Symphony X Mastermind Michael Romeo Talks New Solo Album, 'War of the Worlds, Pt. 1'

Michael Romeo with a Caparison Guitars Dellinger model

Michael Romeo with a Caparison Guitars Dellinger model (Image credit: Danny Sanchez)

When progressive metal titans Symphony X found themselves with some time off after their 2015 album, Underworld, guitarist Michael Romeo decided to — for his next project — strike out on his own. It had been almost 25 years since he had released The Dark Chapter, a 1994 solo demo tape that served as both a springboard and a blueprint for Symphony X. Showcasing Romeo’s dazzling fretboard wizardry and dynamic, grandiose arrangements, The Dark Chapter garnered enough buzz to land the then-nascent Symphony X a record deal.

Inspired by film score masters Bernard Herrmann and John Williams, not to mention the otherworldly, haunting and cinematic prose of H.G. Wells (whose most famous work lends the album its name), Romeo set about creating War of the Worlds, Pt. 1, his first proper solo album. Recorded mostly at Romeo’s home studio in Hazlet, New Jersey, War of the Worlds, Pt. 1 covers a remarkable amount of sonic ground in less than an hour.

“I knew I wanted the record to be heavy — a lot of riffs and guitar-driven material — but I also wanted to have a lot of orchestral stuff,” Romeo says. “It’s heavy, it’s a little progressive, a little melodic; but it also has that epic, orchestral, film-score-ish vibe to it.”

To bring his vision to life, Romeo enlisted Long Island native Rick Castellano — a singer he had been following for a number of years — for vocal duties, in addition to drummer John Macaluso. Rounding out the supporting cast is Black Label Society bassist John “JD” DeServio, who Romeo has known since high school.

“It was definitely cool, it was something we always talked about,” Romeo said of working with DeServio. “He’s awesome, he’s an awesome player. No freakin’ doubt.”

Though longtime Symphony X fans won’t mistake Romeo’s neo-classical guitar textures for anyone else, the touches of EDM, dubstep and DJ scratching sprinkled throughout the record are liable to raise eyebrows. Though one wouldn’t naturally group those sounds or genres with his brand of symphonic metal, Romeo didn’t see their incorporation into the record as any sort of delicate balancing act.

“It’s all stuff I’m into,” Romeo said. “Obviously, I’m a metalhead, and I like orchestral stuff and some electronic music, so it wasn’t really that big of a deal just trying to make it all work. I think sonically, it all kind of fell into place.” 

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.