Sons Of Apollo Builds On The Success Of Its Debut Album With Its Sophomore Release ‘MMXX’

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
Fri 1/24             Pomona, CA                 The Glass House (https://bit.ly/2H8kNxY)
Sat 1/25            Los Angeles, CA           The Roxy (https://bit.ly/2H8aLNb)
Sun 1/26           San Francisco, CA        The Fillmore (https://bit.ly/31FYAPj)
Tue 1/28            Salt Lake City, UT          The State Room (https://bit.ly/31D8P7e)
Wed 1/29          Denver, CO                   The Oriental Theater (https://bit.ly/2Z5QC4s)
Fri 1/31             St. Charles, IL               Arcada Theater (https://bit.ly/30igOGu)
Sat 2/1              Battle Creek, MI             The Music Factory (https://bit.ly/31IwXVQ)
Sun 2/2             Toronto, ONT.               Mod Club (https://bit.ly/2Z8OuJ8)
Mon 2/3            Montreal QUE.              Corona Theater (https://bit.ly/2KF9eyU)
Wed 2/5            Boston, MA                  Paradise Rock Club (https://bit.ly/2N2rMMx)
Thu 2/6             New York, NY               Gramercy Theater (https://livemu.sc/2KHNN1r)
Fri 2/7               Jim Thorpe, PA             Penn’s Peak (https://bit.ly/2TLMy4w)
Sat 2/8              Englewood, NJ             Bergen PAC (https://bit.ly/31MKyM7)
Europe 2020
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:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.sonsofapollo.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SonsOfApollo1

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SonsOfApollo1

 

 

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.

Sons Of Apollo Debuts ‘Fall To Ascend’ Video

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

Sons of Apollo debuted the video for its latest single this week.

The band debuted the video for its new single ‘Fall To Ascend‘ Friday.  The song is the second single from the band’s forthcoming album MMXX, which is scheduled for release Jan. 17, 2020 through Inside Out Music.

The video features the band performing its new single, with each member presented collectively through a distinctly psychedelic video effect.  The song’s musical arrangement once again features a very familiar sound thanks to the collective work of keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Mike Portnoy, both of whom previously recorded and toured with Dream Theater.  Vocalist Jeff Scott Soto’s deep vocal delivery, guitarist Ron Thal and bassist Billy Sheehan add their own special touch to the song to make the composition in whole familiar stylistically speaking, but still original in its own right.  The song’s lyrical theme adds to its interest with its thought-provoking content.

The debut of the band’s video for ‘Fall To Ascend’ comes less than a month after the band debuted the video for MMXX‘s lead single, ‘Goodbye Divinity.’  The song’s musical arrangement will appeal just as much as that of ‘Fall To Ascend’ to Dream Theater fans.  The song’s lyrical content comes across as a commentary of sorts.

Pre-orders are open now for MMXX.  Audiences who pre-order the album now through iTunes and Amazon will receive an instant grat download of ‘Goodbye, Divinity.’

Audiences who pre-save the album online will have the chance to win digital subscriptions to Modern Drummer magazine and Bass Player magazine.  They will also have the chance to win a signed Remo drumhead from the band, as well as two tickets to one of the band’s upcoming shows.

Speaking of the band’s shows, the band will launch a tour in support of MMXX on Jan. 23 in Sacramento, CA.  The tour is scheduled to run through Feb. 8 in Englewood, NJ.

After taking time off to rest and recharge, the band will launch the second leg of its tour Feb. 28 in Germany.  The exact city is still too be announced.  The European leg of the tour is scheduled to run through March 25 in Budapest, Hungary.  The band’s current tour schedule is noted below.

