Artist: Michael Romeo
Album Title: War Of The Worlds, Part 2
Label: InsideOut Music
Date of Release: 25 March 2022
There comes a time in every reviewer’s life when your integrity is tested. In 2018, I reviewed ‘War Of The Worlds – Part 1’, the first solo album by the Symphony X guitar maestro Michael Romeo for many years. And now, four years later, here I am presented with ‘War Of The Worlds – Part 2’, the companion album to Romeo’s last. It would be incredibly simple for me to take the vast majority of that review, cut and paste it here and claim it’s brand new and original work. That’s because to a greater or lesser extent, it’s more of the same, meaning that if you liked ‘Part 1’, you will almost certainly like ‘War Of The Worlds – Part 2’.
Based on the opening paragraph, you might be expecting a negative review of ‘Part 2’, but you’d be wrong. Very wrong. On a scale of wrongness (sic) you’d be at about eleven. That’s because this is a monster of a record, a beast that fills me with that rarest of emotions these days – joy. Here is an album filled with just about everything I like in my heavy metal, and I love listening to it. So what if it is more of the same? Who cares? ‘Part 1’ was great, so to be able to say the same about ‘Part 2’ is an unbridled delight. I mean, who buys a favourite chocolate bar, or meat pie in my case, and moans because it tastes just like the last one? That’s just silly. I’m all for progression, but when something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.
The biggest change this time around is in the vocal department. For ‘Part 2’, Dino Jelusick takes up the mantle, replacing Rick Castellano. He therefore joins Romeo, bassist John ‘JD’ DeServio and drummer John Macaluso, and he does a fantastic job here to put it mildly. His voice is powerful, melodious, and dramatic. There are occasions when he might even push the mighty ‘Sir’ Russell Allen such is his performance here, which fits the music perfectly.
As I mused in my review of ‘Part 1’, this record does contain echoes of Symphony X within it; some might argue that there’s more than an echo, and perhaps they’d be correct. But such a resemblance is hardly a shock when Romeo is in charge of the guitars, the keys, and the orchestrations, not to mention the bulk of the songwriting too. Rather than worry about this, just sit back, relax and let me explain why ‘War Of The Worlds, Part 2’ is so good.
I love the cinematic nature of ‘Part 2’ to begin with. The opening composition sees Romeo channelling his inner film-score composer skills to wonderful effect. This isn’t an unnecessary, throw-away intro piece, this has drama, gravitas and, with the embellishment of his guitar work alongside the orchestration, it’s a grandiose and inviting start to this record, something that’s later built upon via ‘Hunted’ and ‘Brave New World (Outro)’.
‘Divide And Conquer’ is the first ‘standard’ metal track, but there’s precious little standard about it. It thunders out of the speakers with heavy riffs and deft lead embellishments to get the blood pumping. The neo-classical style that Romeo favours is present, but it’s the enormous, anthemic chorus that is the most devastating aspect of this track. For all the clever instrumentation, of which there is much, and the further cinematic orchestration, when the voice of Jelusick soars over the melodic and immediate chorus, something in my heart awakens. The drumming is slick, the bass is commanding, and the lead solos touch warp speed at times; this is a cracking opening statement, proving that Romeo has some serious skills as a musician and as a guitarist. Well duh!
As the album continues, so too does the quality. Much like the name might imply, ‘Destroyer’ is a heavy and uncompromising track. The riffs remind me of recent Evergrey a little, with its chunky, down tuned presence, laced with a certain amount of darkness. It carries a sense of the dystopian with it, in keeping with the album’s concept, and there’s a touch of Middle Eastern mystique to add further flavour. And, whilst the chorus isn’t as immediate as its predecessor, it’s a genuine grower as well as something to really test out those neck muscles.
It would be very easy for me to descend into a track-by-track run through of ‘War Of The Worlds, Part 2’, but then you’d not have much of a surprise when you eventually hit play for the first time. Instead, I’ll undertake the unenviable task of picking a few favourites.
‘Metamorphosis’ dials back the all-out intensity just a touch, allowing Jelusick to stand further out within the verses and within a quieter, more atmospheric passage in the centre of the song. But the chorus is another thing of quality, making an immediate impact, whilst I love the lead guitar melodies that Romeo delivers at the outset and then at further points within the song. Even the ubiquitous ballad, ‘Just Before The Dawn’ provides five minutes of full enjoyment, thanks to some delightful melodies, a committed vocal performance, and a very strong chorus. I haven’t even mentioned the closing sequence to ‘Hybrids’ either, which rises out of the muscular composition in stunning, rousing fashion, just like the closing, triumphant piece might at the end of the score to a Hollywood blockbuster when the aliens or monsters have been sent packing. Goosebumps. Every. Single. Time.
Then there’s ‘Maschinenmemsch’ is a nine-minute tour-de-force that displays a more varied, progressive feel overall, complete with longer instrumental passages, tempo changes, variations in intensity, and a chorus that’s every bit as epic and special as this monstrous song deserves. With a gun to my head, I might just declare this as my favourite track on ‘War Of The Worlds, Part 2’. I love the instrumentalism from every corner of the band, but the drums and throbbing bass stand out wonderfully in the quieter, more contemplative sections. I love the cinematic orchestration within the song, and Jelusick absolutely nails the vocals in the chorus, giving me chills in the process. Oh and the emotional and dextrous extended lead solo by Romeo is pure class.
In fact, ‘class’ is what ‘War Of The Worlds, Part 2’ is. From beginning to end, it sparkles and fizzes, delivering track after track of powerful, memorably melodic progressive heavy metal with style and panache. It sounds great too, blessed with a strong, clear production, thus enhancing the music considerably. It may have been delayed by the global pandemic having been nearly fully written several years ago, but the time has given Michael Romeo and Co. the opportunity to fine tune, hone, and polish the material that features of this record, making it the perfect follow-up to ‘Part 1’. In fact, I think it’s probably even better. Those who have high expectations are very unlikely to be disappointed one iota.
The Score of Much Metal: 93%
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