Symphony X
The Damnation Game
01/01/1995
When Symphony X guitarist Michael Romeo concentrates on writing new material, he puts himself simultaneously in the place of a musician and a metal fan to allow his creativity to be inspired from both perspectives. “My target as a metal fan and listener was: How does something have to sound to blow me over? Each song should be as perfect as possible, really gripping and straight to the point. In other words: heavy, aggressive guitar riffs, haunting vocals and dark orchestrations to complement epic, detailed, passionately performed numbers. Something that makes you say: Wow, that’s brilliant! That’s what we set out to achieve.” Romeo is referring to the new Symphony X album, ‘Paradise Lost’, rightly claiming that the result lives up to the group’s ambitious aspirations. ‘Paradise Lost’ comprises ten songs on the verge of prog-rock and heavy metal and over 60 minutes playing time.

Michael Romeo could be referred to as a primus inter pares, the mastermind behind a band consisting of five strong individual musicians who have been working together in a constant line-up for years. Singer Russell Allen is doubtlessly one of the most charismatic vocalists on the scene, enjoying an excellent international reputation. His collaborations with Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) on ‘Star One’ and Jørn Lande (ex-Masterplan) on the Allen/Lande project have earned him a lot of praise and recognition. Still he’s always at his best together with Symphony X, the band allowing his voice to reveal its full diversity, sounding ambitioned from the first to the very last note. Like Romeo, keyboardist Michael Pinnella is a virtuoso musician whose distinctive sound and breathtaking solo parts lend a special touch to Symphony X’s tracks, and the rhythm section consisting of drummer Jason Rullo and bassist Mike Lepond have long proven their unbeatable qualities.

This Symphony X line-up has succeeded in recording an album that features, next to the group’s typical characteristics, a lot of surprises and innovations. Michael Romeo comments on his band’s most aggressive album to date: “Of course the album also features the kind of songs that people have come to anticipate from us, but there’s also a fresh and innovative approach, as well as a number of musical and thematic references, for example to ‘The Odyssey’ and ‘The Divine Wings Of Tragedy’. But ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ with its dynamic verse and unusual middle section features totally new stylistic devices. The same goes for ‘The Sacrifice’, a number for classical guitar and very intimate vocals – not exactly what you’d expect from us. But no matter where our inspirations have taken us, the result always is and remains undeniably Symphony X.”

Thematically, ‘Paradise Lost’ is no concept album in the traditional sense, but a sequence of individual songs and themes, based loosely on John Milton’s same-named novel about the Fall of Man. “The lyrics are about deceit, revenge and corruption. Some of them are practically infernal, others could be interpreted in different ways,” says Romeo, who stresses the material’s dark atmosphere and is proud of its depth and wealth of detail. And even before Symphony X embark on their impending autumn tour with Dream Theater, Romeo has arrived at a thoroughly positive conclusion: “After all that hard work it’s great to sit down and listen to the album as a whole, complete, living and breathing piece and note: Yeah, this thing is a fuckin’ monster.”