North America 2020
Thu 1/23            Sacramento, CA            Crest Theater
Fri 1/24             Pomona, CA                 The Glass House (https://bit.ly/2H8kNxY)
Sat 1/25            Los Angeles, CA           The Roxy (https://bit.ly/2H8aLNb)
Sun 1/26           San Francisco, CA        The Fillmore (https://bit.ly/31FYAPj)
Tue 1/28            Salt Lake City, UT          The State Room (https://bit.ly/31D8P7e)
Wed 1/29          Denver, CO                   The Oriental Theater (https://bit.ly/2Z5QC4s)
Fri 1/31             St. Charles, IL               Arcada Theater (https://bit.ly/30igOGu)
Sat 2/1              Battle Creek, MI             The Music Factory (https://bit.ly/31IwXVQ)
Sun 2/2             Toronto, ONT.               Mod Club (https://bit.ly/2Z8OuJ8)
Mon 2/3            Montreal QUE.              Corona Theater (https://bit.ly/2KF9eyU)
Wed 2/5            Boston, MA                  Paradise Rock Club (https://bit.ly/2N2rMMx)
Thu 2/6             New York, NY               Gramercy Theater (https://livemu.sc/2KHNN1r)
Fri 2/7               Jim Thorpe, PA             Penn’s Peak (https://bit.ly/2TLMy4w)
Sat 2/8              Englewood, NJ             Bergen PAC (https://bit.ly/31MKyM7)
Europe 2020
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 Sons of Apollo’s upcoming live dates, new single, video, album and more is available online now at:

 

Websitehttp://www.sonsofapollo.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/SonsOfApollo1

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/SonsOfApollo1

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

‘Psychotic Symphony’ Is A Brilliant Work From Some Of Progressive Rock’s “Titans”

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

Late next month, progressive metal outfit Sons of Apollo will make its way to Nroth Carolina as part of its tour in support of its debut album Psychotic Symphony. The performance is scheduled for Feb. 13 at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. Audiences who have yet to experience this new recording from the long time friends — Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, Winery Dogs, Transatlantic, Liquid tension Experiment), Derek Sherinian (ex-dream Theater, Platypus, Alice Cooper), Billy Sheehan (Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, Steve Vai), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses, Art of Anarchy) and Jeff Scott Soto (Trans Siberian Orchestra, SOTO, Rising Force) — will definitely be in for quite an experience. That is proven in part through the album’s musical arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. The album’s lyrical content plays into that experience, too. It will be discussed later. The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements, putting the finishing touch on the project. Each element is important in its own way to the whole of this nearly hour-long recording. All things considered, they make the album in whole a powerful effort from what is in its own right true rock royalty.

Prog-metal super group Sons of Apollo’s debut album Psychotic Symphony, released this past October via InsideOut Music, is yet another strong effort for the veteran musicians who came together to create the record. Regardless of whether this proves to be just a one-off program or something more long term, it can be said that it impresses from beginning to end. That is proven in part through its diverse musical arrangements. Right off the top, audiences are treated to an arrangement that echoes hints of Dream Theater’s 1997 album Falling Into Infinity courtesy of Sherinian’s keyboards and Portnoy’s work behind the kit. Thal’s guitar work is right up there with that of John Petrucci’s from that album, too. Soto’s vocal delivery expertly compliments the work put in by his band mates, sounding like a cross between James LaBrie and Fozzy front man Chris Jericho. Speaking of Fozzy, the album’s second offering, ‘Coming Home’ boasts an arrangement that can easily be likened to so many works from Fozzy. That is due again to the coupling of the song’s instrumentation and Soto’s vocal delivery. ‘Signs of the Time,’ which comes next changes things up even more with a full on prog-metal opus that expertly balances its heavier down-tuned guitar-driven verses with its more melodic choruses. The result of that balance is an arrangement that is easily one of the album’s high points, but most definitely not its only positive. The arrangement at the center of ‘Labyrinth’ is its own positive. It starts with a tense string arrangement that eventually builds to a solid yet just as tense rock arrangement complete with the rest of the band. From there, the arrangement gradually builds even more until finally climaxing in its bridge almost six and a half minutes in. From there, the song’s energy gradually declines but doesn’t let off too much. By the time the nine-minute-plus opus ends, audiences are left breathless as they agree that this arrangement is yet another of the album’s high points. As if all of that is not enough, the arrangement at the heart of ‘Divine Addiction,’ the album’s penultimate entry, conjures thoughts of early Deep Purple. ‘Opus Maximus,’ which closes out the album, is an aptly titled work. That is because its arrangement is nearly incomparable to anything else out there. The only seemingly feasible comparison that can be made (at least in this critic’s ears) is if one were to take the best musical elements of Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment and mix them together into one whole. the result would be this absolutely bombastic work. When the song ends, audiences will be so blown away that they will agree, the musical adventured embarked upon 57 minutes ago is one of a kind and one that was well worth the trip. As much as this record’s musical arrangements do to the positive for its presentation, they are only one part of what makes the album stand out. Its lyrical themes are just as important as those arrangements.

