Album Reviews

Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds, Pt. II Review

 

Label: InsideOut Music

Release Date: March 25th, 2022

Genre: Progressive Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelJRomeo

 

Line Up:

Michael Romeo – Guitars, Keyboards, Orchestration

Guests/Session Musicians:

Dino Jelusick – Vocals

John DeServio – Bass

John Macaluso – Drums

 

 

Tracklist:

1. Introduction

2. Divide & Conquer

3. Destroyer

4. Metamorphosis

5. Mothership

6. Before the Dawn

7. Hybrids

8. Hunted

9. Machinemensch

10. Parasite

11. Brave New World (Outro)

12. The Perfect Weapon (Bonus Track)

13. Alien DeathRay (Bonus Track)

 

 

Over the past several years, fans of progressive metal band Symphony X have been waiting patiently for a new album, but unfortunately, it seems various commitments and real-life events have kept that from happening. Obviously, a new album from them would be amazing, and I’m hoping it happens soon, but in the meantime, guitarist/songwriter Michael Romeo released a new solo album titled War of the Worlds, Pt. 1 back in 2018, and now four years later he’s back with Pt. 2. I quite enjoyed the first album, so I had high expectations going into this one, and while I wouldn’t necessarily say this one tops its predecessor, it’s definitely on a similar level, meaning fans of Romeo’s crunchy riffs, epic, shredding solos and overall songwriting have a lot to look forward to, once again!

Fans of the previous album (as well as Symphony X in general), should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from War of the Worlds, Pt. 2, as Romeo has once again largely stuck with what he’s known for while throwing in some new ideas here and there. The album has a good amount of variety, with a nice amount of more modern SX style aggressive, guitar-driven prog/power metal track with a slight thrash edge, as well as some more subdued, melodic prog, and some crunchy, mid-paced tracks, to go along with a few entirely instrumental tracks. There were a couple of these on Pt. 1, but this album goes even further in that direction, with a few different tracks that are largely non-metal (aside from a bit of neo-classical shredding here and there), and instead have more of a cinematic, film score style to them. These tracks are highly enjoyable and serve as a chance of pace, but on the other, I think maybe one of them could have been cut, just to keep the focus back on the metal, which is where Romeo truly excels. Otherwise, though, the overall sound is fantastic as always, with perfect production as well as fantastic musicianship from Romeo and his supporting team of John DeServio and John Macaluso, with everything sounding excellent.

One change from the previous album is the vocals, as Romeo has brought in Whitesnake keyboardist/backing vocalist Dino Jelusi? to take over for Rick Castellano, who did an excellent job on Pt. 1. Compared to Castellano, who often sounded very similar to Russell Allen, Jelusi? has a much grittier approach, often having a very classic hard rock/heavy metal vibe to his vocals, which does fit in very well, especially on the harder-hitting tracks. He sings with a ton of power and can get very intense and animated at times, while still excelling on choruses, and he can soften his voice up just enough to also be effective on softer portions, such as on the power ballad “Just Before the Dawn”. Overall, he does an excellent job and gives listeners a chance to hear some much different sounding vocals behind Romeo’s music than what they may be accustomed to, which works out surprisingly well.

As usual, one of the most important aspects of the entire album is the songwriting, which is where War of the Worlds Pt. 2 manages to easily live up to its predecessor, without necessarily surpassing it. First off, I’ll briefly mention those cinematic, movie score sounding tracks, which include “Introduction Part II”, “Mothership”, “Hunted”, “Brave New World (Outro”, and the second bonus track “Alien DeathRay”. Out of all of these, I’d say the intro is probably my favorite, since it mixes in a bit of metal, is nice and short, and does an excellent job of setting the tone for the album. I find the two interludes in the middle in particular kinda halt momentum just a bit, especially “Hunted”, which comes in between two of the stronger metal tracks on the album, and those already have a ton of instrumental work in them. Likewise, while the closing track is nice, I think the song that comes before it would have been a far more memorable ending, while “Alien DeathRay” is nice, but largely forgettable. With that being said, fans should come into a Michael Romeo album expecting to hear a lot of instrumental work, so that shouldn’t be seen as a fault, but my issue is that a lot of this stuff is largely non-metal, aside from the solos, and so on a metal album it does somewhat start to interrupt from what I feel should be the main focus. Pt. 1 did have some of these tracks as well, but I found they weren’t as numerous, and generally had at least a bit of vocal in them, to help keep the listener engaged, so I feel this album is a step back in that department.

