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Allen, Russell: Atomic Soul

Ready to get your ass kicked and your balls handed to you on a silver platter? Well, this first solo album from Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen is vintage trip down 1970's Hard Rock Lane, drastically different from anything Allen has done with his main band. Russell's influences shine all over this CD, mainly classic bands like Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy,Deep Purple, Montrose, Humble Pie, Grand Funk Railroad, Blackfoot, Badlands, and Dio. This is heavy guitar rock with a slight bluesy edge, so you can forget about the neo-classical progressive rock of Symphony X-this is pedal to the metal hard rock with fiery vocals and lots of attitude.

Just listen to the crankin' sounds on tracks like "Voodoo Hand" or "Blackout", two lethal tunes featuring Allen's husky vocals and some meaty guitar riffs, not to mention plenty of melodic hooks. Much of the album was played by Allen, and he composed and arranged the entire piece. Helping out, amongst others are fellow Symphony X mates Michael Pinella and Michael Romeo, as well as Stratovarius keyboard player Jens Johannson, plus drummer Robert Nelson and guitarist Brendan Anthony. "Angel" has a beefy/bluesy feel to it, reminding of classic Badlands, while the speedy "Season's of Insanity" has an 80's metal feel to it, with Allen's vocals hitting Dio -like intensity.

Fret not prog-metal lovers, as the singer does manage to throw in the Rainbow influenced "Gaia", a medieval themed orchestral metal number that features heavy riffs, sweeping keyboards, and powerful vocals. Vintage rockin' boogie, very much like a throwback to Bad Company, Grand Funk, or Humble Pie, can be heard on the strutting stomp of "Loosin' You", while those who dug the proto-metal sounds of the first Montrose album will love "Saucey Jack", which is littered with meaty and catchy guitar riffs. Power metal meets Deep Purple on the raging title track, complete with some wild guitar and synth solos.

Perhaps the most adventurous tune on the album, and the only one that resembles Symphony X at all, is the near 8-minute "We Will Fly", a song loaded with melodic hooks, majestic piano, and progressive arrangements. It's here that Allen's dynamics as a singer really shine, as he handles the melodic and aggressive parts with ease, and the lush backing harmonies are expertly executed.

Atomic Soul is one of those releases that will have you hitting the replay button over and over, and whether you like hard rock, progressive metal, or just good rock music, this will surely be on your heavy rotation list. This CD is guaranteed to show up on many Best of 2005 lists, mark my words.

Track Listing
01. Blackout (4:52)
02. Unjustified (3:43)
03. Voodoo Hand (3:54)
04. Angel (5:14)
05. The Distance (4:49)
06. Seasons of Insanity (4:20)
07. Gaia (4:33)
08. Losin' You (4:01)
09. Saucey Jack (4:02)
10. We Will Fly (7:55)
11. Atomic Soul (3:08)

Added: September 24th 2005
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Symphony X Website
Hits: 6129
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Allen, Russell: Atomic Soul
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-09-24 14:35:10
My Score:

Symphony X front man Russell Allen has one of the best voices in Progressive Metal music today and he proves it night after night on tour with the band. Allen has a rich bluesy feel to his style and with his debut solo effort Atomic Soul he shows that the Legends of yesterday have helped him along. Fans of Symphony X already know what to expect from Russell in the Progressive genre, however when they hear this CD they will be impressed to find how different a direction he has taken. Deciding to release a record that was not Progressive but more traditional Hard Rock can be considered quite the gamble these days, for in some cases you risk alienating those that only choose to follow one genre that they are familiar with. This CD is less Dream Theater/Fates Warning like and more along the lines of Rainbow, Led Zeppelin and Dio. All of these amazing groups show up as influences to Russell's work with songs like "Voodoo Hand" and "Seasons Of Insanity". In "Voodoo Hand" one can imagine that this was written for the late Ray Gillen with the whole overall groove ringing like something off the Badlands debut. On "Seasons Of Insanity" there are hints of Dio-era Rainbow, and the whole CD is full of these nuances that just deliver. These songs are among my favorites on the release and it's great to find such a richly packed record with so many varied parts pulled from one's influence catalog on it. It marks Russell Allen as a singer above most of his peers for only being able to pull this off at all but to do it well enough to make this a very difficult record to stop playing. As someone who also grew up on 70's Hard Rock I found the release outstanding. There are a number of tracks that I found to be above par on the piece and besides the ones I referenced earlier I think the title track "Atomic Soul" kicks ass and "Blackout" reminds you what a Rock track should sound like. More Artists who perform in the genre would do well to pick up this CD.