The lyrical themes presented throughout Psychotic Symphony are key to the album’s presentation because they are just as varied as the album’s musical arrangements. The album’s opener is a prime example of that importance. Soto sings in the song’s lead verse, “Through desert skies and far beyond the ocean/I am the star that shines eternal glow/Forever you’ll know/A cold desire that’s feelin’ no emotion/I am the fire that burns inside your soul/I’m inside your soul/’Cuz I am the light/Surrender tonight/I am the face of tomorrow/Now I’ve just begun/You can’t hide or run/’Cuz I am the god of the sun.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse of this figure “healing wounds” and a “prophet crying out for mercy.” There is even mention of an “invited illusion” and “fallen temptation with desperation.” This is rather metaphorical speak to say the very least. Considering that the Egyptian sun God Ra was a false deity as was Apollo in Greek mythology, one could assume that here, the God in question is being used as a metaphor for some commentary on established religion in general. On the other hand, it could be something wholly different. It would have been nice to hear [Mike] Portnoy and [Derek] Sherinian discuss the meaning behind the song’s lyrics in their song-by-song discussions that are available now on YouTube. Even without any discussion by the pair, it goes without saying that this song, which seemingly is rooted in religion (or perhaps in mythology), is certain to generate plenty of discussion among audiences if it hasn’t already done so. That being the case, it is just one way in which the record’s lyrical themes prove so important to its whole.

‘Alive’ is another song that serves to show the importance of the album’s musical themes. This song seems (again, just to this critic) to come across as perhaps a statement of someone who has overcome so much in life. This can be inferred right off the top in the song’s lead verse as Soto sings, “Colorize the sadness/The fear is black wnad white/Tunnel of denial/Looking for the light/The devil on my shoulder/The master of disguise/Can you hear him singing/Release me from the past/This tortured life I’ve sown/I’ve been down/I’m tired of being alone/I can’t hear the silence/Screams into my soul/The truth is ringing.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse that “I’m alive” and of basically starting over thanks to his parents. Its’ definitely thought provoking. There’s even mention of eliminating all the negativity of the past as the song nears its bridge. Considering this, the argument that this song lyrically seems to be about overcoming difficult situations in life begins to hold even more water so to speak. When the Veer Union/Sevendust-style musical arrangement is added to the mix, the emotion of such a moment becomes stronger. Once again, this is the interpretation of only this critic. It would, again, be nice to learn the true meaning behind the song’s lyrics. Either way, the discussions that again are certain to be generated show the importance of the album’s lyrical themes.

‘Coming Home’ is yet another example of the importance of this record’s lyrical themes. This song seems to be more of a defiant statement as Soto sings, “Now I’m not so suspicious/You’re downright malicious/Can’t make a fool outta me/You’re scheme’s complicated/Your pride is inflated/Seized by a social disease/There’s a voice screaming outta my head/There’s a truth that I don’t wanna know/Cross the line that’ you’re gonna regret/Is it me/Is it you/So get out of my way/Goin’ out on my own/Now remember my name/’Cause I’m coming home.” Again, there is plenty left to the imagination here considering that the song doesn’t just come out and say what it means. It definitely comes across as a positive work, lyrically, though. Keeping this in mind, it adds even more depth to the album. When that depth is joined with the depth generated by the album’s other lyrical themes, it makes the album that much stronger. When the depth generated by the album’s lyrical themes is joined with that of the album’s musical arrangements, the whole makes the album that much more solid. Even with this all in mind, it still is not the last of the album’s most important elements. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

