Friday, August 12, 2011

XOpus review in Progressive Rock Brazil

X OPUS - "The Epiphany"

The Symphonic Progressive Metal band X Opus comes from Plano, Texas (U.S.A.) The band is headed by multi-instrumentalist James Williams (guitar, bass, keyboards, backing vocals, and compositions). Williams is a talented and skilled musician that loves both Heavy Metal and Classical Music. As a guitarist, he was inspired by names like “Hendrix”, “Robin Trower”, “Gary Moore”, “Uli Jon Roth”, “Yngwie Malmsteen”, “Al Di Meola”, and “Shawn Lane”. As a composer, his sources are “Bach”, “Orff”, “Mozart”, “Stravinsky”, and “Paganini”.

The combination of his musical passions resulted in an explosive blend of Symphonic Metal, Power Metal, Prog-Metal, and Neo-Classical Metal that sounds much as bands like “Malmsteen”, “Angra”, “Adagio”, “Stratovarius”, “Queensr├┐che”, “Helstar”, “Fates Warning”, “Iron Maiden”, “Apocrypha”, “Halloween”, “Nocturnal Rites”, “Morifade”, “Mind’s Eye” and “Symphony X”. Through his sole efforts, and with help of two vocalists - Brian Dixon and David Crocker – Williams worked between December 2009 and September 2010 at his “X Opus Studios” to record the songs that would make the core of his debut album, called “The Epiphany”. The material was written, arranged, produced, and mixed by Williams and mastered by Jim Brick at “Absolute Audio”, New Jersey. “The Epiphany” was released in May, 2011 by specialized Progressive label Magna Carta Records, and contains 10 tracks.

“Terrified” opens the album with terrific Neo-Classical guitar solo in “Malmsteen” style, descending later to a heavy cadence that reminds me of the pre-Prog-Metal bands of the Eighties, like “Helstar”.
It is followed by “On Top of the World”, a plain song formatted for live presentations that counts on the strength of its chorus.
Far better is “Pharaohs of Lies” – a symphonic Power-Metal with the vibration and energy of “Malmsteen“, “Adagio”, and vocals like “Judas Priest” – the middle section, with ultra-fast arpeggios, is breath-taking.
The fourth track is “I’ll Find the Truth”, and features the first appearance of Crocker on vocals, recalling me of bands like “Nocturnal Rites” and “Mind’s Eye”.
One of the best tracks is “In The Heavens”, which opens with Classical acoustic guitars, followed by a malevolent slower pace that reminds me of early “Malmsteen” and, again, of “Helstar”. The amazing guitar solo blends elements of Jazz-Fusion with Neo-Classic, showcasing a skillful Williams on the instrument.
“The Epiphany (Opus Benedictus Interlude)” is a symphonic interlude that reflects an “Orff-Stravinsky” inspiration. It marks the beginning of a sequence of killer tracks that go from the seventh (“I Will Fly”) to the last (“Never Forgotten”).
“I Will Fly” begins with Middle Eastern chords that open the way for an astonishing Symphonic Power-Metal, including malevolent vocals of David Crocker, torrents of guitar solos, and tons of razor-edged keyboards; all blending influences of “Adagio”, “Malmsteen”, “Symphony X”, “Dream Theater”, and early “Fates Warning”, especially on the final sequence, with piano and operatic vocals.
The destruction caused by “I Will Fly” is only surpassed by the apocalyptical “Forsaken (Requiem of the Forsaken)”, a 10-minute long Power-Prog piece with cataclysmic guitars, gloomy symphonic arrangements, and locomotive-breath rhythm, like the most raging moments of “Symphony X” and “Stratovarius”, on which volcanic sequences of beautiful guitar solos erupt from insane synthesizers; until the abrupt end with a portentous epic choir – an inspiration from “Mozart’s” Requiem – that represents the final celestial ascension through glassy Stairway to Heavens.
The album could end here, but there is still time to open the "Pandora’s Box" on “Angels of War” – a whirlwind Power-Metal track driven by Crocker’s “Halford”-like vocals. The fury released on “Angels…” is peacefully quenched by the instrumental chords of “Never Forgotten” – this one a gorgeous symphonic piece with angelical choirs, classical guitars, Fusion keyboards and Neo-Classical guitar solos – the ultimately closing track for this surprising album.

Regarding the fact that “The Epiphany” was supported by the individual talent of Williams and the two guest singers, it has resulted anyway in an impressive and extraordinary debut – capable of keeping veteran Metal-Heads banging on. With the support of Magna Carta, and the ingression of new integrants Jesse Gallegos (bass), Corbett Tucker (drums) and Matthew Bowers (keyboards), I am sure that the next X Opus’ album will be a classic of the genre. X Opus is highly recommended for fans of Symphonic Power-Metal, Neo-Classical Metal and Progressive-Metal.

Band members and collaborators involved in X Opus are: James Williams – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals; Brian Dixon – Lead and Backing Vocals; David Crocker – Lead and Backing Vocals (tracks 4, 7, 9); Jesse Gallegos – Bass; Corbett Tucker – Drums; Matthew Bowers - Keyboards... (Comments by Marcelo Trotta)