Symphony X - The Odyssey review
01. Inferno (Unleash The Fire)
03. Incantations Of The Apprentice
04. Accolade II
05. Kings Of Terrors
06. The Turning
08. The Odyssey
1 - Part I: Odysseus Theme / Overture
2 - Part II: Journey To Ithaca
3 - Part III: The Eye
4 - Part IV: Circe (Daughter Of The Sun)
5 - Part V: Sirens
6 - Part VI: Scylla And Charybdis
7 - Part VII: The Fate Of The Suitors / Champion Of Ithaca
09. Masquerade '98 [Japanese and limited edition bonus]
10. Frontiers [Japanese bonus]
There is an undeniable affinity among many metal fans and musicians for things fantastic and medieval in nature. From the imagery (costumes, album covers), to the instrumentation and style of the music (folk, symphonic), to the lyrical subject matter, the metal community is enamored with things ancient. Many musicians use their music as a vehicle for creating milieus similar to the ones that they grew up with, and some go a step farther and set their favorite tales to music. The danger with this is that many metal fans, having grown up reading J.R.R. Tolkein, H.P. Lovecraft, and Robert Howard as well as the classic epic tales, know and love these works as well, and will be let down if the music does not stand up to the story. Unfortunately, it is this trap into which Symphony X stumbled with its release "The Odyssey."
The individual members of Symphony X are definitely talented musicians. Guitar wizardry and keyboard flair permeate the entire disc. Vocalist Russell Allen has strong pipes, and is able to belt out some fine Power Metal. The problem here is not with the musical dexterity, but rather with the composition. The music just does not fit with its lyrical content.
The Greek poem on which the title track is based is an epic of a man's struggle, with the gods, with the elements, and with the unscrupulous men who would steal his wife and his home. However, the music never captures any of this dark mood. The first four minutes or so of this track are an orchestral overture that frankly would seem more at home in an animated Disney film. The musical key here is high, and Allen's voice is too reminiscent of Tommy Shaw (from the band Styx) to be an effective mouthpiece for someone enduring the wrath of an angry god. The music fails to convey any of the frustration, despair, sorrow, and anger that Odysseus felt throughout his ordeal.
This phenomenon appears elsewhere as well. "King of Terrors," which appears to be based on "The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde," and which I have seen praised by other reviewers, is similarly upbeat. Contrast this with other metal interpretations of classic tales, (for example, Iced Earth's take on "Dante's Inferno"), and the disconnect here becomes more striking.
I truly wish that I liked this album more. The music is good; the lyrics are good - they just don't work well together. I listened to "The Odyssey" expecting anger, and I got happiness and hope. I looked for testosterone, but was given saccharine.
|Here it is! The new Symphony X opus has finally been released! After the live album Live On The Edge Of Forever, The Odyssey is finally in my hands. First thing to be noticed: the artwork is excellent with a complete booklet including pictures of the recording and lyrics, of course. But the important point is that from the first note to the last, The Odyssey appears to be the heaviest release of the band! If Michael Pinnella's keyboards are still the basis of Symphony X's music, the guitar parts are now more aggressive and the result is even better! But the big improvement on this album is due to Russell Allen's vocals. On some songs, he sounds close to Ronnie James Dio and without this change, I think that The Odyssey would have remained a classic Symphony X album. Russell Allen shows us once again that he is a complete singer and the music is the best they've ever played.
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