Psychotic Symphony‘s sequencing is so important to note in examining its overall presentation because of how much even it adds to the record. From start to end, the album maintains a solid energy that barely lets up at any point. The most that it lets up (if one can even call it letting up) comes in the opening moments of ‘Labyrinth’ as the string arrangement sets the stage for the song to come. Even that moment isn’t too light. Rather the tension that is built here actually maintains the album’s energy, just in a way that is separate from the album’s first three songs. Even as the band moves into ‘Alive,’ which is arguably the album’s most radio-ready track, the energy there doesn’t even pull back too much. From that point on to the album’s end, the band keeps things moving almost nonstop, insuring that much more, listeners’ engagement. Keeping this in mind, that maintained energy proves to be important in its own right. Had the album been presented in any other order, that might not have been the case. Lukcily though, that didn’t happen, meaning again only positives. That becomes even more the case as this element is joined with the album’s musical arrangements and lyrical themes. All things considered, they make Psychotic Symphony a solid work from a group of brilliant musical minds.

Sons of Apollo’s debut album Psychotic Symphony is a solid first outing from some of today’s great musical minds. From start to finish, this progressive metal offering is a work that any prog rock purist will enjoy. That is proven in part through the record’s varied musical arrangements. Its equally varied lyrical themes are just as certain to impress because of their ability to generate so much discussion among audiences. The album’s sequencing proves in its own way why this record is so impressive. Each element plays its own important part in the whole of Pyschotic Symphony. All things considered, they make this record yet another successful outing for some of the titans of progressive rock. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Psychotic Symphony is available online along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.SonsOfApollo.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SonsOfApollo1

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SonsOfApollo1

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Black Utopia Re-Issue Another Hit For Sherinian

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Derek Sherinian’s second solo album Black Utopia is an interesting work from this world renowned keyboardist.  There is so much to say about this record and not enough space or time to go into everything.  So instead of rambling, we’ll hit on the main points of what makes this album just as enjoyable for Sherinian’s fans the second time around as it was in its original release.   The first aspect of this album that makes it so enjoyable is its sequencing.  That is to say the order of the songs.  The second factor that listeners will appreciate (especially those that might be hearing the album for the first time) is the A-list guest stars that agreed to be a part of this album.  The third factor in the success of the album’s re-issue is the reworked liner notes.  All three of these factors together make Black Utopia an album that any Derek Sherinian fan will appreciate just as much in its new re-issue as they did in its initial release some ten years ago.

The success of Black Utopia is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The album’s sequencing greatly exhibits the understanding of and appreciation for music possessed by both Derek Sherinian and co-producer Simon Phillips.  The pair treat Black Utopia as if they were creating a set list for a live show.  The energy of the songs rises and falls just enough throughout the course of the album’s nine tracks to keep listeners fully engaged.  That energy rises and falls just enough within the context of the songs themselves to make the energy in the transitions between songs even more impactful.  It shows on a deeper level, the pair’s understanding of and appreciation for their craft.  The resultant effect is one the makes this album one of those rare albums that listeners will want to take in from start to finish without skipping even one song. It’s just the starting point of the album’s success, too. And that’s saying something.

