Symphony X - LIVE: Islington Academy, London 2011

Iconoclast Tour
October 26 (21.15-22:50)
Capacity 800
Photos | Full Dates

It's not often that American progressive metal stalwarts Symphony X, now in their 17th year, visit London twice in the same year, but following their short UK run back in March before new album Iconoclast was released, they confirmed another London date, one of only two in the UK, for the actual album tour.

In both cases the tour left fans feeling short-changed, not by Symphony X themselves, but by the support package. Although on both occasions Symphony X were not at fault, key bands in the special guest slots opted against coming to the UK, despite playing all of the other shows on the tour. In March it was Nevermore, Psychotic Waltz and Mercenary, this time it was Pagan's Mind, citing costs.

Young Italian progressive outfit DGM managed though, and pulled out a performance which rivaled Symphony X themselves. Most of that was due to the unbridled energy of vocalist Mark Basile, but also the sheer wonder and enjoyment the rest of the band were clearly experiencing at playing in London. It was also the last night of the tour for them (SX had one show left in Athens) and perhaps the desire to "go out with a bang" fuelled their lively performance. After a breathless half hour, Symphony X had a challenge on their hands.

But Symphony X have Russell Allen. The imposing front-man is instantly engaging and looks right at home charging through the band's latest material, more so than he ever has on their older, more progressive stuff. This is indeed a point of contention for many SX fans, who feel the current setlist is too weighted in favour of Iconoclast and its predecessor Paradise Lost, but that is unlikely to last more than one tour. They have a point though. For this tour, because the band didn't feel able to play too much material from Iconoclast before it was released, they did front-load the set with songs from it; no less than eight of its 12 songs, back-to-back, before anything else was played.

And of the five other songs, three came from Paradise Lost, all in a row, either side of the encore break. While it could be argued that Paradise Lost is their most successful album, certainly in Europe, this did make for a very unbalanced set in terms of the spread across their career, but a very enjoyable one. The new songs all sound superb live, in some cases better than they do on the CD, and the band clearly loved playing them all.

Older fans may miss the progressive nature of the pre-Paradise Lost material, and calling for The Odyssey at an SX show is pretty much like calling for Free Bird everywhere else, but it can't be denied that today's SX fan loves the big riffs of the new stuff. Besides which, the progressive edge isn't gone completely, and more varied sets can be expected from the next tour (of the US) onwards. In the mean time SX are rightly revelling in their excellent recent output, and the energy of their shows, particularly Allen's performance, when performing that stuff shows how much they like it themselves.

“ imposing front-man is instantly engaging ”

DGM Setlist: Heartache / Enhancement / No Looking Back / Not In Need / ... In A Movie / Fading And Falling / Brand New Blood / Hereafter

Symphony X Setlist: Iconoclast / The End of Innocence / Dehumanized / Bastards of The Machine / Electric Messiah / When All Is Lost / Children of A Faceless God / Heretic / Inferno (Unleash The Fire) / Of Sins And Shadows / Eve of Seduction // Serpent's Kiss / Set The World On Fire (The Lie of Lies)

Photo(s): Andy Lye

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2011, Gigs, Progressive, ,

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