Greetings and salutations, fellow champions of the rock. July has been an absolutely insane month for new extreme music, so much so that I am still buried under a mountain of albums I need to catch up on. Normally I’d apologize for the Power Metal Album of the Month for July coming to you a few days late, but all things happen for a reason, and that reason was I needed to pick myself up off the floor after hearing the kinda-sorta* solo debut from Symphony X axeman/chief songwriter Michael Romeo, the unapologetically classic War of the Worlds, Pt. 1.
If you know my experience with power metal this should come as no surprise; I came aboard the Symphony X train just as V: The New Mythology Suite was released in 2000, and as an introduction to Romeo’s playing there’s no better place to have started. Wielding a potent mix of power and progression, there’s no mistaking the signature rhythmic riffing Romeo brings to bear in his songs: fluid and articulated syncopated runs, and neo-classical leads with a full-throated tone that consistently shine without overpowering the rest of the music. Since then and especially with the last two albums Symphony X have put their songwriting emphasis on darker, more progressive metal than power, which made for exciting if slightly less passionate music. War of the Worlds Pt. 1 doesn’t aptly run away from the darker, progressive elements Romeo’s been taking, but it definitely moves the scale a few units back into hallowed and glorious power territory.
War of the Worlds Pt. 1 has supposedly been years in the making, and after a thematic introduction that reminds you of the breadth of Romeo’s skills as a player and arranger opening track “Fear of the Unknown” provides ample evidence that time wasn’t spent dithering about. Tight and anthemic, the song immediately shows the wisdom of collaborating with vocalist Rick Castellano, who proves to be a mighty force, displaying the grit of Russell Allen from the early Symphony X albums but at a higher, more urgent register. It’s a wicked discovery, and together with the rest of the band they make tracks like the centerpiece “Djinn” with its majestic orchestral passages and pure power pulse of “Believe” sting with a vigor and passion missing from, well…that other band. Put those up against more evil, fun fare like the ridiculous (in a good way) “F*cking Robots” and late track “Oblivion” and you have yourself not so much a return to form, but rather a massive dose of kickass power/progressive metal that could only come from Michael Romeo. Put this on loud and prepare to bang long and loud.
July Quick Hits
Cryonic Temple – Deliverance: Just to prove I’m open minded, I gave the latest from Cryonic Temple a chance despite really not liking their last album at all. Imagine my surprise when I tell you this is more of the same: halfway decent (if largely forgettable) songwriting utterly marred by way too much reverb that washes everything out. Why do you make it so hard for me to like you, Cryonic Temple? Why?
Devious Mine – Exilium: Pure, classic power metal that doesn’t do anything to change or innovate the genre, but there’s a charm to a track like “Solider of the Noble War,” particularly in the keyboard work that appeals to me. Vocally Ca$h (I didn’t make that up, I swear) fits in nicely, accentuating the music without resorting to histrionics, and the music moves together in a cohesive enough way I could see myself whiling away some time with it.
Powerwolf – Sacrament of Sin: This came really close to being my pick for July. Powerwolf own every ounce of the ridiculousness of what they’re putting out and it is enjoyable as f*ck. Guitars sound massive, Attila Dorn continues to be everything I love about power metal vocals, and from the album cover to the band photos and song titles like “Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend” there is nothing that is not great about this album. If you’re a power metal fan I suspect you already know that…
Until next time, keep it heavy, and let us know what we should be looking out for in August!