Mike Portnoy. Derek Sherinian. Billy Sheehan. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. Jeff Scott Soto. Each one with a rather impressive body of work. Imagine the possibilities if these five insanely talented men started a band. As mind-blowing and far-fetched as an idea like that may sound, guess what? It is now a reality in the form of SONS OF APOLLO, and their debut album Psychotic Symphony, out October 20 through InsideOut Music/Sony Music. First of all, if I even need to explain who any of the members are, or rattle off the landmark albums they have ALL been a part of then stop reading right now, see yourself, and hang your head in shame.
Okay, so…with all the brouhaha surrounding the group, what about the songs? Obviously there is a strong Progressive Metal presence, but not at the expense of good, solid hooks. That’s always been one of my major issues with prog, is that all too often the songs seem to just meander about and focus on individual talents too much, and there’s no hummable chorus. Luckily, this band manages to mostly sidestep those landmines, even though they make the curious choice right out of the gate to open the record with “God of the Sun”, an 11-minute epic that lets the rock world know who they are and that they came to play. Normally you see a track of this magnitude in the middle or back of a disc, but here it is front and center, and it’s riveting!
From here we go to one of the singles in “Coming Home” which is a perfect example of the hooks I was referring to earlier. I can play this one again and again and never tire of it, just a great song. The whole unit is firing on all cylinders on this tune, and the guitar and bass sounds like something from another planet. Soto’s vocal is outstanding, Portnoy also has a cool singing part behind him on the chorus, and Sherinian’s keys sound off the charts. “Signs of the Time” was the first track I heard shortly after the band was announced and that pretty much sold me on the whole thing, especially after hearing Bumblefoot go nuts during his solo.
“Labyrinth” is the second of three epics, clocking in at 9:22. This one definitely sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place on an older DREAM THEATER record, especially around the three minute mark when it goes in a different direction. “Alive” is an okay song, but I wasn’t doing backflips over it, despite Sherinian’s cool keyboard parts. However, “Lost In Oblivion” kicks ass in seven different shades, and was another instant favorite. Every single member throws down and fucking wrecks shop on this one! “Figaro’s Whore” is an interlude that’s a very cool vehicle for Bumblefoot and Sherinian to work their guitar and keys magic respectively, and bleeds seamlessly into the next track.
That would be “Divine Addiction”, and yep, this is another one I gravitated to right away. Closing things out is “Opus Maximus.” Come on, you can’t think a band with this caliber of players wouldn’t have an instrumental on the disc, right? It’s a pretty cool way to end things, with each musician getting his turn in the spotlight, and for it being ten minutes long it certainly doesn’t get boring. At the end of the day Psychotic Symphony is a very, very good record from a seasoned cast of characters. And SONS OF APOLLO needs to take this show on the road sooner rather than later, because I know I’m not the only one who will want to hear these jams live.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Coming Home”, “Lost In Oblivion”, “God of the Sun”, “Divine Addiction”, “Signs of the Time”