Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Pt. II (Album Review)

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Way back in the summer of 2018, we were visited unexpectedly by an otherworldly invasion of symphonic prog-metal. When we asked to be taken to the leader, we found ourselves in the presence of Symphony X maestro Michael Romeo. We had many questions for our new ruler. Where was Symphony X? What was the meaning behind this unmitigated surprise attack? What did Michael Romeo hope to accomplish with all this shock and awe?

In the end, Michael Romeo’s solo endeavor, “War of the Worlds Part I” brought a fun and different assortment of tricks and treats. New flavors were explored, John Macaluso punished the living shit out of his drum kit with great results, and Rick Castellano brought a new approach to the vocals to really cement the fact that this is not Symphony X. This release really raised our eyebrows, to the tune of nearly scoring 9 points out of 10, an accolade we do not hand out lightly, especially to what is essentially a new debut.

Like many artists in the last couple years, Michael Romeo has been using the light touring schedule to get back into the studio and further hone his project. While Symphony X fans would be exultant to receive a new album following 2015’s “Underworld,” Romeo has instead opted to continue his solo project, with the forthcoming release of Part II of his “War of the Worlds” trilogy, which makes a sort of sense, to continue working the project while the metal is still creatively hot.

For this new 2022 release, Michael Romeo once again shoulders the lion’s share of the creative burden, not only delivering his typical unrivaled neoclassical guitar wizardry, but also all the compositional elements, from keys and orchestration, to whatever other odd instruments were needed for seasoning, from cellos to the Turkish Saz. John “JD” DeServio returns with his bass chops, and John “J-Mac” Macaluso once again returns to drive the album’s sound forward with his world-famous drumming techniques, which have commanded attention since Ark as well as Yngwie’s “Alchemy” album. What is new and different this time is the attention-grabbing presence of the up-and-coming Heir Apparent and Crown Prince of metal vocals, namely Dino Jelusick. Since handling vocal duties on his “Dirty Shirley” project with the one and only “Mister Scary” George Lynch, as well as working on projects like “Free Fall” with Magnus Karlsson, Dino is quickly becoming a staple of the scene, on a level with Jorn Lande or Russell Allen. Aside from possibly Ronnie Romero, Dino Jelusick may be the best thing to happen to metal vocals since Ronnie James Dio.

In keeping with the tradition of the debut album, this second album opens with an instrumental introduction track. While it is primarily symphonic orchestration, and clearly indicative of Romeo’s love for writing in the style of cinematic score, the track also contains drumming, guitars, and keys to drive that Symphony X “Odyssey” feeling. Blessedly, the now-dated MIDI feeling of Odyssey is a thing of the past. The orchestral elements of this album feel far more organic, and much more suited to be plugged into a summer blockbuster soundtrack. The way the synth bass thunders when the introduction reaches a crescendo really demands a subwoofer for full effect.

The second track, “Divide & Conquer,” engages a more traditional prog-metal approach, closer to DGM or Seventh Wonder. It only takes a few highly technical Romeo guitar riffs before Dino opens up his impressive pipes on the studio mic. The tempo is full of energy, the riffs are cool, but most of all, the chorus is top-notch. Denying. Defying. The dread’s intensifying. It’s all for one, and one for all. The lyrics are cool and the delivery is outstanding. The song gets a great Romeo guitar solo, of course, and it sounds like there is even very sweet complementary keyboard work interwoven, and we have to wonder if some of the keyboards parts aren’t handled by Dino, who is also a world-class keyboards master. The track ends with a crescendo which is an amped-up reprise of the crescendo from the introduction track, making for a really enjoyable way to tie together a key song with the theme of the album.

The album actually gets even heavier with the third track, “Destroyer.” While the mean, evil, and potentially seven-string stylings are undoubtedly very cool, what makes this one memorable are Dino’s soaring vocalizations between whispers of “Destroyer,” and this was hammered home with the middle-eastern and almost Myrath-esque flavors of Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia when the song breaks for some very cool instrumental interactions where we are hearing Romeo noodling with the Saz when he’s not incinerating the fingerboard on his Caparison guitar.

