Album Review: Symphony X - Underworld

New Jersey based progressive metal overlords, Symphony X, are back with a much anticipated album release in the form of ninth studio album 'Underworld'.

Renowned for creating music with a delicate driving force, Symphony X has made this album no exception to that characteristic. With almighty riffs, out of this world vocals and a generally compelling variation of styles and sound, this has all the elements for another beautifully crafted release, laced with the familiar sounds of Iconoclast, Paradise Lost and a healthy offering of the band’s early beginnings. SX never seem to waver from their original sound but steadily progress, writing music that continues to push the boundaries of progressive metal.

There are a series of tracks on this album that take a leaping bound to the forefront and demand masses of attention, making use of guitarist Michael Romeo’s mastered neo-classical sound styling, Russell Allen’s seamlessly soaring vocals and the perfectly fitting rhythms and structure formed by Michael Pinnella (keyboards), Jason Rullo (drums), and Michael Lepond (bass).

Opening track 'Overture' is graced with the sound of an impressive string orchestra creating a haunting atmosphere that sets a tasteful mood for the following contents of the album. Departing with a fading guitar chug, the path is paved for the already stand-out 'Nevermore' which has a slightly more melodic existence, yet equally as tasty in technicality and 'heavy'.

With its beautifully dirty riffs and aggressive movement, title track 'Underworld' allows Russell Allen’s voice to be pushed to the limits, balancing on the lows and effortlessly reaching the highs - Impressive, to say the least. This track is dominant with a heavier drive and is what I would consider to be a definite bitter-sweet taste of Paradise Lost.

Symphony X write a killer progressive metal song but they should also be noted for their ability to write and create outstanding outpours of emotion, much like track four, 'Without You'. Though this song is an evident diversion in sound up until this point, there is no lack of technicality on the musicianship front, nor is there an ounce of let-up in Russell Allen’s vocals. This is a definite stand-out track that will be on repeat for quite some time. Mellower not really your thing? Not to worry, there's plenty of tracks that provide exactly what the majority look for in a Symphony X record which will firmly place Symphony X veterans on solid ground with the likes of the anger packed 'Kiss Of Fire'.

Mind-bending tracks aplenty, the latter part of the album holds some epic melodic additions to an already superb release, namely 'Charon', 'To Hell and Back' and 'Swan Song'. Catchy hooks, interesting melodies and expressive lyrical content should send these songs straight to the 'Most Played' section of anyone’s playlist.

'Underworld' feels like a collection of the strongest elements this band has to offer but fine-tuned, pushed one step beyond the boundaries and, as a direct result, I can't fault it. It is jammed packed with showcases of what these guys are really capable of as a musical collective. 'Underworld' is a sturdy display of originality, whilst staying true to form. There is a distinct flow and progression from track to track, although I am not entirely confident that this album has one main focus of concept or direction. Despite that, I can't help but listen through headphones and feel completely submerged by the sound and, surely, that's what it's all about? The music seems to go beyond a standard live music setting and is comparable to reading a finely written book. Symphony X yet again manage to craft music that ignites imagination.