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Q&A: Symphony X's Michael Romeo On Prog Metal And Lucky Numbers

The Symphony X shredder started his prog music journey with ELP, Rush and UK, and has a thing or two to say about the progressive music world. He digs deep with Prog, discussing musical defini

Formed 22 years ago in Middletown, New Jersey, Symphony X have made slow but steady progress over the course of nine albums. Fronted by one of the finest singers around, Russell Allen, and powered by guitarist Michael Romeo’s techno-flash, their neo-classical progressive hard rock has caused them to be feted as heirs to the throne once filled by Ronnie James Dio-era Black Sabbath. Prog met Romeo before a sold-out show at Islington Assembly Hall, the band’s biggest headline gig in London so far.

With its recurring references to the number three – the title track has three syllables, a three-note melodic phrase, and its verses contain three references to three songs from Symphony X’s third album, The Divine Wings Of Tragedy – your current album, Underworld, will keep prog nerds happy.
That’s true. Quite early on we knew it would be about Dante’s Inferno and Orpheus In The Underworld. The number three took on a life of its own. I love those records that allow you to dig beneath the surface and find something cool.

How do you feel about Symphony X being described as progressive?
I don’t really mind, but we do a lot of other things. We have big, heavy moments and nice, melodic catchy parts but there are long, complex elements that I guess are comparable to Yes, Rush or ELP.

Many Prog readers are contemptuous of prog metal, the accusers suggesting that it is really just trad metal with keyboards bolted on.
[Nodding enthusiastically] And you know what? I kind of agree with that. But that’s not Symphony X. We’ve always had a keyboard player and we do whatever we feel like at the time. We’ll make a record and some fans’ll say: ‘Oh man, where’s the melodic element gone?’ But being progressive is always changing it up, man. Why keep on bashing out the same old shit?

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