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UNDERWORLD discussion thread

Discussion in 'Symphony X (Unofficial)' started by EyeballKid, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. EyeballKid

    EyeballKid Shyamalan'd

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    That last thread was getting long and bogged down with bitching and griping, so let's discuss the album here! (Not that I expect less griping, but one can hope).

    I've only listened once, but I love this album. It feels very complete, melodic, and powerful. Honestly, I didn't know Symphony X was capable of making something like this: it doesn't sound like old Symphony X and it doesn't sound like Symphonoclast X...it's something new! The songs are incredibly heavy, yet overwhelmingly melodic, the music is technically impressive as always, but the structures are not necessarily progressive.

    I'll need to listen a few more times before I get to comments about individual songs, but on an individual performance level, I gotta give it up to Rullo, Pinnella, and Russell. The drums are out of this world on this album and especially impressive given Rullo's previous health problems. For all those worried about a lack of keyboards: don't be. Michael Pinnella is all over this album. There's keyboard solos, choir synths, symphonic and orchestral hits, etc.

    Romeo is once again a blitzkrieg on the guitar, but if I have to be honest, the riffs and solos feel recycled. Playing is top notch, but I'd love to hear more sparse riffing and less PL/Iconoclast style note-shreds-as-rhythm-riffs. Mike LePond is stellar, but I didn't get too much up front bass upon my first listen. I'm sure his presence will be heard much more upon repeat listens.

    Sir Russell gives the performance of a lifetime. I'll be the first to admit that I was skeptical after Iconoclast and his string of tough-bro garbage with Adrenaline Mob, but the man really puts his all into this recording. It's a complete vocal tour de force: the quiet cleans and soaring clear voice are back, ladies and gentlemen, but they are mixed with his newer style and a few brand new tones. He's hitting higher highs than I've ever heard him hit and he full-out guttural screams in the verses of the title track. I hear a lot of Dio in his performance on this album, and that's always a good thing, plus a little of Klaus Meine in his very top register.

    Standout tracks on first listen:
    - To Hell and Back
    - In My Darkest Hour
    - Swan Song
    - Legend

    Addendum: the lyrics are really quite bad, though.
     
  2. anonym115

    anonym115 Member

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    Thanks for making the thread!

    I just have to disagree with a few things:

    I just didn't feel like many riffs were recycled. Sure, there were small chunks of a few riffs that were, but that always feels good to me. When I can hear a part of a band's past in their present, it refreshes me. In fact, it genuinely felt to me like Romeo was trying to avoid old riffs over all.

    I understand why people felt that the solos were recycled, but I think it's tempting to confuse recycling with improvement. To me, Romeo just got better and more nuanced with his favorite licks. I can't disagree that he didn't add a ton of new licks to his repertoire, but I enjoyed his repertoire so much before the album that this just didn't bother me. It sounded to me like he just took his favorite 20 licks and tweaked them and added little cool details and timings.

    I also like the lyrics. They were no better or worse than any other SX album, IMO. EDIT: No, they are better than Iconoclast lyrics, haha.

    I'm struggling to not be a fanboy about this album, but I have no overall complaints, and this is not something I can say about any of their previous albums, with the exception of the Odyssey. However, I felt this album convinced me thematically more than the Odyssey, and had better production, so I have to give it the edge even over that. I also felt it had a few more wow moments.

    Song quality (ignoring the intro because it seems unfair to rate it as an actual song):

    Tier 1 (in order as they come on the album):

    Underworld
    Kiss of Fire
    Charon
    Swan Song
    Legend

    Tier 2 (more like Tier 1.5, because they are so close to Tier 1)

    Nevermore
    Without You
    To Hell and Back (probably belongs in tier 1)
    In My Darkest Hour

    Tier 3 (but still a good song that's slowly growing on me)

    Run with the Devil

    Song has a cool chorus and bridge. I just don't like the solo or the vocals in the verses.

    I have to agree that the album is not progressive in the truest sense. The most "prog" sounding song is Legend, and that isn't progressive compositionally, just sonically.
     
  3. EyeballKid

    EyeballKid Shyamalan'd

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    It's not that they sound EXACTLY like anything before that I can particularly point out, it's just that they aren't particularly distinct and tend to sound more like a flurry of notes and less like something solid (a style that really started gaining traction on Iconoclast). Honestly, the guitar solos are my least favorite part of the album upon first listen. Just nothing I haven't really heard before.

