The fifth offering from Symphony X transports us to ancient Egypt, a land full of wonder, mysticism, and technological advances. It delves into topics such as astrology, the sun god Ra and all the other gods of Egyptian lore, the underwater land of Atlantis and beyond. ‘V’ fuses unorthodox progressive metal patterns with power metal mythology and neoclassical passages (with samples of real classical music from Mozart, Bach, and others).
One of the great things about Symphony X is how the band always takes us somewhere else with their music. Throughout the band’s discography, we travel to Dante’s Divine Comedy, Alice in Through the Looking Glass, Homer’s Odyssey, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and beyond. V: The New Mythology Suite is my favorite Symphony X record, sonically evoking images of Egypt as it once was, and as it continues to exist through its mythology.
The album begins with “Evolution (The Grand Design),” kicking off with a punch of raw energy that became more noticeable in the band’s later albums. Now a live staple of the band, the song’s weaving guitar passages maneuvering at lightning speed evoke the ambiance of the hot, Egyptian sun, and the laborious lifestyle of those in servitude, charged with building the pyramids.
As the album progresses, it takes on a softer approach with songs like “Communion and the Oracle,” which has a more sophisticated tone reminiscent of the pharaohs and other members of high society in ancient Egypt. Meanwhile, the song “Egypt” delves into the sense of wonder that you can find in Disney’s depiction of Aladdin or in the tale of the Arabian Nights.
Symphony X as a whole has 6 truly killer albums that have stood the test of time and continue to be in regular rotation for me. Several of them have a longer track as the centerpiece of the record—something that V: The New Mythology Suite doesn’t have. However, the album reads like an ancient epic, where you feel your body riding a white horse and traveling through the desert at great speeds, stopping at various places to enjoy the scenery.
As the name suggests, the band’s music is very symphonic, using instruments that go beyond the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. You hear violins, strings, woodwinds, and other elements of an orchestra to give that grandiose feel to the album. The ivories of Michael Pinnella’s piano add a deft, delicate touch to the album against the backdrop of the heavy, dissonant guitars. Plus, the synthesizer sound of his keyboard add a sense of forward-thinking life to an era in mankind where great technological advances were brought forth over a short period of time.
Singer Russell Allen takes on the role of the storyteller, speaking of this kingdom of gold where you will become the ruler of space and time. Storytelling used to exist in the oral tradition, and Symphony X does that for us, saving us the trouble of reading these tales and moving us through them in a Jumanji way, bringing them to life and transforming us into a character in the tale.
The amplification in the guitar of Michael Romeo is the main driver of energy in the album, running at the crux of the action while the rest of the instruments dance alongside it. Romeo’s guitar turns to a clean tone at times when necessary, bringing us moments of respite amidst a turbulent and beautiful sea of madness.
All in all, this is an album that I consider to be perfect. The best music transports us, and V does that as well as any album in my collection.