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Symphony X, Fragile Vastness, Need
Gagarin Club, Athens, Greece
28/10/2011

On the day that the Greeks celebrate their revolutionary answer against the Italian threat, back in 1940, we had the chance to witness live one of the bands that was and still is deeply influenced by the Greek culture and mythology. The prog metal masters Symphony X managed to come to our country for the first time in history (and after what they saw, it will definitely not be the last). The attendance though, could be much better and it really bears questions the fact that especially the prog metal fans, keep nagging about bands they like not coming, and once they come, they are not there to enjoy them, the situation was much better than in Shadow Gallery for example but still not satisfactory. The Americans and the two native bands were able to wipe out such complaints, and the show started at eight o’clock sharp, finishing a little before midnight.

Need is simply one of my three favourite bands from our country, especially concerning the ones from Athens, each time I see them I enjoy it more,however, once I am starting to get obsessed they finish their shows. This time they played only six songs for about half an hour in total, and it was also the first time to see them as a quintet, including their recent entry, their keyboard player, who fills in perfectly with the nominal rhythm section, the guitarist throwing constant riffs non stop and the vocalist who seemed to be more confident than ever (also his hair have grown since the last time I saw them, go on mate). Among others, I had the chance to listen to ”Lifeknot”, one of the new songs they write for their upcoming album, hopefully released on 2012. A great performance and the only thing I can complain about is the lack of t-shirts, but as I learnt, it was not their fault.

100_6564Fragile Vastness is really an experience you must weigh carefully before speaking about. It’s been about eight and a half years since the last time I saw them, supporting Pain Of Salvation and Rage in March 2003, and remembering them as a quintet back then, made the fact that this time they were eight people on stage (!) quite challenging. To be honest, I never heard the two keyboard players, I could barely listen to the guitarists, and for sure I didn’t hear the lady in the backing vocals at all. The singer has a very good voice and the rhythm section won the impressions again, with bassist and mastermind of the band Vaggelis Gialamas also playing a strange kind of contrabass among the songs. A satisfactory performance, though I am in heavier prog metal in general compared to them. Total respect to them as a band, it just feels that I can’t like them as much as I should. Still, professionals enough and won the applause of the crowd.

Symphony X come on stage at ten o’clock sharp and once the title track of their latest 100_6615double album ”Iconoclast” tears the speakers, there is no turning back. Captive of the aura, the comfort and the tremendous shape of Russel Allen’s voice, for the next 110 minutes everything in the world around us looks, sounds and are better than we imagined. Followed by phenomenal tracks such as ”The End Of Innocence”, ”Dehumanized”, ”Bastards Of The Machine”, ”Electric Messiah”, ”When All Is Lost” (what a voice on that one…) and ”Children Of A Faceless God”, the new album dominates the first hour of the concert totally. Then it was time for ”Paradise Lost” to be represented with ”Eve Of Seduction” (maybe the most unexpected track of the whole night, it sounds twice great live though).

It is the first riff of ”Of Sins And Shadows” that brings back the memories of 1997, when I first got to know them, reminding us of their masterful album ”The Divine Wings Of Tragedy” (also could be known as ”The Divine Album Of Symphony X”). The first encore is a fact and they come out with ”The Serpent’s Kiss” and ”Set The World On Fire (The Lie Of Lies)”, both tracks from ”Paradise Lost”, responsible for bringing new fans to the band. It is so great to see such a band in such a shape, with Michael Pinella accompanying with his keyboards every great melody or riff Michael Romeo has composed, and the duo of Michael Lepond 100_6590on bass and Jason Rullo (foot technique master) on drums making the sound of the band colossal. Once again they leave and the second encore comes from the deepest dreams of every fan.

The whole nearly half an hour opus ”The Odyssey” is played in its entirety, because of the love of the band for Greece, with Allen stating they couldn’t leave us without it. For the next 25-30 minutes there’s not much we can say, but just looking the band drawing some of the best pictures ever created in front of our eyes. It was the right time for them to come, now they are on their peak. 600-700 people were the lucky ones to be there, no tears for the ones not attending, choices must be made carefully and I lost Candlemass performing the whole ”Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” to be able to see this. There can be no complaints, even for the setlist or the fact they could play four or five more songs instead of ”The Odyssey”. That Friday, melody and art took over against extremity and brutality. We shall remember this for decades with a great smile on our faces, unless they play better the next time they come. Something that might happen sooner than we expect.

Report: Aggelos “Redneck” Katsouras.
Photos: Manos Spanos.