Veteran keyboardist Derek Sherinian released his latest album Sept. 18. The eight-song record, The Phoenix, continues the success that Sherinian has enjoyed over the course of his career. It is a record that is sure to appeal to Sherinian’s fans and those of all of the projects in which he has taken part throughout the years. ‘Dragonfly,’ which is one of the album’s singles, unquestionably supports the noted statements. It will be discussed shortly. The same can be stated of the album’s closer, ‘Pesadelo,’ which closes the album. ‘Empyrean Sky,’ the album’s lead single, is one more example of what makes Sherinian’s new album such a strong new offering from Sherinian. It is hardly the last example of the album’s strength, too. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and the likes of ‘Them Changes,’ (another of the album’s singles), the intense prog-opus ‘Octopus Pedigree’ (one has to wonder if this was a tribute to Dream Theater bassist John Myung since his nickname is “The Octopus”), the album’s title track and its two other remaining entries, the album in whole proves itself to be another impressive addition to this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums and another successful offering from Sherinian.
The Phoenix, the eighth and latest solo release from Derek Sherinian, is another successful offering from the veteran keyboardist. The 43-minute record’s body proves that from start to end. There is not one bad song featured in this recording. One of the album’s most notable compositions is its single ‘Dragonfly.’ The single is a fully acoustic composition that lends itself easily to comparison to works from the jazz-rock-fusion group Trioscapes. That is evidenced through the stylistic approach of the piano, drums, and bass. It is a very distinct, percussive style approach, that again, Trioscapes has taken on each of its current two albums. The controlled chaos of Sherinian’s performance on the piano couples with drummer Simon Phillips’ steady time keeping and bassist Ernest Tibbs’ low end to make the song so enthralling. The abstract picture that the trio paints with its work is just so rich, which will make the song stick in listeners’ minds even more. Phillips actually noted in a recently released track-by-track discussion on the album, that the song almost featured some synthesizer work, but after discussion among the trio, the decision was made to keep the song fully acoustic. That decision could not have been more right. Listening through this song, audiences will agree that the inclusion of any electronics would have only ruined its presentation. Add in that Sherinian noted in the same video that his piano line was composed in a very improvisational fashion, the song gains even more strength. Keeping all of this in mind, this song is just one of the works that makes The Phoenix such an impressive new offering from Sherinian. ‘Pesadelo,’ which closes out the album, is another notable addition to the record.
‘Pesadelo’ presents an arrangement that harkens back to Sherinian’s work with Dream Theater back in the late 1990s. That is evidenced in its heavy guitars, drums, and even bass and keyboards. There is a lot going on here, instrumentally, and everything is well balanced. That itself says a lot about how much work went into the song’s creation. Phillips addressed the heaviness and his own part in the song’s creation in the noted video, stating, “It was very challenging…I didn’t know what to play at first.” The brainstorming that he did with Sherinian, guitarist Kiko Loureiro (ex-Megadeth) and bassist Tony Franklin paid off. That is evidenced in the final product. Phillips’ time keeping is precise, yet is so heavy in its own right. He was not the only one who was challenged by the composition. Franklin echoed Phillips’ thoughts as he, too, noted that Sherinian’s work “pushes me to my limits” in the aforementioned video. He meant that in a complimentary fashion. His low end couples with the work of his fellow musicians here to make the song so full and rich, ensuring again that prog-metal fans and Sherinian’s fans alike will appreciate this album. Even as much as this song does to make The Phoenix burn even brighter, it still is just one more musical timber on the fire that is this album. ‘Empyrean Sky’ is yet another positive addition to the album.
‘Empyrean Sky’ is anchored by Sherinian’s keyboard work, Philips’ time keeping and Jimmy Johnson’s bass line. Armen Ra’s performance on the theremin adds its own touch to the composition, too, as does guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal’s performance along with the group. The composition in whole lends itself to comparisons to work (both classic and modern) from the likes of Kansas and to works from Emerson Lake & Palmer. It is a slight departure from the work that he has done with other acts with which he has recorded and performed. That gives the song even more of its own identity. On a related note, Sherinian himself said in the previously noted video, that he compared the work to songs from the jazz-fusion group Return to Forever. Considering that comparison and the comparison to works from the likes of Kansas says a lot about the song’s appeal. Phillips added to Sherinian’s statements, noting how relaxed the atmosphere was as he, Sherinian and guest guitarist (and Sherinian’s Sons of Apollo band mate) Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal recorded the song. That relaxed vibe is reflected throughout this prog rock opus. It shows even more why The Phoenix is such a powerful new offering from Derek Sherinian and is certainly not the last of the album’s standout tracks. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and the likes of ‘Them Changes,’ (another of the album’s singles), the intense prog-opus ‘Octopus Pedigree’ (one has to wonder if this was a tribute to Dream Theater bassist John Myung since his nickname is “The Octopus”), the album’s title track and its two other remaining entries, the album in whole proves itself to be another impressive addition to this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums and another successful offering from Sherinian.
Derek Sherinian’s new album The Phoenix is another positive new offering from the veteran keyboardist and composer. It offers listeners so much to enjoy from start to end. That is due to the time and effort that went into composing, recording, and producing each song. The end result of that time and effort is a record that sounds good and will leave listeners feeling good. That has been evidenced by all three of the song songs addressed here. Each song is its own unique composition, but still puts on full display, Sherinian’s talents as a musician and composer, and the talents of his fellow musicians. Much the same can be said of each of the album’s other songs not addressed here. When those songs are considered along with the songs directly examined here, the end result is an album that is just as good as Sherinian’s existing albums and as enjoyable as any other prog rock and metal album released so far this year. The Phoenix is available now through InsideOut Music.
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