REVIEW: MICHAEL ROMEO – “War Of The Worlds / Pt. 1”
For many, Michael Romeo is the internationally acclaimed axe slinging, guitar virtuoso of progressive masterminds Symphony X. Yet Romeo also holds the position as the band’s chief songwriter. In ‘War Of The Worlds / Pt. 1’ the multi-talented musician takes both his shredding and composing chops to deliver an ambitious solo endeavour, the name inspired by the novel by H.G. Wells, throwing all the things he loves about music in a blender and seeing what comes out of it. A most risky pursuit, that much he acknowledges. But its “all about being creative and having fun with it”, Romeo says, and ‘War Of The Worlds / Pt. 1’ does indeed sound like Romeo is having a good time with it, as well as a few criminally late nights.
Fans who have long awaited the arrival of a solo album from Michael Romeo will get exactly what they begged for, and then some. For ‘War Of the Worlds / Pt. 1’ is a progressive, symphonic roller-coaster of epic proportions. A sentiment highlighted in songs such as “Djinn,” which propels itself between garish guitars to passionate percussion quicker than you can light a match.
Unsurprisingly, almost expected even, is the scale of cinematic scope as Romeo pays respect to score titans Bernard Hermann and John Williams with his arrangements of these songs. Some elements fans have already been introduced to, as in the leading single “Black.” A number that combines quickening verses with a soaring chorus against a musically orchestrated, cinematic backdrop that carries a strong vocal delivery by rising star, Rick Castellano, a vocalist Romeo has sought after for some time.
But there are also a few head tilting twists and turns in ‘War Of The Worlds / Pt. 1’ that some might have a particularly tough time coming to terms with. Most notably “Fucking Robots”. Resting alongside some classic metal components, ear crushing guitars and intermittent drum patterns, is a very heavy and prominent dose of EDM/Dubstep that helps make up this track. If it holds true to Romeo’s idea of being creative and having fun with it, this abnormal, discordant piece feels out of place and interrupts the overall sense of flow and cohesion. Taken with a pinch of salt, it could be seen as just being creative and having some fun. But many fans will be wondering what exactly is going on with Michael in that home studio of his.
Yet there are a generous amount of Romeo trademark moments too. Closing out the initial chapter of ‘War Of the Worlds / Pt. 1’ is the smashing “Oblivion” and the majestic “Constellations,” both of which warrant being included in any list of Romeo’s finest works. Due in no short thanks to his intoxicating rhythm section made up of John Macaluso on drums, and bassist John “JD” DeServio of Black Label Society.
‘War Of the Worlds / Pt. 1’ will leave some fans intrigued, others in blissful delight, and others thinking that after two decades of writing progressive metal masterpieces, Michael Romeo may actually have lost his mind. But Romeo prefaced it all with an admirable honesty and the guitar wizard needs no curtain to hide behind. It was about having creative fun, for him at least, and it pays some interesting dividends. Ambitious, admirable, and sometimes alarming, ‘War Of the Worlds / Pt. 1’ clears the slate of any doubt that Michael Romeo is out of ideas. If anything, it shows he may have just opened up a whole new batch of them.