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CayugaPosse
06-30-2011, 06:38 AM
So, with the announcement of Portnoy leaving Dream Theater, and the uncertainty of what was coming next from them, I turned my attention even more heavily on this CD. Symphony X burst onto the scene a long time ago(1997) with "The Divine Wings of Tragedy", then took a step back for several CD's before 2002's "The Odyssey" reclaimed their place as one of the better progressive metal bands in the world. The follow up 5 years later, "Paradise Lost" was a masterpiece. So I really hoped they'd take the mantle that DT may or may not be vacating depending on what happens to their song structures/writing without Portnoy, and running with it.

I'm happy to report that regardless of what happens with Dream Theater, I don't care anymore. Symphony X took the mantle and ran with it.

For any DT fans who like SX, let me just put this to you as bluntly as I can. This is their "Train of Thought".

There's still some real progressive stuff here, case in point the first track on the album, the title track "Iconoclast", which is 11 minutes of blissful, DT style progressive metal. Great keyboard work, absolutely fucking outstanding guitar work from Mike Romeo. The choir backings and epic intros that were played up largely on "Paradise Lost" return here, but the band itself is way, way more focussed on delivering a really brutal, hard cut ala DT's "Train of Thought". The album is a concept album(not a story, but a theme) around technology bringing about our demise.

Iconoclast stands as one of the best songs they've ever made. The chorus is hugely sing along("We are strong, We will stand and fight"), following the epic intro the song structure flies all over the place, never slowing down for a second.

After that, the CD really focuses itself and becomes breathtaking. "End of Innocence" is track 2, and is basically their "As I Am"(for fans of Dream Theater again). A really hard, focussed, pure metal track that plays absolutely oustanding.

From there, "Dehumanized" is another straight metal blast, the other songs are all fairly focussed, tight and precise.

The only ballad is "When All is Lost", which is outstanding as usual thanks to Russell Allen.

All in all this is an incredibly tight, hard CD. Michael Romeo is on fire with some incredible guitar work, Allen is amazing, the entire band is superb. The production is oustanding too, Allen's not too overproduced infront of the band, and everything sounds crisp and anything that needs to be in the forefront is.

Overall, like I said, pretty similar to Dream Theater's "Train of Thought", a very focussed album with a harder turn to somewhat straight forward metal. I am in love.

CayugaPosse
07-01-2011, 05:25 AM
Blabbermouth.net review is up for it too, they gave it a huge 9.5, which I agree with entirely.

There is no way this doesn't end the year as the CD of the year.

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It is no small event when a SYMPHONY X album is released. Saying otherwise would be like arguing that the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami in Japan were merely asterisks in the big book of world disasters. Just like the time between 2002's "The Odyssey" and 2007's "Paradise Lost" was well worth the wait because of the magnificence of the product unveiled, the wait for 2011's "Iconoclast" was even more indicative of the elite act's ongoing commitment to producing some of the best progressive heavy metal the world has ever heard. Scratch that…some of the best heavy metal, regardless of style, the world has ever heard.

Picking out highlights has never been an easy task with a SYMPHONY X album and that was certainly the case with "Paradise Lost", as the search for flaws was a fruitless endeavor. And yet "Iconoclast" is an even better example of that futile search. Spin after spin, no matter the song, the result was always the same; every damn cut is a highlight. A more direct album in its riff-driven heaviness (guitarist Michael Romeo has outdone himself again), the songs of "Iconoclast" continue the SYMPHONY X legacy of composing music that leaves not a second of wasted effort. Setting aside for the moment the comparatively epic bookends of the title track and "When All is Lost", the seven songs in between are fueled with the traditional heavy metal fire — in spirit, if not always style — of everyone from JUDAS PRIEST to DIO, based on Romeo's brawny, carefully composed riffs and Russell Allen's world-class vocal power. Yet retained is the band's distinctive approach to compositional dynamics. Whether it is "The End of Innocence" or "Bastards of the Machine" (Allen's phrasing and inflection is particularly Ronnie James Dio-esque and menacing here), the arrangements are awe inspiring and eminently headbang-able, the choruses are amazingly catchy and built for long-term memory retention, and the overall vibe is outright electrifying. That vibe is also a dark one, owing in large part to the bleak man-versus-technology lyrical themes.

