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Sons Of Apollo - MMXX Award winner

Sons Of Apollo
MMXX
by Tiago Masseti at 22 January 2020, 2:17 PM

The Avengers of Prog are back! Stop whatever it is that you are doing and sit down to listen because it’s a lot of information. And great information, coming from some of the best players in the industry. If you like Progressive Metal of the 90’s and the 2000’s and if you also dig some old-school Rock and Roll, when the message and the attitude were more important than grids and samples, “MMXX” is an album is for you.

Opening track “Goodbye Divinity” delivers the goods right-away: an epic keyboard intro topped with all the Portnoy-signature fills and a massive build up to a nasty groovy riff. When Jeff starts singing, we immediately can tell that he is at his best and more comfortable within this group than ever. With such a stellar team and all these spotlights to be shared, Soto definitely leaves his mark right off the bat and shows us why he is one the most influential and somehow underrated singers in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal since the 80’s. This track also shows that this album is, once again, the real deal. It’s a production that breathes, where you can hear the actual sound of the instruments and feel the performances. And that is something that, hopefully, the rest of the industry will start to follow and will become a trend for the next years.

A soloing Portnoy starts “Wither To Black”, a hard-hitting song with gloomy melodies and a tense chorus that leaves you screaming for more. When it breaks down into a whisper and a low-gain version of the guitar riff kicks in you can’t avoid imagining how well this track will work in a live environment and how hard you will bang your head to it whence you get the chance. Bumblefoot’s solo in this song is probably one of the most impressive things you will hear in a long time. This is what John Petrucci and Michael Romeo will be studying next week. “Asphyxiation” sounds like a train crossing country with some of the heaviest riffs we’ve heard so far from Apollo’s offspring and even some screaming from JSS. What can we say about Billy Sheehan? Eddie Trunk recently referred to him as the Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen of bass guitar and it’s hard to describe him better than that. The low end and precision he grants to the heavy riffing on this song is absolutely mind-blowing. We also get one the sickest, crazier and coolest phrases ever at the end of the instrumental section on this one.

“Desolate July” is a beautiful yet angry track, that pays tribute to the tragically deceased David Z, bassist in ADRENALINE MOB, TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA and also in SOTO’s solo project. If you know how dear this guy was to everyone who worked with him and how talented of a musician he was you will be in tears listening to these lyrics. It is great to see musicians of such a caliber opening up about this kind of loss and making themselves vulnerable on a great track like this one. Well…if Billy is the Van Halen of bass we can say that Derek Sherinian has to be the Yngwie Malmsteen of keyboards. “King Of Delusion” starts with a keyboard intro that has some OPETH and SYMPHONY X feel to it and it’s absolutely fantastic. It does leave you wishing that the entire band would double that eventually and that has to be this record’s major letdown, if there is any. It would have been great to have that theme being played by the entire ensemble right after the guitar solo. The track however is heavy, groovy and aggressive, filled with amazing performances from all five members. The spooky intro reprise with vocals on it might be one of the highlights of the record. Another thing that makes this album breath and pulse is that you can actually hear the musicians in the band singing background vocals and that grants an authenticity to the entire performance.

“Fall To Ascend” intro: this is Mike Portnoy showing why he became the “Prog Ambassador” and one of the main names in Heavy Metal drumming in recent history. Great track and an amazing choice for a single! The keyboard sounds are tasty as hell, the guitar solos are flashy and fluid at the same time, the vocals are heartfelt and the drumming is classy as it can be. “Ressurection Day” is the perfect blend between modern Prog and Old  School Hard Rock. With a harmonic minor main theme that falls into the likes of bands like HAKEN and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME but melodies and choruses in the likes of RAINBOW and DIO. It also harbors the long-awaited Sheehan bass solos! It might become redundant at this point to keep complementing Derek and Ron, but the alternate solo section on this song is absolutely majestic. And to close this 59-minute adventure, Apollo’s children present us with a longstanding tradition of ending a Prog Metal album with a lengthy track.

And yes, “New World Today” is worth every one of its 15 minutes. It starts with a guitar solo that will put Ron ‘Bumblefoot' Thal in your top 10 guitarists of all time, if he’s not already. If you were learning guitar in the 90’s and the 2000’s there were some songs like DREAM THEATER’s Metropolis Pt. 1, SYMPHONY X’s Sea Of Lies and MR. BIG’s Colorado Bulldog that you had to tackle to be the cool kid in school. If you’re learning guitar in the 2020’s this will be one of those songs, for sure. As far as format and structure, this song is not what you would expect. It goes from PLANET X modal madness to TRANSATLANTIC melodic greatness and back to the MALMSTEEN and MR BIG Hard Rock grooves in a heartbeat. Somehow it feels like an amalgam of all five musicians career’s so far, sprinkled with promising trends for the next decade and an epic, inspired, finale.

It’s been almost a decade since Mike Portnoy left DREAM THEATER. And it’s been almost a decade that fans all over the world haven’t been able to deal with that idea, whining about it nonstop. But here we have the definite proof that people should leave that in the past. SONS OF APOLLO is an assemble of five of the most brilliant performers in the entire industry and their music catalogue just grows stronger with this almost flawless release. It’s 2020 and Progressive Music has more acts than ever so, enjoy the variety the genre can offer and watch closely as this band rises, inevitably, to the top.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Goodbye Divinity
2. Wither To Black
3. Asphyxiation
4. Desolate July
5. King Of Delusion
6. Fall To Ascend
7. Resurrection Day
8. New World Today
Lineup:
Jeff Scott Soto - Vocals
Ron ‘Bumblefoot' Thal - Guitars
Derek Sherinian - Keyboards
Billy Sheehan - Bass
Mike Portnoy - Drums
Record Label: InsideOut Music
     


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