Black Utopia’s success is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The sequencing of the songs would be moot without the music crafted by Sherinian and the guest musicians that make appearances on this album.  That is the second factor in this album’s creation that makes it a success.  Sherinian invited some of the biggest names in the business to join him on this record.  And it’s a good thing they accepted his invitation.  Among those major names are the likes of Simon Phillips (The Who, Judas Priest, Gary Moore, etc.), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Al Di Meola (Return To Forever, Chick Corea), Yngwie Malmsteen, Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) and others.  Their talents are well shared throughout the record.  The whole group teams up on the album’s opener for what is without a doubt one of the album’s absolute best works.  Malmsteen puts on a virtual clinic with his shredding, while Sherinian himself manages somehow to mix in a touch of jazz/fusion at one point, adding even more flare and substance to the song.  And the combination of Zakk Wylde, Simon Phillips, Tony Franklin and Jerry Goodman on ‘Nightmare Cinema’ is incredible.  Sherinian’s etherial keyboard part set against Phillips’ drumming early on perfectly illustrates the song’s title.  It establishes quite the eerie vibe.  The eventual addition of Wylde on guitar adds even more depth to the song as it progresses.  It is simply something that must be heard in order to be fully appreciated.  The same can be noted of the album’s remaining tracks.  Sherinian  and his fellow musicians come together on each song to show just why their addition to Black Utopia is such an important part of the album’s overall success.

The who’s  who of musicians recruited to record Black Utopia alongside Derek Sherinian is just as important to the success of the album as its sequencing.  Without the talent of the musicians in question, the sequencing would not be all that important to discuss.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case here.  And because it wasn’t the case, it leaves only one remaining factor to note of this re-issue.  The factor in question is the updated liner notes included with the album.  This time out, Black Utopia includes an article crafted by journalist Joe Lalaina, of Guitar World magazine.  Lalaina outlines the album in his own words.  Sherinian’s own thoughts on Black Utopia are also included as a follow-up to Lalaina.  Listeners will take special interest in Sherinian’s comment about working with Brian Tichy (Something Unto Nothing, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol).  He notes that it was his friendship and working relationship with Tichy that led the pair to work together on this album.  There’s also mention of his excitement of working with both Yngwie Malmsteen and Al Di Meola.  One of his comments in particular regarding this can’t be repeated here.  But it will most definitely have listeners laughing.  It’s the finishing touch to an album that any hard rock fan should hear at least once now that it has been re-issued by Armoury Records.  More information on this and other albums from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Wylde & Co. Shine Again On Unblackened Blu-ray

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Entertainment One

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Entertainment One

Black Label Society’s Unblackened is not the first live recording released by the band.  It is however a recording that any true society dweller from any chapter will want to include in their own Black Label library.  As front man Zakk Wylde notes in the recording’s bonus interview segment, the performance contained on this recording is not an acoustic show.  It is by and large a selection of songs altered from their original state.  In some cases, the songs have been toned down from their originals.  In other cases, the songs have just been altered and made even more beautiful and moving than before.  That’s just one part of what audiences will appreciate from this new live recording from Black Label Society and Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The performance itself is noteworthy.  That’s because unlike most normal Black Label live events, this one is itself toned down.  Audiences will also appreciate the bonus material included with the recording.  Already mentioned is the bonus interview.  It is the highlight of the bonus features.  There is also a home movie of sorts included from HM Prison in the UK.  It’s a great opportunity to see Wylde sitting down and performing by himself.  These two additions and the bonus music video for ‘Losin’ Your Mind’ complete the presentation and make it another must have for any true BLS fan.

The first thing that audiences will appreciate from Unblackened is the presentation of the songs that make up the show’s set list.  Longtime BLS fans that recall the band’s 2011 semi-acoustic release, The Song Remains Not The Same will get a pretty good idea of what to expect from this show in listening to that record.  Much like with that release, the songs included in the set list for this show are not acoustic.  Rather, they are toned down by and large from their heavier original forms.  In other cases, the songs have been re-tooled and made even more beautiful and moving from their already “slower” state as Wylde himself stated of them in the recording’s bonus interview.  Wylde said himself in an interview some years ago that a song doesn’t have to be heavy and crunching to be heavy.  He has proven that time and again since then.  This latest performance is just the latest way in which he has proven that, too.  They also prove that it’s okay for even the toughest people to have a softer side.  Speaking of that softer side, the show itself presents a softer side of both Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society.  It’s another reason for any BLS fan to check out this live DVD and Blu-ray.

