(Inside Out Music)
Amid the startlingly overpopulated realm of Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and Prog 'Super Groups', the veritable wealth of pre-release expectations and/or hype often greatly exceeds the end result(s) of their collective efforts. Examples of such arguable failures, far too numerous to be discussed within the confines of such an admittedly limited forum, invariably surround us all, with each new decade providing garish new specimens. Fortunately for all parties involved, this is most definitely not the case with Sons Of Apollo. Rising from the alleged ashes of The Winery Dogs, drummer Mike Portnoy and bassist Billy Sheehan, already a bona fide creative force not to be ignored, quietly joined forces with veteran vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, guitarist Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. After months of rumors and speculation, the newly-minted quintet announced the impending release of their often stunning full-length debut Psychotic Symphony. The question is, are you ready?
On the brilliant Sons Of Apollo (2017), an expertly assembled nine song collection of Progressive Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the swaggering, mosh-inducing “Coming Home” and the deliciously intricate “Signs Of The Time”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Wisely attempting to improve upon the remarkably underwhelming performances of the countless failed Super Groups of yore, the groups wastes little--if any--time engulfing the proverbial average listener amid a seamless blend of soaring vocals, blistering fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms. Flexing their more-than-considerable creative muscles early and often, the group effortlessly intertwines their undeniably diversified Hard Rock and Prog backgrounds, the group easily distances themselves from their few contemporaries by yielding a 'musical amalgamation' that is both thoroughly enjoyable and uniquely exhaustive.
Continuing with the synth and shred-fueled “Labyrinth” and the full-throttle tirade “Lost In Oblivion”, the all-star combination of vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen), guitarist Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal (Art Of Anarchy, Guns 'N' Roses), keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Joe Bonamassa), bassist Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, The Winery Dogs) steamroll ahead with a sickening ease. With Soto delivering a commanding, career-defining performance reminiscent of his tenures with Yngwie Malmsteen (most notably Rising Force and, to a lesser extent, Marching Out) and Thal effectively anchoring the group with the tonalities that have repeatedly personified his notoriously prolific solo career, Sherinian, Sheehan and Portnoy shine with a previously unparalleled brilliance. Deftly showcasing their ability to deliver the goods, the group's cohesive, multi-dimensional strains remove any trace of lingering doubt.
Co-Produced by Portnoy and Sherinian (affectionately known as The Del Fuvio Brothers), other standouts, including the seething, thought-provoking lament “Divine Addiction” and the and the equally impressive--and undeniably epic--closer “Opus Maximus” only further reinforce the group's still burgeoning yet entirely well-deserved reputation as a true creative and commercial force not to be ignored. Easily Portnoy's most musically challenging and, as a result, most thoroughly-satisfying post-Dream Theater effort, the compositional ingenuity at the epicenter of the group's combined forces are indeed nothing short of extraordinary and should be treated accordingly. Available in a variety of configurations, including a two disc Mediabook edition featuring complete instrumental versions of each track as well as stunning black and clear vinyl/CD combinations, the group offers a multitude of choices for die-hard completists and clueless 'green-horns' alike hoping to broaden their horizons.
So what, exactly, are you waiting for? Although the majority--if not all--of the undeniably masterful (or, for that matter, outright ingenious) wares contained herein wares contained herein are most definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of constitution, what ultimately separates the oft-stunning Psychotic Symphony, and as a result, the group itself, from the veritable myriad of 'project' groups is a much-welcomed emphasis on crafting lastingly memorable material. Easily the most highly-anticipated Prog Metal release of the rapidly waning year, Messrs Portnoy and Sheehan have delivered what may very well be their finest recorded moments, collective or otherwise, to date. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a musically challenging, thought-provoking alternative to the pureed excrement that is the crème de la crème of the genre elite, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane salves for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
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