Allen also composed and arranged the entire album with himself being in charge of a lot of the guitar and bass duties in the recording process. Joining him on the recording was Jens Johannson (keyboards), Michael Romeo (guitar), Robert Nelson (drums) and Michael Pinella (keyboards). This CD comes with the highest of recommendations and not only to the fans of Russell's work in Symphony X but also for those that find this blues-based Hard Rock deep within their hearts still. In speaking with Russell he was unsure whether he would ever be able to tour with this material but if he did it would go over like gangbusters. Check it out, you will not be disappointed.

Allen, Russell: Atomic Soul
Posted by Jack Toledano, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-06-07 20:21:21
My Score:

From Inside Out Music, Symphony X lead vocalist Russell Allen makes his solo debut with Atomic Soul. After reading countless interviews and getting to know Russell's influences (and interviewing him myself), I always wondered what Russell Allen would sound like when stepping out of the prog metal realm, and more into the sounds that Russell grew up on. Well, the mystery is solved. All I can say is WOW, what a statement Russell made. As part of my music critic criteria, I partially base my critique on how well a CD captures my attention on the very 1st spin. I certainly think we have a real winner here, folks.

Let's start with the musicians Russell picked to accompany him on his solo venture. Of course, there is the incomparable guitar and studio work of fellow Symphony X bandmate Michael Romeo. Symphony X keyboardist Michael Pinnella appears in "We Will Fly", one of the few songs which resemble a Symphony X tune. Robert Nelson of Phantom's Opera does a great job handling all the drum work for the CD. Jens Johansson of Stratovarius plays some keys on the title track. As hard as it may be to match the guitar skill of Michael Romeo, Brendan Anthony of Sin River added some excellent guitar work of his own to various songs of the CD. Larry Salvatore, also of Sin River, plays bass guitar in "Blackout" and "Voodoo Hand". Iceberg of Murder One also plays some guitar on "Blackout". Lastly, Russell Allen plays some guitar, bass, and keyboards himself, proving that he is quite the well-rounded musician in addition to being an excellent singer.

As for a song by song analysis, here goes;

Blackout – from the ultra hot opening riff to the cool sounding siren, "Blackout" really sets the tone for great things to come. A who's who of great guitar playing from Romeo, Anthony, and Iceberg.

Unjustified – some of Russell's early influences shine through in "Unjustified", as this has a 70's hard rock sound

Voodoo Hand – great song, very heavy 70's style with a little soul mixed in, complete with a little Moog synth action by Russell himself

Angel – very interesting that this song has a great guitar intro, complete with harmonics, something that I might have expected on a Symphony X CD, but excellently played by Anthony.

The Distance – this song, while a little slower, and has a bit of a Foreigner feel to it, has some very meaty rhythm guitar in this song, Russell takes the spotlight with some acoustic guitar and keyboard play on this one

Seasons of Insanity – while I like every song on this CD, "Seasons of Insanity" really shines and is a favorite of mine, partially due to the excellent guitar work of Michael Romeo, plus the Deep Purple – Bad Company sounding chorus

Gaia – Michael Romeo, who had been relatively quiet until "Seasons of Insanity", continues his excellent studio work, adding string arrangements ala "Egypt" (from Symphony X V: The New Mythology Suite)

Loosin' You – Russell stated in the interview that he is a big Paul Rodgers (Bad Company) fan, it really shows in "Loosin' You", a very fun, classic 70's rocker

Saucey Jack – Russell is really having fun now, as he clowns around in the lyrics and liner notes for "Saucey Jack". My 10-year-old son endorsed this song by stating that it sounded very similar to Lynyrd Skynryd. I was very impressed to learn that it was indeed Michael Romeo playing the slide guitar, doing a great job like Rossington and Collins before him.

