Sons of Apollo is of course the project of ex-Dream Theater members Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian. I will admit being VERY apprehensive of this album. I’m a huge fan of all of Sherinian’s post DT work but Portnoy’s hyperactivity since leaving DT is what I would call a definitive “mixed bag.” The members added to this self proclaimed “super group” didn’t fill me with a ton of confidence either.
Adding Billy Sheehan on bass was pretty obvious since he and Portnoy have become very good friends. And there’s no denying that Jeff Scott Soto can SING, but would his voice fit a prog metal project. The biggest concern for me was that Bumblebee (joke) guy, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. I think the nickname is goofy but beyond that, he has never written anything of consequence. He’s best known for having to play Slash’s riffs in whatever version of Guns N Roses he was in.
But I really want this project to work because I like Sherinian and he deserves it. Neither of the songs released first blew me away. “Signs of the Time” has grown on me a bit because the chorus is damn catchy and Soto sounds great on it. “Coming Home” is a basic metal track that I don’t hate but it really doesn’t do much for me, especially the call and answer chorus with Portnoy breaking out his “prowess.” The problem with “Psychotic Symphony” is that there are two other songs that literally follow the SAME pattern as those two songs!
“Alive” sounds almost exactly like “Coming Home” right down to the same call and answer chorus. While “Lost in Oblivion” has the same blue print as “Signs of the Time,” only with more cliched lyrics. And that tends to be a recurring problem, cliched lyrics. It’s not a deal breaker because I wouldn’t call them cringe worthy but some of them you’ve heard a million times before during the late 80s. I suppose that’s the influence of Eddie Trunk on this project.
OK so what do I like? The first and last tracks are both great. “God of the Sun’ starts things off and it is true prog metal with Sherinian taking the spot light. The chorus is really strong and the lyrics are too. Easily my favorite track on the album. The closing instrumental epic “Opus Maximus” doesn’t break any new ground but it shows that the band is tight and can write a great instrumental. One thing I noticed about it though is when it gets to the one solo section, it sounds A LOT like Dream Theater’s “Trial of Tears.” So much so that they just need to switch a chord and they could actually go into the solo section of that song.
Sherinian’s solo piece “Figaro’s Whore” has the blue print of Van Halen’s “Eruption” with the band playing a little and then he solos. It’s not bad but that’s about it. “Labyrinth” would probably make a good single since it’s a bit longer and has plenty of power to it. “Divine Addiction” is basically a lost Deep Purple track from the mid to late 80s. It’s a good song with Sherinian channeling the late Jon Lord. Not overly prog but a good track. Also, Portnoy got a lot of flack for boasting that this album was a prog metal masterpiece but while a good part of it is prog, there’s plenty of it that is not prog at all.
To be clear, that’s FINE. I think given that the major of Sons of Apollo, while being very skilled players, simply don’t have the background in prog metal. So in many cases, it feels more like an “estimation” of what they THINK is prog whilst being guided a bit by Sherinian and Portnoy. Stylewise, Sons of Apollo really don’t sound a lot like Dream Theater. There are moments here and there but many times when they go all prog, they sound more like Symphony X or even Planet X (which makes sense).
As for the playing, Sherinian sounds as good as he ever has. Portnoy sounds like he always does. Sheehan never really does those Mr. Big runs he is known for, which I think works better. He locks into the song more. Thal is a solid player but he actually sounds better when he is playing more jazz influenced moments (you know how Sherinian loves those quieter jazz sections). Thal just never blows me away but he does sound good overall. Soto can still sing and yes scream as needed. Sometimes he sounds a bit dated in his delivery but I expected that.
I went into “Psychotic Symphony” not expecting to like it or at best thinking it was average. I actually do like the album overall. Like I said, some tracks are better than others but it’s a solid debut from a band that has a rather varied background. I’m more curious to see if Portnoy hangs around for a second album. I hope he does. I think this band is what he needs, to be honest. Plus I think Sherinian deserves a proper vehicle for his talents. In addition, I think the band has room to grow which is a good thing. While being a somewhat “obvious” first listen, “Psychotic Symphony” has enough melody and riffing to grow on you over time.
- God of The Sun
- Coming Home
- Signs of the Time
- Lost In Oblivion
- Figaro’s Whore
- Divine Addiction
- Opus Maximus
Label: Inside Out Music
Release Date: 20 October 2017