I know I say this a lot, but there is nothing better than hearing a new record that just grabs hold of you and holds your attention for repeated listens. The latest of these to cross my desk is “War of the Worlds Pt. 1” the new release from Michael Romeo (guitar player extraordinaire from Symphony-X) which is out on 27th July. A magical blend of virtuoso guitar, orchestra, progressive metal … you name it, it’s there. In advance of the release, Michael very kindly spent some time talking to Rock-Zone UK about the record and his thoughts surrounding it.
Click the link below to hear about it all
The album is out 27th July on Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group. The wildly ambitious 10-song disc sees the founder, chief songwriter and prime mover of the progressive titans Symphony X furthering his reputation as one of the world’s preeminent axe slingers and composers of adventurous, multi-faceted orchestral metal.
“It’s me putting all the things I love about music in a blender,” says Romeo. “Somebody might listen to it and say, ‘What is this guy thinking?’ But it’s all about being creative and having a good time with it.”
No doubt there will rapturous responses from Romeo’s longtime fans. While War of the Worlds / Pt. 1 brims with the kind of thrill-seeking guitar chops that have placed the Garden State shredder in numerous “all-time greats” lists, it also offers some unconventional twists: Along with classic metal textures, Romeo pays homage to film score giants Bernard Hermann and John Williams, and there’s even some surprising EDM/dubstep elements guaranteed to turn heads – all of which makes for an enthralling and immersive journey.
Recalling the forbidding tone of the notorious H.G. Wells novel that inspired its name, Romeo casts the lead track, “Introduction” as a precursor for what is to follow. The dark, symphonic instrumental (equal parts Bernard Herman and Gustav Holst) gives way to the pummeling metal double-header of “Fear the Unknown” and “Black,” on which Romeo’s rifftastic twists and turns are ably assisted by Rick Castellano’s soaring vocals.
A startling change-up occurs with “F*cking Robots,” a striking mash-up of digital blurps, bleeps, DJ-like scratches and ace guitar madness. “My fans might think I’ve lost my mind on this one,” the axeman jokes. But just as quickly, he floors the six-string goodness on “Djinn,” an epic, theatrical rock roller coaster on which the rhythm section of John “JD” DeServio (bass) and John Macaluso (drums) provide a muscular backdrop for the guitarist’s elastic soloing and Castellano’s full-throated vocal chops.
The lush balladry of “Believe” is a big-hearted respite from the shards of molten metal, but Romeo whips out the doomsday riffage on “Differences” and “Oblivion,” both chock full of widescreen hooks and synapse-altering solos.
Closing out the set is the cinematic musical odyssey “Constellations,” which sees guitars and keyboards majestically taking flight into a kind of heretofore unseen otherworld. “That one probably took the longest to create of all the songs on the record,” Romeo recalls. “It wasn’t just the recording – it was the writing and scoring. I had to break out the pencil and paper on that one. But I couldn’t be happier with the results. It really ends the album on a powerful note.”
Romeo recorded the bulk of War of the Worlds / Pt. 1 over a year-and-a-half period in the comfort of his home studio (nicknamed “the Dungeon” by his wife) in Hazlet, New Jersey. The project gave him the perfect opportunity to work with the rising Long Island star Castellano, a singer he’s had his eye on for some time, as well as fellow Jerseyans Macaluso and Black Label Society member DeServio. “JD and I went to high school together,” Romeo notes. “We always wanted to do something together, so this was the perfect opportunity. The planets finally aligned, and we were able to work together. It was great to have him play on it.”
Symphony X fans have been waiting two decades for an honest to goodness Michael Romeo solo album (not counting his 1994 demo recording, The Dark Chapter, which was released in several countries), and the arrival of War of the Worlds / Pt. 1 will be no doubt be cause for celebration. And the guitarist promises a sequel – “Most of Part II is already finished,” he says, “It just needs a few vocals, a couple solos, a few tweaks here and there. I want people to absorb the first one for a while, and then we’ll put out the second record. They’ll complement each other, but they’ll also be a bit different.”