As important as Romeo and Allen are to the SYMPHONY X delivery, the keyboard work of Michael Pinnella is integral to the fullness of sound and offers a range of effects that are suitably fitting to the theme/vibe, even when initially seeming subtle. The collective impact of the music for all these reasons becomes more and more apparent, revealing new levels of depth with each spin of the CD.

The aforementioned bookends then serve as exemplifications of the classic SYMPHONY X approach to epic songwriting, frequently reminding in a general sense of past works. The opening title track is 11 minutes of pure SX brilliance, that perfect combination of heavy metal might and the deeply passionate melody that is heard on the album's "biggest" chorus. It is on the nine-minute "When All is Lost" that one is taken back to SYMPHONY X's more traditionally progressive metal period, the touching vocals of Allen against Pinnella's beautiful piano playing nothing short of breathtaking.

You should now have some idea about why picking a favorite track or an album highpoint is not only a near impossibility, it is also mentally traumatizing. When it comes to questions of the best way to experience "Iconoclast", it is all or nothing. It's scary to think that the two-CD special digipak version of "Iconoclast" could very well be better as a complete package. But since it is the single-disc version that was made available for review, then we'll assume that the level of excellence reached is just as high. After all, SYMPHONY X has proven throughout its impressive career that it is incapable of making anything other than great heavy metal albums. "Iconoclast" just may be the strongest statement in support of that assertion to date.

Cornholio
07-02-2011, 02:44 AM
Shorter version from me:
Great album !!!

King_Killah
07-07-2011, 06:32 PM
So, with the announcement of Portnoy leaving Dream Theater, and the uncertainty of what was coming next from them, I turned my attention even more heavily on this CD. Symphony X burst onto the scene a long time ago(1997) with "The Divine Wings of Tragedy", then took a step back for several CD's before 2002's "The Odyssey" reclaimed their place as one of the better progressive metal bands in the world. The follow up 5 years later, "Paradise Lost" was a masterpiece. So I really hoped they'd take the mantle that DT may or may not be vacating depending on what happens to their song structures/writing without Portnoy, and running with it.

I'm happy to report that regardless of what happens with Dream Theater, I don't care anymore. Symphony X took the mantle and ran with it.

For any DT fans who like SX, let me just put this to you as bluntly as I can. This is their "Train of Thought".

There's still some real progressive stuff here, case in point the first track on the album, the title track "Iconoclast", which is 11 minutes of blissful, DT style progressive metal. Great keyboard work, absolutely fucking outstanding guitar work from Mike Romeo. The choir backings and epic intros that were played up largely on "Paradise Lost" return here, but the band itself is way, way more focussed on delivering a really brutal, hard cut ala DT's "Train of Thought". The album is a concept album(not a story, but a theme) around technology bringing about our demise.

Iconoclast stands as one of the best songs they've ever made. The chorus is hugely sing along("We are strong, We will stand and fight"), following the epic intro the song structure flies all over the place, never slowing down for a second.

After that, the CD really focuses itself and becomes breathtaking. "End of Innocence" is track 2, and is basically their "As I Am"(for fans of Dream Theater again). A really hard, focussed, pure metal track that plays absolutely oustanding.

From there, "Dehumanized" is another straight metal blast, the other songs are all fairly focussed, tight and precise.

The only ballad is "When All is Lost", which is outstanding as usual thanks to Russell Allen.

All in all this is an incredibly tight, hard CD. Michael Romeo is on fire with some incredible guitar work, Allen is amazing, the entire band is superb. The production is oustanding too, Allen's not too overproduced infront of the band, and everything sounds crisp and anything that needs to be in the forefront is.

Overall, like I said, pretty similar to Dream Theater's "Train of Thought", a very focussed album with a harder turn to somewhat straight forward metal. I am in love.

I loved Divine Wings... then was eh, for the next couple. As you mentioned in the Dream Theater thread... When Paradise Lost came out, I remember the nut that came with it. To me that was brilliance. I actually have Iconoclast, but still haven't had a moment to check it out. I guess I'll have to throw it in the CD player NOW!

CayugaPosse
07-08-2011, 04:02 AM
I loved Divine Wings... then was eh, for the next couple. As you mentioned in the Dream Theater thread... When Paradise Lost came out, I remember the nut that came with it. To me that was brilliance. I actually have Iconoclast, but still haven't had a moment to check it out. I guess I'll have to throw it in the CD player NOW!

You should. I like this more than I liked "Paradise Lost", and I LOVED PL like you did.