Release DetailsLABEL Inside Out
RELEASED ON 8/1/2006
Blood of the Snake
posted on 8/2006 By:
As a casual fan of the progressive rock and metal that Inside Out Music often embraces, I took it upon myself to review what would be my second listening session with Derek Sherinian. That is not the only reason why I am reviewing this album, however. I always thought it took a lot of balls for keyboardists to do solo albums because they are so often cited as mere background musicians. Having never listened to much solo work from keyboardists, aside from Janne Warman’s Warmen albums, I was curious to find out how Sherinian would attempt to showcase his musicianship while keeping the album from becoming a guitarist’s equivalent of a shredfest.
One thing you don’t need to worry about is Sherinian spotlighting only himself. While not completely acting simply as an additional layer to what is already there, he does limit his presence more than one would expect considering the circumstances. On “Man With No Name,” for every second of keyboard noodling, Zakk Wylde is right there with him to keep things sounding very Black Label Society. Mistake? Depends. It’s like listening to B.L.S with keyboard accents, and if you like B.L.S you’ll like this, too. Whether or not you like B.L.S has nothing to do with the unfortunate fact that the song’s slight sense of dirge and Wylde’s trademark licks sound out of place on what is primarily a jazz-influenced progressive rock record.
If you follow the album all the way through, you’ll come to “Phantom Shuffle” after the B.L.S leftover, and you’ll immediately understand why “Man With No Name” is an anomaly. Part old school video game soundtrack (especially in the chorus), part keyboard wankfest, and part jazz composition, “Phantom Shuffle” is a very strange track, and depending on your musical sensibilities, it will either be a lesson in tediousness or a quick and underwhelming take on jazz. Either way, not entirely impressive. The album’s fourth track, “Been Here Before,” makes up for the disappointment. Every layer, from the emotional, drawn-out guitar riffs to Sherinian’s powerful, almost repetitive keys creates a commendably reflective tone. THIS is what I want to hear from a keyboardist’s solo album.
The title track is ambitious in scope, but ultimately underwhelming. Too much wanking off and not enough atmosphere. Whether this is a product of my own ignorance or not, when I think of the keyboard I think of ATMOSPHERE, and I don’t hear that in this track until the three and a half minute mark. It sounds great when it’s there, but this is a classic case of too little too late. God damn though, Sherinian continues to kill me on this album, because right after this track we get “On the Moon,” which is a wonderful little jazz-influenced number that does right what “Phantom Shuffle” did wrong. It’s got that classy little “I want to dim the lights and make love, baby” kind of vibe, but a few of the riffs here and there really push this one over the edge for me, making it much less of a novelty than its opening seconds would suggest. Good goddamn job, Mr. Sherinian.
“The Monsoon” is about what I expected. Some progressive Eastern European / Middle Eastern influences that help segue into an all-out shredfest. Four and a half minutes into it though there’s this sweet little riff that I’ll be humming for a few weeks to come, so not all was completely predictable here. The remainder of the album pretty much follows suit except for the bizarre Mungo Jerry cover, “In the Summertime.” I can already hear the bitter, overcritical, and obscenely cynical fucks crying in the peanut gallery, but damn, this is actually kind of fun. Well, at least I had fun with it. Billy Idol, Slash, and Sherinian on the same track? Sign me up for the insanity.
God, what a circus this album turned out to be though, huh? If you’re a Sherinian fan you’re probably nuts anyway and this will be right up your alley, because you’re expecting the unexpected. The rest will want to check this out, too, but approach with caution. What I mean is, don’t buy it outright. Listen to a few samples and consider my review carefully. This isn’t an entirely cohesive album. A series of songs will start to gel before a new tone messes with the formula. If you’re okay with that, don’t sweat it, but it feels slightly schizo to me.
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