OK, at last and after a long time waiting, Symphony X prize us with an official live CD. In this case it is a double CD in which we can find stuff from their last three albums, although focusing on their last album V. Recorded mainly during their European tour in 2000, the album has been produced by the guitarist (and CO-leader together with Michael Pinella) Michael Romeo and Eric Rachel (who had already worked with them before).
reviewAfter this small account about the recording we'll continue to analyze this double live CD:
As it is usual in these kind of bands, an orchestral prelude announces the beginning of the concert and without having to wait a second they start with their first song "Evolution (The Grand Design)" where their fans nearly manage to eclipse them with their shouting and screaming. While the music continues I start identifying the instruments and realize that they play their songs a bit faster than in studio. I also notice a great compenetration among them in certain parts not included in their studio CDs and played on purpose to surprise the audience. Straight after that we come across"Fallen" where I start to focus on their peculiar singer Russel Allen who had been criticized a lot because his voice is not as good alive than in studio. I was surprised when I found out that it was the opposite, Mr. Allen's voice is totally loyal to their studio recordings and on certain occasions it even seems that he sings without any effort. A large number of those mouths will shut when listening to this live recording. Impressed by this mastering of the vocal chords, I fully enter the fourth track called "Communion & The Oracle". This (relatively) calm song, based as most of their songs on mythological subjects is a good trial for their guitarist Michael Romeo. Its complicated guitar solo in the studio album made me doubt they would play it live. Well, in this case I had to shut my mouth and surprise myself of the great skills of this splendid guitarist, without doubt one of their best live songs. "The Bird-Serpent War" and "On The Breath Of Poseidon" are the next tracks in which slow and fast parts blend together and favor the dynamics in the concert and keep the audience paying attention until we get to "Egypt": A great track based as its name indicates on the mysteries of pharaoh, pyramids and others. Another thing that's also outstanding is their new bass player Michael Lepond that replaces perfectly the last member Tomas Miller.
* Note for all the Metal-Progressive bass players: You can also be a "virtuoso" playing a bass guitar with "only" four strings, like Mr. Lepond.
We can notice that Jason Rullo, who was their drummer in all their albums except in "Twilight In Olympus", has returned to the band. "The Death Of Balance" is an instrumental song in which Mr. Rullo stands out just as much as the rest of the members of the band. Without expecting it they link this song with a fragment of their ballad "Candlelight Fantasia" and straight after that we listen to "The Eyes Of Medusa" with which this first CD ends.
"Smoke And Mirrors" opens up the second CD. This is a track that belongs to their album "Twilight In Olympus". While I read the booklet I notice how they play their songs perfectly. A good song to begin a hypothetic second act. Speed, strength and virtuosos in abundance. Introduce by Michael Pinella's keyboards we get to "Church Of The Machine". It is time to test the chorus and... my god! Symphony X had to have a defect when playing live. The tasks carried out by Romeo and Pinnella in the chorus is not as satisfactory on stage as in studio. We carry on with more songs of "Twilight In Olympus". This time it is a long, experimental track rich in musicality, called "Through The Looking Glass", in which we find parts of great melody and feeling. Its central guitar and keyboard solo, very well accomplished and with a lot of feeling, is outstanding. "Of Sins And Shadows" is the opening track in their album "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy" and is also included in this concert. Once more they play this song faster than usual, like if it was a race, what makes the song loose definition and cleanliness. "Sea Of Lies" is a song that I personally love. Its central part where the guitar and keyboards double a fast solo is a sample of their good understanding. And as an ending a long track: "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy". And to prove their value as musicians, they end this complicated song made up by various parts perfectly.
Well, as a summary and to end this review, just a couple of things: Maybe they should be more careful with the abuse of orchestras in their next CD because I have noticed a big lack of these elements alive. I hope it doesn't happen the same thing as Rhapsody. The sound could be better, considering the band they are and the money they move at least in Europe, but in general this double CD seems to me to be quite good due to the fact that the musicians prove that they can recreate their songs live as well as in studio.
Very well done!