Courtesy: InsideOut Music
Prog-metal supergroup Sons of Apollo won’t be a one-off act for its members. The group – Jeff Scott Soto (vocals), Billy Sheehan (bass), Ron Thal (guitar), Mike Portnoy (drums) and Derek Sherinian (keyboards) – will release its second full-length studio recording MMXX on Jan. 17. The eight-song record has already spawned two singles – ‘Goodbye Divinity’ and ‘Fall To Ascend’ – and those singles are just a glimpse into what makes the album an impressive return for the quartet. A close listen through the course of the record’s approximately 58-minute run time reveals an overall work that shows growth and change from the album’s predecessor Psychotic Symphony (2017). One of the songs featured in the new album that serves to exhibit that growth comes late in the record’s run in the form of ‘Desolate July.’ It will be addressed shortly. The record’s 15-minute-plus finale ‘New World Today’ is another way in which the group shows the noted growth. It will be addressed a little later. Much the same said of that song and ‘Desolate July’ can also be said of ‘Asphyxiation,’ which comes early in the album’s run. When this song and the others noted here are considered alongside the two singles that the album has already spawned and the other three songs not addressed here, the whole of the album proves itself easily, to be one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Sons of Apollo’s sophomore album MMXX is a step up from the band’s 2017 debut album Psychotic Symphony. That is not to say that the band’s debut album was a bad record by any means. As a matter of fact, said album was an impressive debut. What this critic means to say is that the band has taken the success of its debut and built on it with this record. That is proven in part midway through the album in the form of the song ‘Desolate July.’ The song starts with a brooding piano line with which , Soto sings. A little more than a minute into the song, things pick up with the rest of the band members joining in. What is interesting here is that even with the addition of Thal, Portnoy and Sheehan, the song still remains brooding in its own right during the choruses while the verses remain more introspective and moody. Those different forms of heaviness makes the song’s arrangement its own powerful portion of the composition. It is just one part of what makes the song stand out among the album’s works. The song’s lyrical content adds even more power to that presentation.
Soto sings in the song’s lead verse, “Without reason/A dream becomes a tragedy/I’m still not believin’/Is this reality/So tell me/’Cause I don’t really wanna know/Did you really have to go/With no chance to say goodbye/And we’re left always wondering why/Another desolate July.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Night is silent/The innocence has found its way/The days are demising/Still the memories remain/So tell me.” He adds in the song’s third and final verse, “I don’t believe what I’m hearing/It’s tearing down my soul/through every turn/You’re still reappearing/This void has taken its toll/And now I’m running/I can’t stop this bleeding/And now I’m seething/My despair I’m feeling.” Little, if any, is left to the imagination as to the song’s lyrical them through all of this. This is some one who has lost a friend or loved one and is struggling to come to terms with it. Considering the precise wording, this is not a song about a broken relationship. It is a song about someone having died, and the emotional impact that said death has had on someone left behind. Keeping that in mind, the song’s lyrical content couples quite well with its lyrical content to make the whole of the song one of the album’s most powerful and notable moments. It is just one of the album’s most noteworthy works. The album’s nearly 16-minute finale that is ‘New World Today’ is noteworthy in its own right.
The musical arrangement at the center of ‘New World Today’ opens with its own brooding, almost Pink Floyd-esque guitar line from Thal. Thal’s intro to the three-movement song lends itself to comparisons to works from Pink Floyd’s 1994 album The Division Bell. From there keyboardist Derek Sherinian joins in with his own percussive performance. Eventually the song progresses into its second movement, in which Soto joins in alongside Thal, Sherinian and the rest of the band members. Eventually, the song enters its sixth and final movement, which is full on prog-metal. What is so interesting about that third movement is how much it comes across as the band simply improving all the way around. Even with that feeling, there is still a certain sense of control through it all that keeps the arrangement that engaging and entertaining. For all of the entertainment and engagement that the song’s expansive arrangement ensures, that arrangement is just one part of what will keep listeners’ ears. The song’s lyrical theme is sure to do just as much as its musical arrangement to grab listeners.
