Underworld

SKU: 3228-2
Label:
Nuclear Blast
Category:
Power Metal
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Michael Romeo doesn't work quickly.  The man takes his time and a new Symphony X album is ready when its been honed to perfection.  Underworld is the first new album in four years.  To get to the point its ridiculously great.  Up through V, the band were the modern agents of neoclassical/symphonic metal.  With The Odyssey the band took a left turn with Russell Allen's vocals being more agressive and a pervasive overall crunchiness, heaviness to the sound.  Perhaps a bit less symphonic sounding.  With Underworld fans of the "old style" will smile once again.  The band has found a way to balance both sides of their sound.  Its heavy but extremely melodic.  Russell's vocals are spot on and Mr. Romeo's solos have an organic flow that will sweep you through the tune.  Its a beautiful marriage of styles - not too much of either direction that the band has exhibited in the past.  Toss in a theme built around Dante's Inferno and you've totally sucked me back in to the fold.  BUY OR DIE!

"A lot has happened with New Jersey-based progressive metal band SYMPHONY X since the Iconoclast album was released four years ago. Singer ‘Sir’ Russell Allen recorded and toured behind several releases with ADRENALINE MOB, toured with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA and recorded the album The Great Divide with ALLEN-LANDE. Bassist Mike Lepond toured with HELSTAR and released his excellent solo album under the name SILENT ASSASSINS. Keyboardist Michael Pinnella released a solo album and guitarist Michael Romeo made guest appearances on some albums. Drummer Jason Rullo battled and successfully recovered from heart failure in 2013.

Four years later, SYMPHONY X delivers another fantastic album, the band sounding just as powerful as Iconoclast, and amazingly never missing a beat. Titled Underworld, it is sort of a concept album, loosely based on Dante’s epic poem Inferno. Dante’s Inferno is not a totally original topic in the metal world; ICED EARTH featured an epic song based on it on their 1995 album Burnt Offerings and SEPULTURA wrote a concept album based on it with 2006’s Dante XXI, while SYMPHONY X themselves included references to it on their 1997 album The Divine Wings Of Tragedy. Several other metal bands have also been influenced by the poem.

SYMPHONY X do not follow the tale word for word, but use it more as an inspiration. Michael Romeo is quoted as saying that the album has a theme of “going to hell and back for something or someone you care about.” He also said that this album is more about “the song” instead of the album as a whole, allowing it to flow better from song to song. This doesn’t mean every song is an attempt at a single. Romeo’s intent when writing songs for Underworld was for people to be able to take in the whole album in one listening. (The total album length is just over an hour, compared to Iconoclast’s two discs that were around 83 minutes).

To be honest, the last two SYMPHONY X albums, 2007’s Paradise Lost and 2011’s Iconoclast were my favorite albums released by the band so far. I refer to them as the “angry” SYMPHONY X, mainly due to Russell Allen’s vocal delivery and the aggressive music on those particular albums. So, I waited to see if we would get a third album in this same vein from SYMPHONY X. The songs on Underworld seem to alternate between prog and aggression, but for the most part, the album is not as “angry” as Iconoclast. The album strikes a perfect balance between prog and power. Some songs are aggressive without being “angry”. There are definitely more classic SYMPHONY X elements here than on recent releases.

The album is much more accessible than previous albums. The songs overall are shorter (most clocking in at around the 5-6 minute mark), and more to the point than on previous albums. For example, “Kiss Of Fire” is one of the best tracks I’ve ever heard by SYMPHONY X. It immediately became a favorite of mine on this album, with the verse, “Bring down the hammer, with serious anger – It’s me against the world!” section and the chorus becoming some of my favorite moments. This song probably represents the album to me more than any other, but the album is filled with classics, such as opener “Nevermore”, a ferocious track that is aggressive in the verses, while the chorus is more melody-driven. The title track follows, with many twists, turns and speed sections. “Without You” is a standout track. With its guarded delivery by Allen and acoustic guitar flowing in the background, it is probably the mellowest moment on Underworld, but that’s not a bad thing. The chorus is the focus of the track, with Allen performing some of his best work. The song probably has the most potential as a single. Another solid track, “Charon”, named for the ferry boatman of the underworld, follows. This track has a middle-eastern flavor to it.

The longest track on the album (9:24 in length) follows, the excellent “To Hell And Back”. This song has so many great parts, it’s hard to pick a particular favorite, possibly Allen’s soaring vocal on the chorus or the “on and on and on / no quarter asked, no quarter given” section. “In My Darkest Hour” follows and is another favorite of mine, featuring speed riffing parts, mixed with a melodic chorus. Allen really shines on this song. “Run With The Devil” is even more up-tempo and another one of the more accessible songs due to the chorus. “Swan Song” finds keyboardist Pinnella taking the bulk of the spotlight with his piano flourishes. The album closes with the excellent “Legend”. Allen’s aggressive pre-chorus vocals and melodic chorus vocals make this an instant classic.

I believe the playing on Underworld is at another level for the band. Lepond’s bass work is spectacular throughout and Jason Rullo makes a real statement with his drum performance. Fantastic work from keyboardist Michael Pinnella and of course guitarist Michael Romeo’s amazing riffs and solos are worth the price alone. But you get more, don’t you? You get one of the best singers in metal, Sir Russell Allen, making yet another classic album even better with his voice.

The album’s exquisite cover artwork (once again by illustrator Warren Flanagan) features the return of the SYMPHONY X masks, around which are eight symbols that represent the circles of hell: limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, and fraud. The symbol for treachery, the ninth circle, is underneath the masks, and hopefully will be revealed in full inside the album packaging.

