This is the second solo album from Dream Theater’s stalwart original member, and guitarist, John Petrucci. It arrived after a brief time delay of merely fifteen years or so after his first solo album, ‘Suspended Animation’, released way back in 2005.
Mind you, a lot has happened in John’s world since then, firstly a major change occurred when his buddy and drum legend Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater (the band he had formed with John in their Berklee College of Music days in the 1980’s).
This was a major upheaval and change, although it was one that all parties survived and consequently flourished. Mike got involved in Neal Morse’s musical career (after Neal himself left Spock’s Beard). He also joined Flying Colors, successfully created several albums and concert videos with the outfit. Latterly Mike formed a new band, Sons of Apollo, with whom he has recorded two studio albums and one live set.
Well, it has been nearly two decades since that initial split but this album sees John, and Mike reuniting, with Mike providing the thunderous drumming that accompanies this album. Mike reached out to John during lockdown and they convened at Dream Theater HQ to track and record this all-instrumental shred fest with John on guitars , Mike on drums and Dave La Rue of Flying Colors and G3 providing the bass support for the album.
So, what is it like you may reasonably ask? Firstly, it is all instrumental, playing out as a guitarist’s dream and the album is, as Jordan Rudess told me, all heavily focused on the tonal qualities of John’s guitar,
All the songs are succinct and brief apart from two tracks that are over 7 minutes in length and each piece of music balances John’s searing guitar work with some fine melody. Some of the tracks are rather heavy but melody is not forgotten, John can certainly play, and is not shy on that score either, the playing is showy when required but it the song that matters most here.
John is playing as well as I have ever heard him play, he bends, taps and plays flurries of notes at will on these pieces, all ably supported by the superior rhythm section of Mike and Dave who are revelling in this music that they are a part of. I think there is a good mix to the styles being used and a good use of dynamics, light and shade that really makes the guitar tones stand out clearly, as most of the tones used are clean with sporadic use of effects.
Happy Song, for instance, opens with a very joyous bounce to it, with John doubling guitar parts making this song very Satriani-esque at times but it echoes Joe’s use of styles well. This track is a total winner to these ears and is aptly named as it is a very happy piece of music indeed. It is possibly my favorite track on the album as it is so upbeat and excellently executed, John showing just how fluid he is as a player.
Gemini opens strongly as well with a flurry of notes dancing across the fretboard and great rhythm support in a harder edged piece that has some fine guitar with delay used to great effect. The song branches out with an acoustic Flamenco part in which Johns show some real skill before the electric guitar once again takes centre stage to deliver a blistering guitar solo. There are some strong techniques used that sound utterly fabulous.
The bluesy sounding Out of the Blue is superb, John getting the chance to lay back and play with some real feeling and tap into the blues to prove just how versatile he is in that arena too. The first of the longer tracks is The Way Things Fall, which is, again, a rollicking little number that fair pulses along on a good bass line with John laying down a very melodic guitar line. Snake In My Boot has a great riff to it, all accompanied by some utterly mesmerising guitar playing.
The final track, Temple of Ciradia, has even more fine fiery playing at hand with some very Ritchie Blackmore like tones being used to great effect. The playing is fast and flawless towards the end of the piece and ends on an excellent drum beat from Mike.
This collaboration has been a winner all round, whether it leads to any further activities has yet to be seen but, it is a first step in restoring a relationship that was fractured if not fully broken. The fact that they used Lockdown and this virus to make it happen is remarkable. Much respect must be given to all parties for making it happen and for making such a great album of fine guitar led musical mayhem.
Released 28th August 2020
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