Has it really been five years since power proggers SYMPHONY X released "The Odyssey"? The impact of that album has been a lasting one, but damn, it has seemed like forever since it came out. Fortunately, it is not a stretch to say that "Paradise Lost" has been worth the long wait. It is everything a SYMPHONY X album should be — the overall grandness, Romeo's amazing guitar playing, Russell Allen's gritty (even more so now) Dio-esque delivery, and a deft command of melody. The album will be matched by few, if any, in the power/prog genre. Yes folks, it is another fine work from the New Jersey guys.
Perhaps the biggest change from "The Odyssey" is the sheer heaviness of "Paradise Lost"; it is a metal album through and through, a couple of lighter moments notwithstanding. Not that "The Odyssey" wasn't first and foremost a heavy metal album, but the band has certainly upped the irons on "Paradise Lost", as they'll be the first to admit. Appropriately enough, the album begins with symphonic intro "Oculus Ex Inferni", setting the stage for a fantastic group of songs. "Set the World on Fire" is classic SYMPHONY X, its soaring chorus one that speaks loudly of the group's triumphant return. "Domination" follows and is one the album's strongest tracks. A metallic scorcher with a tough pre-chorus that vaguely reminds of Dio-era RAINBOW, the song is an out and out killer. It is clear that Allen's voice has hardened considerably over the years, yet in no way means that he's lost any power; if anything, his delivery goes well with Romeo's incredibly heavy licks and white hot soloing. Much of the rest of the album is filled with more of Romeo's hard-as-nails playing, while Michael Pinnella's keyboards are right where they need to be in the mix, his accompaniment offering everything from the melodic to the atypical. Pinnella's keyboard break on the fiery mid-tempo track works wonderfully. "Eve of Seduction" and "The Walls of Babylon" are both slamming numbers with bombastic choruses. Eight-minute album-closer "Revelation (Divus Pennae Ex Tragoedia)" offers a little bit of everything: metallic force, symphonic and choral bits, and effective keyboard work from Pinnella.
The album's mellower songs are gems as well, the title track one that should go down as an all-time SYMPHONY X favorite. With piano and string sounds, the song's chorus features a much softer approach from Allen, and it is an absolute stunner in its melancholic beauty. Even more ballad-esque, "The Sacrifice" is filled with more of Allen's gentler style, the light picking and piano, as well as Romeo's section of Spanish acoustic guitar to close out the song, making the entirety of it a stellar affair.
One would be hard pressed to find an album that better represents the heavier end of the prog/power spectrum (toss REDEMPTION's "The Origins of Ruin" in there as well). "Paradise Lost" is an album that long-time fans will cherish for years to come, and should also convert to newcomers. Let's hope the wait is not as long for the next SYMPHONY X work of artistic wonder.