Welcome to a new decade! A mere three years ago, Sons of Apollo, a super group composed of former members of Dream Theater, Guns N’ Roses, Mr. Big, and Journey, burst onto the scene with their debut album, Psychotic Symphony. They quickly earned praise for that effort and toured the world over, even releasing a live album and concert video last year from their show with the Plovdiv Symphony in Bulgaria. The onset of 2020 has brought Sons of Apollo’s new album, MMXX, aptly titled for the present day and, whenever you’re reading this, for your ears.
I’ll admit to being a bit apprehensive; would this be as good as the debut? Could this be as good? Psychotic Symphony remains one of my favorite albums of 2017, mixing grandiose instrumentation with deep-set earworms. Well, after spending a good deal of December 2019 listening to MMXX, I can say that this is a worthy successor and sophomore release. The earworms have all returned to bore new homes, and listeners need look no further than the first single and opening track “Goodbye Divinity,” where I’ve found the keyboard intro and chorus slipping into my otherwise regularly-schedule thoughts. And, as it’s playing in my ears at the moment, I just cannot get enough of the ascending-descending scale runs that wallpaper the refrain from Resurrection Day. Addictive, to say the least!
I can’t help but to gush a bit over King of Delusion, which currently stands as my favorite track on this record. Arising seamlessly out of the death knell which finishes off Desolate July, Derek Sherinian paints a meandering path through his staggering keystrokes, welcoming murmured whispers before an onslaught of chugging guitars, bass, and drums barrel into us. Soto’s paced verses remind me faintly of Ozzy Osbourne’s ”Perry Mason,” though I’m likely drawing erroneous connections. Over the course of almost 9 minutes, we’re marched from mildly manic to run-for-the-door soundscapes; beautifully dynamic and diverse.
Returning to the previously mentioned grandiose instrumentation, Sons of Apollo have written their longest song to date with the closing track, New World Today, clocking in at nearly 16 minutes. After a swelling guitar opening from Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal ushers in visions of an 80s movie sunrise (at least for me), vocalist Jeff Scott Soto regales us with societal commentary that asks us to question our role going into the future. While the listener ponders that, the music twists from chugging hard rock to speed metal velocity before opening up into more spacious orchestration and allowing each instrument to take control for a time. With three minutes to spare, it finally returns to the opening melody line, which I think may be one of the greatest points of composition on this album, and causes the record to end with an air of optimism.
MMXX has launched us into a new decade with a bang! While not a huge departure in sound from the debut, it’s a great collection of songs that take us through a gamut of moods and musical flavors. As should be expected from these five respected musicians, there’s no shortage of instrumental flair thrown in for good measure, and often I find myself marveling at the synchronicity of their combined efforts. Needless to say, if you enjoyed the former album, you won’t be disappointed here. And if you’ve never checked the band out before, there’s no time like the present!
You may also be interested in checking out our interview with Bumblefoot.
Pre-order the album, out January 17, right here.