Symphony X
Underworld


3.5
great

Review

by OmairSh USER (22 Reviews)
July 28th, 2015 | 161 replies


Release Date: 07/24/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Little did we know Iconoclast was actually a triple album

“Masterpiece,” “monumental,” and “perfect,” are among the words that are normally thrown around by fans upon the release of a band’s new album. It seems like some fans can be impressed by just about anything. After the slightly underwhelming Iconoclast I lowered my expectations of the band since it seemed that Michael Romeo’s heavy influence on the songwriting wasn’t going to wane anytime soon. However after the release of Underworld’s singles I felt my anticipation rising ever so slightly.

The feeling after digesting the album is of ambivalence. The formula on Underworld is very similar to Iconoclast. The album sits more comfortably in the heavy metal domain, with hints of progressive and power metal scattered around. Romeo’s guitar still being at the forefront. Overall the album feels very structured due in large part to Romeo’s prominence in the songwriting department. He seems to be stagnating in the riff oriented mindset where the music requires intensity at the expense of diversity. Fortunately there are moments that deviate from Romeo’s linear guitar work, which provide the album with a source of variety. Songs such as ‘Without You,’ ‘To Hell and Back,’ and ‘Swansong’ for instance offer a much needed change of pace.

Metal’s aggressive facet is a treat to the ears when done tastefully and passionately, two aspects that are slightly lacking on this album unfortunately. The few times I was genuinely caught off guard by the guitar work include the choruses of ‘Kiss of Fire’ and ‘Run With the Devil,’ the former of which has an almost black metal feel to it complemented by Jason Rullo’s blast beats. Additionally ‘Without You,’ ‘To Hell and Back,’ and ‘Legend’ show glimpses of the melodic aspect of Romeo’s playing. There is no doubting the man’s chops, but I really wish he had brought more depth to his playing like he presented on earlier Symphony X albums.

The largest surprise for me was the involvement of other members in the songwriting process, with Michael Pinnella and Michael Lepond contributing on a few songs. Pinnella’s influence can be heard in a few of the more melodic sections of the songs, and especially on ‘Swan Song,’ which is stylistically reminiscent of ‘Accolade 2’ and 'When All is Lost'. Unfortunately however, the majority of his contributions are either in the background using monotonous atmospheric synth sounds, or doubling the guitar. On the plus side he has added a few new tones, especially for his lead playing, that feel like a breath of fresh air.

Elements of groove are sprinkled across the record courtesy of Lepond, which was pleasantly surprising to hear since it provided some life and vigor to the music, even if slightly. Jason Rullo also contributes in this regard, but a lot of his performance feels more functional. That’s not to say it’s bad because he brings the required intensity as always, but I had expected for more creativity as he has provided in the past. Russell Allen on the other hand is probably the highlight of this album. He treats us to a host of memorable vocal melodies with his cleaner vocals shining in the limelight. He displays his range from the raw aggression of recent albums, to his soothing and soaring vocals while keeping melody as the priority. It’s great to hear Russell focus on his strengths and display his most mature and diverse performance since ‘The Odyssey.’

Underworld’s virtues lie in its melodic parts as well as most of the choruses which supply the hooks for the listeners to hang onto. There are also a handful of gritty riffs that are enjoyable, even if they feel like rehashed ideas. I mean the man does know how to write a riff. Contrarily one of the album’s significant shortcomings is the production. Apart from the fact that the album’s sound engineering feels sterile, the severe compression really suffocates the dynamics. This combination leads to the album lacking spark and sounding a little flat.

In the end Underworld may not be as dynamic as the band's "classics," or possess the level of emotion and character that those albums albums had in copious amounts, but it manages to provide some memorable songs. That being said, four years seems too long to release an album that basically continues the same formula as its predecessor. Fans of the modern Symphony X sound however, should find enough to enjoy on this record. Fans longing for the band to return to the neo-classical era will no doubt be disappointed for the most part, while fans like myself that were hoping for something innovative will just have to wait a little while longer to be completely satisfied.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
OmairSh
July 28th 2015


14454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

‘Nevermore’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z3AHbjeb1U



‘Without You’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZe-Pmgq9DY





ComeToDaddy
July 28th 2015


1746 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So many songs are so close to great, but you're right on with that second-to-last paragraph, the production really does smother it. I thought this album had more of a punch to it than Iconoclast though, and 'Without You' is better than anything on that album

Digging: Ojne - Prima Che Tutto Bruci

ComeToDaddy
July 28th 2015


1746 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I doubt you'll stand in the minority in your opinion, the singles were solid and people rate highly in the early days, it'll come down. Pos'd btw, great review

Anthracks
July 28th 2015


6234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This band is not progressing in any meaningful way, but they are still really fun to listen to. Like the biggest deviation a song on this album makes is that one of the songs has two guitar solos instead of the typical one.