    SX lyrics have never been a strong point, but I think some of the rhyming on this album feels forced and sophomoric.

    I actually quite like that song. Sounds like a combination of classic SX and Russell's solo album. I'm a fan of when Russell gets into some dirty blues vocals, it's his sweet spot.

    Exactly. Sonically, it's prog. Compositionally, not that prog. Kind of like post 1981 Rush.
     
  4. anonym115

    anonym115 Member

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    Of course I didn't want to suggest that I only thought they were distinct because they weren't replicas. What I more meant to say is that I can't find any riffs that sound like old/other riffs in more than just a small part of the riff.
    The other thing is that I don't think SX really was good at riffing until Odyssey. Then I think the quality went back down on PL and Ic, and back up here.

    Any good examples? One extremely tiny complaint I might have is that they rhymed the same pairs of words alot across the album, but that is to be expected with such a heavily themed album.

    I think the song has some really cool parts. The chorus and the bridge part after the (second?) chorus is sweet. But the solo is just not Romeo standard whatsoever, and the verses sort of hover around what feels like 1-2 notes. The verse lyrics are not great either, even by SX standards. I like the instrumental playing throughout the entirety of the song, though.

    Maybe I should give some examples. I think both Underworld solos are really cool. Awesome blend of Pentatonic and neoclassical play. In particular, the second run in the first solo and the first run in the second solo get me pumped.

    In Nevermore, I really like the first descending scalar lick. I think it is in fact new for Romeo once you listen carefully. It sounds like a positional change every 3 notes, which seems incredibly hard to play that cleanly at that tempo. I also really think that the 16th note arpeggio section sounds cool, almost alternate picked.

    Kiss of Fire: the last run is timed so uniquely and awesomely. Can't get over it still.

    Charon: There are no standout runs here, but the phrasing is awesome. If you have ever heard middle eastern music, the Charon solo is reminiscent of the phrasing you'd hear in that area of the world. Weird timings and vibratos. I actually like the end "solo" better than the main solo in that regard.

    To Hell and Back: I love the random abrupt note inserted to the end of the first big ascending run in the first solo, and the descending lick immediately following it. This solo is a great example of how playing old things with nuance can get you places. Lots of old Romeo licks with weird note gaps, pauses, and pinch harmonics in weird spots.

    First lick in the second solo is awesome because it reminds me of the KoT solo, and the muting at 6:55ish is a sweet detail. The lick beginning at 7:12 is so groovy, too.

    In My Darkest Hour: the last lick in the solo is sweet. That pitch pedal work is what the Iconoclast solo should have had. I also really like the "feels" from 2:46 onward.

    Run with the Devil: Dislike solo.

    Swan Song: Solo is fresh for sure. Loved all of it. Really "feely" and almost, dare I say, fusiony.

    Legend: Love the huge tapping run in the solo. I think what I like most is the sound combined with the chords underneath. Second solo I will admit is not amazing or new. Except that cool arpeggio after the chorus starts. That's a sweet detail to me.
     
  5. Kuros

    Kuros Member

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    That sloppy mistake by Romeo in the solo riff about 3:49 into Underworld though!
     
  6. EyeballKid

    EyeballKid Shyamalan'd

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    I clearly need to listen to the album a lot more before I can pick out the specific 3 note runs in the solos. :)
     
  7. anonym115

    anonym115 Member

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    Kuros, I didn't hear anything there. Are you sure that's the right time?

    Also, Eyeballkid, I always have and always will listen to albums painstakingly. I like tiny little details more than I ought to!
     
  8. Kuros

    Kuros Member

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    Maybe my time indicator is off, but it's the very first bar of the riff under the guitar solo, 3rd and 4th quarter notes in, those two legato runs/trills thingies aren't quite right.
     
  9. symphonyXjapan

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    I already gave my first listen impressions on the other thread; however, whomever brought up the guitar solos reminded me there was something I left out. I haven't listened through the album a second time yet because I wanted to give myself some time to digest before cracking at it again.

