Album review: MICHAEL ROMEO – War Of The Worlds, Pt. One

MICHAEL ROMEO – War Of The Worlds, Pt. One

Music Theories Recordings [Release date 27.07.18]

Former Symphony X guitarist Michael Romeo’s ‘War of the Worlds’ has very little to do with the enduring Jeff Wayne adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic sci-fi book.

However, the title does give the album its cinematic scope on an adventurous meeting of metal and grandiose orchestration, which hard rock fans will recognise as Symphonic Metal.

It’s also provides a clever dramatic device that provides an array of colourful musical twists and turns that give this album its dynamics.

There’s an undoubted portentous feel to the album as a whole, from the orchestral metal of ‘Black’ to the way the music evokes the title of ‘War Machine.’

The feeling of creeping paranoia is doubled by the clash of bombastic orchestration and John Macaluso’s double-time drums on the early Purple sounding ‘Fear Of The Unknown’, while the orchestral metal of ‘Black’ features edgy guitar and frenetic energy levels leading into an uplifting hook.

If the album title is more of a conceptual inspiration rather that an overarching theme, the music does consistently evoke the song titles, most obviously on ‘Fucking Robots’.

‘War Of The Worlds’ works so well because Romeo meshes a succession of related pieces to showcase his thrilling shredding technique.

‘Djinn’ for example, opens as a collision between machine gun percussion and lumbering metal with angst ridden vocals, but his shred-led resolution pushes the song to a climactic finale.

Despite the gloomy themes, Romeo does have his playful moments, though sometimes as on ‘Fucking Robots’, you have to be patient to find the gold.

Big orchestral swells underpin an unfettered electronic collage which the Synclavier-era Frank Zappa would surely have smiled at in recognition of the mash up techniques.

Having dived headlong into an electro storm, Romeo finds a cathartic release via Rick Castellano’s vocal. And if the track has a futuristic feel, it still all fits together seamlessly much like the story lines and atmosphere of big screen movies.

There are no movements as such, but rather, chunks of music with repeated orchestral riffs, familiar vocal parts and somewhere at the heart of it all, Romeo’s peerless shredding.

The extended balladic ‘Believe’ further extends the metal orchestral crossover, as the mid- orchestral break provides a dynamic contrast between staccato guitar and big choral bv’s, while Castellano’s Jon Anderson style vocal pulls the album closer to Yes.

Coming at just over the halfway point it’s an anchor track that levers us into the outstanding ‘Difference’.

A fast repeated hook soars eloquently over another feverish percussive pattern that pushes Romeo’s playing into the realms of stellar shredding.

‘Oblivion’ works hard to emulate the previous two tracks, but sounds comparably formulaic and lightweight. It simply lacks a memorable hook to carry the song.

‘Constellations’ on the other hand, owes its impact to a belated realignment of shredding and orchestration over some outrageous stunt bass from John “JD” DeServio. There’s even a cinematic sounding Pearl and Dean faux finale, before it rises again with the climactic vocal and horn arrangement.

‘Constellations’ provides an animated finish to an album packed with real substance, contrasting ideas and technical excellence, you just have to dig a little deeper sometimes to find the best bits. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 23 August 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 25 August 2020.

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