Symphony X guitarist and songwriter Michael Romeo released his first solo album way back in 1995, as an instrumental show off of his guitar mastery. Let’s just say that the follow up is only loosely connected. While Symphony X seems to be standing fairly still at the moment, since 2015’s Underworld, with the respective members busy elsewhere (bassist Mike LePond released a pretty kickass album with his Silent Assassins earlier this year), it’s no wonder that songwriter Romeo should also feel the need to deliver. And holy crap, does he. War Of The Worlds Pt. 1 sees him handle guitar duties, as well as keys and orchestration and production. He gets help from bassist John DeServio (Black Label Society) and drummer John Macaluso (Labÿrinth), but perhaps the most notable is previously unknown vocalist Rick Castellano.
The style on War Of The Worlds, heavy progressive power metal with guitar wankery aplenty should be of taste to every Symphony X fan. It drills hard with crunchy guitars, heavy riffing and fleshy progpower antics set to something akin to a film score like setting, with backdrop keyboards by Romeo himself to add a larger scale to the portrayal. The opening fifteen or so minutes, from the intro to Black, is masterfully delivered. Holding back the progressive elements slightly to set the album off with catchy melodies and a punch packing vocal deliveries alongside meaty riffs it immediately catches. Vocalist Castellano is perhaps the album’s most interesting part. He showcases great command of his talents, bellowing heavily and crooning softly in turn. You could do some comparisons to Ronald Romero (Rainbow, Lords Of Black) in style and fittings, but Castellano brings an airy flow and sense of purpose without sounding like he’s trying to be someone else.
What with the soundscape lending itself to a rather theatrical flair, there is also a fair deal of experimentation going on. F*cking Robots stands out the most with its weird robot noises on a symphonic backdrop, and quite frankly, is the song that takes away from an otherwise fairly set and heavy atmosphere. It just sounds pretty ridiculous. Then there are other pieces throughout that fortunately don’t take it just that far, but stick within what’s proper for the album, which as a whole manages to be pretty cool. Romeo flashes a whole lot of awesome guitar stylistics, neat solos and hooks, but the way he lets the keyboards do half of the sound really sets it apart. War Of The Worlds Pt. 1 doesn’t quite measure up to Symphony X’s strongest efforts, but it’s definitely an album worth checking out and play back to back with the aforementioned Silent Assassins album when the Symphony X abstinence sets in.
Standout tracks: Fear The Unknown, Black, Oblivion