The songs chosen for the set list in this show are a big reason for the show’s success.  But there is still more to take into consideration in evaluating this recording.  The show itself is another factor to take into consideration.  Just as the songs in the show have been toned down and re-tooled, so has the show itself to reflect that altered vibe of the songs.  Just as Wylde and company prove that songs can be heavy without being HEAVY, the set itself proves that a show can be powerful without pryo, and all of the other standards that go with typical hard rock shows.  It’s really a wonderful experience to behold even in watching from home on DVD or Blu-ray.  That’s especially the case in watching the emotion in Zakk’s eyes as he sings ‘In This River’ and ‘I Thank You Child.’  The home video that accompanies this song makes it an even more emotional moment.  Watching Zakk’s reaction to seeing his younger self with his daughter will bring a tear to anyone’s eye.  It’s just one of so many wonderful moments shared throughout the concert.  And it’s just one more reason that this is such an incredible performance.

The songs and the overall concert itself are both factors that make Unblackening a must have for any BLS fan.  Fans will also appreciate the bonus interview and solo performance from Zakk included in the recording.  The interview is broken up into short segments that are bookended by mini-segments of the main concert.  The “interview” segments are so enjoyable because fans get to see just how down to earth Zakk is.  This critic has had the honor of personally interviewing Zakk many years ago.  And the man presented in these segments is the man that this critic interviewed.  He is easygoing.  None of his comments are meant to be taken with much seriousness.  It’s a great chance for fans to see this side of Zakk especially if they hadn’t seen this side of the veteran guitarist and vocalist before.  The home video of his solo performance at HM Prison in the UK is just as enjoyable as his “interview” segments.  It is a home video of sorts.  So audiences shouldn’t expect the audio to be expert level.  But it’s still a wonderful experience because it shows just one more side of Zakk that perhaps audiences might not usually get to see.  Together with the aforementioned “interview” segments and the main feature, it makes the whole of Unblackened another great live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Black Label Society.  It is available now on CD, DVD, and Blu-ray.  More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.eaglerockent.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Dream Theater At Its Peak In Its New Live Recording

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

New York based veteran prog-rock band Dream Theater has been creating music for well over two decades.  To be more exact, almost twenty-five years have passed since the band’s debut album When Dream and Day Unite was originally released.  That release saw Charlie Dominici on vocals, with then drummer and keyboardist Mike Portnoy and Kevin Moore and founding members John Petrucci and John Myung on guitar and bass.  Dream Theater has seen a number of lineup changes since then.  Dominici was replaced with James LaBrie, who still fronts the band today.  Kevin Moore was replaced by Derek Sherinian and then later by current keyboardist Jordan Rudess.  And Mike Portnoy has also since left for greener pastures and been replaced by Mike Mangini, giving audiences the band’s current lineup.  What does this have to do with anything one might ask.  It has everything to do with everything.  As audiences will see in the band’s brand new live recording, Live at Luna Park, DT has never sounded better than it does with its most current lineup.  This latest live release is Dream Theater at its peak.  That is the first thing that audiences and fans will take away from LALP (as it will henceforth be known).  Longtime fans will also appreciate that while the term “career-spanning” isn’t bandied about for this recording, it is a justified term in this case.  This is the case despite the fact that not all of the band’s albums are represented in this concert.  And those with HDTVs and home theater surround sound systems will appreciate the overall sound and video mix throughout the concert.  They are the icing on the cake of this recording and together with the aforementioned elements, make LALP one more example of why Eagle Rock Entertainment continues to lead the pack in the world of live recordings.

