-Part I: Odysseus's Theme / Overture -Part II: Journey to Ithaca -Part III: The Eye -Part IV: Circe (Daughter of the Sun) -Part V: Sirens -Part VI: Scylla and Charybdis -Part VII: The Fate of the Suitors / Champion of Ithaca
'This is a cd I have been looking forward to review! It is no secret that I am a huge fan of their earlier works but this only means that I am demanding a lot from these guys since I know what they are capable of. Nothing less than a masterpiece will make me bring out the big numbers for the rating.
The thing we have heard from Symphony X again and again about this album was: "Man, it's heavy!" and that is indeed the first impression you get when you first put on this cd. Actually, I was talking to a friend of mine, who mostly listens to death metal, about how heavy this disc would be. His opinion was that if they wanted to get heavier, Russ would have to start growling.
Rest assured that there is no growling on this cd! But Russ does sing with a much more aggressive voice from time to time. Think "Banish all kings from the land!" from The Divine Wings of Tragedy or "Riiiiiiiise, my minions!" from Egypt, both songs from their earlier cds. Even though he sings harder on most songs, he also makes variations from a hard voice to a soft one. This creates a nice contrast, something that we find a lot of on The Odyssey. After the first few songs that are pretty heavy, we have The Accolade part II which is one of the softer songs.
It happens from time to time when an otherwise great band put out a new cd that they have decided to write a nice quiet ballad. Unfortunately this often ends up being the one song that makes me look for the next-song button on my remote. Not so with any songs on this disc. Even though I wouldn't categorize The Accolade part II as a ballad, it's probably what comes closer to being one on this cd. If you listen carefully, you will find small parts in this song that are taken from the original one, maybe changed a bit but unmistakenly from part I of this story.
When a band puts out a cd that I really like, I have the dilemma that I (naturally) want next cd to be just as good which often means "a lot like the last one" but on the other hand I can understand that a band needs to grow musically. The Odyssey is not a copy of any of Symphony X' other cds yet there is still the easily recognizable patterns that come up again. Mr. Romeo's is the mastermind of this band and he writes most of the music. Both his soloing and rythm playing is still very Romeo-ish which is good. This is what stands out most on the cd and he certainly knows how to give the listeners something to listen to.
We still have the heavy rythm guitar from mr. Romeo. Here, they are even more in front than on V, where I already thought it was a little bit too much. But the rythm guitar work is interresting all the way through the cd so this is not a big complaint. The keyboards are more in the background, something that I really think is too bad. The keyboards on V made the whole cd sound more symphonic than this one. The first few songs definitely sound more in-your-face and less symphonic. Maybe this is to create a contrast to the title-song, the 24-minute epic song The Odyssey.
During the intro to this song, you can clearly hear Symphony X' love for film music. This is a complex composition where you all the time find something new in the countless melodies that are playing at the same time. This is truly an epic song. We go all the way through the most quiet moments to some other serious heavy ones. There are long instrumental passages with incredibly solos. Other parts have heavy rythm parts with aggressive singing. I am still discovering new great parts in this monster of a song.
One of the things that surprised me most while listening to this cd was the jazz-thing in the middle of Awakenings. "What, Symphony X playing jazz???" I can clearly hear you asking, dear reader. Yeah, it's true. There is a 15 second part where mr. Pinella is playing some jazzy sounding things over mr. LePonds walking bass and it actually sounds ok. Maybe because it is such a contrast to the rest of the cd. I certainly didn't expect that.
Conclusion: Overall, I still haven't decided if this cd can match such masterpieces as The Divine Wings of Tragedy or V, however it is pretty close. It is still growing on me and I'm finding new things that grab my attention. But still I miss the symphonic touch of V which they have turned down a notch on The Odyssey. Also the production is good but still needs a bit more to compete with the best produced recordings out there. These small complaints aside, Symphony X have created a brilliant cd which comes very close to afore mentioned masterpieces. If you like progressive part of progressive metal, there is something for you here and if you just like your music heavy, this cd will also have something for you.'