Inside Out
Release date: April 26, 2005

User Review
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Finally, the long-awaited solo platter from Symphony X front man Russell Allen has arrived, and this is definitely an album where the Prog Metal vocal god shows off his rock ‘n’ roll roots. In many interviews, Allen has talked about his background, which is far Bluesier than the Neo-Classical Prog Metal inferno of Symphony X, and this shines through both in the song writing and vocals on this album. At times, it’s almost difficult to hear that it’s really Allen who’s singing, as he uses his voice in a far more aggressive (raw is probably a better word) way than the linear and dynamic vocal style of his main band. For the SyX geeks out there -– “Eyes of Medusa” and “Wicked” can be reference points to compare with vocally.

Musically, this is, as mentioned, something completely different. Allen has done most of the songwriting himself (he actually plays quite a lot of the instruments himself too … this is truly a solo album), and the result is definitely satisfactory. He has composed very little music for SyX, but there is no doubt about his skills in that department. The opener, “Blackout,” has a good syncopated groove around some rather 90s sounding riffs, and combined with a good melodic chorus, where Russ’ voice breaks into some SyX-kinda melodic territory, this is a great opening track. “Unjustified” and “Voodoo Hand” are next, and both are good rock songs, although the former is maybe a tad on the anonymous side. When composing music with such simple arrangements, it’s very important that the riffs catch the listener’s ear immediately, and although the cool Nirvana-influenced bridge part is cool, this track isn’t among the strongest. The simple Billy Gibbons-style solo is very cool, though. The 70s sounding “Voodoo Hand,” on the other hand, is very cool with its pentatonic riffs and nice groove, and ranges among the album’s highlights, as does “Angel,” another track with a definite 70s feel. Here Allen lays down some awesome vocals in the Jørn Lande/David Coverdale vein… impressive indeed.

“The Distance” is among the more melodic numbers, and bears a certain resemblance to Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen in terms of riffing and overall vibe. The calm chorus is very beautiful, and this is another strong track.

As a contrast to this, “Seasons of Insanity” is an up-tempo track, alongside “Gaia,” and is the most “Metal” song on the album — a real smasher it is too, maybe the best track of the lot. The main riff definitely gets you going, and the song basically has no weak spots. That cannot be said about “Gaia,” unfortunately, as it is little more than an attempt at creating a “Gates of Babylon” era Rainbow vibe with its oriental sounding riff –- an attempt that definitely failed. Luckily, “Loosin’ You” and “Saucey Jack” are far better. Both are straight Rock songs, where the former has a melodic 80s feeling to it, and the latter is all “rawk ‘n’ roll,” complete with a slide guitar intro and funky Guitars ‘n’ Cadillacs style lyrics. Cool indeed.

The main complaint about the album is that it lacks a definite style, and “We Will Fly” is a clear example on this fact. Where the rest of the album varies between several eras of relatively straight rock – from the 70s and onwards – this song is an 8-minute prog thing complete with the compulsory weird noises and trademark SyX piano lines, courtesy of Mr. Michael Pinnella. The verses actually are full-on SyX with Romeo-style arpeggios and melodic, haunting vocal lines. This feels kinda wrong as it contrasts so much from the rest of the songs, and unfortunately the quality isn’t at par with most of the other material. The song has potential, and the chorus is quite good, but overall it sounds more like a SyX Japanese bonus track than anything else.

Luckily, “Atomic Soul,” rounds things off in a more typical rock ‘n’ roll manner, and does so well. The keyboard intro is a bit unfitting, but the rest of the track is cool, up-tempo Hard Rock.

All in all, Allen has definitely come up with a solid album, and he has clearly shown that he can stand on his own two feet when it comes to both songwriting and playing. An interesting album to check out for both SyX fans and fans of good rock music. This album can do the trick while you’re waiting for the next SyX fix, and in any case, it feels great to hear the man’s tremendous voice on original material again.


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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