William Richards of Metal Wani recently conducted an interview with guitarist Michael Romeo of New Jersey progressive metal masters SYMPHONY X. You can now listen to the chat below. A couple of excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On SYMPHONY X's ninth studio album, titled "Underworld", which will be released on July 24 via Nuclear Blast Records:
"Every album, when it's getting released, everybody's pretty pumped up and psyched. And this one especially. I mean, this one is a little different. I mean, every album we do, we always try to make it a little different. The last one was a little more heavy, and maybe one's a little more prog, one's a little more just metal. This one's a little bit of everything, so I'm kind of curious to see… But, yeah, man, we're definitely happy about the record and kind of curious and anxious to see what's gonna happen."
On whether SYMPHONY X made a conscious effort this time to make an album that retained elements of previous CDs while also charting new musical territory:
"I don't know, man… We definitely talked about a lot of things early on. Every record we do, we try to talk a little bit about, maybe, the music or the lyrical content, or if there's any kind of ideas. And once that starts happening, the album just kind of falls into place. But this one, yeah, there was definitely an effort to do some of the things we've always done. Maybe… Like, looking back at some of the other records and other things that we've done, little bits and pieces, just like a nod to some of that stuff. We're definitely conscious of the fans. There's fans of the band that like an album like [2011's] 'Iconoclast' that's very heavy, and there's some that like the more progressive and very melodic kind of thing. So, yeah, there definitely was an effort to incorporate all that. And the other big thing, too, was just trying to really make it, listening-wise, cohesive, as a whole record; you know, the dips and the gaps and then the peaks, and really trying to think of the record as a whole too. I mean, of course, you're worried about working on every song and make it fit. But that was another big thing too — just trying to make it seem… like something you could just listen to the whole thing and it would make sense."
On whether it helps that he has his own studio in which to record SYMPHONY X albums:
"Well, you know, there's good points and there's bad points. I mean, the good point is you can take your time and you're not looking at the clock; you're not worried about money or any of that bullshit. You can really just do your thing. And it's comfy down here; it's chill. Everybody popping in from time to time. If I'm doing my guitars, [Michael] Pinnella [keyboards] might come down, bring some coffee. It's a cool chill; it's a cool hangout. So it's a great environment for working and being creative. Then, at the same time, you're not looking at the clock, so time kind of goes by. But, to be honest, I think we're pretty good about it now. I mean, the writing is really the thing that takes the longest, I think. Recording… Once we're recording… This time things went pretty smooth. We started tracking the drums back in September, and I think the mix… ready for the mix was around March, I'm pretty sure. So that's not too bad, considering that we had all that time to noodle with sounds and everything else. But, yeah, it is good to have your own place and to be able to work at your own pace. And everybody's happy with their performance and what they did; you don't have to rush to get something done. And I think that just helps the stuff. I mean, listening back to some of these tracks, I remember some of us just hanging out and listening. It's, like, yeah, man. It feels really good. It feels like there's an energy there. There's something there."
Heavily inspired by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, "Underworld" draws on the themes from "Divine Comedy" most notably the part on "Inferno". As homage to Dante's use of the number 3 and its multiples, the band utilizes this motif in its music either in a lyrical or melodic context. The first song on the album is a three-syllable, three-note melodic phrase, and in the verses there are three references to three songs on the bands third album, "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy". "There's cool shit like this all over the record," Romeo said.
For the "Underworld" cover art, SYMPHONY X went with their established illustrator Warren Flanagan (Watchmen", "The Incredible Hulk", "2012") who similarly tapped into the "secret knowledge" vibe Michael and band embedded in the record.
"Underworld" track listing:
04. Without You
05. Kiss Of Fire
07. Hell And Back
08. In My Darkest Hour
09. Run With The Devil