Symphony X History
A distinct murmur went around the world in 1994 when a certain six-string guitarist from New Jersey named Michael Romeo of the prog band Gemini recorded The Dark Chapter demo and sent it out to record labels. It seemed the new guitar messiah of the coming 21st Century had made himself known to the world and he’d soon launch a new band that would stir up the prog genre. With an innovative mixture of heavy metal, progressive rock and neo-classical sounds, Romeo and his men in SYMPHONY X recorded a debut album (released in Japan in ’94; released worldwide in 1995) that began their journey to create a blueprint for the young generation of prog metal bands to follow.
The Damnation Game (1995) celebrated the debut of the band‘s second asset: the charismatic, deeply emotional and relentlessly aggressive vocals of Russell Allen. The Divine Wings Of Tragedy (1997) placed the emphasis on the band’s progressive approach and is still considered to be SYMPHONY X’s ultimate masterpiece. Twilight In Olympus (1998) livened up the band’s classical aspects with the instrumental ‘Sonata’ (which is based on the piano Sonata No. 8 ‘Pathétique’ by Ludwig van Beethoven). Via V: The New Mythology Suite (2000), the quintet delivered their first concept album at the turn of the millenium that dealt with the myth of Atlantis. Live On The Edge Of Forever (2001) was visual proof that the band could easily transpose their complex material onto the stage. Oriented towards the eponymous poem by English poet John Milton, the thrashing harshness of The Odyssey (2002) is said to be the band’s most aggressive album to date. Paradise Lost (2007) is the darkest and most gothic-like work in the band’s discography.
Considering this accomplished history of prolific creation, prog connoisseurs may ask themselves how SYMPHONY X could possibly go one better. The answer comes from the singer himself, Russell Allen: “Iconoclast delivers a summary of our previous work and a musical positioning of SYMPHONY X within the second decade of the new century.” Meanwhile, Michael Romeo raises the bar enormously with his guitar work: “This record will only become accessible to the listener after several runs. That was our purpose – otherwise we would have failed trying to create a multi-faceted and profound album that gives pleasure to our fans for a long time!”
‘Iconoclast,’ an opus of an eleven-minute opening track, leads off with convoluted, labyrinthine guitar parts that become smoothly interconnected. To comprehend its motives right away would be an achievement; this also remains true of the remaining 52 minutes of concentrated prog-power.
Whether it’s the straight rock track ‘The End Of Innocence,’ the ponderous and doom-like ‘Dehumanized,’ the dynamic ‘Bastards Of The Machine,’ the thrashing dark ‘Heretic’ (the most obvious cross-reference to the previous album Paradise Lost), or the virtuosic but brutal ‘Prometheus (I Am Alive),’ the fusion of musicality and the fascinating richness of detail shown here will make the listener ask whether Iconoclast should be considered a straight prog rock album or a classic rock record accentuated with elements of prog.
Apart from Romeo’s crazy and explosive outbursts on his six-string, one more very important ingredient shapes SYMPHONY X’s eighth studio album: the incomparable delicacy and depth of feeling expressed by Allen’s vocals. Paying tribute to his biggest idol, he confesses: “There is a lot of Ronnie James Dio between the lines!” The best evidence for it: the monolithic half-balladic heavyweight ‘Children Of A Faceless God’ (where Allen truly sings like a reincarnated Dio), the epically metallic ‘Electric Messiah,’ and the yearnful ache in ‘When All Is Lost’ with its wistful piano sounds, acapella vocals, and gorgeous acoustic guitars.
Iconoclast can definitely be referred to as a manifesto – a commanding declaration of an inventive blend of classic rock, straightforward heavy metal and ambitious prog. These are the elements albums destined for an eternity of praise are made of!
On February 25, 2011, Symphony X played the first show of their 2011 tour in Stuttgart, Germany, where they performed two songs from Iconoclast: “End of Innocence” and “Dehumanized”. Some days later, in Antwerp, Belgium, they performed yet another new song, “Heretic”. During their show in London, England, the band debuted another new song titled “Prometheus”.
On February 27, 2013, it was announced that, during the previous week, drummer Jason Rullo was admitted to hospital for heart failure. Jason spent a week in hospital, and was released after some days. He then started a rehab program that took a minimum of 3–6 months under doctors’ care. John Macaluso joined them on tour for their South American and European dates, until Jason Rullo was able to fully recover.
Underworld, band hiatus and 25th anniversary tour (2015–present)
Symphony X at Israel, 2016
The band is working on releasing a second fan club CD. Michael Romeo said it will be another collection of demo tunes and other rare material, and may also include a bit of content created just for the release, along the lines of MJR’s Star Wars tune on the first fan club CD, Rarities and Demos, which has since sold out of its first pressing. SXW, the band’s revamped fan club, has relaunched and is now active.
The band began recording the drum tracks for the new album on September 9, 2014, and planned to release the complete recording by the spring of 2015. Michael Lepond stated they had ten songs written and that the album would contain either nine or all ten of them. He also stated all lyrics and instrumental tracks were composed and ready to be brought together, and that the album would be less heavy than Iconoclast: “If I had to compare, I would say that it’s a combination of The Odyssey and Paradise Lost — something in there. It has a lot of classic Symphony X elements in it, which I think a lot of our fans were missing for a few years. So I think our fans will really like this one. It really just focuses on solid songwriting.”
As of December 11, 2014, recording of the drums, lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and bass were complete. With the keyboards, guitar solos, background vocals, and some miscellaneous odds and ends being done in the coming weeks. On April 10, 2015 the band announced the mixing and mastering of the new album was complete. On May 18, 2015, the band announced the title of the album would be titled Underworld, and a release date of July 24, 2015. The first single from the album, “Nevermore“, premiered on May 22, 2015. The band released the second single, “Without You”, on June 19, 2015, and was made available for digital download.
According to singer Russell Allen, the band entered a short hiatus during 2017 in which they did not perform, due in part to his commitment to Adrenaline Mob, although it was announced during a January 2018 interview with Metal Nation that the band had plans to get together in the following months and begin writing a follow up to Underworld. On July 14, 2017, Adrenaline Mob was involved in a serious vehicular accident, which resulted in severe injuries for Allen and the death of the band’s bassist and their tour manager. In July 2018, according to Michael Romeo, the band hopes to re-group and make another album, but also said that he was giving Russell Allen some time and space after dealing with the aftermath of the accident, and also his touring commitments with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. In June 2019, Romeo was considering to make their tenth album after they’re done touring in August 2019.
The band announced on December 16, 2019, that they would embarking on a 25th anniversary tour next year in North America with support from Primal Fear and Firewind. The tour is set to begin on May 14 and conclude on June 17, 2020.