(Israel Flanders is back again with something like his 100th review this week. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but he has really been cranking them out. Today, he’s singing the praises of the new album from Symphony X — Iconoclast!
I’m bringing the game up to that next-level shit, son.
Symphony. Fucking. X.
The kings of the power thrash universe (though really why wouldn’t they be? They’ve virtually pioneered their own sound), the undisputed lords and masters of melting your face with ballsy riffs, soaring vocals, and face melting shred. All in an inhumanly precise, well organized package with top-notch song writing to boot.
I was ABSOLUTELY PSYCHED for this album, and I’m glad it turned out as good as I thought it would. But there Is one small thing I wish to address here… if you can manage it, BUY THE SPECIAL TWO DISC EDITION. It is, according to the band, the “true” album, the way it was meant to be heard, and I am affirming this. The standard 9-song version just closes poorly and doesn’t feel right when it ends. Not only is the special edition 12 songs long, but the track list is completely re-arranged, further cementing that this is how they intended the album to be heard. So yeah, I’m reviewing the special edition instead of the standard today.
The opening and title track are over 10 minutes long. Yeah. A 10-minute-plus opener. What do you got for that? That’s what I wondered, and what I thought at first was, Nothing, as a cascade of odd-sounding, static-sounding ambience rushed in, and under it a piano started playing a sinister melody. You really don’t know where the song is going, but everything will be alright my child.
EPIC FUCKING, LIKE, TAPPING ACTION BRO! (more after the jump . . .)
It’s at this time you should be reminded that Michael Romeo is only, like, one of the best guitar players ever. Cause if you ain’t down with Michael Romeo, youz a fag. Assaults of tasteful riffs comprised of balls of steel and only the purest metal might are assaulting you from your speakers, epic soaring choruses, high amounts of nuclear-power-infused shredding that smashes atoms and opens rifts in the sky; tight, excellently syncopated drumming that plays just the right thing at the right time; equally tight bass; and absolutely perfect synth work top off this puppy.
This song ushers you in the right way into the world of “Iconoclast”. For all you SX fans who are disappointed that this is obviously an evolution from the meatier, heavier style found on the band’s previous album Paradise Lost, I highly suggest you go back to your Stratovarius. We don’t do that hippy-ass power-metal shit here at NCS.
The album’s first two singles, “The End Of Innocence” and “Dehumanized”, are a pretty good introduction to what this album is about. “The End Of Innocence” is a faster song with a verse that has a stomp to it that’s just so overwhelmingly powerful it’ll make you want to smash things with sledgehammers. “Dehumanized” grooves like a slithering cobra and even brings in some slight odd time moments, giving it a really tasteful gravitas. The verse riff, though, has some SERIOUS ATTITUDE to it. Russell Allen also just sounds so into it on this track in regards to his vocals that you can’t help but get pulled into it.
“Bastards Of The Machine” is definitely the most power-metal track on this album next to “When All Is Lost”. The intro to this song sounds straight out of the band’s old work, and it’s really quite catchy and awesome, but let’s get something straight here: None of that shit matters because THE VERSE RIFF HAS THE MOST MASSIVE SET OF BALLS ON IT I’VE EVER HEARD. This shit gets me headbanging like a maniac and I’m probably putting my safety at risk. Seriously.
“Heretic” is where this album steps its game up, with speed and darker riffs and melodies than you’ve heard up to now, and some seriously awesome lyrics. The anger that Russell Allen puts into the lyrics here is electrifying. “Children Of A Faceless God” brings in the groove sensibilities and one kick-ass, sing-along inducing chorus. “When All Is Lost” gives you a break from the heaviness and introduces a more ballad-like feel into the mix. There are still bits of heaviness here, but they are very much more in a traditional power-metal vein. It’s a great song, and one that serves its purpose well.
But now comes the best part of the album. “Electric Messiah” starts with a fade-in of guitar that sounds deceptively average, UNTIL THE INTRO RIFF KICKS YOU IN THE FUCKING TEETH! This is probably the heaviest and best song Symphony X has ever written. The riffs are powerful, they have a biting edge to them, and the song as a whole doesn’t let up. Russell Allen’s melody over the verse is also spectacular. There is a breakdown in this song as well that makes me grit my teeth and want to break shit.
