Symphony X Iconoclast- 2011
RMR Album Rating- 4 (Good)
Symphony X’s Iconoclast is much more about the X, and much less about the Symphony.
Symphony X’s name really describes their sound. Or, at least it used to. The “Symphony” part of their name describes the progressive symphonic aspect of their sound, and the “X” describes the metal aspect of their sound, and they used to keep the two aspects of their sound in equal balance. I think the perfect balance of these elements was on their 2000 release V: The New Mythology Suite, because it really was the perfect blend of metal and symphonic prog, but with each subsequent release after V: The New Mythology Suite, they scaled back the symphonic part of their sound to the point where it is almost non-existent on Iconoclast, which is really just a straight metal album with some symphonic progressive elements injected in a few areas.
I have no problem with straight metal albums, as long as their good, and they can keep my attention, and that’s really where the problems begin for Iconoclast. There is a ton of excellent shredding throughout the whole album, but over the course of its 82-minute run time, all the shredding starts to sound the same, so the album comes across as extremely monotonous, and all the songs (with a few exceptions) struggle to keep my attention. They avoided this pitfall in the past by balancing their shredding with symphonic elements, but as mentioned, there are very few symphonic elements on Iconoclast at all. I will say that the production of the album is excellent and crystal clear, with the exception Michael Pinnella’s keyboards. Pinnella’s keys used to be a major component of their sound, but they don’t get nearly enough emphasis on this release, which is a disappointment because he is an excellent player.
There are 12 tracks on the record that are spread out over two discs, and none of the songs are bad, but most of them are indistinguishable from each other when listened to in sequence, so the album just sounds like one long shred fest. I will say that if you take any one of the songs and listen to it as a stand-alone track by itself, it will sound impressive, but over the course of 82-minutes, all the songs just run together, and very few of them stand out as winners.
Of the 12 songs, only a few really grab my attention. “Iconoclast,” the opener, is a standout due to is athemic chorus of “we are strong/ we will stand and fight.” “The End of Innocence” is also a highlight; it starts with a synchronized mix of guitar and Pinnella’s keyboards, making it one of the few songs that successfully blends Symphony X’s metal and symphonic style. “Reign In Madness” is also exceptional; it is fastest of the metal tracks on the album, and the end is super-speedy.
Click here to listen to Iconoclast
Click here to listen to The End of Innocence
Click here to listen to Reign In Madness
My favorite track on the album is “When all is Lost.” It starts as a simple ballad with Russell Allen singing over Pinnella’s keyboards. It also starts off much slower than the other songs, but it gradually builds up in pace throughout the song, which makes it much more melodic and brings back the balance of symphonic prog and metal that the rest of the album is missing. Then at about the mid-way point, it really kicks in, and the second half of the song is an outstanding progressive-metal jam that is reminiscent of the middle section of Dream Theater’s “Metropolis- Part 1.” If the entire album had the diversity and melody that “When all is Lost” has, the album would be much better (Click here to listen to When All Is Lost).
So again, it’s not that any of the songs are really bad here, it’s just that none of them really stand out on their own, with the exception of “When all is Lost.” I wish Symphony X would bring back some diversity to their albums, because they had a unique sound when they balanced their symphonic and metal elements correctly. But, this album just doesn’t do that, and even if you take it as a straight metal album, it completely lacks diversity and it is completely plagued by its monotonous shredding. Thus unfortunately, this one doesn’t rank too high with me, and I don’t see myself pulling it off the shelf for a re-listen anytime soon.
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