The masters of Symphonic Power Metal are back!Symphony X are recognized by-and-large as one the most important acts in the worldwide metal scene. After the release of their hugely successful CD, The Odyssey - and after nearly five years - Michael Romeo … see full wiki
Shame on me. I'd had low expectations for this album, probably because I'd almost forgotten Symphony X existed (it'd been five years since _The Odyssey_!). And that's just not cool. Symphony X holds a special place to me because they were probably the second prog-metal band I discovered after Dream Theater (the first time I heard _Divine Wings of Tragedy_ i nearly made a mess of my pantaloons!). After so many years, Symphony X couldn't come back with an "ehhh" album - they had to remind us why they among the top echelon of prog-metallers. For in taking their sweet time with _Paradise Lost_, Symphony X produced their ultimate balls-to-the-walls masterpiece. On the one hand, nothing has changed -- the band is still virgin-tight, full of "how the hell did they--?"-sorta parts, merging technical acumen with songwriting talent rare for this genre, fronted by Russell Allen, the most empathetic voice in prog-metal. On the other hand, the album is polished to a sheen of perfection that even their previous best work cannot boast with this on the table. This album uses its neoclassical-isms less blatantly, and is darker and heavier than anything of theirs to date.
Before you listen to the album, take a moment to absorb the artwork on the album and within the booklet. _Paradise Lost_ apparently _not_ a concept album, and I have no idea what the lyrics are about. BUT! Symphony X's lyrics are still some of the coolest in the genre and with this album they are accompanied some of the coolest fantasy artwork I've ever seen, that helps communicates a flowing, concept/story on a sort of metaphysical level. (I am just talking about subjective experience here, nothing official - to me Bruce Dickinson's _Chemical Wedding_ and Tool's _Lateralus_ are among the greatest rock/metal concept albums ever, despite them not actually being concept albums!) The music is just as epic and soaring and bloody as suggested by the art. The intro "Oculus ex Inferni" and the soaring first song "Set the World on Fire" is like the armies of darkness gathering in their nightmare realm. "Domination" and "Serpent's Kiss" are the demonic blitzkrieg, heavy and vengeful with the dark forces crushing the angelic defenders. "Paradise Lost", a truly awesome power ballad, is the crisis point, where "Under starless skies, all love must die and fade away...I'll savor the downfall of paradise" and Allen's vocals are excellent here. When his voice strains to sing the line "Love is a tragedy, all that I have...all that I'll ever need, is right there inside" is one of the best vocal moments in their entire discography! From there it just gets more dire, with evil winning more victories (surprisingly diverse neoclassical speed metal "Eve of Seduction", the complex and diverse "Walls of Babylon"), then the final valiant standoff (exhilarating, raging "Seven"), the acceptance of defeat (another beautiful track, "The Sacrifice"), and the epilogue -- "Revelation", which is absolutely awesome and perfect. The band maintains its momentum for the full-hour, and finishes with a power and finality and quality of writing that few share!
This is a great album for many people, especially those who forgot that prog-metal could still be emotionally-charged and exhilarating, and at the same time whip up enough proggy twists and awesome songwriting to impress even the most jaded ex-prog-metal-fanboy. But really, _Paradise Lost_ is just an awesome progressive metal album. If you also skipped Dream Theater's last album _Systematic Chaos_, make sure you pick that up also for the same reasons!