The Metro, Sydney NSW
October 12th, 2016
Support – Black Majesty
This tour has definitely been in the making for a very long time! I first came across Symphony X in 1997 with the release of Divine Wings of Tragedy. Symphony X turned up on the scene and were, initially, like a little brother to Dream Theater. And I say “little brother,” because they were likened to the US maestros because of their progressive aspects. However, on closer inspection as a young twenty year old, I could see the classical overtones as well as the rooted structures and sounds of a traditional metal band at the same time. Even at this early stage in their career, the songs of this band were all over the mastery and prowess of Dream Theater in reality.
So to tonight. Fast forward some nineteen years and nine more studio albums and Symphony X have hit Australian soil for the first time. Now the latest album, Underworld, the album that the tour is supporting, reflects a new maturity within the structures of the songs, but with a strong connection with the roots of what has made this band so important to the metal fraternity. This is a gig that I have waited a long time for.
The opening act tonight was Australia’s Black Majesty. I first came across this band in 2003, with the release of Sands of Time. I remember they played a small pub in Sydney, during this year, and this was their first ever show here. They were amazing, a strong power metal band with traditional metal overtones. Tonight, this would be about the twentieth time that I have seen them play, and well, let’s say they did not disappoint. It is hard to believe that this band is not bigger than they are, considering they have released seven studio albums and have been on the scene for over fifteen years. They concentrated their set around their latest release, Cross of Thorns, and the new material fits nicely in to their set. To be honest, Black Majesty haven’t strayed much musically from the formula they established in 2003, however, live, this doesn’t matter. The band attacked the stage with a real ferocity and played into the hands of the salivating audience. Hanny and Steve complement each other so well in their individual style as guitarists, and weave their different styles in and out of the rhythmic structures and melodies of compositions seamlessly. They really remind me of a seasoned metal relationship like KK and Tipton from Judas Priest. Their styles are quite different, but complimentary. Now to John Cavaliere, and as a vocalist he has always impressed me. I have never seen him deliver a sub-standard vocal performance. Tonight it was made apparent that John was battling a severe cold, however, this did not impede his performance. Stand out tracks tonight were definitely Stargazer, Phoenix, Dragon Reborn and of course Silent Company to close. Black Majesty were the perfect support tonight and I am sure that all of those who saw them for the first time tonight were not disappointed, and for those familiar with their material and performance, they could have only walked away with a level of respect.
Now to the Symphony X. The crowd were really pumped, and it was a great turn out for a mid-week gig! The band came on after the intro section for the latest album, Underworld, and smashed in to the opening track. They had arrived!! The energy and overall attack of the band was quite mesmerising and hypnotic. They have come to Australia with something to prove, something to say, and they were making sure that individually and collectively the message was clear. Mike Romeo was just amazing. I know that he is respected as a metal guitarist, but seeing him play live really lifts his credibility to a new level. He has the styling of a Ritchie Blackmore, the neo-classical feel of Malmsteen, but with the attack of a Gary Holt. He is really the quintessential metal guitarist. On tracks such as Nevermore, Underworld and in particular Serpent’s Kiss, he really comes in to this own. However, one of the most refreshing aspects of Mike Romeo, is that there is no ego! There was none of the “virtuoso” tricks and antics, just straight musicianship with sincerity and skill.
Now to vocalist, Russel Allen, this guy has definitely gone under the radar as far as the elite metal singers are concerned. Russel, vocally, displays a range and a tone that would be enviable of any metal vocalist. The nature of Symhony Xs material is dynamics, with a lot of different colour, emotion and pace. This is something that puts a lot of stress on a vocalist’s ability, but Russel seems to navigate the story and melody line of the bands tracks with ease. I was so impressed with tracks such as Without You, Hell and Back, Kiss of Fire, Charon, Death and Serpent’s Kiss. However, the focal point of his performance, and the stealing of the show itself, was his showmanship. He commanded the stage and the audience. He is without arrogance, but dripping with confidence, and this is a very rare combination of qualities in a metal front man. Mid-set he convinced his band mates to play a rendition of Zeppelin’s The Immigrant Song, and this idea began because he interacted with an audience member who was wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt. This is just an example of how he comes across as a front man and interacts with the audience. It just added so much to the set, this little piece of spontaneity.
The rest of the band Mike Lepond (bass), Michael Pinella (keyboards) and Jason Rullo (drums) were also impeccable, but because of the showmanship of Russel and the shear skill of Romeo, they do unfortunately seem to slip a little into the background; a tragedy. Lepond is an effortless bass player who does intricate patterns without any effort, the solos of Pinella and his thickening out the band’s material was amazing and Rullo on drums does not give an inch and keeps the pace of the songs, as well as the set, flowing, with energy and power. Really, Symphony X could well be the perfect metal line-up; big call I know, but that’s the way I am leaning after last night.
The set list navigated through the back catalogue, but obviously focussed on the latest release, Underworld, playing the whole album from start to finish! Symphony X has a definite sound and style, but their material still maintains individual integrity and this rang through tonight. I really would go as far to say that this is probably the best metal gig that I have ever attended, just flawless and with no down time or lull period within the set; something that is rarely accomplished even by the most endeared metal outfit.
Symphony X tonight did not disappoint. For a gig that has been a long time coming, with a lot of anticipation and hype, no one went away cheated. It was a privilege to witness this gig tonight, as a part of the band’s first ever Australian tour. I just hope that this won’t be the last time that Symphony X grace our shores!
Review by Mark Snedden
Kiss of Fire
To Hell and Back
In My Darkest Hour
Run With the Devil
Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover)
The Death of Balance / Lacrymosa
Of Sins and Shadows
Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies)
Sea of Lies
Capturing the night was Emanuel Rudnicki, his awesome gallery is below – simply click on an image to enlarge.
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Others – please do not use without permission