“War Of The Worlds: Pt. 1” marks the first official solo album from Symphony X guitarist Michael Romeo. I am reminded of something asked of Eddie Van Halen back in the day as to why he never did solo albums. The gist of it was that Van Halen albums sound like what his solo stuff would sound like. With a guitarist so crucial to a band’s overall sound (and writing) the way EVH is and in this case Michael Romeo, it’s no wonder.
Romeo finally releases a solo album and yes it does sound like Symphony X. It’s really unavoidable UNLESS he did some other genre. But “War Of The Worlds: Pt. 1” is very much a prog metal album with power metal overtones but it does have a decidedly cinematic vibe to it that tends to take a backseat on Symphony X albums. The album is very epic sounding because of it and the addition of orchestral moments just adds to that.
One other big difference is the vocals of course. Russell Allen is the voice of Symphony X and I could DEFINITELY hear him singing all of this material. However, vocalist Rick Castellano does an outstanding job throughout this album. The guy can sing and I’ve never heard of him! Romeo is backed by a really good rhythm section of bassist John “JD” DeServio (ex-Black Label Society) and drummer John Macaluso (ex-ARK, ex-TNT, etc).
The album starts out VERY cinematic with “Introduction” which is just that. I wouldn’t call it a throw away track as it’s not a brief track and sets the tone for the album. The blistering “Fear Of The Unknown” is next and it’s part Symphony X and Stratovarius. Go for what you know, I guess. This really COULD be on a Symphony X album. Of course the solo on the track is amazing. “Black” has nice riffs and some major symphonic moments. But again, no new ground covered here.
“Fucking Robots” has a cool orchestral opening before this absolutely horrible synth(?) sound comes in. It’s the sound my stomach makes when I am super hungry. It’s REALLY annoying and to be honest, it ruins the track for me. I get that it represents the fucking robots but I would have called it “Fucking Annoying” instead. Next up is “Djinn” one of my favorite tracks on the album. Great chorus, great melodies and killer riffs. I’d say it could be a Symphony X song but you already guessed that.
Then there’s “Believe” which is in the style of “Without You.” So it’s obvious that there’s not a whole lot different between his main gig and Romeo’s solo stuff. “War Machines” sounds a bit more like what I would expect from a solo piece. It’s got a great solo but also a lot of orchestration. I think more tracks like this and “Introduction” would have been nice. Still, there are a lot of really good songs on the album with only one misstep.
It’s easy to just say if you are a fan of Symphony X, you will love this album. That is true but this is NOT that band. Having a different supporting cast does make a bit of a difference but this lineup acquits themselves nicely. Romeo didn’t write an album to show off his playing. Instead, this is more about the songs which is a good thing. I am not sure what the future holds for Symphony X but I do know there will be a “War Of The Worlds: Pt. 2.” But for now, enjoy Part 1 and the first solo outing of a very talented musician.
2. Fear Of The Unknown
4. Fucking Robots
8. War Machine