“Metamorphosis” solidifies the album with a more standard Romeo/Symphony X sort of track, but what is welcome is the modulation of heaviness, a rising and falling action which allows Dino to dial back the volume knob here and there on his vocals, so we can hear his vocal cords when they are not pushed to 11. Of course, the track does amp it all back up again toward the end, and Dino gets downright mean (“Wicked Birth of Hell on Earth”) before another tasteful Romeo solo brings the track back to one final round of chorus.

Just in time for a palate cleansing, “Mothership” is a heavy-handed cinematic beast which is part science fiction, part Marvel Cinematic Universe, and 100% Michael Romeo. One can almost envision Tripods crashing to earth and blasting cities with lasers while this track crashes into the speakers.

“Just Before the Dawn” quickly settles into the clean Romeo guitars we love so much. “Accolade”? “Candlelight Fantasia”? “Communion and the Oracle”? Or even “The Odyssey”. Especially “The Odyssey”. Really makes you miss the rolling hills of Ithaca, doesn’t it? Well, those same vibes are alive and well in this track, except Dino is wearing the shoes of “Sir Russell” in this case, and he does it well. Where Rick Castellano did a great job giving the first Romeo record a flavor that was metal while obviously not being Symphony X, Dino is a much more familiar timbre to longtime Symphony X fans, while still being very much his own animal. “Dawn” is a nice breather from the action of the album, in a major key, bordering on ballad format and feel, but still having all the grandiose Romeo compositional and performance hallmarks to stay tastefully within the thematic boundaries of the album as a whole.

War Of The Worlds, Part II” Album Artwork

We get strapped right back into the prog-metal c**kpit for “Hybrids,” a track full of technical turns and twists, including what once again sounds like 7 string action from Maestro Romeo. There are plenty of changes to keep Johnny Mac on his toes, or at least keep his toes going on the kick pedals. Dino handles himself admirably, but make no mistake, “Hybrids” is a track to showcase the world-class musicianship of the band itself. Along similar lines, the track is followed by “Hunted,” another interplanetary instrumental interlude to juxtapose cinematic scoring against Romeo guitar leads, before settling into a gently swelling segment of strings and soaring guitar lead work. As this melody resolves, it returns to the evil little guitar riff first heard in the introduction. This little hint of wickedness sets the stage for “Maschinenmensch,” an unrelenting Deutsche juggernaut of heaviness and technicality. This one is 9 minutes of unrelenting heavy metal machine-man, so be sure to stay hydrated. It’s big, technical, and thrashy to the point that it’s almost like something from “Rust in Peace,” assuming Marty Friedman and Jason Becker also scored some orchestra parts to go with it. It is very enjoyable when the whole thing sort of melts for a little bit around the middle, and we get to hear JD deliver some groovy bass lines while a heavily reverbed Dino gets to sing into a void, before Romeo joins in to enjoy the delay and reverb with a perfectly melodic guitar lead. The way Michael Romeo tears it up over top of a modest layer of bass and drums is very reminiscent of Yngwie’s take on U.K.’s “In The Dead of Night,” which is most welcome, since the way YJM’s boys did that track was jammed full of the Holdsworth feels.

The final vocal track of the album, “Parasite,” comes in like a straight-up rocker, even settling into Dime-like riffage before one minute has elapsed. Dino digs down deep into the heaviness just as much as Romeo, getting downright gritty and guttural in his delivery. There are some cool change-ups in the track, where it seems like all we can hear is symphonic orchestra and bass guitar, before the song chugs back to life to become a mean vehicle for a Romeo solo full of attitude. The core album draws to a conclusion with an instrumental outro called “Brave New World.” It is highly percussive, punctuating a heavy and almost mysterious blend of orchestra and choir vocals. Occasionally the track explodes with hits of brass and synth, but it really shines about two minutes in when clean guitar sets the stage for a dramatic change into a big choir and orchestra crescendo where one might expect credits to start. Romeo comes in hot with a bluesy solo which takes nothing away from the composition, but rather puts a big juicy cherry on top, with several blistering arpeggios before the album draws to its finish.

