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:
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