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Symphony X: Iconoclast

It is unfair to expect a return to the band's earlier, more progressive work, as it would be impossible for Symphony X to recreate the charm and magic of masterpieces like The Divine Wings of Tragedy or V: The New Mythology Suite. They explored all the parameters of that field to the max on those albums, and any attempt would fall short off the mark. It was time to move on.

They are a different band now. After their transition into heavier territory with The Odyssey, the band released Paradise Lost, replete with groove-inflected riffs, gritty vocals, subdued keyboards, onslaughts of metallic fury, and a more straightforward vibe. In many ways, Iconoclast expands on the aesthetics of the previous album. Having partly removed himself from neoclassic influences, Michael Romeo's playing has taken on tenacious, corrosive riffing. Most of the songs are imbued with rapid-fire riffs and his guitars besiege the mix in pretty much every track. His use of taking a main riff and then doing interesting permutations off of it has reached a new level, as he shifts from straightforward metallic riffery to Middle Eastern themes visiting neoclassical domains in between.

Russell Allen still delivers gritty vocals, at times backed by dark choir-like chants in the background. His aggressive vocals have become the trademark for the new Symphony X sound, given these songs cannot be sung otherwise. That's not to say he does not make use of his clean vocals. Actually when listened carefully, the shift between vocal styles is done for a reason. Allen employs the grit for dynamic expression and in order to portray a wider range of emotions. That is the reason why tracks like "The End of Innocence" and "Children of a Faceless God" achieve their full potential, particularly when complemented by the dexterous guitar work.

Also, the band hasn't abandoned their roots completely. "When All Is Lost" is rife with nuance, boasting majectic synth work, hook-laden melodic vocals, and wonderful harmonies. Michael Pinnella is present in the mix throughout, adding a rich sound to the piece. Mike LePond's bass is loud and central to the composition as well. Notice how he accentuates the piece beneath Romeo's restrained solo before everything cuts out for Pinella to lay down his signature keyboard line.

The 2-disc version of the album is essential, as some of the songs are actually so good it would be a shame to miss them. Fans of older material may enjoy "Prometheus (I Am Alive)" for its layered guitar riffs, crystal clear vocals, and concise drumming.

Overall, this album surpasses Paradise Lost for me, but I still gravitate towards The Odyssey for achieving a finer balance between their more prominent progressive leanings and heaviness. That said, judjed on its own, it doesn't get better than this. This album is staggering in scope and mindblowing in its delivery.

On another note, the artwork, at first glance, reminded me of Evergrey's second album, Solitude Dominance Tragedy, which is a good thing, of course.


Disc: 1

  1. Iconoclast
  2. The End of Innocence
  3. Dehumanized
  4. Bastards of the Machine
  5. Heretic
  6. Children of a Faceless God
  7. When All is Lost
Disc: 2
  1. Electric Messiah
  2. Prometheus (I Am Alive)
  3. Light Up the Night
  4. The Lords of Chaos
  5. Reign in Madness

Added: July 29th 2011
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Symphony X website
Hits: 3766
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Symphony X: Iconoclast
Posted by Brian Block, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-07-29 17:19:11
My Score:

So far this year one of my most anticipated releases already turned out to be a dud. That is definitely not the case here. Iconoclast is perhaps one of my favorite albums by Symphony X, with V: The New Mythology Suite at the top of the list. Since V was my introduction into Symphony X it will probably stay at the top of my list, but Iconoclast definitely comes in a close second. One thing I like about this newest Symphony X album is that it is really dark. V was very symphonic and grand, so to say, and then Paradise Lost was a little darker, and now Iconoclast is perhaps the darkest of them all, but is still like V in a way because of its grandness and dark symphonic melodies.

Being the fanboy that I am, I had to get the deluxe edition 2-CD set, and am I glad I did. The three extra songs ("Light up the Night", "The Lords of Chaos", "Reign in Madness") are all exceptional, and I can't imagine the album without them. My favorite of the three is definitely "Reign in Madness" which Michael Romeo, Symphony X guitarist, says "is the proper close to the album". Also, of the three, it seems more symphonic while the others seem to be straight up metal. If you haven't gotten this album yet, the 2-CD package is definitely the way to go; it also is some really cool packaging.

