Re-known world class keyboardist Derek Sherinian is a busy musician and that’s probably an understatement. The man has already toured the world’s stages together with (among others) Alice Cooper, Kiss, Billy Idol, Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Bonamassa, was a member of Dream Theater, Platypus or Black Country Communion and can be heard on countless studio productions. This alone demands enormous respect and gives an idea of what level Sherinian has established within the rock scene. Original, creative, keyboard players because, unfortunately, still the exception and Sherinian, influenced his own words primarily by guitarist Eddie Van Halen is one of his absolute faves, is one of the few that can be heard immediately among all others and is instantly recognizable.
In addition to all of the above obligations for which others would probably drown in work, our hero has a quite extensive back catalog under he’s solo releases, up to 7 albums under his own name. The guest list on these discs is a Who’s Who of the rock scene and recruited primarily from his numerous employers and their entourage. Armoury Records has now re-released the solo albums 2-6 (album No. 1 was still running under the band project “Planet X”). Let’s look at the tempting package here we are reviewing Black Utopia, Mythology and Molecular Heinosity releases.
Black Utopia (2003)
Two years later after the Inertia debut in 2001, the team Sherinian / Phillips was back together and tinkering with a similar distribution of tasks to the next project. Besides the additions of Steve Lukather and Zakk Wylde as guests, they added the incomparable Yngwie Malmsteen Acoustic slinger Al Di Meola and bass virtuoso Billy Sheehan as guests. Sherinian’s bold idea to let collide the American (Wylde) and European (Malmsteen) are an Interpretation of Over-The-Top Guitar shredding which culminates in the track “Axis Of Evil”. Of course you must consider Malmsteen’s uncompromising style a hot commodity as instantly recognizable-so you can understand adding him to this release in contrast to the Eddie Van Halen inspiration in style. On “Black Utopia” the egocentric Swede blazes and carvs through his solos, leaving behind burning earth and finds time to provide some respectful words for his guitar colleagues in the booklet as well. Another highlight are the duels between Malmsteen and Al Di Meola, and the two bassists Franklin and Sheehan in the track “The Sons Of Anu” – a wet dream for every string fetishists. “Black Utopia” drives firmly compared to the comparatively modest predecessor- more solos, more guest musicians, more virtuosity, more power – indeed suffer a little homogeneity, musical tension, however, it does not cost the overall sound of the record or take away from the skill of each musician. Also worth mentioning are of course Lukather’s usual impeccable phrasing and Al Di Meola’s Acoustic Showcase “Gypsy Moth”.
With a Cant Hardly Wait state of mind, one year later after Black Utopia, we have “Mythology”. In addition to the usual suspects (Zakk Wylde, Simon Phillips, Tony Franklin and Steve Lukather) now headed Steve Stevens ( playing with Sherinian in Billy Idol’s band), John Sykes (formerly with Franklin in Blue Murder active), the jazz / fusion giant Alan Holdsworth and bassist Marco Mendoza are part to the success of this release. As a new congenial partner to Sherinians side, from “Mythology” drummer Brian Tichy establishes himself well. Tichy is the quasi Sherinian among the drummers: the man is talented and has a well respected resume himself (including stints with Stevie Salas, Whitesnake, Billy Idol). As a contrast to the elegant Simon Phillips (always the perfect British gentleman) now we have a bloodline of rich rock / power-drumming musicians. In addition, Tichy teamed up with Simon Phillips in the co-production, adding he’s guitar skills as well to the fold. In the track “Trojan Horse”, the more experienced guitarists will make your jaw dropped to the floor with orgasmic precision. The songs and the sound are classic and tracks like that of Stevens’ tasteful flamenco number in”El Flamingo Suave” or the Holdsworth / Wylde Firecracker “Day Of The Dead” should definitely entice the folks who can appreciate great musicianship. Also, a conceptual change comes in With “The River Song” a (okayer) song with vocals (Zakk Wylde) are introduced for the first time.
Molecular Heinosity (2009)
The penultimate title, produced by Sherinian alone, this solo disc goes by the unusual name of “Molecular Heinosity” and is now 5 years old. From the usual suspects this time we welcome again Zakk Wylde, Tony Franklin and Brian Tichy. Additions are Virgil Donati on drums, as well as the technically incredibly capable, but unfortunately also plenty of interchangeable shredder Rusty Cooley and Taka Minamino on guitars. From the grand opening Trippel “Antarctica / Ascension / Primal Eleven” apart, in which Sherinian and his Planet X colleagues Donati and the incredible fusion guitarist Brett Garsed provide with instinctive certainty and deliver a challenging, prog monster, none of the rest of the songs can inspire as much as this one. What so interesting and also repeatedly heard on previous discs – the variety and the courage of curiosity – are nowhere to be found here. Instead we drift along in typical genre fashion. Some of the tunes come across as anemic and without any soul. Thus, “Molecular Heinosity” not bad, but its a step below the level of the previous albums. The target audience for these publications is likely to be inherently indeed quite limited: keyboardist and, primarily even, guitarists, as well as fans of the musicians involved, as well maybe previous fans of Sherinian who just want to know out of curiosity what the good has been up in recent years. Quite a lot from past to the present, great put up of re-releases. Each new edition has been pimped up with new liner note, and thus giving an exciting insight into the origins of the plates and spice up the whole thing with some original quotes from the musicians involved. For friends of the harder material, the albums “Black Utopia” is more fitting, because here the main draw Zakk Wylde and Yngwie Malmsteen fit in perfectly, and show the would-be Guitar Heroes a lesson or two. These records are Indicative of the people and musicians Sherinian surrounded himself with and created an interesting blend of metal/fusion. Metal Heads that are not necessarily in tune with the instrumental music may want to check out these curious re-release packages.
Written by Denys