Release date: June 17, 2011 (EU), June 21, 2011 (US)
In the world of metal there exist and endless number of very good and successful progressive power metal bands, but at the head of the class, one stands above all else, New Jersey’s Symphony X. They are one of those bands which enjoy not only an excess of fanboys around the world, but are a seeming favorite of countless other musicians.
This is due in large part to the exacting detail founder and guitarist Michael Romeo puts into every album. As a songwriter, guitarist and producer, Romeo records every note as if it might be his last, and Iconclast may well be his most epic revelation yet.
While Romeo and the rest of the band, vocalist Russell Allen, drummer Jason Rullo, bassist Michael Lepond and keyboardist Michael Pinella are hardly household names even in metal circles, there is certainly no lack of talent here. Their expertise is on full display from the opening track of Iconclast, the 11-minute opus which bears the album’s name.
Iconoclast, the album and song, take an aural look and the concept of machines taking over the world, and perhaps similar to Queensrÿche’s forthcoming album Dedicated To Chaos, a vision of what technology is doing to us.
The namesake opener begins with an otherworldly feel, including a jazz fusion-esque intro that immediately calls to mind technology out of control. We’re almost two-and-a-half minutes in before we get to the galloping progressive riff and Allen’s inspired vocals. This is a brilliant piece to set the stage for what’s to come.
The art of Symphony X‘s sound is their ability to elevate classic power metal riffing through atmospheric texturing, building layer upon layer, until they have built majestic pieces that require repeated listening, just for the pleasure of finding the nuances.
The album’s second and third tracks, “The End of Innocence” and “Dehumanized” have already been made available to their fans for listening. Both are incredible songs that evoke, for me at least, a vision of what Dio-era Rainbow might have sounded like if they were to have been born a a generation later. Allen’s powerful voice has a similar timber and vibe as Ronnie’s, and Romeo’s songwriting has that same epic scope.
In fact, “Bastards Of The Machine” even has a riff and feel that calls to mind a modern day “Kill The King”.
For sheer crushing heaviness, “Heretic” brings down the hammer yet remains accessible and melodic. That weight rolls over into “Children Of A Faceless God”, where it gets into a nice groove that heads into a soaring chorus.
At this point in the record the road splits between the label’s version of the album and the band’s. On the special edition, which marks the band’s vision, the beautiful and emotive track of perdition, despair and regret, “When All Is Lost” comes next. On the single disc version, this is the song which closes the CD. While this is not a bad way to end the record, I’d rather have, and highly recommend, the two disc version which includes three extra tracks, including the true album closer, “Reign In Madness”.
On the single disc version, inserted before “When All Is Lost”, is the blistering and guitargasmic “Electric Messiah”. Perhaps the album’s most progressive track, “Prometheus (I Am Alive)”, fills out the the nine-track version. These two are moved to disc two on the special edition, plus the three extra tracks, which also include,”Light Up the Night” and “The Lords of Chaos”.
If Iconoclast isn’t Symphony X‘s best record to date, then it’s certainly equal to anything else they have recorded up till now. Time will tell if it continues to grow in power and stature with repeated listens. I believe Iconoclast will prove to be a signature album for Symphony X.
Iconoclast is masterful and brilliant in the epic manner we’ve come to expect from Michael Romeo and Symphony X! A near act of sonic perfection.