CD Review – Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds, Pt. 2

Many of the prog fraternity will know Michael Romeo from his outstanding work with Symphony X, where he is the guitarist, chief-songwriter and all-around prime mover of the group. But he also has a side-interest in releasing solo albums. His first one was The Dark Chapter in the mid-1990s, then there was a long wait until 2018s War Of The Worlds, Pt. 1. A much shorter wait this time for the third solo album, War Of The Worlds Pt.2. There could, in effect, be an endless number of these albums as Michael isn’t following HG Wells’s narrative but is taking the essence of the story and reflecting on the current state of the world through it. Michael explains; “The title feels a little more prophetic than usual”, he says. “Just by taking a look around at what’s going on in the world. For the most part, there’s a strong sci-fi element to the album, but on a few songs I’m kind of like, ‘Maybe the aliens can just sit this one out while we fight among ourselves…ha.’”

Perhaps the first thing that hits you, musically, about the album is that it is very widescreen, it could very much be taken from a movie soundtrack. The opening number, Introduction, Pt. II, sets the tone for the rest of the album. It is very filmic, managing to combine atmosphere and momentum with foreboding tones. An ominous start, then the album is up and running with a fabulous array of volatile progressive metal. Those familiar with the previous solo album will notice a change in vocalist this time, with Dino Jelusick coming in. There’s something about the combination of his blues-rock voice and the thunderous bombast of some of the music that brings Rainbow to mind from time to time. Some of the music actually kicks up a barrage of ferocious bluster, particularly Divide & Conquer, Mothership and the epic Machinenmensch. They have pretty tasty solos in them too. There are more intricate and reflective sections though, particularly on Hybrids where Michael plays a seven-string guitar, which lends the track a darker more ominous air. Michael also adds some colour to the sound by using cello, oud and saz from time to time, Destroyer having a decidedly Middle-eastern feel. “There’s a lot you can do with virtual instruments/computers these days, but I also got a bunch of real instruments here in the studio. Sometimes I’ll just grab the cello, the saz, or whatever and record a few takes with that. It adds that human element and can really bring the music to life,” he says.

This is a fulsome, demanding, meticulous, release full of stimulating, brooding anthems that relentlessly surge and crash into each other. At times it is not especially subtle, but there are more knotty complexities in some sections that provide welcome moments to reflect. Summing the album up, Michael reflects that the album is HG Wells seen via modern sci-fi, emphasised with shredding guitars and extremely widescreen. “Put it on and forget where you are. Let’s go somewhere else. The real world will still be here” he concludes. A classy, relentless slab of shredding guitars framed by thunderous tunes.

1. Introduction – Part II (2:37)

2. Divide & Conquer (4:46)

3. Destroyer (5:34)

4. Metamorphosis (5:53)

5. Mothership (2:23)

6. Just Before the Dawn (5:01)

7. Hybrids (6:14)

8. Hunted (4:32)

9. Maschinenmensch (9:03)

10. Parasite (4:33)

11. Brave New World (Outro) (3:36)

Bonus tracks:

12. The Perfect Weapon (7:41)

13. Alien Death Ray (4:31)

Michael Romeo – Guitars, Keys/Orchestra, Cello, Saz

John ‘JD’ DeServio – Bass

John Macaluso – Drums

Dino Jelusick – vocals

Release date: 25th March, 2022

Label: InsideOut Music

Formats: 180g 2LP Gatefold / Ltd. 2CD PocketPac (incl. Instrumental version of the album) / Digital Album

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