Symphony X: Underworld

New Jersey’s prog/power overlords reveal the virtues of patience

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We don’t get many Symphony X albums anymore – this is only the Americans’ third since the excellent The Odyssey in 2002 – but they have consistently been worth the wait.

It doesn’t take long for them to reassure you Underworld has similarly been worth hanging around for, first song Nevermore kicking into broiling, groove-laden prog metal bliss immediately.

Symphony X are proof that ‘complex’ and ‘technical’ can be catchy and fun. Michael Romeo’s thunderous, rolling riffs are challenging but more about making you headbang than chin-stroke. Add in the power of Russell Allen’s ballsy, crystal-clear voice, wrap it around big hooks and texture, and it’s no surprise it all works excellently. It’s only separated from flawlessness by the odd wrong turn; this band can do better ballads than the unresolved, drippy Without You (as they prove later with killer ballad Swansong) and the second half of Hell And Back is weak next to the mighty opening. But this is still sleek, trim and fun prog metal done with verve.