Back in 2018, SYMPHONY X mastermind Michael Romeo surprised his fans with a solo album, “War of the Worlds Pt.1,” which also featured drummer John Macaluso (ARK, STONE LEADERS, Vitalij Kuprij…), bassist John “JD” DeServio (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY), and introduced singer Rick Castellano. Inspired by author H.G. Wells as well as mighty movie soundtracks in the likes of Bernard Herrmann or Hans Zimmer, he created an epic masterpiece, including a little hint that there might be a follow-up. Having been highly anticipated since then, “War of the Worlds Pt. 2” finally saw the light of day on March 25th, 2022, via InsideOut Music. Visually, the two albums fit well together with their similar cover artwork. Besides the vocals, the illustrious line-up remained the same, as Dino Jelusick (DIRTY SHIRLEY, TSO…) is now the man behind the mic.
The maestro opens with an instrumental “Introduction – Pt.2,” and even though I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of intros normally, it only takes a few moments to put a happy smile on my face thanks to the short, playful interlude. It’s all about the details, isn’t it? The overture leads to “Divide & Conquer”; dark in mood, epic in its composition, the song comes along with mighty guitar work and orchestration, as well as a rhythm section firing on all cylinders. The virtuoso guitar solo weaves almost casually into the song, giving the first impression that Michael Romeo is still a master of making highly sophisticated music that sounds accessible and easy.
Dino’s vocals are incredibly powerful, and the development he took since I heard him first on STONE LEADERS‘ debut in 2019 is impressive. Compared to Rick Castellano, who quickly conquered my proggy heart back then with his wide range and great expression, he brings in a rougher, more bluesy tone, which doesn’t need to shy away from a comparison with outstanding vocalists like Russell Allen or Jorn Lande. Even though I would have loved to hear Mr. Castellano again, Dino fits perfectly here as well.
And so, we’re already deeply into this musical sci-fi adventure: “Destroyer” comes along huge and straight-forward, refined with some Middle Eastern harmonies, giving a fine example for the composer’s versatility by using non-rock stringed instruments, like a saz. Whether with the more balladic “Just Before the Dawn,” mid-tempo offerings like ”Metamorphosis” and “Hybrids,” or the faster tracks (of which there are the most), the listener gets excellent-written music with great, multifaceted symphonic parts, splendid vocals, and plenty of Romeo’s mesmerizing guitar magic.
Track number nine got a German title, “Maschinenmensch,” which might be best translated as “human machine,” but the lyrics are nevertheless in English. It’s one of my favorite songs here, together with the instrumental pieces: “Mothership” and “Hunted” bring the excellent skills of all musicians involved into the spotlight, with the bonus track “Alien DeathRay” deserving an extra mention, as John Macaluso delivers real fireworks.
Having been a bit careful at the beginning, as high anticipation can easily lead to disappointment, the initial spin of “War of the Worlds Pt.2” quickly destroyed any kind of hesitation. As he did with Part 1, Michael Romeo gives us another masterpiece that comes across as mind-blowing and mesmerizing in one. Being a brilliant composer and outstanding guitarist, his music is accessible at first listen, with loads to discover when diving deeper into it. While the mighty sound invites listeners to join this science-fiction adventure, it’s all about those little details that keep the album interesting even after countless repeats. With the two Johns being responsible for the complex, incredibly vibrant rhythms, and Dino nailing it on the vocals, he clearly took the right musicians on board. So if anybody is interested in making a space-related blockbuster in the foreseeable future, the soundtrack of the year is already there, waiting to be picked up.
Written by Katha
1. Introduction – Part II
2. Divide & Conquer
6. Just Before the Dawn
11. Brave New World (Outro)
12. The Perfect Weapon (bonus track)
13. Alien DeathRay (bonus track)
Michael Romeo – Guitars, Keyboard / Orchestra, Cello, Oud, Saz
John Macaluso – Drums
John “JD” DeServio – Bass
Dino Jelusick – Vocals