Symphony X's Odyssey

American heavy metal band Symphony X wrote an epic song inspired by the Homer’s The Odyssey.

Written by Josho Brouwers on

Symphony X is an American (progressive) metal band founded in 1994. In 2002, they released the album The Odyssey, named after the title track: a 24-minute long musical summary of the epic poem attributed to Homer.

The song consists of seven parts. It opens with an instrumental overture that lasts nearly four minutes, before it seugues into part II, “Journey to Ithaca”. As in the poem, the song’s structure begins towards the end of Odysseus’ story, who laments:

I’ve been twenty years away from all I ever knew
to return would make my dream come true

Part III is a little bit more up-tempo and called “The Eye”, a reference to Polyphemus, the Cyclops who held Odysseus and his men captive in his cave. The lyrics don’t refer to the Cyclops by name; only if you are familiar with the story will you get the references to the “Eye of Hate”, and understand what action Odysseus and his men take when they “sharpen our blade, we take aim; in silence we strike.”

The next part of the song touches upon Odysseus’ encounter with Circe, where the crew gets transformed into pigs (“from walk to crawl, metamorphosized”). In part V, the misadventures of Odysseus and his men continues as they run across the Sirens, “false bringers of love”, “floating on a Sea of Lies”. Fortunately, as in the poem, Odysseus is “tied steadfast to the mast”, so that he doesn’t succomb to the Sirens’ alluring song.

Part VI is another instrumental segment dealing with Odysseus’ encounter with Scylla and Charybdis, which cost him his ships and all of his men. Symphony X skips Odysseus’ arrival on Scheria, the island of the Phaeacians. Part VII, “The fate of the suitors/champion of Ithaca”, instead focuses on Odysseus’ return to his kingdom. As in the poem, he arrives in disguise, dressed like a beggar, and reveals his identity only after performing a heroic feat with his bow.

The song ends triumphantly with Odysseus having reclaimed his throne and becoming the “Champion of Ithaca”:

Let a new life begin,
This is the end of my odyssey.

I didn’t care much for the synthesized orchestra used in the song. I also feel like the song is a bit too slow-paced for the most part, but that is perhaps more of a personal preference than anything.

Nevertheless, this is still an interesting interpretation of the Homer’s Odyssey and one well worth seeking out.