The Passionate Playing of Symphony X’s Michael Romeo

By Andrew Catania

Michael Romeo is an American guitarist, who was born in New York City on the 6th of March, 1968. He is a musician and songwriter who is known as one of the founding members of the progressive metal group Symphony X. He has been composing and writing music ever since 1994 until now. His music genres include power metal, progressive metal, neoclassical metal and symphonic metal. He was ranked as the 91st out of 100 best heavy metal guitarists of all time.

Michael Romeo fell in love with music as a child. This is why he was encouraged to take piano lessons at the age of 10. He began to play the clarinet as well. It was when he listened to a music album by the band “Kiss” that he decided to take matters into a different turn. He decided to buy a guitar and ended up buying a cheap guitar at a garage sale.

As a young aspiring musician, Michael Romeo was heavily influenced by the musical style of bands like Kiss and Rush. He liked their style and they had a great effect on the music he made later on. He also got influenced by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple and progressive rock groups like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

His love for the guitar became a real passion for listening to  Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman and Blizzard of Ozz. He was also deeply touched by the unique and neoclassical style of Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, and Uli Jon Roth.

His work was also influenced by many famous classical composers including Ludwig Van Beethoven, Igor Stravinsky, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach. Their music style and technique is quite obvious in the progressive music he composed later on.

In 1992 Michael Romeo recorded a demo tape that he sent around to various production companies but he didn’t face any luck until a Japanese record label expressed their interest in the tape and asked for further material. Zero, the Japanese label decided to produce Romeo’s album in 1994. Romeo teamed up with a keyboardist called Michael Pinnella to work on the album and together they decided to form the band Symphony X. This album was called the “The Dark Chapter”, an entirely instrumental album. The track titles referred to works by the American poet Edgar Allan Poe, like the “The Masque of The Red Death” and “The Premature Burial”. The album cover even featured a raven in reference to a poem by the famous poet of the same title. 9 of the 10 tracks included were composed by Michael Romeo himself.

The band was originally founded by Michael Romeo and Michael Pinnella in 1994. Today it includes drummer Jason Rullo, bassist Michael Lepond, and lead vocalist Russell Allen. After “The Dark Chapter” became quite popular especially in Japan, Romeo recruited bassist Thomas Miller and vocalist Rod Tyler along with drummer Jason Rullo. They recorded an album to bear the name of the band which was again produced by the Japanese label “Zero”. It was released at the end of the same year. After that album, the lead vocalist left the band and was replaced by the current vocalist Allen. The band produced their third album “The Damnation Game” 6 months later.

Symphony X became popular in metal circles after producing their album “The Divine Wings of Tragedy”. The album took some extra time in preparation with recording beginning in 1996 until it was finally produced in 1997. This album allowed Symphony X to become a success in Europe and at the same time their popularity in Japan kept on growing.

The band recorded “Twilight in the Olympus” in 1998 with a replacement drummer when Rullo had to step away for a while and this gave the band the opportunity to have their first live show in the same year which took place in Japan. It was soon followed by a world tour and the bassist left to be replaced by Michael Lepond.

The band released its fifth album in 2000 with the major progressive music label InsideOut Music, which was their first concept album dealing with the myth of Atlantis. The band then recorded their first live album after a tour in Europe and South America. 2 years later the band released an album called “The Odyssey” and was followed by “Paradise Lost”. The last album had darker musical themes and included a special DVD footage of the band throughout their history. In 2007 the band also released their first music video. Paradise lost was followed by another album called “Iconoclast” that describes the way machines are taking over everything in our lives. It was produced in 2011.

Michael Romeo appeared as a guest guitarist for other bands like Ayreon and Flaud Logic. He still managed to work on a new album with Symphony X in 2014. The album was titled “Underworld” and was finally released in 2015. The first single was released in May 2015 while the second followed in June 2015 and was made available for digital download.

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