The song’s lyrical content comes across quite as a social commentary right from its opening. Soto sings in the song’s lead verse. “Why do we fight all we’re living for/This generation decline/It’s not enough we’re conflicted/In search of something divine/In the age of modern man/No more playing by the rules/it seems no one gives a damn/Oh, so many fools/We’re all living in a cloud/We’re all living in a dream/We only do what we’re not allowed/In the land of the free/Illusion is reality/Residing beyond hope and fantasy/Divided by our destiny/this is your life/This is the new world today.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “This ecstacy that we’re looking for/Seems to confuse and divide/We break down and rebuild the walls/We rise up an drop from grace/#MeToo #YouToo we fall/This subhuman race/Pledge allegiance to our God/Today it’s not PC/Take a knee/Now you are a fraud/Oh say, I can’t see/Colliding with all we conceal/Deciding we know all than what we feel/We somehow survive the surreal/this is our lives/This is the new world today.” He adds in the song’s third verse, “We can’t undo yesterday’s tomorrow/Wheen something new was still so real/Now who will take the lead/Who will follow/the day has dawned/Unveil the new real.” The song continues in similar fashion throughout right to its finale in its sixth movement. The gist of the whole thing is a message that seems relatively clearly to infer that there is a need for change because of what society has become from what it once was. Taking such an approach is nothing new for any musical genre. The approach here is still powerful and moving in its own right. When that message is joined with the song’s equally engaging musical arrangement, the whole of the song becomes yet another standout addition to MMXX and yet more proof of how much the band’s members have stepped up their game on this album. Keeping this in mind, this song is still just one more of the ways in which MMXX proves itself another success from the band. ‘Asphyxiation,’ which comes early in the album’s run is one more example of the album’s strength.
‘Asphyxiation’ presents a musical arrangement that from start to end, is full on prog-metal. At one point, it even breaks into what feels almost like a complete improve session. Even more interesting is that said seeming improve breakdown still maintains a certain control that makes the song that much more powerful. This is something that is completely unlike anything that the band presented in its debut record, and is just as much unlike anything that any other prog-metal act today is doing. Keeping that in mind, this adrenaline-fueled, five-minute prog-metal opus stands out as yet another of this album’s strongest additions and most notable. One might even argue that it is even more notable than either of the singles that the album has already spawned, as engaging and entertaining as they already are. Of course, as powerful as the song’s musical arrangement is, it is still just one part of what makes the song stand out. The song’s lyrical content is just as noteworthy as its musical content.
This song’s lyrical content comes across as perhaps two people in a very toxic relationship. That is inferred right from the song’s outset as Soto sings, “I’m lovin’ the way/That you’re squeezin’ my soul/My insanity/And I’m needin’ a taste/I can’t breath/This suffocating desire/Now dig/You’re the devil I know/My consequence, your dichotomy/No remorse, now I see/You are now my diseased fortifier/Your deceit is your desire/You’re my salvation/My new temptation/’Cause you’re my asphyxiation.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Under my own skin/Let the games now begin/In your private hell/I am your lust/Scream eternally under your spell/My deceit is your desire.” He adds in the song’s third verse, “I’m your creation/Your new sensation/I’m your temptation/’Cause I’m your asphyxiation.” It seems those strong thoughts and feelings go in both directions, leading back to that inference that this is a song about people in a less than perfect relationship. That being the case, the almost manic feel of the song’s arrangement makes more sense. To that end, it shows again just how much thought and time went into making sure every song in this album translated clearly to the band’s fans and general listeners. Keeping that in mind along with the other two songs noted here and the rest of the album’s works, the entirety of MMXX becomes a record that is a large step up for Sons of Apollo. It makes the record a sign of how much this group has to offer audiences. That in turn gives hope that this record will not be the band’s last album.
Sons of Apollo’s second full-length studio recording MMXX is a strong new offering from the superstar collective. That is due to eight songs whose musical and lyrical content clearly display a lot of thought and time was spend crafting each work. The songs addressed here are but a small example of that time and thought. When they are considered alongside the rest of the album’s entries, the record in whole makes itself an early candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Sons of Apollo will launch a tour in support of MMXX later this month in Sacramento, CA. The tour is scheduled to launch Jan. 23 and to run through Feb. 8 in Englewood, NJ. After taking some time off, the band will launch the first European leg of its tour on Feb. 29 in Germany. The European leg of the band’s tour is scheduled to run through March 25 in Budapest, Hungary. the band’s tour schedule is noted below.
North America 2020
Thu 1/23 Sacramento, CA Crest Theater
Sat 2/29 Germany TBA
Mon 3/2 Drammen, Norway Union Scene
Tue 3/3 Gothenburg, Sweden Traedgarn
Thu 3/5 Kyiv, Ukraine N.A.U Theatre
Sat 3/7 Moscow, Russia RED
Sun 3/8 St Petersburg, Russia Aurora
Tue 3/10 Pratteln, Switzerland Z7
Wed 3/11 Milan, Italy Live Club
Fri 3/13 Bilbao, Spain Santana 27
Sat 3/14 Barcelona, Spain Razzmatazz 2
Sun 3/15 Madrid, Spain La Riviera
Tue 3/17 France TBA
Wed 3/18 France TBA
Thu 3/19 London, U.K. Islington Assembly Hall
Fri 3/20 Eindhoven, Netherlands Prognosis Festival
Sun 3/22 Show Brno, Czech Republic Sono
Tue 3/24 Kosice, Slovakia Colosseum
Wed 3/25 Budapest, Hungary Barba Negra
More information on MMXX and the band’s tour in support of the album is available online now along with all of Sons of Apollo’s latest news and more at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.