As always the musicianship is absolutely superb on this album. But, to most fans of the band this shouldn't come as a surprise at all. The keyboards on this album, played by Michael Pinnella, are some of the best I've heard in some time, and the wonderful heavy, yet symphonic guitar work from Michael Romeo really backs up Russell Allen's great vocals. As with most of Symphony X's albums you can expect some cheese, but to me it actually adds to the album. Their sound is so original, and well thought out that the cheese, which there isn't much of, makes this album all the better.

My favorite track of the album is "Children of a Faceless God". I just love the riffs and melodies throughout this piece, and Allen's voice is yet again superb on this track. This track is also a very original sounding power metal gem that combines both heavier riffs to go along with softer sounding choruses. Another great track is the prog epic "When All is Lost". The organ work on this song is awesome, to say the least. This album definitely has enough to satisfy any power or prog metal fan out there. Through its 80 some minute play time it stays strong and never gets boring, ever.

I'm happy to say that Symphony X has put out one of the best albums of this year. There is no doubt that this is the best progressive metal release of the year, and definitely one of the best metal releases as well. It has everything a prog metal fan could want; great vocals, complex song structures, very clean production , and wonderful soaring riffs. 4.5 stars are well deserved here for this great album that has landed Symphony X as one of my top bands ever.

Symphony X: Iconoclast
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-07-16 17:11:18
My Score:

Since their formation in 1994, New Jersey-based progressive power metal band Symphony X has established themselves as one of the genre's most influential and important acts. With classics like V: The New Mythology Suite and The Divine Wings of Tragedy in their backcatalog, it'd be shocking for any prog metal fan to not be at least mildly familiar with these veterans. Iconoclast, the eighth album from Symphony X, is yet another top-notch release from Michael Romeo & company and possibly my favorite of theirs so far. Symphony X continues their trend into a heavier, slightly less progressive sound on Iconoclast and delivers a masculine prog power metal album filled with technical mastery, terrific songwriting, and spot-on execution. This album may even further alienate fans of the band's neo-classical roots, but I think that just shows what a versatile band Symphony X truly is. Eight albums into their career, and Symphony X is still evolving and even creating some of their best material ever. If you enjoy edgy modern prog metal, it's hard to go wrong with Iconoclast!

The music here is unquestionably Symphony X, but with a few extra notches of heaviness and very minimal neo-classical tendencies. Iconoclast is a very heavy album, filled to the brim with masculine guitar riffs and dark atmospheres, but still contains enough melodic sections and technicalities to satisfy any prog metal fan. The opening to the title track alone should rest any concerns that this is a straightforward metal album, despite the overall heaviness of Iconoclast. None of the songs here are particularly soft (melodic choruses aside), except for "When All Is Lost", an absolutely beautiful prog metal track featuring some terrific organ work from Michael Pinnella. Despite Iconoclast's near-83 minute playing time, it never loses any steam and remains powerful during its entire duration. I'll let that speak for itself for how strong the songwriting is here.

One thing worth mentioning are the two different versions of Iconoclast on the market. There is a 1-CD version containing 9 songs, and a 2-CD version containing 12 songs. If you're going to buy Iconoclast, make sure you get the 2-CD version! This version is the full album released as Symphony X originally intended. You're missing out on some great material if you get the incomplete single disc version.

Of course, when talking about Symphony X the musicianship is unquestionably terrific. Michael Romeo's powerful metal riffs, combined with the intricate keyboard work from Michael Pinnella, fantastic rhythm section of Jason Rullo (drums) and Michael Lepond (bass), and Russell Allen's top-notch vocals makes Iconoclast simply a joy to listen to. Russell Allen uses a rougher vocal delivery here than on previous albums, but he still sounds just as powerful and emotional as ever. The man is simply one of the most talented metal vocalists out there, and that's never forgotten on this album. Iconoclast also sports a sleek modern production that suits the music perfectly. This is a professional sounding album that just reeks with class, and the mix is also spot-on.

Iconoclast is yet another winner from Symphony X, and quite possibly their finest achievement thus far. Anyone who even mildly enjoys heavy-edged prog metal needs to get this in their collection - it's one of the year's best for sure. Iconoclast is an album filled with virtually everything that makes for a fantastic modern prog metal effort; fantastic riffs, sleek production, soaring vocals, and complex compositions galore. Though very far removed from the band's neo-classical power metal roots, Symphony X seems extremely confident in this new sound and have delivered a killer album to prove it. 4.5 stars are well-deserved.

