About The Band:
After nearly a 3-year wait progressive metallers Sons Of Apollo are back with a brand new album called rather appropriately MMXX which of course is 2020 in Roman numerals. Getting the album out in January means they have beaten everyone else to it. (I am sure this will screw up a few prog bands plans).
The band who, of course, are what is sometimes called a “supergroup” featuring as it does two ex-members of Dream Theater, and members from bands such as Mr. Big, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Trans-Siberian Orchestra amongst others. There is no denying the quality of the collective musically with each player being well experienced. Although some of the names are synonymous with progressive rock, the album is more a straight metal album with some ridiculous fills! Which is to be expected.
It also (sorry it has to be said as this is what I heard) does sound a LOT like Dream Theater with one track sounding very much like an outtake from Falling Into Infinity. Eight tracks in all with five being around the 5-minute mark, a couple 7 and 8 and of course a complete beast at the end at nearly 16 where they all (strangely apart from drummer Mike Portnoy) get to show off their skills.
Opener “Goodbye Divinity” is one of the most DT sounding tracks possibly due to the keyboard sounds and effects. It is a solid start, hard, heavy with a decent chorus sung with a nice raspy voice from Jeff Scott Soto. “Wither To Black” the second song has a Led Zeppelin style intro. It is very classic rock sounding yet has the technology to sound completely fresh and new. They seem to have managed in a number of tracks including this one to have written melodies which are quite easy on the ear, accessible to those who don’t like prog but at the same time manage to throw in loads of soloing. In fact, they do groove quite a bit (I suppose the Zep vibe helps) in this.
The middle two songs are my personal favourites and real high points on the record. Firstly the rather moving “Desolate July” which is a song of loss and mourning, dedicated to David “Z” Zablidowsky who was a friend and fellow band member with Jeff Scott Soto as bassist with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra who lost his life in an accident whilst travelling as a member of Adrenaline Mob at the far too young age of 36.
Opening with the tolling of a bell and with a gentle piano refrain with Soto coming in gently and breathily before the rest of the band come in on the chorus where the music matches the frustration and anger at the senselessness of it all. The lyrics asking why did he “have to go, without a chance to say goodbye…” leaving the singer “always wondering why”. It captures the feeling and raw emotion of loss. The melody is one of those that stays with you as a listener. As a tribute to a friend it fully hits the mark. Beautiful work.
Next up is for me the best track on the album “King Of Delusion” which builds on a lengthy piano opening with some spoken word noise going on in the background before it fully kicks in with a mighty fine riff. I am not sure if the song is aimed at a specific person or group but it is brilliantly cynical and biting. With a great riff a wonderful melody line at the chorus this is a classic rock song. The piano refrain does come back in about halfway through but with some great vocals on top. The Ian Gillan style screams at the end are also bloody marvellous. I love this song! This is the track I would play to anyone unsure about the band due to the prog credentials. Did I mention this is terrific?
The next couple of tracks are slightly more back to the old DT sound The thing that I did find interesting (and also quite funny) is how they manage on “Fall To Ascend” to fit in so many solos in a song that lasts 5 minutes but still has verses and choruses! “Resurrection Day” has moments that remind me of “Perfect Strangers” by Deep Purple. There is a middle Eastern sound in there as well as some might fine bass soloing by Billy Sheehan. Once again it has an accessibility about it whilst throwing in loads of flash and technique.
Last song “New World Today” is the longest track. It is the one where they throw everything at the listener. It has quite an atmospheric start and builds on a mid-paced riff which follows. There are some very nice melodies in the song which kind of help to keep it kind of grounded. Everyone has solos (apart from MP again) and show amazing dexterity and live watching what they are actually doing should be jaw-dropping. They all sound like they have more fingers than the average human when they showboat. For non-prog fans this beast of a track may take a few listens but there is enough of what folks call an “actual song” in amongst the technicalities.
It is, as noted, before very similar to some of the more commercial or straight-ahead rock/metal of Dream Theater but it is so well constructed with some very good songs (especially “Desolate July” and “King Of Delusion”) that it stands up on its own. I am not one for comparing or judging bands against each other normally but if asked I would honestly say that I think this is better than the new Dream Theater album but neither are as brilliant as Scenes From a Memory however that is one of the greatest progressive metal albums of all time! This I can say is well worth not only hearing but buying. It sets a standard for the genre for a new decade. I await to see who rises to that challenge. Welcome to the MMXX’s.
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