We Will Fly – Like "Angel" and "Gaia", this song is more in the Symphony X vein, kind of like "The Accolade" I or II, clocking in at 7:55. Allen, Romeo, and Pinnella all play keyboards in this one.

Atomic Soul – Another very fun song, as this has a very early Deep Purple – Jon Lord keyboard sound.

In closing, Russell Allen does a superb job writing all the songs on Atomic Soul, with a little help from his friends. Every song was well prepared instrumentally, as Russell is surrounded by friends with extreme musical talent, to complement his own. The production is first rate, as can be expected when recorded by Michael Romeo. But most of all, every song captured my attention and held it, which is why I am awarding Atomic Soul 5 stars. This CD has a good chance of finishing in SoT's Top 10 of 2005. Excellent job, Russell!

Allen, Russell: Atomic Soul
Posted by Steve Pettengill, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-19 08:19:24
My Score:

In a world dominated by rap, hiphop, boy bands and plastic dance divas, it sure would be great to hear Atomic Soul on the radio. What a breath of fresh air this album is! Russell Allen takes a break from his main gig Symphony X and forgoes the dead seriousness of that band's progressive metal for an album that's pure summertime car radio fun. That's not to say Atomic Soul is all brawn and no brains: the eight minute epic "We Will Fly" calls to mind vintage Kansas, what with its multi segmented arrangement, soaring vocal harmonies and intricate guitar/keyboard interplay. Elsewhere we get the very "Kashmir" like "Gaia" as well as the classic Rainbow influenced neoclassical title track.

But in general, Atomic Soul is a great excuse for pushing the pedal to the metal while cranking out an hour's worth of prime blues inflected hard rock. There is not one single song here that doesn't work well and at various times, I am reminded of Van Halen ("Loosin' You"), Dio ("Seasons of Insanity") and more recently, The Hughes/Turner Project ("Voodoo Hand").

It's comforting to know that if Symphony X ever calls it a day, Russell Allen will be just fine on his own. I had been complaining to a couple of fellow Sea of Tranquility writers that 2005 hasn't been a great year for music. I'm happy to report that Atomic Soul is the first great album of the year…and if you are heading down the highway, watch your speedometer!

Allen, Russell: Atomic Soul
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-18 21:31:47
My Score:

Funnel the voice of Symphony X through Jorn Lande, Joe Lynn Turner, Sammy Hagar, Lou Gramm and Chris Cornell, and you'll have some idea of how Russell Allen sounds on his first solo album. Atomic Soul is one of the freshest rock records of the year, simply because it's a collection of 11 songs that recall timeless, blues-infused classic rock. This is not a Symphony X album, despite the outstanding guitar and keyboard flourishes from that band's Michael Romeo and Michael Pinella. Rather, Allen takes the strength of his voice -- which always seems to contain just the right amount of grit at just the right time -- and lets it conform to boogie blues, classic rock, traditional metal and epic prog. Allen wrote and arranged all of these songs, and he handled much of the guitar, bass and keyboards himself, occassionally calling on his Symphony X bandmates, plus drummer Robert Nelson and Stratovarius keys man Jens Johannson (who turns the title track into a revved-up romp). But it doesn't really matter who played what; an album with songs that hold up as well as these no doubt will can stand on its own. This is explosive stuff that deserves to be heard by the masses ...

» Reader Comments:

Allen, Russell: Atomic Soul
Posted by Anonymous on 2007-04-16 11:00:50
My Score:

This album had intrigued me for a long while. Russ Allen totally delivers on this album. Its a bit basic at times but it has an amazing feel that gives a different edge to the vocals of SX.
At times its Sabbathy, Bad Company, Whitesnake and even Manowar. He sounds remarkably like Eric Adams on occasions. It is a fantastic display of song writing as he mixes up the styles in almost a Probot way.

Allen's voice is treasure in the metal lexicon and I can see why he wanted to make this album. It is surprising it is so basic in the riff department at times but thats not so much of a revelation. This is not SX. This is a rock beast that has a life of its own. Quite fantastic stuff.

An amazing achievement on first go.

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