The very first thing that audiences will notice about LALP is that this recording presents Dream Theater at its collective best.  Longtime fans of the band will agree with this sentiment, too.  No disrespect is meant to any of the band’s now former members.  But there is a certain something about the band in this concert that feels different from any of the band’s previous live recordings. It feels like the band has a whole new energy about it.  There’s no denying the talents of the band’s former (and founding) member, Mike Portnoy.  He is still one of the best drummers in the industry today.  But watching Mike Mangini behind his kit, there’s also no denying that Mangini is right up there with Portnoy in terms of his abilities.  Watching him perform his crossover maneuvers and reach up above himself to play his rototoms without missing a beat is breathtaking to say the least.  Getting to see him perform from so many angles makes that experience even more awe-inspiring.  It’s enough to make one question could Mangini in fact be even better than Portnoy?  That’s a topic for another time.  Getting back on topic, keyboardist Jordan Rudess more than lives up to the moniker of being a keyboard wizard, as audiences will both see and hear throughout the concert.  Just as much awe is felt watching bassist John Myung as he works his way through each of the numbers in this performance.  It’s obvious in watching this recording why Mynug has maintained the nickname of “The Octopus” throughout his career with Dream Theater.  One would be remiss to omit any mention of guitarist and vocalist John Petrucci and James LaBrie.  They too prove that they still have plenty left in the tank.  LaBrie is still a vocal powerhouse to this day.  And Petrucci can still shred with the best of them.  What’s more, he looks like he has seriously bulked up.  Put a mask on him, and he could be mistaken for Slipknot guitarist Mick Thompson.

It’s obvious in watching LALP that Dream Theater is at the top of its game right now.  If the band were to call it a career right now, then the musicianship of the band’s members alone would be a fitting immortalization of the band in this recording.  It’s not the only aspect of the recording to which audiences have to look forward.  Fans will also appreciate the extensive set list.  While this performance doesn’t necessarily cover the band’s entire catalogue, it does quite the job of representing most of the band’s albums.  That being the case, it’s safe to use the term career-spanning here.  Audiences will each have their own favorite moments from this concert.  This critic personally recommends the band’s original take on ‘The Silent Man’ for starters, off of the band’s 1994 album Awake as a starting point.  The string accompanists make the song even richer than the already impressive take included on the album.  On the heavier side, ‘Pull Me Under’ was the perfect choice to close the show.  This is the song that broke Dream Theater out and truly introduced the band to the masses in 1992.  And ‘Caught in a Web’ is a good middle ground piece for audiences to take in.  This song also came from the band’s 1994 album, Awake.  It’s not too hard or light.  It’s a good, solid driving rock song.  And experiencing it being performed with the band’s current  shows once again that Dream Theater hasn’t lost any steam over the course of nearly twenty-five years.  It’s just one more aspect of a recording that is the perfect starting point for the band’s new fans and just as impressive for those that have followed the band from its earliest days.

The set list and the talent displayed by the band throughout this performance are incredible, to say the least.  Just as incredible and noteworthy are the audio and video mixes.  Home viewers are taken into even more depth with this recording than those in attendance got.  Thanks to the work of the camera crew and director Mike Leonard, viewers are taken up close and personal so to speak with the band.  They get to be the proverbial fly on the wall, watching keyboardist Jordan Rudess work his magic and drummer Mike Mangini do things with his two hands that don’t even seem humanly possible at every turn.  Mangini’s talents behind the kit will assuredly blow away every viewer, drummer or not.  That is thanks to his talents being so effectively captured by the show’s camera crew and director Leonard.  The side-by-side shots of Petrucci and Rudess are just as impressive.  They serve together to add even more to the overall amazing effect of the performance itself.  Not one shot is wasted.  Nor is any mic.  Those with HDTVs and surround sound home theater systems will get the most immersive experience of all with the show’s Blu-ray recording.  And even if one doesn’t own a surround sound system, the audio and video mix alongside the show’s set list and the amazing display of talent by the band will still impress audiences, regardless of how long they have been listening to the band.  And should the band put out another live recording in the future, it goes without saying that it is this same mix of elements that will make it tough for Dream Theater to top this recording.  It is definitely the band at its best.  And it’s available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.eaglerockent.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt.  More information on this and other releases from Dream Theater as well as the band’s latest tour news and more is available online at http://www.facebook.com/dreamtheaterofficial and http://www.dreamtheater.net.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eagle Rock Keeps Raising The Bar With Prog Rock Supergroup’s New Live Recording

