As a drummer and composer, Virgil Donati is one of the best on the planet. [Insert a Planet X joke in here.] Yes I first learned about Donati from his collaboration with Derek Sherinian in Planet X. To be honest, the two of them really make their best music together. I like Sherinian’s solo albums and Sons of Apollo…nevermind. Donati’s solo albums are good too. Well that leads us to his new one “Ruination.”
The album has things that I expected from Donati and some things that I did not expect. While I do think it’s great to be surprised, I prefer to be pleasantly surprised. The opener “Castle Bastards” is a mind blowing mix of prog metal and jazz, you know the style you expect from Donati. “Eleven Part 2” and “The Quiet Place” are my two favorite tracks and both are just insane musically.
I expected that “Ruination” was going to be a masterpiece. Then the vocals hit me. Irwin Thomas sings on a few tracks on the album including “Back to Me,” the title track, “The Last Night That I Lived,” and “Time is a Lie.” He has a decent voice but it’s limited and when you have music that can be UNLIMITED, something has to give. The vocals and music just don’t mix well and Thomas sounds completely out of place. Plus, the music is not as complex since it would probably sound even more at odds.
I’d be curious to hear those songs without vocals. My guess is that they would be a lot better and the album would benefit. The rest of the tracks are just amazing so it’s a shame. The closer “If There Were Nothing” finishes with some amazing fretless bass and I’m left thinking “damn what if!” While it’s nice that Donati wanted vocals, he needed someone with a jazz vibe to their voice. Thomas sounds more like a singer/songwriter vocalist who is clearly lost among the notes swirling around him. “Ruination” was indeed ruined by it.
1. Castle Bastards (4:50)
2. Back To Me (5:30)
3. Ruination (5:03)
4. The Crack (3:57)
5. Eleven Pt. 2 (6:38)
6. The Quiet Place (5:10)
7. The Last Night That I Lived (7:41)
8. Time Is A Lie (5:20)
9. Pinprick (4:01)
10. Out Of The Dirt (2:57)
11. If There Were None (5:36)
Release Date: February 7, 2020 (physical release), October 24, 2019 (digital)