Being somewhat familiar with the state that is known as "the armpit of America"- that is to say, New Jersey- it would be easy for me to give into the stereotypes and argue that nothing much of any good ever comes from around here. After all, this is the state that is home to Newark, Trenton, and of course, Camden; all three cities are not exactly high on any sane person's list of holiday destinations, especially that last one.
However, once you get past the nasty bits of the state, it turns out that there are in fact quite a few good things about New Jersey: Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi (back when they actually made good music, anyway), and, of course, SYMPHONY X.
Now, these guys can be a little hit-or-miss sometimes. One can argue, with at least some convincing evidence on his side, that Michael Romeo's guitar work is... well... a tad soulless, as if he's trying a bit too hard to be like YNGWIE MALMSTEEN but without the zest. (This by the way isn't exactly much of a criticism; anyone who has listened to one YNGWIE MALMSTEEN/RISING FORCE album, has heard all of them.)
And yet, there is something remarkably skillful and melodic about their work.
I will grant that their last album, Underworld, was underwhelming. Especially when compared with the previous opus, Iconoclast, which was quite simply one of the greatest metal albums ever recorded.
But one of my favourite tracks of theirs has always been from the album that many consider their greatest ever: the epic concept album, The Divine Wings of Tragedy, based as it was on John Milton's even more epic masterpiece, Paradise Lost.
And that track is something that every prog-metal band wishes they could pull off:
The follow-up from 2010's The Odyssey (another fantastic album) isn't quite as epic, but is still a great prog-metal track to listen to when you just want to go into beast-mode at the gym:
If you get a chance to see these guys play live- take it. They are amazing. Russell Allen is an incredible physical presence, projecting a personality far greater than his already considerable size would indicate. And the band itself is tight as a drum after so many years of playing together; these guys are consummate professionals, and highly skilled ones at that.