Why, hello again, “Dance of Death,” cover art. Symphony X’s newly released single, “Nevermore” brings the only thing left in the band’s tank: an excellent guitar performance.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it. I won’t lie and say I didn’t expect another uninspired track from the tenured prog metallers. This is, by all accounts, a follow up tune to 2011’s Iconoclast. In that regard, the band’s X has taken over its symphony. Neoclassical Symphony X fans better turn around now. After Paradise Lost — which is a respectable album in its own right — the band drifted into heavier territory, all but abandoning their neoclassical prog roots. Now, you know me, I’m all about direction changes and musical progression. But in Symphony X’s case, the transition is forced, punctuated by the killer “heavy just to be heavy” metal cliche. The problem? Symphony X never quite discovered how to make heaviness work. Take the single, “End of Innocence,” for example. The song reaches into its creator’s back catalogue for riffs, relying on its chorus for inspiration. Good God that chorus…that’s when Allen had some power left in the socket. So, I hate to say it, but let’s face it, the guys are getting older. Neo-classical metal is out the door and the band has now reached into Helloween territory.
And don’t get me started on their upcoming LP, Underworld[‘s], cover artwork.
Michael Romeo continues to show why he’s one of prog’s most underrated guitarists. Again, I probably need to make another top 10 follow up guitarists list because this guy shreds like a…you know. Jokes aside, the guitarist pumps out a beefy, fret destroying riff throughout “Nevermore.” Catchy, complex, driving, the guitars move the track along, not even remotely reminiscent of previous Symphony X works, but still promoting Romeo’s talents, both as a lead and rhythm axeman. The drums, as usual, gallop along with Jason Rullo’s simple, but expressive style. I’m a sucker for strong drum sounds, and “Nevermore” does not disappoint in that category. The track continues Paradise Lost’s clear drum and guitar production value, a definite highlight in comparison to the muddy sound of the neoclassical years. However, where the hell are the keyboards?! There are glimmers throughout, but a definitive keyboard track is nonexistent. Maybe that’s a production issue, maybe they’re heading deeper into classic metal, we’ll just have to see with Nevermore[‘s’] release.
As in “End of Innocence,” one element (the guitar) saves the single. Russel Allen’s vocal performance, especially during the chorus, is mediocre, and that disappointed me the most. I don’t care if the band is straight heavy now, I still want a classic, Symphony X power/prog chorus in all of its raise-your-fist, eagle soaring glory. The “Nevermore” chorus feels thrown in, burdened by awkward phrasing and odd vocal transitions. I still don’t get the macho-guttural choice made by Allen. Perhaps he’ll pull a Dickinson and return to his patented baritone — or tenor? I don’t know — wail. Look at that, two Iron Maiden references in one post! I can forgive Symphony X’s generic lyrics and uninspired songwriting, but when Allen’s voice goes, my little ears are going to struggle to keep up.
I know there’s more to Underworld. Even with its mediocre vocals and uninspired songwriting, the album’s lead single, “Nevermore,” promises excellent musicianship. Fans of the band’s later output will enjoy this track, while fans looking for more will turn away.
Check it out:
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