#TBT: Get Classical with the Brilliantly Executed Paradise Lost by SYMPHONY X
Welcome back to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. Today we mark TBT number 32 by continuing April's trend of examining some great moments in history of power metal.
Today's selection from Symphony X shows just how mainstream power and neoclassical metal can become when executed properly. Get pinky-out fancy, because the sophisticated tunes of Lost Paradise will marry your inner metal head with the refinement of the most traditional of music compositions.
SYMPHONY X'S PARADISE LOST
Release Date: 2007
Record Label: Inside Out
I can't imagine what part of this album any self-respecting metal fan wouldn't like. Symphony X created a technically near-perfect album with Paradise Lost. The sheer talent of each band member sings triumphantly on each and every single song throughout the 10-track release. The album production is clean and the sonic atmosphere sparkles with energy, intent, and precision. In many ways, Paradise Lost is an ambassador album that represents the most significant and modern elements of power, progressive and symphonic metal. The record is dramatic, as par the course for these genres, but manages to escape much of the inauthentic corniness found in many associated 'power' acts. While I have a soft spot in my heart for the theatrics and unapologetic bluntness oft found throughout power metal, I find that far too often these gimmicks become a focal point over musicianship. When that happens, the lack of composition creates music that is uncomfortable to listen to. The reach for lofty and fantastic imagery can fall severely short if a band can't find group synergy or write memorable songs. What are issues for some depict the areas of strength for Symphony X. Check out title track, and most expressive song on the album, "Paradise Lost":
The 1:50 mark hits such a beautiful transition, smoothly blending technicality into a focused expression. "Paradise Lost" is an anomaly as most tracks on the album hit a much more aggressive tone. The seventh studio album from Symphony X is intense – markedly more intense than previous efforts. Paradise Lost is more focused in comparison to prior releases. The tracks can't ever be accused of being too short, though at an average of six-or-so minutes they are shorter than the 10+ minute epochs that have driven much of their earlier career. Symphony X started back in 1994 and have manned a pretty consistent lineup through their 24-year career. This particular album features band main-stays Russell Allen on vocals, Michael Romeo on guitar, Michael Pinnella on keyboards, Michael Lepond on bass, and Jason Rullo on drums. Many fans geek out over the speed and intricacies in the solos of Romeo's playing. And, who wouldn't with tracks like "Domination":
That guy is bananas. I love a speedy player, but what I appreciate about his playing is the subtle restraint. Romeo can play whatever he wants no matter how many notes, for however long, and he would have most people on the planet watching him with mouth agape. But, speed is a one-trick pony. While many have made careers off of speed alone (Michel Angelo Batio comes to mind), and it is impressive, expression and technicality are two important aspects that also qualify great solos. I think Romeo successfully executes this trifecta while still balancing value and presence with other elements of the group. This attention to the balance is remarkable.
If I had to find fault in this album, I could see the Dio-esque vocals being accused of being predictable. However, tracks like "Serpent's Kiss" have breathers from his mid-range rasp with beautiful harmonies and more extended-note moments.
If you sincerely dislike progressive music and everything associated with it, you won't dig this piece of work. Progressive elements are the backbone of the album. There is a focus on song structure, irregular time signatures, and in-your-face, high-octane, flashy guitar solos. Paired with orchestral moments and a end-of-times choir aesthetic, the album unfolds like a cinematic drama. Paradise Lost introduced the world to the band's first ever official music videos. And, if you've been reading TBT for any amount of time, you'll know that official music videos make me giddy like a child on Christmas morning. Check out track "Set the World on Fire":
Okay, I remember what I said about 'lack of corniness', and this unsubtle tribute to Lord of the Rings may have you questioning my judgement. It's power metal, folks. It's supposed to be over the top, and Lord of the Rings is fucking awesome. If you don't like it, than this band is definitely NOT for you.
Even if you think the video is corny, the music carries such authenticity of skill that their presence in the metal world cannot be ignored. Symphony X are New Jersey based, folks. This came out of New Jersey. Once again, I'm jazzed that Americans made huge a contribution to these Euro-centric genres such as power metal in a skillful and enjoyable way. In fact, Paradise Lost charted high on both the Billboard Heatseekers, and on German, Dutch, Swiss and French album charts. If you're a fan of metal and want to listen to an excellent selection that represents a few specialty sub-genres, than Paradise Lost is the album for you. For fans of Dream Theater who are looking for something more aggressive and, well, less Dream Theater-y, then this is an excellent choice.