“Prometheus ( I Am Alive)” is definitely the darkest song on the album — it definitely has doom characteristics in its melodies and pacing. Even when the song later picks up the pace, there are no frilly or catchy melodies to be found. “Light Up The Night” absolutely fucks you up with a blazing fret-burner of a riff and proceeds to be a generally badass track, just a standard good SX tune. “The Lords Of Chaos” is another weighty groove number, and the closing song is the signature epic SX closing song, this time called “Reign In Madness”. Tempo changes, movement changes, it’s got all the stuff you look for in SX’s more ambitious songs for sure.
This is the best Symphony X album yet, if you ask me. The number one thing to take away is that this album manages to be balls-to-the-wall heavy the whole time without sacrificing the epic power-metal traces or good melodies.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The facebook page for Symphony X is here. Iconoclast was released in Europe on June 17 and in North America on June 21 via Nuclear Blast Records. The creator of the killer artwork for Iconoclast is Warren Flanagan. Symphony X will be on tour in Europe this fall. Here are the initial set of dates:
Wed 28 – HAMBURG – KNUST
Thu 29 – BOCHUM – ZECHE
Fri 30 – ZOETERMEER, NL – BOERDERIJ
Sat 01 – BAARLO, NL – SJ SJIWA [ProgPower Festival]
Sun 02 – BERLIN – C-CLUB
Tue 04 – ASCHAFFENBURG – COLOS-SAAL
Wed 05 – MUNICH – BACKSTAGE HALLE
Fri 07 – MILAN – LIVE CLUB
Sat 08 – RIMINI – VELVET
Sun 09 – ROME – ALPHEUS
Wed 12 – BARCELONA – SALAMANDRA
Fri 14 – LISBON – INCRIVEL ALMADENSE
Sat 15 – PORTO – HARD CLUB
Sun 16 – SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA – CAPITOL
Tue 18 – BORDEAUX – THEATRE BARBEY
Wed 19 – LYON – KINKASI KAO
Thu 20 – PRATTELN – Z7
Sun 23 – VOSSELAAR – BIEBOB
Tue 25 – MANCHESTER – ACADEMY 3
Wed 26 – LONDON – ISLINGTON 02 ACADEMY
Fri 28 – ATHENS – GAGARIN 205
whoa, let’s watch that hate speech in the 4th paragraph, buddy…
I am just waiting ordinary sexual preferences to become the minority so they can scream oppression and say, “fucker” or “straight” is derogatory language. I never knew being PC and watching where you stepped when speaking was so important in the metal scene. But I suppose there will always be people who are interested in taking everything as a personal attack…. Fucking faggot….
Hate speech? I think you best look up your definitions of words. Plus, when did being sensitive to other peoples sensitivities become metal exactly?
I’m not sure where you’re from, but in the United States (where I’m from and where I believe BadWolf is also from, though if I’m wrong, a thousand apologies) “fag” is generally considered hate speech (at least in the general public, though I’m not sure if it is legally).
I think it might legally be considered hate speech as well, based on this in Wikipedia which defines hate speech as:
“Speech that creates a climate of hate or prejudice, which may in turn foster the commission of hate crimes.”
I think “fag” does, indeed, contribute to and/or create such a climate. What the limitations are on the use of hate speech is a bit blurry, since we cannot (and, I would argue, should not) legislate against it constitutionally.
As such, it falls to the everyday citizen to point out hate speech and shine a spot light on it, if only to make others aware of it’s meaning and negative effects. Hopefully doing so will create a more open society.
Your second sentence didn’t quite make sense to me…but considering that many contemporary metal bands seem to have left leaning political affiliations, I don’t think it’s in any way “unmetal” to try to create an atmosphere of acceptance (not tolerance, but acceptance) for all people who are not actively trying to physically or emotionally hurt others.
But, regardless of all that, why would using anti-gay language be a good thing for metal in any way?
That was about a million times longer than I thought it was…
Well… ok… was actually hoping for a bit of enlightening and debate here =p
I’m not the one who made it anti gay language. As I recall, fag is understood to simply mean a slow or stupid person in the context I used it in and you know in this society regardless of it’s offensive connotations it is very much so understood that way by most people in the context I used it in.
