Symphony X with Black Majesty @ Max Watts, Melbourne 11/10/2016

Symphony X took Melbourne through the Underworld and more in their first-ever Australian performance.

The long awaited Australian stage debut of progressive power metal giants Symphony X finally landed at Max Watts in Melbourne. Rolling up to Swanston Street, I could see the entry line spiralling down the street, past the corner, full of excited fans of this longstanding, ever-progressing band from New Jersey. Soundworks Touring had fronted an impressive power metal bill, bringing the mighty Symphony X to Australia, and after twenty-two years of waiting, sheer droves of eager fans would finally witness Symphony X live, with epic Melbourne-based band Black Majesty in full support. In classic power metal style, this concert was a celebration of guitar solos, smooth bass lines, thundering drums and dynamic, engaging vocalists.

Black Majesty announced the show open with their inspiring, energetic style epitomised in Far Beyond, showcasing the impressive register of vocalist John ‘Gio’ Cavaliere and Black Majesty’s signature twin-lead-guitars approach. I hadn’t yet seen Black Majesty perform, and quickly found out why this is such a popular power metal group. Watching the solos fly between guitarists Hanny Mohamed and Stevie Janevski was exciting, especially during the epic song Stargazer, that also featured some swift and tight bass work by Evan Harris. Huge, catchy choruses in Further Than Insane and Wish You Well inspired audience sing-a-long and Black Majesty injected even more speed and energy with Phoenix, a song from their recent album Cross of Thorns. Fierce double kicking from Ben Wignall and a resounding display of guitar interplay between Mohamed and Janevski rounded out Black Majesty’s set in Silent Company. Black Majesty was a perfect choice to support Symphony X and the crowd at Max Watts were on fire.

I have to admit, I am helplessly smitten by albums that explore Dantean themes, and Symphony X’s Underworld has to be one of the most interesting and powerful examples of this. So it was with much excitement that Nevermore came blasting through as the first song of Symphony X’s triumphant first appearance in Melbourne. The classic raw, melodic vocal style of Russell Allen and epic drumming of Jason Rullo had the crowd wild before exploding even louder when guitar legend Michael Romero unleashed a gorgeous solo. It was a sure sign of things to come.

Continuing the Underworld play-through, the title track waxed and waned between its edgy keyboard intro, and Romero impressively strutting his skills, before erupting into a tough rumbling breakdown that had heads pounding the rail. I personally love every song on Underworld but was excited by the full play-through as the narrative of the Divine Comedy as interpreted by Symphony X really came through. Without You set up the story, of a girl lost to the world’s evils and a lover who seeks to save her, and featured a nice keyboard cameo by Michael Pinnella. The thundering song Kiss of Fire expressed the turbulent tensions and trials of affection through some of my favourite lyrics on the album, and very cool, very smooth bass by Michael LePond. The whole crowd was jumping as Charon transported us into the fabled Inferno with extremely slinky and deliciously crisp soloing by Romero.

Vocalist Allen then practically transformed into ‘our Virgil’ to guide us To Hell and Back through captivating theatrics involving the two masks. This song was live performance gold. The sultry heavy grooves and beautiful tapping solo saw Allen inhabit a white and black mask, only to morph into the heavier, epic second half of the song with a red and black mask that rendered him demonic amidst a gigantic guitar presence from Romero. At the conclusion, Allen lifted both masks in a profound display of inherent duality. Shifting dynamics between thundering sections driven by powerhouse Rullo and deep brooding sections took centre stage through In My Darkest Hour, which reinforced why Symphony X is such an engaging band with so much musical texture. The energy intensified again with Running with the Devil. To conclude the Underworld play-through, one of my favourite songs, Swan Song, darkly serenaded the spellbound audience with the gorgeous vocal range of Allen and tear-jerking solos by Romero.

A series of older classics completed this epic set by Symphony X, beginning with a visitor from the year 2000 The Death of Balance/Lacrymosa and moving into the sexy song Serpent’s Kiss from 2007’s Paradise Lost that generated a wild bouncing mosh pit. Then the oldest classic in the set, 1996’s Of Sins and Shadows whipped the crowd into a frenzied chant of the chorus. After proudly proclaiming us all a ‘family in metal’, Allen led the set to its finale in Legend.

After an epic encore of Sea of Lies, Symphony X took their bows having delivered a powerhouse first appearance in Australia. Their Melbourne fans were buzzing after witnessing this masterful, hard-hitting showcase of old and new Symphony X, executed in the stellar performance style of a longstanding band that I was truly grateful to see live...

 

Read Metal As Fuck's interview with Michael LePond HERE