Underworld is a great album, which grew on me the more I listened to it. SYMPHONY X are masters of American prog metal, and have been for quite some time. Underworld further cements that reputation, and will undoubtedly please fans of all eras of the band." - KNAC.com

 

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  • 2LP 180 gram vinyl is a gatefold sleeve."When Mark Trueack announced the break-up of Unitopia, the feeling was like that of losing a close friend or family member. But Mark Trueack, (Truey), has been working on many projects at the same time. The United Progressive Fraternity evolved from the collaborations of some of Truey's favorite artists on a solo album yet to be released. The project took over Truey's consciousness to the point that he temporarily put aside the solo album to help assemble this cast of creative and innovative artists. Like a fraternity, this is no young bunch of artists trying to find their way. These are seasoned and experienced artists from some of prog rock's premier bands. The "fraternity" includes honorary members Jon Anderson and Steve Hackett amidst a cast of "Who's Who" in modern prog rock. 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The title track is yet another classic highlight of what will truly be the group debut album of the year. This song sums up the weight and power of the message of this album. Enjoy life and this Earth to the best of your ability, but don't take what you don't need, and take good care of what has been given. Williams guitar and Truey's vocals rise to the usually strong levels we all remember from Unitopia. The refrain is perfect, "Fall in love with the world. The world needs to fall in love". It will have you singing along."Religion of War" closes the album with yet another powerful lyrical track asking us why faith must always be linked to violence. It is a powerful piece of music as well. Manning's innovative keyboard creations open the track with Truey singing, and Matt Williams and Daniel Mash providing their own guitar innovations. Hopgood's heartbeat drums keep great pace. 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  • The Swedes seem to love their retro 70s music and Three Seasons serves it up hot and heavy.  This guitar/bass/drums trio harken back to the early days of the British psychedelic scene.  You will be reminded of Cream, Incredible Hog,and Leafhound.  When the organ kicks in you'll harken back to days of yore when the mighty Heep, Purple, and Lucifer's Friend prowled the countryside looking for victims.  You could be next!
    $15.00
  • "Hard to believe it has been four years since the last Iron Savior record. In that time I almost thought we'd never hear anything from Piet and co again. Boy am I glad they're back, and with the Condition Red line-up to boot. While I felt Megatropolis was a slight musical misfire, The Landing sees the band firing on all cylinders again.It should be no surprise that this album sounds quite a bit like Condition Red in places, with a hefty kick of Unification and Battering Ram for good measure. This is pure unadulterated German power metal played by one of the granddaddies of the genre, Piet Sielck is the man, and he displays his mastery of this style all over The Landing. Kicking off with a mid-paced cruncher armed with sublime hooks, and a majestic chorus, "The Landing" is a great start to the show. However it is in "Starlight" that the album really kicks off. I was overcome with joy when I first heard this song. Iron Savior at their best: blazing riffs, double kicking, and a massive chorus; this track could have be long lost from the Unification recordings.Throughout The Landing Iron Savior continue to assert their authority; everything from production to performance is nothing short of excellent – which should be expected of these masters. The guitar tone is concrete middle ground between the more compressed tone of Battering Ram and the natural feel of Condition Red. They album ticks all the boxes that need ticking in an Iron Savior record, "March of Doom" nails the heavy power metal track, with badass riffs and the finest pre-chorus of the album. "Heavy Metal Never Dies" takes the "Warrior" approach and is a great fist pumper, and coupled with "R.U. Ready" tick of the worship of heavy metal approach. Finally we have the quality "Before the Pain" which ticks off the ballad.All in all I believe The Landing is a complete and utter success, vastly preferable to the latest releases from stalwarts Gamma Ray and Stormwarrior. Highly recommended to all power metal fans, this is without a doubt one of the finest releases this year. While it doesn't reinvent – or innovate for that matter, that isn't important as Iron Savior were never about that. Recommended." - Metal Crypt
    $15.00
  • ""SKIN” is the latest album from CLASSIC ROCK PROG Poll winners PANIC ROOM and is one of the most eagerly anticipated albums by a band on the new wave of British Progressive Rock groups. The album, the band’s third, is arguably the finest yet by ANNE MARIE HELDER (Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Flute), JONATHAN EDWARDS (Keyboards), PAUL DAVIES (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals), YATIM HALIMI (Bass) and GAVIN GRIFFITHS (Drums). "SKIN” is a dark and shimmering jewel, featuring 11 new and original tracks which all bear the hallmark sound of Panic Room - both powerful and intimate, passionate and playful, epic and yet truthful and heartfelt.

The album has a vast and expansive feel : gracefully weaving its way through rock-solid riffs and potent grooves, there are moments of intense power, heart-stopping gravity, and delicate beauty.
 This is the sound and dynamic of Panic Room... brought to a new level. Featuring the unique style-play and musical freedom that Panic Room are famous for, and which has seen them transcend any genre or limitation, the album also unveils a distinct and deliciously dark sound all of its own... the sound of 'SKIN'. A stunning collection of songs, all telling a story of their own, the album has a definite feel and continuity at the same time; a distinct mood of its own.'SKIN' is... beguiling, hypnotic, dark...sensual, emotional, and raw...beautiful, reflective, and true… The album title reflects all of the key elements in the music PANIC ROOM has created - the intimacy, the rawness and the power that is "SKIN”."
    $17.00