I didn’t intend it in the way typically understood. However, let’s not be giving over to a way of thinking that prevents expression here simply on the merits of the fact a minority owns a word of our language, whether it be of their choice to or not. I believe the day when we can truly get along is when hate speech is no longer considered to be hate speech if it’s just petty insults. I was simply using it for an effect of humor, and it’s in fact a quote/paraphrase from something else.
It is bad for discourse and human interaction to facilitate sensitivities, rather than to force the offended party to simply understand and move on. But that’s me.
I can see that you were parodying typical frat boy speech, which is why I was originally not going to say anything about it. And I’m not trying to say you must never use that language. But I do agree with BadWolf that it is hate speech, even though I know that’s not your intention.
And I do agree we need to progress past hate speech being a problem, but I don’t think trivializing a certain response is the way to do it. While many people do use “fag” not as slur but more as a general insult, I think it’s difficult to argue that it’s lost that aspect when so many DO use it with that intention.
Personally, I will never be comfortable with “fag” or “gay” as insults.
To be clear, I’m not saying your a homophobe. Just explaining why I’m not down with your use of certain terms.
I can only see the solution to hate speech so called is to be desensitized to it. It’s not the users that cause the reactions that cause the problems, it’s those who take offense to it and give the speech the power that it has.
Blaming the victim hasn’t ever exactly worked out as a good policy.
I’m not blaming the victim but you’re going to tell me the logic doesn’t make complete and utter sense? Hate speech has no gravitas if it’s not being responded to, because the point of hate speech is often to provoke a reaction at least from my experience.
Here’s the thing catch-22.
By your logic hate speech *works* not because it offends whoever, but because they react to that. Ok, fair enough, but let’s look at the alternative.
So let’s say I’m a minority and I hear a slur directed at me or my minority group. I am offended–this is a reflex and cannot be altered, it is FACT, for me as an individual.
My choice then is to express that, or not. If i express it, I’m giving credence to the hate speech by virtue of my reaction. That’s true, but on the other hand:
If i express nothing that implies consent. SILENCE IMPLIES CONSENT.
No one should have to consent to being slurred, especially not in public. This is why hate speech WORKS, because there is no perfect answer.
As a minority–and WE ALL ARE MINORITIES HERE, METALHEADS ARE A MINORITY AND WE EXPERIENCE SOCIAL STIGMA AS A RESULT OF THAT–the best reaction is to rally agfainst slurs in a positive way, not a negative way. Not whining, but just pointing out ‘X is not OK, to me.’ with decorum.
In other words: what I did.
I have heard that argument before, and I do understand where your’re coming from. But I have a hard time agreeing with it, because this kind of speech is not just insulting or offensive. Saying someone’s mom is a dog insulting and offensive, but it doesn’t dehumanize an entire group. If being called “fag” is bad, that would mean being one is also bad, which is why it’s problematic.
I’m not sure if I’m being coherent, as it’s way past my bedtime. So I’m signing off now, but I think this was a good discussion.
…who talks like that!? Sleeeeeeeep!
I’m a jew and people have called me a kyke before. I don’t have the trivial sense of pride to be offended because I realize it’s not my race/orientation that ultimately matters. Pride is offended by hate speech IMO. Nothing ele.
I thought you were christian?
I assume Jewsih by birth, Christian by religion?
Either way… your opinion seems to be coming from a position of implied superiority, i.e. I’m not offended therefore anyone else is worse than me. And you justify that by calling people out for their assumed “pride”.
I would also contend that “hate speech” doesn’t JUST attack the minority it is directed at, it also serves to support the assumed superiority of those using it. I call you a “fag” because I’m not one. And you have to accept that. I’m better than you because you’re a “fag” in my opinion.
Also – referring to the start of this lengthy reply session – this idea of things “being metal” is idiotic. Metal is a musical style. “Being metal” was designed by people who wanted to make their own outsider status a more legitimate thing, and if you look into it, it’s a rather foolish philosophy – essentially supporting ANYTHING can be said to be un-metal. It’s not tenable or realistic. Like so many things it’s a black and white viewpoint that takes no account of the realities of life and serves only to foster an “us vs them” attitude based on the idea that “being metal” is uber-cool hardcore tr00… whatever. I don’t give a fuck about “being metal”. I give a fuck about being human.
