Sons of Apollo has been getting some great press. Their debut album, Psychotic Symphony, carries the weight of expectation well and I’m pleased to report that after numerous plays, this album is a grower. There are going to be obvious comparisons to D***m Th****r, and some of the longer tracks definitely have a whiff, but this is far from being a DT clone. The musicians assembled here are top draw and need little in the way of an introduction, they’re some of the very best in the business, and, as you can imagine, the playing is other-worldly at times. Soto is a fantastic singer. His raspy tone suits the songs well, and works particularly well alongside Thal’s guitar tone, Portnoy does what Portnoy often does-plays exceptionally well-and Sheenan’s fuzzy basslines are the glue that holds things together. I’ve long been a fan of Sherinian’s playing and he is exceptional (as always) on Psychotic Symphony. The mixing is excellent on the record with each instrument crystal clear and Soto’s commanding voice at the front.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t blown away after initially hearing the track Coming Home. The track rumbles along to a great guitar riff from Ron ”Bumblefoot” Thal but it was all a little too “hard rock” for me, reminiscent of some of Soto’s solo work (which is by no means bad, just not quite what I wanted to hear from these guys), but in the context of where it sits on the album, the song actually works very well.
Psychotic Symphony certainly opens in ambitious style with God of the Sun. At just over 11 minutes long, the band looks to make a statement. After an Eastern-tinged intro, the track settles into a very hard rock groove and it isn’t until just shy of halfway through the song that Sons of Apollo’s musical wizardry takes over. Thal and Sherinian trade blows like two heavyweight fighters, neither willing to drop their guard. It’s prog heaven!
Coming Home sounds good and is a solid choice for the second track on the album. Short and punchy, it gives you time to catch your breath before the frantic riffage of Signs of the Time slaps you in the face. Despite the great riff, this isn’t the albums strongest track, in fact, it’s a little safe and doesn’t linger too long in the memory once finished, despite some excellent keyboards from Sherinian and some very Petrucci-like guitar work from Thal.
Labyrinth is the albums next long track and it is excellent; slower and more measured than God of the Sun, Soto’s vocals are excellent on this track and it has some epic sounding keyboard throughout. Portnoy also gets the chance to shine on this track as the band jams casually through the middle of the track. Big shout-out to Billy Sheenan on this track too, as he goes toe-to-toe with Thal’s mind-boggling guitar playing. The tracks, Alive and Lost In Oblivion are similarly solid hard rock songs. Lost In Oblivion has a great chorus and Alive is the closest the band gets to a ballad. The brief instrumental, Figaro’s Whore seems unnecessary but Divine Addiction has a terrific Deep Purple vibe to it.
The band closes the album with Opus Maximus. At 10:39 it is the records second longest track. It begins with a dirty, groovy, almost sinister Thal riff before settling into more familiar program territory. It definitely has the feel of an album closer. It is an epic musical composition with Soto taking a back seat in favour of some instrumentation of the highest order.
Psychotic Symphony is a very good debut album. As one would expect, the musicianship is top-notch, the production is excellent and in Jeff Scott Soto they have a singer with a great personality, swagger and heart. The band sounds as if it is having fun and whilst there isn’t much that is particularly ground-breaking the songwriting is very solid. I hope this band has plans for more because I think they have the potential to be something very special indeed.