When I heard that Portnoy, Sherinian, Sheehan, Soto, and Thal were coming together to present us Sons Of Apollo, this is not what I expected. This is far from a disparaging comment. It’s simply that, after having experienced a number of these talented individuals’ recent super group collaborations, such as The Winery Dogs and Art Of Anarchy, I envisioned another unique permutation of hard rock. Even when considering the shared prog rock background of Portnoy and Sherinian, I wasn’t aware of anyone else here exploring that road before. But ultimately, it wasn’t the style which surprised me, which I always imagined could (and does) contain elements of both; rather, I wasn’t prepared for how ambitious Psychotic Symphony, out October 20, would turn out to be.
This debut LP is book-ended by two immense tracks, both clocking in at 10+ minutes long. It was evident to me immediately, upon seeing this, that I was about to descend into a garden of ear-ly delights. Opening with “God Of The Sun,” largely written by Sherinian, we traverse a multi-part epic which skirts Eastern Mediterranean motifs, slamming us with meaty riffs, lifting us to the sky with heavenly synths, and gliding us along on the wings of Soto’s vocal melodies. Moving on to the second track: “Coming Home” is a truly rockin’ number with great vocal harmonies and basslines that carve out valleys wherever they travel, courtesy Sheehan’s double neck Yamaha. It also features a bridge section which feels like it’s taking a number right out of The Who’s playbook. By the time we arrive at track three, “Sign Of The Times,” you might feel like you need to catch your breath, yet it features the heaviest riffs I’ve ever heard come out of Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal’s guitar, and a solo segment that serves as one of the only moments where I might confuse this band for Portnoy and Sherinian’s old stomping grounds, Dream Theater. Frankly, the difficulty in reviewing this album stems from my inability to skip any tune without feeling I’ve done it a disservice. Even harder to stop here, considering that the next track, “Labyrinth,” is a nine-minute behemoth, and one of my favorites.
No one doubts the virtuosity of these five men. But to take five seasoned music veterans and put them together, expecting a synergistic surprise, may simply result in disappointment for the listener. In this case, however, I’m extremely happy to say that these fellas have truly produced greater than the sum of their parts. And that is the ambition I mentioned earlier. One need only listen to Psychotic Symphony to realize it is a truly unique and provocative experience, created with such thought and care that it’s obvious all involved consider Sons Of Apollo to be more than simply a pit-stop on the road of their musical careers. This is a band, and I can only hope it chooses to stick around long enough to grace us with another release.
Order Psychotic Symphony.