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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  • I can't speak for their later albums (since I never heard them) but the band's early work for Bellaphon was very well crafted classical progressive rock.“Pell Mell – The Entire Collection“, the complete work of Germany’s most famous classic rock band around violin devil and bandleader Thomas Schmitt is being published now like never before - in a sophisticated package bearing vaporized gold foil. The collection contains seven albums on four compact discs, five by Pell Mell and two of their follow-up Skyrider covering the complete period from 1971 until 1981 which is the era of “Deutschrock” from beginning to end. It took more than a year’s work, a lot of commitment and a great deal of energy to clear the rights, gather all tapes and material. The collection presents the original albums of symphonic rock along with their own compositions and superb singing. Both critics and audience were filled with enthusiasm by the familiar classical themes and motifs reworked by Pell Mell in their own typical style. A premiere to be heard is the “late” version of “Die Moldau” from 1981 in the correct key and tempo – which has never been released in this form because of a mistake in the first recording. Except for two parts by guest musicians, Thomas Schmitt is playing all instruments - like Mike Oldfield did in a way. A little sensation is the album “Skyrider 2” – not only has this rare gem never been released before but also marks the musical highlight of the development of the exceptional artist Thomas Schmitt. All material has been thoroughly digitally remastered. A 24 page booklet with unpublished photos and new liner notes by Cornelius Hudalla completes the package. Hudalla has not only taken great part in putting this collection together but as the former manager and producer of two of these albums possesses unsurpassed insider knowledge. We wish to stress the high value of this box and the high standards of the band Pell Mell. This CD-box has been registered by GEMA as “art” or “classical music” and is limited to 1.000 units worldwide.  CD 1 „Marburg“ & „From The New World”01. The Clown And The Queen 08:5102. Moldau 05:3003. Friend 07:1104. City Monster 08:4205. Alone 09:2606. From The New World 16:0307. Toccata 04:0408. Suite I 08:0209. Suite II 11:24      CD 2 „Rhapsody“ & „Only A Star”10. Frost Of An Alien Darkness 09:2111. Wanderer 02:3212. Can Can 03:3713. Prelude 03:1714. Desert In Your Mind 06:1715. The Riot 06:0716. Paris The Past 08:0717. Count Down 04:5218. Daydreamer 04:3419. Only A Star 04:2020. Across The Universe 06:1421. Disillusion 08:4322. Trailors In Movie Halls 03:4423. Phoebus Is Dead 07:11      CD 3 „Moldau”24. Moldau Part One 05:3525. The Farmers Wedding 03:2826. The Nymph Dance 03:1827. Moldau Part Two 07:4428. Gliding 02:4129. Dark Valley Part One 03:3230. Dark Valley Part Two 02:2331. Dark Valley Part Three 04:3332. Dark Valley Part Four 04:39      CD 4 „Skyrider” & Skyrider 2”33. On My Line I 00:1834. Skyrider 02:0835. Great Beautiful Crime 04:3036. Time Of The Season 04:0737. Written On A Granite Hill 03:5138. I Don`t Wanna Leave You Now 04:1339. On My Line II 04:0340. Up To Sky 03:0541. Love`s In My Eyes 03:4342. Save Two Birds 05:0743. Fighter Of The Sun 04:0344. Looks Like Rain 04:4245. Loadie 04:2846. Rock'n'Roll On The Highway 03:0547. Broken Harmony 06:2748. Right In Your Hands 04:3349. Song For Rosalie 03:5250. Hello Angel 03:5851. I'm In Love 03:4952. Heart On Ice 04:06
    $55.00
  • "‘Les Fleurs du Mal’ is a conceptual album by Swedish band THERION that features only French lyrics and consists of cover versions of old French pop songs from 60-70s. THERION celebrates by "a special art project", headlining by the material, its 25 anniversary. It was also said that the album is available only during the tour and from THERION online store; it is sponsored by the only founding member, Christofer Johnsson. But you can buy it i.e. on Amazon as well. I am not going to go at length comparing THERION old and new and trying to rationalise things. The reason is simple, as this album was actually the first that caught my full attention. I start from the cover: it's full of topless females. Obviously, Charles Baudelaire's legacy is quite reminiscent there. The cover is made of a quite rich artwork of Saturno Butto, themed mainly erotic and varying from matte painting to charcoal sketches.Most of the songs here are quite short, yet powerful. Why these songs? I have at hand some lengthy explanations from the press kit, but in fact it boils to one single thing: the overall direction of French songs that are dark and telling some quite grim stories. Yet we all aware of a largely poetic language and melodic music background of French culture. Christofer has a great, fluent knowledge of musical styles and approaches, so he claims influences from King Diamond, Candlemass to folk music and ABBA. The album is beating with energy, in carries you along with its set of 15 songs performed mainly by the lead opera singer, soprano Lori Lewis.Of course I was curious about how exactly the original songs were altered. It's too much of effort to get past all these tracks, so I picked few favourites. ‘Mon amour, mon ami’ by Marie Laforet is a playful pop song, performed originally in circus-like up-tempo, but THERION specialists worked closely in order bring about the "inner darkness", toned down tempo and timbre and added traditionally "darker" music instruments such as organ - so song became indeed heavier and more minor, yet more powerful and strong. ‘Polichinelle’, performed with a cute teenage girl's voice by France Gall, is initially a pretty love ballad that relates to a Commedia dell 'arte character (note that comedian masks are worn by the naked ladies on the album booklet. (Thumbs up for the throughout conceptual work!) THERION ended up with an operetta rendering of the song, making of it somewhat of an opera house hymn, this type of sound you would expect from contemporary French musicals. Despite being one of the most experimental pieces on the album, it would be, probably, one of the most noticeable tracks.Finally, Victoire Scott's ‘Une fleur dans le coeur’ - Christofer did not like very much a feature you can hear in original, the honky-tonk (tuned-off) piano that he only describes as "dreadful". Instead, THERION interpretation is deeply lyrical, with plenty of acoustic guitar and strong soprano of Lori multiplied by the riffs you might expect from Jann Tiersen, metal additions and whole lot of different styles changing one to another. One drawback that I see is that the vocal style often remains of the same across album, so if you listen to 15 songs in a row, you might be tired a bit with the similar style. Yet the band paid enough attention to insert pleasant breaks by quest vocalists. The album sounds sound, fresh, and original and there is additional fun to compare originals to the covers." - Reflections Of Darkness
    $11.00