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There are times when the term “supergroup” is a term not solely applying to the celebrity cred of its members, but to astounding musical prowess that elevates said members into a class above the rest. Sons Of Apollo is certainly one of those bands, with bassist Billy Sheehan having already been a member of several such groups including the David Lee Roth band, Mr. Big and The Winery Dogs, a three-piece whose drummer Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) just so happens to be Sons’ drummer as well.
Ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal also features in Sons, along with keyboardist Derek Sherinian and vocalist Jeff Scott Soto- both alumni of Yngwie Malmsteen’s band along with Journey, Dream Theater and Steve Vai among others. It goes without saying the connections run deep with Sons Of Apollo, certainly well preceding their formation and release of their debut album Psychotic Symphony in 2017. Fresh for the new year is their second studio release MMXX, an 8-song LP whose short tracklist is countered by its lengthy numbers.
Extensive duration certainly doesn’t take away from the record though; the first track “Goodbye Divinity” starts as an epic build from Sherinian’s keyboards into a pounding assault equally distributed among the five members. Musically, it’s quite reminiscent of Dream Theater’s Systematic Chaos and The Winery Dogs’ Hot Streak, albeit with Soto providing more of a sharp metallic edge than Kotzen-esque bluesy soul.
“Wither To Black” showcases more of Soto’s vocal capability, along with a deadly combination of Thal’s grimy riffing and Portnoy’s laser-precise drumming, both utilized to full effect. “Asphyxiation” follows and escalates on much of the hard fare explored on “Goodbye Divinity”, featuring an impressive keyboard solo from Sherinian and equally formidable guitar work from Thal; done in much of the same style that wowed (or confused) listeners when Chinese Democracy finally emerged.
“Desolate July” starts with a somber piano intro, slowing the pace but retaining the heaviness as a masterful backdrop to Sherinian and Thal’s solo breaks. Soto belts out a particularly catchy chorus as well: “I don’t really want to know/Did you really have to go/with no chance to say goodbye/and we’re left always wondering why/another desolate July.”
“King Of Delusion”, one of the longer tracks on the album gives Derek Sherinian an extensive time to shine; firstly from an eerie piano intro, a reprising keyboard interlude halfway through that graduates into a 5/4 bridge accompanied by Portnoy’s intricate drum patterns and finally into a blistering solo trade-off between Sherinian and Thal. “Fall To Ascend” picks up the pace again and shines the spotlight on Mr. Bumblefoot Thal, affording him plenty of opportunities to burn through some eviscerating riffs on one hand and solo a hole in the sky on the other.
“Resurrection Day” is another straight-forward jam-out tune, this time giving Billy Sheehan solo space along with Thal and Sherinian for an excellent back-and-forth. The final track, coming in at a whopping 15 minutes and 51 seconds is “New World Today”, starting out with Thal ripping up and down the fretboard over Sherinian’s cosmic keyboard splash and shifting into an instrumental jam reminiscent of many early solo albums from 1980s guitar virtuosos like Malmsteen and Joe Satriani. From there, it evolves into a metal mini-opera made for a concept album, featuring plenty of shred work from Sheehan and Thal to navigate through a maze of DT-esque prog mayhem and emerge clean out the other side.
It goes without saying that Sons of Apollo technically belong to another universe than our own. What’s even handier though is that the guys know how to put songs, and an album together, as has been indicated by the various other rave reviews that have been written of MMXX since its release mere days ago. God knows a full hour of noodling does not immediately constitute quality material on an album, but done in a calculated, melodic and overall intriguing manner a highly complex and progressive project can be a smash. Done right, it sounds something like this.
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