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Saturday, 27 February 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Symphony X

Symphony X & Myrath, Bristol Bierkeller

So the third and final trip into Bristol in a week that started with death metal, then classic rock and then this was the night that we got our prog on with American kings of aggressive progressive metal (or jock-prog as I've dubbed it) and Tunisian melo-proggers Myrath. Now in what seemed to be a running theme for the week we once again got caught in traffic meaning we missed opening act Melting Space, although with the late opening doors myself and Paul wondered just how long they played for, as we were in the venue about 20 minutes after the doors opened and the band were already at the merch stall. Still we did finally arrive at the venue and after a swift pint nearby we headed in to Bristol's most unique venue an took our place in front of the sound desk.

There was a large crowd gathered for the Tunisians and as they hit the stage with Storm Of Lies the huge waves of keys from Elyes Bouchoucha were immediately engulfing the audience as the bototm end of Morgan Berthet's drums and Anis Jouini's five string bass ploughed a heavy furrow for Malek Ben Arbia to riff along to with his crunchy rhythm playing and clean harmonic leads. Most of the set was drawn from their most recent album Legacy and the crowd were responsive to it despite it only being out for a week at the time of the concert. In fact four of the seven songs were from the new record and do well live especially Get Your Freedom Back and Believer which got the crowd involved. Frontman Zaher Zorgati has a very clear, resonant, melodic voice that soars above the music brilliantly and the whole thing was complemented by the venue's excellent sound, the band were a little static due to spacial constraints and there were tapes used for the harmonies but they did not intrude too much. As I said the crowd were obviously pro-Myrath before they arrived on stage but after their set, that ended with the Eurovision-like (not a bad thing) Duat they had one over many more. A good showing from a band still finding their feet in the UK, but are very experienced. 7/10

Speaking of experience you don't get much more experienced than New Jersey mob Symphony X, who throughout their career (starting in 1994) have moved from a neo-classical band, through a progressive metal band and now into a much more heavier prospect than ever before, a lot of their more recent songs are more thrash-like than anything else, thus why they recently completed an American tour with fellow Jerseyites Overkill. As the intro tape of Overture swirled the three Michaels took to the stage, Pinnella on keys, LePond on bass and band leader Romeo on guitar (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Yngwie Malmsteen) supported by Jason Rullo on drums, the band launched into opener Nevermore which saw frontman Russell Allen storm the stage every inch the rockstar (sunglasses and all) and unleash his mighty pipes. What followed was  risky move as the band dove headlong straight into Underworld it became clear that this set would be drawn mainly from their latest album of the same name, something that was backed up by Allen when the thundering Kiss Of Fire came to an end and he did a little speech about leaving it 6 years since they last did a full UK tour and explaining that they were going to play Underworld in full and explaining a little about the concept as the rest of the band watched this mountain of a man give his explanation the crowd were cheering and whooping before they resumed singing every line of every song on powerful Without You.

Yes the audience for Symphony X do seem to be a little, how can I say this? Enthusiastic, to say the least every person in that room knew every line of every song and sang with all their heart, this kind of fandom is usual at prog gigs but Symphony X do seem to attract a rather wide crowd; from the normal D&D playing prog-nerds (like myself), through to the group of heavily muscled weightlifters to my right encompassing cardigan wearing dads and hipsters in their f*cking red trousers! With the emotion of Without You out of the window it was back to rampaging metal assault with Charon and To Hell And Back, the rhythm section of LePond and Rullo thundered with percussive power, the keys of Pinnella were immense but in no way distracted from the heaviness created by the band, while Romeo's guitar playing is otherworldly he solos with a dexterity not seen often. The one thing that struck me about Symphony X that I may have missed last time I saw them is how bloody loud they are, on the heavier songs I was fearing for concussive shock syndrome but it was all part of the bands appeal. Allen is a great frontman welcoming but also terrifying in equal measure especially when he was switching between his good and evil masks in the middle of the set (although the red and black mask did make him look a bit like WWE's Kane).

As Swansong wrapped up the bulk of Underworld the band went back a bit with instrumental Death Of Balance giving Romeo, Pinnella, Rullo and LePond a chance to duel and show their skills before the band went back further to Divine Wings Of Tragedy for Out Of Ashes and Sea Of Lies that ended the main set. There was a pause, rapid cheering a ringing in your ears and then the band strutted back on like conquering kings. The encore started with one of Paradise Lost's best tracks Set The World On Fire (The Lie Of Lies) before the set ended proper with the closing track from Underworld the sublime Legend, finishing the whole story and sending the punters home happy but deaf. Symphony X in full headline mode are a force to be reckoned with and I really hope they don't leave it six years before they do another headline tour, they are band well worth seeing no matter whether you like prog or not, they are fantastic heavy metal band. 9/10                 

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