power metal and don't mind cheesy lyrics, then maybe you should check this out. I wouldn't really recommend this to anyone except a power metal fanatic or extreme fan of the band. In the end I think that both The Divine Wings of Tragedy and Paradise Lost are better listens. Metal heads beware this album.