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment has done something to which few if any other record labels can do.  Somehow, some way, Eagle Rock Entertainment has managed to raise the bar over and over with each one of its new live releases.  It seemed like after 2012, there was no way that it could top itself.  Then 2013 came along and it inexplicably topped itself over and over again.  And now, it has done just that once more with the brand new release of Live in Tokyo from virtuosos Mike Portnoy (Ex-Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Transatlantic), Billy Sheehan (Talas, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth), Tony McAlpine, and Derek Sherinian (Planet X, Ex-Dream Theater, Platypus).  This new live release is one more incredible release from Eagle Rock that continues to prove why this company is at the front of the pack when it comes to live recordings.  And it’s now available on double-disc CD, DVD, and Blu-ray as well as digitally.

Whether one is a fan of Dream Theater, Planet X, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth, or even every one of the projects in which these top talents has ever taken part, this live recording is an absolute must for audiences on either side of the fence.  The ninety-minute plus performance covers material from each of the artists’ body of work.  It opens with a bang with the first movement of Dream Theater’s famed A Change of Seasons EP before seguing into the hit ‘Acid Rain’ from Portnoy’s Liquid Tension Experiment side project.  Both songs were the perfect choice to open the performance as they waste no time setting the tone for the rest of the night.  Regardless of which side one takes on the split between Portnoy and his now former brothers in Dream Theater, there is no denying that he hasn’t lost a single step since his decision to step out on his own. And if one were listening to these two songs without seeing that it wasn’t Liquid Tension Experiment or Dream Theater, they would instantly think it was both.  That’s the level of talent displayed not just by Portnoy, but by his band mates in this performance.

The opening pair of performances from this recording’s set list are incredible to say the least.  They’re just the tip of the iceberg as audiences will note.  Whether in the slower, more groove oriented ‘Stratus’, the manic energy of Sherinian’s own composition, ‘Apocalypse 1470 B.C.’ or another of Dream Theater’s hits, ‘Lines in the Sand’all four musicians on stage proved what makes them such highly respected individuals.  McAlpine and Sheehan may have never been members of Dream Theater, but they showed that they know Dream Theater’s catalogue.  Had John Petrucci and John Myung been in attendance, they would have been smiling.  The same can be said of Sherinian’s band mates from Planet X of Portnoy and company in ‘Apocalypse 1470 B.C.’  And the band’s take on composer Georges Bizet’s ‘Farandole’ is truly something to behold.  Collectively, these four men have crafted a show that is anything but a tribute band or cover band.  Rather, what they have done is crafted a show celebrating the other and their work.

The songs chosen for this performance present four musicians that are at the top of their game.  And the quality of the recording both on its visual and audio side is top notch, too.  The audio and video mix on the DVD and Blu-ray is perfectly balanced.  This is especially noteworthy being that this performance was recorded at an indoor venue.  Indoor venues present their own problems for recording even at a professional level because the sound is contained in such a finite space.  It could so easily cause the mix to become “muddy.”  But Simon Phillips and company overcame that boundary with ease both on the visual and audio side of the recording.  Those behind the cameras deserve just as much credit as anyone for capturing the concert.  The angles of the shots put home viewers right up in the drum throne with Mike Portnoy and alongside his band mates.  At other times, the wide angle crowd shots are just right in capturing the enjoyment of the audience.  Viewers can see the genuine appreciation of the audience in attendance for what each musician presented.  It serves to heighten the overall viewing experience even more.  And together with that expertly mixed video and audio, it all comes together to make Portnoy Sheehan McAlpine Sherinian Live in Tokyo one more bar higher set by Eagle Rock Entertainment, and a definite must for any fan of each member’s bands past and present.  More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://eaglerockent.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.