Symphony X - Twilight in Olympus
InsideOut Music
Progressive Power Metal
8 songs (52:40)
Release year: 1998
Symphony X, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Boris
Archive review

Although I love Symphony X dearly, there have been times when I have been disappointed by them. Their most recent effort, Paradise Lost, despite being beloved by both critics and fans, was not worth waiting 4 years for. Although it has grown on me the more I listen to it, I still feel like it has its flaws and doesn’t really measure up to its predecessor, The Odyssey. However, looking back at Symphony X ‘s history, it seems that they have a trend of releasing something subpar after a masterpiece. As disappointed as I was with Paradise Lost, I would have been infinitely more annoyed by Twilight in Olympus, the bands fourth album.

I discovered Symphony X with this album’s magnificent predecessor, The Divine Wings of Tragedy, and at the time I was mesmerized by anything I heard from this band, regardless of how good or crummy it was. Since I have learned that Symphony X is not, in fact, the only band that plays a neoclassical brand of Progressive-Metal, and these days, they are not even the best (the latest efforts from Circus Maximus and fellow New Jersey band Suspyre have been much more impressive than recent Symphony X activity), I have detached myself a little from them. And upon re-listening to Twilight in Olympus for this review, I have found myself thoroughly puzzled and somewhat aggravated.

This album saw release in 1998, a year after Divine Wings, and for some inexplicable reason, the change in song quality is really drastic. What’s more is that these songs are not just b-sides from the Divine Wings sessions—perhaps if they were, they would have been better—they were composed for the album.

Now, I know, I’m being really harsh. After all, opener Smoke and Mirrors is a great song, effortlessly exploiting all that makes this band great. It is a live favorite, and I must admit, I always sing along when I hear it. Church of the Machine is also very catchy, despite being too long and featuring an oddly subdued vocal performance from singer extraordinaire Russell Allen.

Even though those two songs offer nothing new from the Symphony X camp, this album would have been alright had the quality of all the other songs matched them. Unfortunately that is not the case. After the boring instrumental Sonata (is it based on an actual Sonata? I don’t know, but if it is, it probably doesn’t do it justice), Into the Dragon’s Den comes in with a flurry of drums. Although this song isn’t bad, it’s just uninteresting, featuring rehashed vocal melodies from previous songs and a neoclassic solo-by-the-numbers. When a 3 minute song bores you, something is wrong. This song is fast enough to keep people headbanging if the band were to play it live however. That’s more than can be said for the album’s “epic” Through the Looking Glass. I almost cried when the band played this song the last time I saw them, and not the good kind of crying. I would have rather heard them fill the 13 minutes with ANYTHING else. The main problem with this song is that it doesn’t really offer anything that sticks. Sure, all the performances are fantastic and Russell sounds at his best, but the song just doesn’t manage to hold the listeners attention, and the chorus is nowhere near as catchy as it should be. This is probably the band’s worst attempt at an epic, though honestly, that still places it above most others..

The Relic is interesting enough not to press the skip button, and Orion: The Hunter has some cool guitar riffs, but they are both a tad too long and Russell, for whatever reason, just doesn’t let loose like he can. Lady of the Snow is this album’s saving grace—this band really knows how to end an album. Its Russell’s most emotional performance on this collection of songs, and Michael Romeo doesn’t sound like he’s soloing just to fill space. The vocal melodies are moving, and for its 7 minute running time, it holds up admirably.

Despite all my complaints about this album, I’m still giving it a relatively high score. The reason is that at one point, I was entranced by all these songs (then again, I was young…and I also liked St. Anger just because it was the first Metallica album released when I was old enough to care), and a lot of fans will probably defend these songs (to my chagrin, everyone cheered wildly when the band played Through the Looking Glass live). It is also, in comparison to a giant portion of power and prog-metal bands, still a decent album. I recommend starting with this album for people who have never heard the band before because its good enough that you will want to listen to more, and all their other material—except the self-titled debut which for all intents and purposes does not exist in my mind—is much better.

Killing Songs :
Smoke and Mirrors, Church of the Machine, Lady of the Snow
Boris quoted 78 / 100
Aleksie quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Symphony X that we have reviewed:
Symphony X - Underworld reviewed by Joel and quoted 92 / 100
Symphony X - Iconoclast reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 88 / 100
Symphony X - The Divine Wings of Tragedy reviewed by Boris and quoted 95 / 100
Symphony X - The Damnation Game reviewed by Boris and quoted 84 / 100
Symphony X - Symphony X reviewed by Boris and quoted 68 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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