If I had to pick one word to describe “Underworld”, the latest album from progressive-metal alums Symphony X, it would be: maximalist.
Each track of the album, while maintaining a clear vision from primary songwriter Michael Romeo, all seem to evoke some kind of different influence or different sound. On some tracks, such as ‘To Hell and Back‘ and the solo-heavy ‘In My Darkest Hour,’ it’s a commitment to high octane, almost Dream Theater-esque technicality and complexity. This strays into the convoluted at times, but is still a testament to Romeo’s song writing master craft.
Other tracks, such as the stripped down fourth track ‘Without You,’ and ‘Swan Song’ feature much more clean sounds and pretty heartfelt content, reminiscent of Opeth’s blue moon of an album, “Damnation”. ‘Without You’ is probably my favourite track of the album, mostly because it has such a beautiful contrast of lighter, softer piano-and-guitar interludes and heavy guitar riffs that make it almost a heavy metal power ballad.
Which is another defining aspect of the album: power. Sometimes it’s power in the technical proficiency and dizzying riffs, other times it’s the power behind the lyrics and contrasts of the more stripped down tracks.
Some tracks even feature more of a darker tone, such as the bass and choral sounds of the fifth track, ‘Kiss of Fire.’ It also has some elements of the prog metal of the 1970’s, with a lot of experimentation while still retaining the heavy metal. ‘Charon,’ the track after, also features a darker, yet epic sounding chorus, and at times seems to take a few vocal cues from Chris Cornell.
While the sheer length and endless guitar solos are a bit tiresome after the second listen-through, overall, it’s a pretty good album with a lot of power behind it, a commitment to maximalist complexity, and a lot of heart to offer.