In Camden, North London, an area most famous for punk rock, the Electric Ballroom is set to see a performance with more notes hit in one minute than a punk band may play in their entire career. Progressive metal veterans of 25 years, Symphony X headline, with support coming from Brit heavy metallers Savage Messiah; a two-band lineup with a healthy-sized set from each.
Opening the show, Savage Messiah launch straight into their infectious, riff-heavy metal, with founder, lead vocalist and guitarist Dave Silver’s voice sounding even more powerful, and with even more range, than when the band was formed over 20 years ago. Their latest release, Demons, less than a month old, showcases the group straying from their thrash roots to include more stadium rock bangers (“The Lights Are Going Out” on display tonight is a perfect example) yet they are performed with passion and display an act with far more diversity than many within the thrash genre.
Stepping up the set with heavier tracks such as “The Bitter Truth,” Savage Messiah get the crowd shouting and fist pumping along with them enthusiastically, proving a perfect warm-up for tonight’s headline act. As a band, they perform with more chemistry than you would expect from one with two new members joining this year, and the fact that their sound is mixed perfectly helps what is a convincing and consummate show. By the time set closer “Down And Out” finishes, they’ve played for almost 45 minutes, and it’s a generous length of time befitting an excellent performance.
Off of Demons, Savage Messiah rock your world in the “Down And Out” music video:
Entering the stage to the title track of their 2011 album Iconoclast, Symphony X immediately launch into their set with incredible momentum and pace. The cadence of the track creates a gravitational pull, making all in attendance helpless to stop banging their heads along to the central riff, packed with all the technicality and groove that is Symphony X’s signature. On the penultimate show of a tour which has gone on for over a month now, the band delivers more energy with a lineup that has remained the same for over 20 years than some bands can muster with members who are in their early 20s.
Live, there’s a grit and body to the music making it sound even more full than on record, with bassist Michael Lepond laying down flawlessly technical lines setting the base for guitarist Michael Romeo and keyboardist Michael Pinnella trading solos over the top, displayed best in the song “Nevermore.” Russell Allen’s vocals are as note-perfect and powerful as it gets in the metal genre, and for those unfamiliar with the band Romeo is a neoclassical guitar virtuoso in another league.
The set moves through an emotional rendition of “Without You,” coming after Allen recounts the tale of tragedy which befell his other band Adrenaline Mob, with the audience applauding in solidarity. As they progress through a variety of tracks, Symphony X demonstrate they can cut it in all corners of the progressive metal genre: tone down production and it could be from the prog rock peak of the early ‘70s, or add some harsher vocals and it could easily be music written by a more extreme band such as Ne Obliviscaris. Indeed, set closer “Set The World On Fire” is the heaviest track outside of Fleshgod Apocalypse to involve a harpsichord.
Symphony X’s non-stop riff wizardry is well on display in their music video for “Nevermore.”
Returning to the stage to play an encore comprised of the 25-minute opus “The Odyssey” following the crowd chanting its name, Allen bemoans there being no surprises anymore. Inviting the audience to take the track’s epic journey, their entire set tonight has been an experience of comparable magnitude, demonstrating Symphony X’s incomparable powers within the progressive metal genre and ability to wow even a seasoned metal show attendee in this writer.
Symphony X’s Camden Setlist:
02. Evolution (Grand Design)
03. Serpent’s Kiss
05. Without You
07. Run With The Devil
08. Sea of Lies
09. Set The World On Fire
10. The Odyssey (Encore)
Released on July 24th, 2015, check the cover artwork for Underworld, released via Nuclear Blast: