Michael Romeo - War Of The Worlds Pt. 1

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

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.

Michael Romeo - War Of The Worlds Pt. 1

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

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Michael Romeo - Djinn

Kingcrow - The Persistence

Genre: Progressive Metal

Italian prog metal outfit Kingcrow take a somewhat unexpected twist with their seventh full length effort, The Persistence. After their 2015 album Eidos, which was seemingly everywhere at once, twisting this way and that, they instead turn to a more straightforward approach. Where the previous album fully succeeded in grappling the new listener in, The Persistence manages beautifully with its more simple approach. Kingcrow were never really the most technical prog metal band around, and that remains true on The Persistence, but the laid back stylistics that focuses on atmosphere take precedence. This lends the album bigger emotional pull, and the atmospheric keys that sugar the already melodically prevalent tinge add massively to the whole, as it begins to settle.

Kingcrow - The Persistence

The tempos seem to have been scaled down a notch, opting rather for mid tempo melodics or even slower, but never going into faster stuff. This approach works incredibly well with the aforementioned atmospheric punctuation that envelops the production. The album noticeably lacks any discernable low points, remaining equally strong throughout with a few highs noted through the runtime. Opener Drenched starts the album off with some crunchy riffing alongside lofty vocal melodies and distinct harmonies that set the entire mood off right from the start, while Every Broken Piece of Me starts calm and almost soothing, only to develop into a melodic beast towards the climax, where Cristian Della Polla’s keys work magic harmonies alongside the melodic leads of Diego Cafolla and Ivan Nastasi. Vocalist Diego Marchesi sounds comfortable, urged when the mood calls for it, but also laid back and emotive when fitting.

For someone who never fully got into Kingcrow, and would have to go through the back catalogue to pick out high points, The Persistence marks a distinct shift. The album is not only beautifully written, but equally strong in the musicianship and performance, closing in on top tier in Kingcrow’s own specific sub branch of melodic progressive metal. Moving from the flamenco stylistics and being everywhere style of Eidos to the slower, melodic and oftentimes nearly heartbreaking style of The Persistence might not be for everyone, but there’s sure to be something for everyone on it. The Persistence might not be apt for every occasion, as the solitary confinement of the thoughts dwelled within the album lends itself best to the dark night descending, and once the album hooks you, it’s sure to stay.

 

Standout tracks: Drenched, Every Broken Piece Of Me, Night’s Descending

 

    

 

Kingcrow - Night's Descending

Redemption - Long Night's Journey Into Day

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Long Night’s Journey Into Day is Redemption’s seventh full length and first featuring Evergrey frontman Tom Englund. The musical tapestry herein is vivid and imaginative, staying true to the latter day course of Redemption stylistics, and opening strong with five of Redemption’s fleshiest tracks. The first half hour of the album is ridiculously strong, setting things off on the right foot with cleverly penned opener Eyes You Dare Not Meet In Dreams and stretching through a couple of massive tracks that take the very best of Redemption and pour them into interesting ideas and cool structures. It culminates in Indulge In Color, one of Redemption’s best songs to date. The song carries all the great ideas in place over the first half hour of the album; the heavy riffage, the down to earth stylistics of Englund (who still lets off quite a bit here) and the meaty melodics and thrifty soloing, all packaged in Redemption styled antics that just blows all resistance out of the gate.

Redemption - Long Night's Journey Into Day

Tom Englund is a fitting replacement for Ray Alder, and his vocals are a notch above those of the latter on the previous album. But he is not outstanding in his delivery, and rather takes a backseat to let the sometimes awesome instrumentals flow, and rightly so. There is however also a stagnancy in place, much like on the previous album. Englund, whose voice is as strong as it ever was - and he sounds way better than on the last Evergrey album - manages, despite his strengths, to not get swept away in a way the songs would have needed. Some of the material would demand the vocalist to go further toward the climaxes, but Englund mostly delivers with a uniform clarity. Great, but not awesome, and he takes a rightful back seat to the instrumentals, letting the album shine where it matters most; there’s plenty of variable material, yet sticks to the darkness and familiarity. The title track is the album’s longest, clocking in at over ten minutes, and one of the most inspired pieces on here.

Between it and the opening few, however, there are a few dragging slabs of punchable boring to sit through. The highly potent And Yet, a short ballad type of affair with plenty of melodramatic emotion, hidden away in the middle of the album, doesn’t carry the mid section made up of Little Men, The Last of Me and a lame ass U2 cover. These could easily have been cut and replaced with special edition bonus song Noonday Devil, which while not special like the first few songs, feel more in place and would lend the album better pacing and a substantially less bloated runtime. In all though, Long Night’s Journey Into Day is definitely a step up from the last album, and one worth most of its time. Nick Van Dyk just keeps tossing strong and emotive solos and gut punching, swirling melodic leads at us, while the rhythm section holds a steady grab at the heart of the music with thumping bass lines and driving drum patterns, and Englund giving strong performances in hooking you in with strong choruses abound, as Redemption indulges in color.

 

Standout tracks: Eyes You Dare Not Meet In Dreams, The Echo Chamber, Indulge In Color, Long Night’s Journey Into Day

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Redemption - Someone Else's Problem