Album of the Year 2018 – Number 20

We’ve hit the top 20! It is getting even more serious, if that was ever possible? So welcome to the eleventh chapter of my 2018 ‘Album of the Year’ series. And, in honour of this momentous occasion, I’m going to dispense with my introductory waffle – not that you read it anyway, I’m not silly, I can hear the click of your mice as you scroll past.

As always, if you’ve missed the previous picks in this series so far, links to these can be found at the bottom of this post.

But on with the show…

Number 20:

michael-romeo-war-of-the-worlds-pt1

Michael Romeo
‘War Of The Worlds – Part 1’
Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group
Score of Much Metal: 9

Trying to place this record in my year-end list was quite possibly the hardest part of this whole process. At one stage, this album wasn’t even going to break into my list as I wasn’t as keen on it as others seemed to be within the prog community. Even as recently as three weeks ago, it failed to make my first draft list. And now, her it is, at number 20. So what changed?

I always liked this record. As a fan of Symphony X and the guitar-playing of Mr Michael Romeo, how could I not? But I wasn’t initially thrown head over heels by the content. I felt that it was solid, enjoyable fare, but I thought that it lacked a little of the sparkle that I want to hear from this talented musician and songwriter.

However, this is a classic case of an album getting better and better with time and repeated plays, to the point where I finally felt that eureka moment. The fact that it only happened very recently does not detract from the potency of that event. If anything, it meant that I had to consider putting ‘War Of The Worlds – Part 1’ even higher up the list. It’s great when it happens, but it really does give me a headache in terms of placing it.

I think the main reason I like this record so much, is the combination of incisive, clever riffs, big choruses that grow ever-more powerful and the sheer energy of the music. When joined by the overt orchestration and cinematic sheen, the final product is really hard to be ignored. I’d not compare it to the best output of Symphony X like some have done. But, to be honest, it isn’t far off.

To quote my review of 25 July 2018:

MJR 1A(c) Danny Sanchez

“Bearing in mind that Romeo’s guitar style is so distinctive, it’d be foolish to suggest that there are not strong parallels between this solo effort and his work with Symphony X material. Indeed, there are many similarities, meaning that anyone who is a fan of recent Symphony X output will find plenty to enjoy here. For the most part, this is full-on metal fare, with muscular rhythms, chunky, imposing riffs and a ton of six-string flamboyance as Romeo lets rip with alarming frequency.

As the album develops, the symphonics remain, acting as either a theatrical bridge between compositions or enhancing the compositions themselves, providing a rich backdrop upon which the blistering metallic output sits.

Naturally, as with just about every track on this record, there are plenty of warp-speed guitar solos and expressive leads to be heard. Who said solos were dead? For this reason alone, guitarists like Romeo should be lauded, as I want to hear guitar solos in my metal until the day I die.

The big question has to be this: ‘has the interminable wait for a new Michael Romeo solo album been worth the wait?’ The answer, certainly as far as I’m concerned is ‘yes’. ‘War of the Worlds – Part 1’ is a powerhouse of a record that retains one foot in the tried and trusted camp familiar with long term Symphony X fans whilst bringing enough originality to the party to make it an interesting and engaging listen.

Read the full review here.

If you missed the previous posts in my 2018 list, click here:

Album of the Year 2018 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30

If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:

Album of the Year 2018 – EPs and Compilations

And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years:

Album of the Year 2017
Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

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