Sons of Apollo – MMXX

[InsideOut, 2020]

Intro: Christos Minos

God Apollo was honored in ancient times as the patron of the arts and music. The Sons of Apollo claim their kinship with him and thus their association with his. The band, consisting of former Dream Theater members Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian (the former was a founding member while the latter had a shorter but notable presence), singer Jeff Scott Soto, veteran bassist Billy Sheehan and shredder guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal can only be described as supergroup.

The fate of supergroups is to draw publicity from the moment they are formed and at the same time carry the burden that creates excessive expectations. Sons of Apollo could not be different. All members have shown great songwriting skills in the past, and their union set the bar very high. MMXX is their second album. Does it justify these expectations?


 

This doesn’t impress anymore

My opinion is that the album justifies the expectations by half. Each member’s well-known abilities are present on the record and are very impressive. On the other hand, however, the compositions as a whole are not equally impressive nor can they be considered as timeless. The band’s attempt is to resurrect the golden days of progressive metal, but what they do is transmit a weak echo of the past.

The first notes of Divinity confirms to us that Derek Sherinian is behind the keys. His distinctive sound that creates the introduction (reminiscent of his Falling into Infinity days) before the rest of the instruments join the equation. After about 2 minutes, Soto’s dynamic voice appears and gives us a memorable chorus – it was no coincidence that this track was selected as the first video. Within the 7 minutes of this song we hear various improvisations and the pattern is more or less repeated in those that follow.

Wither to Black begins with a hard riff and a distinctive hard rock mood with Soto’s voice confirming it. In this style, his voice is reasonably sounds more intimate and more fitting. In the slightly more progressive songs, I think there is a problem. Asphyxiation is even heavier, and the progressive element is even more intense. The influence of Dream Theater is very obvious, the riffs and melodies directly refer to them. Desolate July, on the other hand, is the album’s quietest moment, a dynamic ballad that could not be missing from such an album.

The first notes of King of Delusion brought neo-progsters Frost* to mind, while Sherinian’s lengthy introduction reminded me of why I adore his style (and my second favorite Dream Theater keyboardist). The problem with this album, and all similar albums in general, is presented to us clearly. The emphasis has been given on highlighting the technical abilities of each member to the detriment of songwriting, and the latter has often fallen victim to a one-sided Procrustean method. Almost all songs are forced to fit the crazy solos and improvisations.

All the above are also confirmed in Fall to Ascend. Portnoy’s drumming introduction is the start of the album’s busiest song. Α solo follows another one and they all sound great, but also overblown and trivial, because they simply follow a well known recipe. Prog metal had been based on the refusal to follow the norms. The example of Sons of Apollo works as a counter-argument: what was once considered groundbreaking is no longer on the cutting edge.

The oriental melodies of Ressurection are not surprising either, and as a whole the song sounds a lot like Dream Theater. The same is true for the last and most epic track. New World Today has good ideas, though not the most original ones, and although it follows the conventions of the “prog epic”, it doesn’t sound bad at all.

In this last track we can reinforce our final verdict for the entire album. MMXX is made by musicians who have starred in the progressive metal field during the past decades. Although it welcomes the year 2020, its gaze is backwards. And if the old continues to lead in contemporary prog, its future is uncertain. The second Sons of Apollo album confirms this.

6 / 10

Christos Minos

 

2nd opinion

 

Second Sons of Apollo album and in my eyes and ears it seems as if it was released without apparent reason. It seems from the very first hearing that this record, like their debut, is meant to appeal to specific listeners, and to the numerous – even today – Dream Theater fans. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the aesthetics and songwriting of almost all songs in this release is limited to all of the cliche’s set by the former band of Sherinian and Portnoy. This is typical prog metal, so typical that even changes within tracks are pretty much expected by an experienced ear in the field. The executive talent and the playing excellence of such great musiciansis is undoubted, but in essence this album shows that one thing will never be substituted in art, at least when it comes to rock or metal and that is no other than the connection that musicians have to have between them. Few have managed to make great albums just by sharing  files and, unfortunately, here the rule is confirmed.

5 / 10

Tasos Poimenidis

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