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MICHAEL ROMEO War of the Worlds: Part II

By George Mihalovich, Pittsburgh Contributor
Monday, April 18, 2022 @ 1:16 PM

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MICHAEL ROMEO
War of the Worlds: Part II

Inside Out Music




Michael Romeo is the mastermind of progressive metal luminaries SYMPHONY X, a band whose role in defining and popularizing this genre is second only to DREAM THEATER. The same could also be said when comparing the distinctive guitar styles of Michael Romeo and John Petrucci.

Everything that Mr. Romeo does is larger-than-life — songwriting, riffs, hooks and solos — and War of the Worlds: Part II is no exception. It is a thematic and sonic continuation of War of the Worlds: Part I (2018), and both are rooted conceptually in the H. G. Wells novel of the same name. Prior to these, Michael Romeo’s only solo outing was an instrumental affair entitled The Dark Chapter (1994).

Given this background, the obvious question is “How does this differ from a SYMPHONY X record?” The most salient point is that War of the Worlds: Part II devotes significant air time to five instrumentals: an intro (“Introduction Part II”) and outro (“Brave New World”) and “Mothership”, “Hunted” and “Alien Death Ray”. These symphonic and cinematic pieces sound like they could easily be part of a film score and offer some sonic experimentation not found on a SYMPHONY X album — including seven-string guitars (“Hybrids” and “Destroyer”), saz and oud (string instruments similar to lutes).

The core of War of the Worlds: Part II is seven vocal tracks in the slightly more concise format exhibited on SYMPHONY X’s recent output such as Underworld (2015) and Iconoclast (2011). With the chief songwriter of SYMPHONY X at the helm, it’s no surprise that these songs are cast in the same mold; that said, Croatian vocalist Dino Jelusic was a perfect choice and helps to give the disc its own identity. Comparisons to the renowned Russell Allen are inevitable, and there are indeed more similarities than differences between the two. Both tenors have power and aggression to spare; the tonal depth of Ronnie James Dio; and the bluesy phrasing of the classic hard rock and metal vocal icons. Where they differ is that Russell Allen may lean more towards the Lou Gramm or Paul Rogers camp, while Dino probably falls more in the David Coverdale arena. In any case, War of the Worlds: Part II was an outstanding platform for him and is his finest work to date. Dino’s performance on the closing track, “Parasite” should leave no doubt as to his prowess.

War of the Worlds: Part II is superb from start to finish, with the “Metamorphosis” and “Divide & Conquer” clips adding visualizations to the intelligent yet substantial riffs, lyrics and melodicism that are Michael Romeo trademarks. There is an abundance of his blazing and no-holds-barred fretwork, but a specific highlight is “Machinemensch”, where he channels U.K.-era Allan Holdsworth through his own filter. The power ballad “Just Before The Dawn” displays a more subtle intensity, and it doesn’t get much better than what they accomplished in this template.

The returning rhythm section of John ‘JD’ DeServio (bass) and John Macaluso (drums) provides the thunderous accompaniment required for this complex work. Their presence is essential, and really helps to connect this to War of the Worlds: Part I. The production is also spot-on with an excellent mix and a dark but pleasing tonality.

War of the Worlds: Part II is a killer that proves the highest levels of songwriting and musicianship can coexist, and these qualities are what put this album in the highest echelon. It’s a blueprint for music that’s simultaneously heavy, thoughtful and memorable — and likely to be one of the finest metal releases of 2022.

4.7 Out Of 5.0


 

 

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