I would argue there is an implied superiority in any position, but I see the point.
And I was just goofing around dude, come on!
I actually wrote a disertation on ‘being metal’ in my last year of college.
I started out with your interpretation but, in reality, i think there is a valuable life philosophy in metal music, or rather–one which i discovered through metal music.
I’d contend that being ‘metal,’ when approached existentially and with all posturing/machismo removed, is actually a very very good way to live.
I live my life by that paper and I am very, very happy.
It’s not exactly going to be dissertation length but…
I disagree. I think metal as a music form (as an art form even) has been used by many to express what could be seen as strong, positive philosophies on life. That rebellious energy it captures can thus be turned towards making positive goals in one’s own life.
But that’s art reflecting life. I’d honestly say there’s no such thing as “being metal” – it’s an artificial construct in world of artificial constructs, but it’s one that to me really stands out. It’s ill-defined and self-contradictory.
We express ourselves through metal… this amorphous “being metal” does not express itself through us.
Israel is a goat-fucking Jesus murdering Jew. And we all know where Jews belong,
Love you, Izzy *wink*
You and Israel have a peculiar sense of humor, that’s all I can say. I didn’t find that funny at all.
I don’t really care dude. Brent’s one of my best friends in the world =p
I’m gonna have to agree with this point. Fag doesn’t have to be a gay slur. Problem is, enough people use it in such a manner.
Now, to flip a finger to the politically correct minded out there, I think that some gay people could be called fags, while it doesn’t apply to the majority not and the same can be said of any group, whether considering sexual preference/orientation or not. But that’s the way I see the use of the word – or how it can be used. No question, it is an insult, but it’s not necessarily a homosexual slur for everyone.
No harm may have been meant by it, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t do some damage. Some people may take offense, some may choose to take offense (yes, I think that’s often the case in the fucked up society we live it) and some take it for what it is, a vague – if misplaced – insult.
As for using it, it’s one of the words I choose not to use and rarely ever say it, and only then when it’s necessary and never directed at anyone. Some of the conversations I have with my best friend or my boss wander all over the place and sometimes the intolerance of certain groups and the way they go about things ends up in the discussion. Doesn’t help that the news always focuses on the negative shit when not reporting the latest who-the-fuck-cares moment in some celebrity’s life or some would-be celebrity pushing for their 16th minute.
I missed most of this debate as it was happening, since I’ve been traveling — again. Probably just as well that I wasn’t around to stick my nose into this discussion as it was unfolding. But now I’ll throw in my two cents worth anyway. First, I feel like I know Israel well enough to be sure that he wasn’t intending to insult gay people. I also understand the notion that there’s a strain of the “metal” approach to life in general that rejects “political correctness”, or any kind of “correctness” in speech or attitude.
On the other hand, I’ve witnessed too much pain inflicted by words like the one that prompted this debate and other words that target and demean and insult people because of their race or their religion to be comfortable with it. I’ve made too many mistakes in my own life to get on a soapbox and tell other people how to lead their own lives, so I’m not lecturing. But I do think progress is measured by how much we think and speak in terms that reflect a belief that people should be treated and judged as individuals who earn respect or condemnation based on their own merit, and not because of their skin color or their faith (or lack of faith) or their gender or who they like to have sex with.
These guys are definitely great musicians…but I don’t think i come equipped with the necessary mental equipment to enjoy prog. I can’t really even get into Atheist…
This is legitimately straight forward music IMO. I don’t think there is much “prog” to get here. It’s in the just right tiny dosage essential to keep it interesting.
In conclusion I think we’ve all realised that being intolerant makes you a stone-cold badass. ‘Nuff said.
I don’t have all of Symphony X’s stuff, but I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this one since hearing “Dehumanized”. With the four albums from them I have and the other stuff I’ve heard, I don’t think I’ve heard anything that I haven’t liked. I can’t say the same for some of the other usual suspects of prodgom.
Also, it’s nice to hear more bands take Symphony X’s approach to progressive metal than say the Dream Theater approach (who I still enjoy after all these years). SX offers a lot more breathing room and bands that follow their lead can often manage to not get compared to Romeo and company; not so easy in the other camp, which is unfair, yet understandable.
But be careful.
Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but
after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway,
just wanted to say excellent blog!