Moving on, however, the entire rest of the album is fantastic, with a couple of tracks, in particular, being among my favorites from Romeo in the past decade or more. Kicking things off in full force, the first full song on the album is “Divide & Conquer”, (also the lead single for the album), and it’s the kind of hard-hitting, riff-heavy opening track fans would expect from Romeo. It’s fast-paced, has some very crunchy riffs, strong vocals, an excellent, catchy chorus, and a fantastic instrumental section in the second half. Following that is “Destroyer”, a song that took more time to grow on me, but over time I’ve grown quite fond of it. Compared to other tracks on the album, it’s fairly slow yet still quite heavy, with a bit of a groove metal feel to the main riff, as well as maybe a slight doom metal atmosphere. It’s a very dark, heavy track, with a somber tone throughout, as well as some of Jelusi?’s most intense vocals on the album. Even the chorus is quite heavy, atmospheric, and less showy than many of the others, but it works very effectively, and overall, the track is excellent. Next is the second single “Metamorphosis”, which has a more of a traditional SX feel to it, moving at a fairly moderate pace, with a nice mix between heavy riffs and more melodic guitar work. It’s a very classic prog metal sort of track and alternates nicely between soft and heavy passages while having a nice chorus, as well as a fantastic solo section in the second half…

The softest of the metal tracks is “Before the Dawn”, essentially the power ballad of the album, feeling very much in line with tracks such as “Without You”, and “When All is Lost” from more recent albums, as opposed to the more epic feel of the “Accolade” tracks. It does still have some very nice piano work, though, to go along with melodic guitar leads, and it does a nice job of showing the softer side of Jelusi?’s voice, which still has a ton of grit and power to it, but also a lot of touches added in, and he gives a very emotional performance that fits the lyrics perfectly. I wouldn’t say it’s one of Romeo’s all-time best ballads, but it’s certainly an amazing track, overall. Coming right after that is “Hybrids”, one of my personal favorites on the album. Despite not being overly long, it’s one of the more complex songs here, going through many different phases, alternating between more mid-paced melodic prog, some heavy sped up passages, extended epic instrumental portions (including a nice call back to the intro track of Pt. 1), and amazing use of the more cinematic style right at the end. It’s a fantastic track, which packs in a ton of ideas, and yet everything goes together perfectly, to help make it one of the best on the album.

Before I get to the end of the album, I’ll briefly mention the first bonus track “The Perfect Weapon”, which falls squarely into the more modern SX side of things, being equal parts heavy and cinematic, with excellent use of symphonic elements, while also having some memorable riffs, a great solo section and one of the stronger choruses on the album. I would have liked to have it on the main album, but it does work well as a nice appetizer. Back to the main album, we have “Machinemensch”, the longest track here at over 9 minutes, and another one that goes through a lot of different moods and sounds throughout. It’s a fairly straightforward track overall, largely being a mid-tempo, riff-heavy prog-metal track, with the main riff being quite memorable, but it also has some excellent extended instrumental sections, some nice speedier parts, and a fantastic chorus, which once again showcases Jelusi?’s voice wonderfully. It’s the most epic track here, and despite being the longest, it flies by, due to having so many memorable moments, while also being very fluid and cohesive. The last full-on metal song on the main album is “Parasite”, which feels like it could have easily come from Iconoclast, featuring a very aggressive power/thrash main riff, accompanied by epic symphonic arrangements, and it stays fast and furious throughout, being the shortest vocal track on the album, but also one of the catchiest and most addicting. It has a fantastic chorus, as well as tons of memorable instrumental passages, and is probably my favorite on the entire album. Fans of the more aggressive side of Romeo’s music are sure to love it.

After hearing the first album a few years ago, I was excited to see what Michael Romeo would up with for a sequel, and now after hearing War of the Worlds Pt. 2, I can say it manages to be equally as entertaining as its predecessor. I do think those more cinematic instrumental tracks drag a bit and halt some of the momentum, but otherwise, this is a fantastic album with plenty of crunchy riffs, epic shredding solos, fantastic vocals, and an excellent mix of prog and power metal, as expected from one of the best guitarists in the genre. Whether he does more solo work or finally gets back together with his main band, I’ll always be excited to hear whatever Romeo has in store for his fans in the future!

 

Ratings: 9/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

 

 

 

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