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Symphony X: Underworld

Underworld? Underwhelming, more like...

Progressive metal is cluttered with mediocrity masquerading as majesty. Astonishingly, this is the ninth album from New Jersey’s Symphony X – it’s as if their labels have a blind faith that one day the band will suddenly come up with a monumental masterwork.

Well, Underworld isn’t it. Look, it’s not their musicianship that’s in question – these guys can play – and this makes it all the more frustrating that they struggle to craft songs that are anything more than a raft of dull clichés. The music on Underworld is actually more power metal than anything progressive, and every track builds from an anodyne opening towards a forgettable climax. Vocalist Russell Allen shows off his range and prowess, while guitarist Michael Romeo and keyboard player Michael Pinnella edge towards vacuous virtuosity. Apparently this is all based on visions of hell, and if hell is defined as being trapped in a mundane musical maze, then sadly Underworld has the desired effect. What the band desperately need is a producer who’ll help them restructure the songs, arrange their ideas and wring more emotion from them. If that happens, it may be a case of 10th time lucky.