Symphony X: Iconoclast
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-07-05 19:51:19
My Score:

The boys from New Jersey have done it again, as Iconoclast is the next logical step from The Odyssey and Paradise Lost. Symphony X have taken on a heavier, more aggressive style in recent years, adding a significant amount of crunch to their progressive metal attack.

Iconoclastis damn near perfect from start to finish, and you'll want to make sure you pick up the 2 disc Special Edition which contains 3 extra songs, all housed in a gorgeous digipack. There are so many splendid songs here, such as "The End of Innocence", "Dehumanized", "Children of a Faceless God", "Electric Messiah", "Heretic", and the stunning title track, but in all honesty there's not a clunker in the bunch. Russel Allen is at his snarling best throughout, showing why he is one of the best vocalists in the prog-metal field today. Michael Romee once again delivers a non-stop feast of killer riffs and blazing leads, and Michael Pinnella, Michael LePond, and Jason Rullo all combine to fill in the rest of the pieces into one of the tighest and most lethal prog metal bands on the planet.

I could have spent a lot of time dissecting each song and telling you why Iconoclast is that damn good, but in all honesty that would take a while for me to write it and you to read it. Our time is probably better spent with me listening to this killer CD again and you the reader doing whatever you need to do to get yourself a copy.

Easily one of the best of 2011 so far.

» Reader Comments:

Symphony X: Iconoclast
Posted by Jack Toledano on 2012-03-09 12:40:26
My Score:

As I will be seeing Symphony X tomorrow evening in New York, I figured this would be an appropriate time to add to the sentiment that has already been discussed here. In a word, an amazing CD indeed. On 1st listen, it sounded like a carbon copy of Paradise Lost, but after about 3 or 4 listens, I have a much better appreciation for where this CD is headed. As others have stated, it is very dark and heavy, yet I find certain tunes to be very catchy, such as the title track, The End Of Innocence, Children of a Faceless God, Dehumanized, etc., although there really is not one weak spot in the CD. Without a doubt this is my favorite Symphony X CD since V: The Mythology Suites. Can't wait to hear them perform these tunes tomorrow night!!!!

Symphony X: Iconoclast
Posted by Carlos Canales Vega on 2011-11-15 11:39:42
My Score:

With each release, Symphony X has become a heavier band.Once again, fans of their more melodic and progressive past need no apply.There are even fewer melodies and dynamics this time around, exchanged completely by power and one pummeling, hyper-speed-delivered riff after another (somehow drummer Jason Rullo has found a way to outdid himself amidst the heavyness of the procedings).It must be said that even choruses (however athemic and powerful may be) have very little of their once trademark melodies.If all of that is OK with you, you'll love this.I love it, of course, but if you are a more traditional prog fan or metal type of person, be aware that you have to be on a bitter and/or agressive mood to fully enjoy this!
Much as V: The New Mithology Suite epitomized the culmination of their neo-classical/progressive ideas, I feel that with this album Symphony X has fully explored their darkest ideas.I truly believe that now they have to change once again their paradigm, in order to not become stale and repeat themselves.As for now, this album (in its 2CD version) is Highly Recommended!

Symphony X: Iconoclast
Posted by Gino B. on 2011-09-12 13:22:12
My Score:

This is a totally outstanding album from start to finish. Symphony X have been my favorite band since "Divine Wings of Tragedy" and none of their albums, since, have disappointed me in the least.
Being a metal fan, I love the heavier direction that they've taken, yet they still retain their progressive sound. It's the perfect combo for my tastes.
To me, all the songs on this new album are 'kick ass" and memorable. The only problem i have with this album, as well as the last 2 before it, are the rougher vocals of Russell Allan. It's not the end of the world for me....but I find that he sounds so much better when he sings clean. He still shines on this album, regardless.

Along with dream theater's new opus, definately album of the year.

Symphony X: Iconoclast
Posted by Jonathan Swank on 2011-06-24 12:32:26
My Score:

Great review. I pretty much agree with the sentiments and observations. I think its a monstrous release - really something fans of heavy riff oriented metal will love. Less progressive, but that's not bad. Just look at the slew of great releases we've had in the more traditional power metal vein over the past year (Helloween - 7 Sinners, Accept - Blood of the Nations the most noteworthy as these bands both delivered their heaviest albums to date) Symph X has given us their heaviest - most in your face - delivery to date and there is little you can find fault with here even for fans that reall;y don't like progressive metal per se. Even Rullo's drumming is bigger than ever. Great stuff from a great band. Now if they could just expand their road tour a bit!!

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