    Anyway, about the solos, even though I don't remember from one listen which of them was on which track I actually felt some of them were well done and fit in the song quite well. This brings up my opinion that I feel Romeo should not feel the need to put a solo in EVERY song he ever writes. Like I just stated, there were some that I loved that I felt fit the song, but there were probably more that were not good and really detracted from the music.

    I guess now that the band is getting pretty old now they are all doing there own thing in their private lives and not as "into" the music thing as they once were, slowly Romeo has taken the brunt of the songwriting and such. Due to this he is slowly turning SyX into his solo project. I can't help but feel that the band could almost now be called "Michael J. Romeo's Symphony X". He could just go ahead and pull what Luca Turilli did with Rhapsody.
     
  10. AsoTamaki

    AsoTamaki Member

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    Alright, so far I've listened to this thing 4 times from start-to-finish and I'm not sure I will again for a while so I might as well do the ranking gimmick now. Definitely another "will listen to some songs individually from time to time" kind of album for me. In order from best to worst:

    Very Good
    • Swan Song - Best song on the album, yet a shining example of what's wrong with their songwriting these days. Just way too streamlined. No time to explore anything interesting instrumentally! Gotta get to that big chorus ASAP! Same lazy intro as "Without You". It's like they're afraid of opening a song without some in your face electric guitar sound. Like "Hey, guys, this song is gonna be a little softer for a while, but don't worry. We're still metal!" I bet "The Accolade" would've been so much better if they chopped the first two minutes off too, right? Ugh. Still, all of the vocal sections are above average for once and differ greatly from the rest of the album. And by far, the most worthwhile solo.
    Good
    • Legend - Excellent verses. Cool classic guitar/keyboard dueling solo section. The rest of it just works.
    • Underworld - Russell sounds like he's totally in his element here. Awesome pre-chorus and chorus. The chorus is probably closest on the album to an older Symphony X style. Melodic, but doesn't sound like modern rock radio. That formulaic intro brings it down though.
    Kinda Good
    • Kiss of Fire - Love the main riff with the blast beats. Most of the other sections are whatever, but "Bring down the hammer with serious anger" is lame. The pitch-shifted (?) "me against the world" crap is lamer. Officially went too far there. "Heretic" was better overall.
    • Without You - Wow. Turned out that the acoustic first verse and the DWOT part are the highlights of the album from a "I want to hear some melodic passages reminiscent of the old material" perspective.
    • Charon - Alright. So this is the "middle-eastern sounding" track. *sigh* I knew better than to expect something on the level of "Egypt", but seriously...this is it? "Pharoah" was also mentioned as something comparable. Ha. Man, that track is a journey. "Charon" is actually the longer of the two, but so much less happens. It starts with an Iconoclast-style heavy groove riff...then transitions into another...and then a lightly palm-muted version of it for the verse. Where are the dynamics? Just look at how much the style of the guitar playing has changed. For the sake of the song, Romeo was content to take a supporting role on much of "Pharoah". Playing very simple rhythmic patterns while *gasp* other instruments took the forefront with their melodic content. On this entirety of the new album combined, does the bass play as much of a role as it does here? It's especially hard to believe that this is 4/5 of the same band that recorded the bridge on there. The songwriting is so one-dimensional in comparison. I don't want to exaggerate too much, but this song alone probably has more "peaks and valleys" than half of Underworld. And "Pharaoh" isn't even a song that's usually thought of as one of the masterpieces. Just a five and a half minute progressive metal song.
    Average
    • In My Darkest Hour - Great chorus and a surprising verse with the guitar riffage actually calming down for a few seconds. However, I hate the main riff/intro.
    Weak
    • Nevermore - Yeah.
    • Run With The Devil - The chorus really is quite good. Shame about the rest.
    Poor
    • To Hell and Back - I really wish this didn't exist. At least then I could still keep thinking "well, they aren't trying to write those types of songs anymore. Maybe they will again some day." ...All hope is gone.
     
  11. symphonyXjapan

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    On the topic of lyrics. We all know SyX lyrics have never been very deep or anything; however, I felt that with Iconoclast (and PL a bit too) they got tremendously bad and cringe worthy.

    I actually didn't feel like Underworlds lyrics were too bad. I would say they were on par with albums such as DWoT and Odyssey. I actually felt they were telling me a story and didn't feel the need to cringe at all up until someone pointed out Russell doing all the "oooohs" throughout the album....
     
