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Symphony X - "The Odyssey"
InsideOut 2002

It is clear that you can't do same things all the time. Band's previous release (still one of my favourites if not the favourite one) was a milestone that established new standards in progressive metal in meaning of achieving perfect balance in musical expression. But it is quite normal that you are always searching for something different, something new, that grows inside you and constantly wants to be expressed. This time guys made the hardest album ever. I mean the most aggressive Symphony X release up to date. A perfect balance? Just forget about it, or mostly forget about it.

Fantastic fast picking riff of opener "Inferno (Unleash The Fire)" accompanied by opposite rhythm drive that turns at the end of the bridge into easy composed half tuned palmuted riff that sounds very aggressive and when the rasp vocal joins in, we have neo thrash here. This is not the only song that goes that way. Because of that the role of keyboards is diminished. Guitar is pushed in front in every single second. "Incantations Of Fear" blasts like hell. Uf, what anger carries this track. Hey, careful with that axe Michael! Ear splitting fast palmuted riffing. But, hey guys, you are not Pantera!

O.K. I was talking about aggressive raspy vocals. It is funny. Russel doesn't need to roar like that. I mean his great vocal abilities allow him to express anger through his normal singing or in different words with his unique singing, as we know from previous releases. So what we've got in certain songs is a half of song sang in aggressive raspy fashion and the second half (in bridges, choruses) done in Russel's normal fashion. A bit distasteful combination in general. Guitars are the heaviest so far in production, but also in riffing and solos. Fast (faster than the speed of light) strikers as "King Of Terrors" will assure you that (also the opener or "The Turning").

"Accolade III" is a remnant of the previous release. Keyboards finally sound equal to Michael's guitar. Also vocals are "normal" all the time here. This is also the case in "Five - The New Mythology Suite" songs. Complex composed song but not hard for ears to accept it. A band's trademark. Symphony X is one of the finest bands to bring out a perfect balance, there is no question about it. But this time the band was mostly unfortunate at this.

With "The Odyssey" we get a 24 minute journey through the time. Bringing Odysseus back to life was not successful. Part one is very funny, with happy opening motive in "St. Claus is coming to town" fashion, if you know what I mean. Overall this is a great song and here we can enjoy Symphony X that we know. Keyboard arrangements are well heard and balanced in production. But I would change the name of the band's chosen concept. Music and concept don't fit together as they should. Just for comparison, I must point out that Virgin Steele rules in bringing ancient Greece back to life!

Well, this album is in general far from being bad. What is wrong with it? You just can't feel that magic, that balance between instruments, as you can on "Five - The New Mythology Suite", which carries a fantastic chemistry. "The Odyssey" leaves almost nothing. No feelings are expressed. This album was done much to fast for sure. I miss keyboards the most. Filligranic keyboard work of Michael Pinnela. The guitar mostly suppresses his arrangements. A pity, 'cause of Pinella's great talent. We will quickly forget about "The Odyssey".

Author:   Aleš

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