Technically, this is the album conclusion. There are two bonus tracks, “Perfect Weapon” and “Alien Death Ray.” These tracks are both cool, and unique. The first of the two has vocals by Dino, whereas the second is instrumental. In the interest of brevity, we will not go into detail on either, but suffice it to say they are of an equal quality with the rest of the album. They are not throwaway B-side tracks like what can be found as bonuses on other records.

As a whole, Romeo and company have not only delivered a product equal to the first “War of the Worlds” album; they have surpassed it. Michael Romeo remains an Olympic gold medalist in lead guitar, but more importantly, he continues to fine-tune and push his skills as a composer. It is obvious he has been home-schooling himself on Kamen, Zimmer, Horner, and Elfman. The soundtracks, not Oingo Boingo, mind you. The best part is that while admittedly the album does bear great resemblance to Symphony X (and it would be surprising if it did not), it is not quite Symphony X, and more importantly, it is very different from other symphonic metal currently in circulation. Of course, Michael Romeo could sit down with Tuomas Holopainen, Arjen Lucassen, and Magnus Karlsson and make the symphonic concept album to end them all, but by himself he has still made something breathtaking. In the moments where orchestra meets synth keys, and percussion, and saturated guitar distortion, it may be the best fusion of these elements to date. In many ways, it has more life and imagination than your garden-variety summer action movie soundtrack, and perhaps that is in part because it must be able to stand on its own without CGI eye candy to carry the show. In any case, Michael, Dino, and the Johns have created something memorable with a unique chemistry, to be held up as one of the crowning accomplishments of Michael Romeo’s larger body of work. This one hits the stores on March 25th. The only question is whether the world is ready.

Released By: Inside Out Music
Release Date: March 25th, 2022
Genre: Progressive Metal


  • Michael Romeo / Guitars, Keys/Orchestra, Cello, Sax
  • Dino Jelusick / Vocals
  • John “JD” DeServio / Bass
  • John Macaluso / Drums

“War Of The Worlds, Part II” Track-list:

Disc 1:

1. Introduction, Pt. II (02:37)
2. Divide & Conquer (04:46)
3. Destroyer (05:34)
4. Metamorphosis (05:53)
5. Mothership (02:23)
6. Just Before the Dawn (05:01)
7. Hybrids (06:14)
8. Hunted (04:32)
9. Maschinenmensch (09:03)
10. Parasite (04:33)
11. Brave New World (Outro) (03:36)
12. The Perfect Weapon (Bonus Track) (07:41)
13. Alien DeathRay (Bonus Track) (04:31)

Disc 2:

1. Introduction, Pt. II (02:37)
2. Divide & Conquer (Instrumental Version) (04:46)
3. Destroyer (Instrumental Version) (05:34)
4. Metamorphosis (Instrumental Version) (05:53)
5. Mothership (02:23)
6. Just Before the Dawn (Instrumental Version) (05:01)
7. Hybrids (Instrumental Version) (06:14)
8. Hunted (04:32)
9. Maschinenmensch (Instrumental Version) (09:03)
10. Parasite (Instrumental Version) (04:33)
11. Brave New World (Outro) (03:36)
12. The Perfect Weapon (Instrumental Version) (Bonus Track) (07:41)
13. Alien DeathRay (Bonus Track) (04:31)

“War Of The Worlds, Part II” can be pre-ordered as a Limited Gatefold 180g 2LP, Limited 2CD version in an eco-friendly 6-panel Pocket Pac with a 16-page CD-Booklet (CD 2 features the instrumental version of the album) and as a digital album.

9.3 Excellent

Michael Romeo has obliterated any doubts we had about topping his previous "War of the Worlds" album. With the vocal ferocity of Dino Jelusick, the solid bass of John DeServio, and the huge drumming of John Macaluso, this album is a world-shaking fusion of cinematic symphony with the very best of modern progressive metal

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9.5

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