  12. symphonyXjapan

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    @Aso

    I really think you got your expectations for this album too high. I have come to accept that the only chance we will ever get a "great" or "legendary" SyX album again will be when they get old enough to not need the more mainstream appeal (money).

    But due to all of this SyX to me has gone from being my favorite band to just a band I like pretty well. If I ever put them on a Top 5 favorite bands list they would maybe be at no. 5 SOLELY due to their earlier works (mostly due to V).

    On a side note: I find it quite funny that people will claim to love DWoT (album) but absolutely hate PL or UW. I feel that both these albums are very comparable to DWoT, just with a more modern/Jens Bogren sound engineering. I think these newer SyX albums are solely the reasons that I started to come to an understanding at how important sound production/engineering/mixing & mastering are to the overall sound of an album. Just imagine if DWoT was re recorded today with Jens Bogren. Do you really think it would sound more proggy than something like PL or UW? The main thing DWoT has over those two albums is there are more neoclassical bits (which I really do wish they would bring back to a degree). SyX has been ruined by the loudness wars..
     
  13. EyeballKid

    EyeballKid Shyamalan'd

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    Except that this album features the most writing credits ever by LePond and the most Pinnella contributions since V.
     
  14. Isaac_de_Moorea

    Isaac_de_Moorea Silent Member

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    I´m getting ready for my third listening to it. I think it was refreshing in some ways, I remember being disappointed after the first listening to PL and IC, but this was not the case; I´m anxious to give it play to discover more and more nuances that yesterday were missing.


    It´s quite interesting the variety of opinions, for example I liked Underworld (the track), but don´t remember much about it; I´m expectant about hearing again Hell and Back, wasn´t really captivating at first listen. Run with the Devil left me with an ambiguous feeling, loved the intro and the verses but hated with all my heart the chorus (Run with the Devil, Run for your life? WTF!). Swansong is by far my favourite; Overture was darker and less predictable than their recent intros (Oculus ex Inferni and the first instrumental minutes of IC), but it was too short in my opinion; I agree with AsoTamaki, I wouldn´t call Charon as "middle-eastern" infuenced, Ok song though; Kiss of Fire and In my Darkest Hour were obvious fillers to me. And I´m interested about Legend, a lot of people seems to like it but it was meh yesterday.

    About the musicians, I must be honest and say that I don´t understand people saying Pinella is back. He has more presence, but almost 70% of the time feels like he is doing pads, strings, and choirs, frequently doubling guitars or keeping long chords and shit like that. No more polyrhytms, plucks, bells, or rare instruments (which he didn´t used frequently, i must admit). He is there, you can hear him. But he is not doing his business. Get Ascension if you don´t understand what I´m talking about.

    I really can´t say more about the album, it wouldn´t be wise or even fair with only two listenings. At the end I´d say SX won´t be ever the same, and this (Underworld, the album) is the final stamentent about it. But, along the whole record, even over this IC-style production, I felt lot of reminiscences of their past, as if they were saying "Come on, we are still SX, we know who we were and who we are now. Deal with it".
     
  15. Isaac_de_Moorea

    Isaac_de_Moorea Silent Member

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    Really? Did you find the writing credits?
     
  16. EyeballKid

    EyeballKid Shyamalan'd

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  17. Isaac_de_Moorea

    Isaac_de_Moorea Silent Member

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    Thanks man. Thats interesting indeed, and makes sense, Underworld, Swansong and Legend are the songs with more (elaborated) keyboards.
     
  18. symphonyXjapan

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    Ugh, I don't know why I haven't received my order from NB yet...? When I check my order status it just says "in process" or "processing" or something like that.
     
  19. anonym115

    anonym115 Member

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    Isaac, Did Pinella ever really do his business as you define it? Based on your description, I'm not sure he ever had more than a few moments of it (Accolade comes to mind). I mean, I can't say that any SX song has Ascension-comparable (extended) parts.

    Also, don't remember who said it, but I definitely would dislike it if the band decided to start doing multiple sololess songs per album. I'd rather hear a mediocre Romeo solo than nothing.

    @japan and aso: what are your favorite SX albums?
     
  20. symphonyXjapan

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