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Derek Sherinian – The Phoenix

Derek Sherinian
The Phoenix
by Jean-François ‘’Jackal’’ Poulin at 15 September 2020, 12:18 PM

Derek Sherinian is a Californian Progressive Metal keyboardist, best known for his work with DREAM THEATER and SONS OF APOLLO. This is his first solo album since ‘’Oceana’’ back in 2011. He has been quite busy with his main band, SONS OF APOLLO and has done guest appearances here and there ever since. For people that don’t know, he actually did a lot of work for KISS and played on the awesome ‘’Alive III’’ live album back in 1993.

This time he brought some of his friends along like Joe Bonamassa, Zakk Wylde, Billy Sheehan, Steve Vai, Bumblefoot amongst countless others. It always pays to have some great musician friends you can count on when recording an album. Derek Sherinian is a very accomplished musician and his work with DREAM THEATER is highly regarded still to this day and I hadn’t listened to any of his projects since the PLANET X days and that’s more than 15 years ago if I recall.

At first, I felt on the opening title track that the production was off key and it sounded like you were playing in a cave but it got constantly better throughout the song. I was not impressed by the sound of the playing but thankfully it progresses into something pretty damn good. The fact he gives space to the rest of the musicians is a sign of respect for their musicianship and he doesn’t take the whole place to himself. The title track is a great opener with killer guitar solos, solid yet generic drum work and Derek goes space rock at times, just letting loose.

‘’Empyrean Sky’’ really reminded me at the beginning of the song of early QUEEN yet being a bit heavier. The bassline is great and it makes the song, as for the rest of the song, I felt it sounded very early DREAM THEATER and that’s not a surprise to any of you out there obviously. It’s all about the pace of the song with the keyboards, he is not there to have uber long solos that are accentuated by sudden rhythm changes. The keyboards gel well with the rest of the instruments and doesn’t take center stage.

‘’Clouds of Ganymede’’ reminded me a lot of ‘’Surfing with the Alien’’ by Joe Satriani. Really mellow and great guitar solos. I don’t think people take the time enough to really enjoy the musicianship of that extremely talented guitarist and this song could have fit really well on that album. If you enjoy those early 90’s Joe Satriani albums, you going to love this song. ‘’Dragonfly’’ is very piano driven, showing off the classic sound of the age-old instrument. It’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the album. It’s still quite the complicated song and reminded me a bit of the orchestrations of 90’s style RPGs. It’s piano and drums and that’s pretty much it with a decent bass line. The drumming is far better on this song than the opener and accompanies the song really well. This is the more jazzy song off of this opus.

‘’Temple of Helios’’ is moody probably the deepest song off the album. It’s like a slower version of KING CRIMSON, the organ sound is deafening and adds so much depth and the slow pace is very similar to those early YES masterpieces. Letting it flow between your ears and the song has that early Progressive Rock magic rolled into a 6 minute song. ‘’Them Changes’’ is a cover song from Buddy Miles. I really don’t know who that is but it’s the only song with a vocalist. It’s a very bluesy song, reminiscent of BB King and the masters of the genre. I was not expecting a high intensity song on this album but this blew me away.  This is the high point of the album and shows off the diversity of Derek Sherinian. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the mood of the album yet it’s probably the best song off the album.

‘’Octopus Pedigree’’ is all over the place. Derek Sherinian really dives deep in his DREAM THEATER catalogue and delivers something that could have been on ‘’Awake’’ or ‘’Images and Words’’. The guitarist might not be as good as John Petrucci but I am really having these early 90’s vibes. After the bluesy song before it, the album comes back on track in a big way.

Last but not least, ‘’Pesadelo’’ is far less straightforward than most of the songs off this album. It had a little bit of TOOL mixed with some SYMPHONY X. It was something out of the ordinary yet a great way to end the album. As much as I loved the guitar solos, I would have preferred with the downtempo that the song started with. The song could have been better if it felt more focused on that sound but nonetheless it’s the heaviest song of the album. The Spanish guitar was a nice surprise on this song yet it felt drowned by the rest of the instruments at times. A real crowd pleaser and actually a really nice headbanger on those really heavy parts!

I was not expecting much at the beginning honestly. I don’t listen to much instrumental music on a day to day basis and rare are the instances of these albums coming to light. You have less and less instrumental Metal albums out there but this one is a fine example of how to do it right. It’s not too long, nor drags on forever, its length is its basic strength. The guest musicians are on point and Derek Sherinian shows off his unique talents and shows that he is one of the best out there to do it.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. The Phoenix
2. Empyrean Sky
3. Clouds of Ganymede
4. Dragonfly
5. Temple of Helios
6. Them Changes (Buddy Miles Cover)
7. Octopus Pedigree
8. Pesadelo
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
Record Label: InsideOut Music


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