Digging: Deathhammer - Chained to Hell

newbatthis
July 28th 2015


18 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I liked their old material but preferred the aggression they introduced with Paradise Lost. Iconoclast actually took a long time to grow on me but I like it more than Paradise Lost now. Underworld just came blazing out the gates. Might be the best one yet.

Hovse
July 28th 2015


2677 Comments


good rev omair pos'd

Ocean of Noise
July 28th 2015


10333 Comments


Nuclear Blast just has this way of ruining great bands

Digging: Winterfylleth - The Mercian Sphere

HorrorBusiness78
July 28th 2015


112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review. I've given this a few listens and unfortunately it just feels unspectacular. Romeo does seem to recycle a lot of his riffs. Most of this album just feels too familiar and rehashed. Somewhat disappointing, since Iconoclast has grown on me as of late.

OmairSh
July 28th 2015


14454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Thanks guys.



@Cometodaddy: Yeah I enjoyed the singles, even if they weren't groundbreaking. But the album just felt like Iconoclast again. I think the production sucks some of the life out of the music, and so it doesn't feel as dynamic as it should



@Horror: Yeah it feels like a regurgitation and the band just going through the motions. Even Pinnella and Lepond couldn't really add too much depth unfortunately



@Anthracks: Haha yeah Romeo's stuffed a lot of solos here, and most aren't even memorable tbh.

Toondude10
July 28th 2015


13262 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good review, my thoughts exactly on this. It's still enjoyable but it's sounds like an Iconoclast B-side album.



a little constructive criticism, careful when using the first person perspective because it's not always convincing, like this for example:



"After the underwhelming Iconoclast I lowered my expectations of the band"



this could be easily rewritten to "Expectations were lowered after the underwhelming Iconoclast" and would make it a lot more convincing. I'm not saying what you wrote is wrong but I'd keep that in mind if you want people to be on your side.

Digging: Ice Nine Kills - The Silver Scream

OmairSh
July 28th 2015


14454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Thanks toondude. I actually thought the first person perspective made it seem like I'm not making generalizations. Especially when it comes to the topic of expectations, which is very subjective

Toondude10
July 28th 2015


13262 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

point taken but to be fair you aren't the only one who was underwhelmed by Iconoclast

OmairSh
July 28th 2015


14454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Fair enough, but I also wanted my review to feel slightly more personal as I normally don't write in the first person. Thanks for the feedback though



Blinding LIGHT



KISS OF FIIIIIIIIIIIRREEE



It's fair to say I was not expecting a chorus like that from SX

Toondude10
July 28th 2015


13262 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Also yeah that average is no doubt going to go down, probably to a 3.7



I'll admit though, the title track is one of the best songs the band has come out with in years.

Toondude10
July 28th 2015


13262 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

congrats on the feature

OmairSh
July 28th 2015


14454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Thrashing and clashing with spectUUUUUURSSSS. Yeah it's pretty cool.



I'd say When All is Lost is the last "great" song the band released.



Oh dam, thanks haha. I was unsure about submitting a 3 review for the album as its first review, and now I get featured. Thanks toon for recommending my review

Snowdog808
July 28th 2015


2925 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I liked this slightly better than Iconoclast, slightly less than Paradise Lost, and significantly less than so much of the material from all of the first six. It's a pretty cool guitar virtuoso album in my opinion, but I really miss the neo-classical influences and bass fills from the final three Miller albums and the rich diversity of the Odyssey. Considering how colorful Michael Pinnella's latest solo release is even for a keyboard centered album, in addition to Lepond's Euro-folk centered power/speed metal solo debut being such a fruitful creative outlet for him, I really think Romeo should allow them to work more on the compositions.

Snowdog808
July 28th 2015


2925 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You just received my thumbs up for the greatly executed review as well.

OmairSh
July 28th 2015


14454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Thanks Snow. I'd say its on par with Iconoclast for me. I genuinely thought they'd experiment a bit more here, but it looks like Romeo's on autopilot like Petrucci. And I think Pinnella's contributions are still within the boundaries of what Romeo wants, rather than being completely his own.

gocsa666
July 28th 2015


311 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Negged.



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