SYMPHONY X — The Divine Wings Of Tragedy (review)

SYMPHONY X — The Divine Wings Of Tragedy album cover Album · 1996 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
UMUR
"The Divine Wings Of Tragedy" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, New Jersey based power/progressive metal act Symphony X. The album was released through Zero Corporation in Japan in November 1996 and through InsideOut Music in Europe in March 1997. It´s the successor to "The Damnation Game" from 1995 and features the same quintet lineup as the predecessor. "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy" was the breakthrough album for Symphony X and is by many considered among their finest works.

Symphony X have honed their songwriting craft considerably on this release (compared to the two preceding album releases), and they have also upped the use of progressive metal elements, although they still retain strong European power metal/neo-classical leanings, and are also firmly grounded in the more raw and thrash infused US power metal style. The latter mentioned style is on full display on the opening track "Of Sins And Shadows", which features incredibly heavy thrashy (almost brutal) guitar riffs and heavy pounding rhythms, which are not the order of the day on most European power metal/neo-classical or progressive metal releases. It´s a muscular track showing Symphony X at their most raw and punishing. When that is said "Of Sins And Shadows" still features melodic neo-classical keyboard/guitar themes and a melodic anthemic chorus, so there is a good balance between the raw and the melodic on that track.

The same can actually be said about all the material on the album, although the melodic sensibility and the degrees of rawness and the number of heavy riffs/rhythms vary from track to track. Some of the highlights are "Of Sins And Shadows", "Sea Of Lies", "Candlelight Fantasia"l, and "The Accolade". Especially the latter deserves a special mention for the wealth of intriguing compositional ideas and beautiful and strong epic melodies. This is pure musical brilliance to my ears. Many would probably count the 20:42 minutes long title track among the highlights of the album, but I disagree with that sentiment. Although the track features many high quality elements (the opening choir section is for example great) and strong and powerful sections, it´s a bit of a compositional mess, with an instrumental middle section which doesn´t really work that well.

Other than the generally high quality compositions the greatest asset of "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy" is the high level musicianship. Lead vocalist Russell Allen can´t be praised enough for his commanding delivery and versatile voice. He can sing both high pitched and melodic and mid- to low register raw and clean vocals. His performance on this album is outstanding. The rhythm section are strong playing too and bassist Thomas Miller even gets to shine a couple of times during the albums playing time with some lead parts. Michael Pinella is obviously a classically trained keyboard player and his busy neo-classical playing perfectly compliments the ditto busy guitar playing of Michael Romeo. The latter is a world class guitar player, who masters many different styles from brutal groove laden thrashy riffs, to strong melodic hooks and great acoustic/clean guitar moments, to blistering solo work.

"The Divine Wings Of Tragedy" features a relatively well sounding production, which suits the material well. I say relatively well sounding production, because it´s not a perfect production. The drums for example don´t feature the most powerful production values, and they come of a little thin sounding in the mix and the distorted guitar tone is also a little odd sounding a times. It´s as if it´s sometimes played through a wah-pedal, but not on purpose. The minor production complaints aside, "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy" is still a perfectly listenable album and most listeners probably won´t even notice or be bothered by the mentioned flaws.

Upon conclusion it´s perfectly understandable why "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy" became the breakthrough for Symphony X. While the first two albums showed promise, this one fully delivers on that promise. High level musical performances and clever compositional ideas. On top of that Symphony X have a unique sound and a musical identity which immediately set them apart from the pack. Sure the neo-classical influences scream Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen, but that is just one elements of the band´s sound. Mix it up with the darkest and most heavy moments of Dream Theater and add a premier league US power metal vocalist to the potion and you have "The Divine Wings Of Tragedy". Not a perfect album, but it´s close. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.
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UMUR wrote:
8 days ago
I used to be a big fan, but I haven´t really listened to Symphony X since I wrote my review for "Underworld" back in 2015. I´ve just started from the beginning though rewriting and editing my old PA reviews for posting on MMA and this one was up :-).
siLLy puPPy wrote:
8 days ago
I went through a Symphony X marathon recently. This is one of their best but starting with this one i really like everything that followed.

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