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Symphony X - "Iconoclast" (CD)

Symphony X - "Iconoclast" CD cover image

"Iconoclast" track listing:

1. Iconoclast (10:53)
2. The End Of Innocence (5:29)
3. Dehumanized (6:49)
4. Bastards Of The Machine (4:58)
5. Heretic (6:26)
6. Children Of A Faceless God (6:22)
7. Electric Messiah (6:15)
8. Prometheus (I Am Alive) (6:48)
9. When All Is Lost (9:10)

Reviewed by on June 22, 2011

"'Iconoclast' is all thriller and no filler; nine tracks that don’t shock the system, but are exactly the type of cohesive songs that fans expect from the band. "

When a band like Symphony X takes their time recording, it can lead to gigantic hype covering every inch of the album. Every update, every small audio sample, every photo from the studio: all scrutinized and picked apart for hints about where the band is heading. Couple that with a new label, Nuclear Blast, and “Iconoclast” got a lot of press behind it. The long wait was not in vain for progressive metal fans, who will bask in Russell Allen’s majestic wails and Michael Romeo’s powerful shredding. Just make sure to keep the expectations of something innovative and fresh to a minimum.

The past two albums, “The Odyssey” and “Paradise Lost,” have seen the band take on a heavier mindset. Scorchers like “Set The World On Fire (The Lie Of Lies)” and “Wicked” have replaced the more whimsical feel of earlier records. That stance continues on “Iconoclast;” this is arguably Symphony X’s most aggressive album to date. The riffs have weight to them in the mix and the keys are kept to the background, except for the occasional intro or lead break.

The progressive side of the band does flash its teeth on the opening and closing track. The title track is a massive start to “Iconoclast,” with lengthy instrumental jams and a dueling keyboard/guitar solo section. The song feels like a sharp re-introduction for fans who have been missing the band these past four years. By contrast, “When All Is Lost” is a soaring ballad aimed at the heart strings. Past ballads from the band have tipped over the cheesy scale, but this one is a lot more energetic and emotional. Allen lets his clean tones take over and drive the sullen lyrical content.

These two tracks are the exception among a field of solid hitters and furious wrath dished out. Anger seeps into the record, and the band makes sure their playing matches this mood. “Bastards Of The Machine” has Allen sneering, “Hand in hand, through the Gates of Hell/You’ll pay the price for the choice you make,” alongside a brutal rhythm tangent and Romeo’s guitar slaying. “Prometheus (I Am Alive)” has a unsteady momentum, as if the whole track is about to capsize any second.

A darker side of this quintet doesn’t mean that their spirit of melody and infectious songs has faded away. On every record, Symphony X finds a way to write songs with a memorable verse or chorus to be discovered. By its title alone, “Children Of A Faceless God” isn’t a party favorite, but when that chorus hits, it’s near impossible to not be singing along by the end. “Dehumanized” and “The End Of Innocence” possess these qualities, and could be stellar live cuts on future tours for the band.

A new Symphony X album always has one guarantee: a collection of strong progressive metal tunes. “Iconoclast” doesn’t disappoint, and continues the streak of stellar records from the band. It isn’t a step up from “Paradise Lost,” though it has a tighter focus and a heavier sound. Those that have thoroughly enjoyed the band's last few albums should feel the same way about this one. “Iconoclast” is all thriller and no filler; nine tracks that don’t shock the system, but are exactly the type of cohesive songs that fans expect from the band.

Highs: Band's most aggressive album so far, Russell Allen's soaring wails, crazy guitar and keyboard solos, "When All Is Lost" is one of their better ballads to date

Lows: No new twists to their sound, little to no surprises for long-time fans

Bottom line: "Iconoclast" is an excellent release from Symphony X that displays an intense, brooding side of the band.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)