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Derek Sherinian - Black Utopia
Inside Out

Artist: Derek Sherinian (
Title: Black Utopia
Label: Inside Out (
Genre: Instrumental, Progressive Metal, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Neo-Prog

I noticed an immediate change Derek Sherinian's music right from the beginning of his latest release Black Utopia. The cover evokes a futuristic (?) civilization of what looks to be a post nuclear holocaust image(s) on the outskirts of a "normal" city with an interesting design of a crucifix in the shadows of the skyline. The music is most certainly darker and heavier than it ever has been before and the best that I have heard yet from Sherinian and his mates. He always creates magnificent music and I was wondering how he was going to come up with something fresh and different being that he plays strictly instrumental progressive rock, which actually provides more flexibility than music with vocals. He has not strayed off course too much over the last two releases. This time out is an entirely different approach than you have heard before so get ready for some changes. For starters, he decided to invite an all-star cast to support this project. Legends such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Al DiMeola, Steve Lukather and Simon Phillips, amongst others, are all part of this determined instrumental onslaught of prog-rock.

Deep in the corners of our minds there are dark places we all have whether we want to admit it or not. Sounds, images and words place or prompt these thought processes inside our heads. As disturbing as they may be at times we must be realistic and acknowledge those thoughts and feelings. I think musicians such as Derek do just that through their music. It must be a wonderfully therapeutic experience releasing those demons. Even though his utopia is black, there is always hope for change, and if you look to the horizon of the image on this cover, there is light and life beyond the doom and gloom. Therefore, the message is more than clear to me, allow the acceptance of all our feelings and you unlock the gate to immersion in the music. This is what this is all about for me and it can be for you as well.

Thanks to the music, for a while, I can have some kind of release during my day. Unleash "The Fury" chained inside you and it becomes a "Sweet Lament," such is life in the danger zone of emotions; this is how this music speaks to me. That says it all. It is easy enough to let it all go and then move on to the next chapter of your life. I know I am waxing prophetic and getting intense but I feel this music provokes this mindset and for me that can be a good thing to acknowledge. And how about you fellow prog-heads? Can you let the music take you away for 60 minutes of your life to find some other place inside your head you have not visited for a long time? Let Derek Sherinian and his music show you the way, I promise you will enjoy the trip. Sherinian has become the consummate bandleader and virtuoso with few equals; once again, he provides an album that serves as his truth.

©"Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck

April 8, 2003

1. The Fury
2. The Sons of Anu
3. Nightmare Cinema
4. Stony Days
5. StarCycle
6. Axis of Evil
7. Gypsy Moth
8. Sweet Lament
9. Black Utopia

The Credits:
Derek Sherinian - Keyboards
Yngwie Malmsteen - Guitar (Tracks 1,2,6)
Al DiMeola - Guitar (Tracks 2,7)
Zakk Wylde - Guitar (Tracks 3,6,9)
Steve Lukather - Guitar (Tracks 4,5,8)
Tony Franklin - Bass (Tracks 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9)
Billy Sheehan - Bass (Tracks 2,6,9)
Jerry Goodman - Violin (Tracks 2,3,6,7,8,9)
Simon Phillips - Drums
Brian Tichy - Additional Guitars (Tracks 2,3,6,9) Editor's note: THIS SUCKAH KICKS! JUST THE TRACK "THE SONS OF ANU" IS WORTH GRABBING THIS DISC FOR!! TOP PICKS

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Planet X's MoonBabies!

Re: Planet X's MoonBabies release:
Well, I've had my 4-5 listens and things still sound great. Track 4 is my current fav.

Early opinion: In response to someone saying things sounded "disjointed", I think/assume/feel I know where he is coming from. Between Donati's much more complex drum modes, Sherinian's incredibly dense compositions of angular, stop-n-go-stop-go-go-stop-break-GO! frenetics of one onslaught after another, (which my neurons have adapted to long ago), a first listen or melody-inclined listen might make one feel as if their head was in a faulty food processor upon hearing Moon Babies.

This CD represents a new, polymosaic of fusion in micro-evolution! I kept thinking of new coin-able phrases, buzz-words to hold this sound.

For example: dense fusion, black-hole fusion, aggressive fusion, cyber-warrior-caste fusion, angularly heavy fusion, Godzilla fusion . . . I think I like Godzilla fusion best. Why?

Derek, Virgil, and Tony are serving up way heavy, monstrous, dense, challenging, threatening, and excellently powerful fusion rock. There are some slow and flowingly easy moments but those are quickly devoured by whirlwind of notes, polyrhythmic rage, immense bass, and doomer speed-crunch axe. This is a warping, wall of fusion "noise" that requires cranking your brain up 4 or 5 notches to near 78rpm listening. Between Derek and Tony going insane in hyperdrive, fractal overload, unison lines and conversational soloing -- my bet is many folks will feel "disjointed" or pummeled into submission.

What keeps it all very organized is Donati's drums and the guest bassists providing a very interesting fusion rock groove throughout, a groove that provides a perfectly NON-disjointed foundation for all Derek and Tony's rail-gunnery and seek-and-destroy sonic ambushes.

I am gonna give this release a solid 9.3 out of 10 and that's only because I felt Tony needed to wail on fusion axe solos moreso and fills at least 10-15% more per track or at least be more present in the mix versus blended into much of Derek's superb synthwork. (I am an axe guy - so be it.)

After a good listen I have to disagree with any "disjointed" call. "Dense" is a much more accurate description.

Lastly, is this music or madness? It's a bit of both and that's exactly how I like it.


John W. Patterson TOP PICKS

Derek Sherinian
: Inertia; (CD, 47:00) InsideOut Music America IOMACD 2023, 2001 Cyberhome: (Hidden track warning . . . located in outro sector) Mission: Create killer follow-up release to monster-kewl Universe effort. Induce sales and demonstrate staying power. Mission crew: Derek crazy-keys-man Sherinian, Steve sounds-like-Jeff- Beck-fusion-era Lukathier, Simon oh-yeah-that-drums-guy Phillips, are teamed with three assorted heavy-weight-fusionjazzrock-bass-playing monsters TKennedy-n-TFranklin-n-JJohnson. Also add brief shots of fusion fiddle by Jerry The-Flock-Mahavishnu-Ork-Dregs Goodman and kick-out- the-jams tube-screamin' axe-work by Wylde-man Zakk. Final analysis: Ten varied tracks of in-your-face fusionoid rockers and mean-edged jazzers are achieved. Mellow moments are included. Lukathier echoes the Beckian atmospherix of There and Back while Sherinian attacks keys in a visciously precise Jan Hammerian way, as in the Black Sheep/ "Jetstream" Hendrixian-fusion-synth rock mode. All done very well. Success. A nod to Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein" is featured but without extended UFO-landing adagio. Interesting. Many echoes of Sherinian's Universe release appear in bridges and refrains but sustained intensity of Donati drum-mania not noted. Lukathier and Wylde sound more like JBeck and NZaza respectively than Holdsworth, Henderson, or Connors. This means more of an instrumental rock metalloid cast is evident vs. a clear-cut jazz rock fusion sheen. Still the jazz does shine through clearly on Mingus' "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" with Lukathier's fretwork sounding like Jeff Beck's soloing on "The Final Peace" from There and Back. In many ways the feel here is also a perfect mirror of John McLaughlin's approach to that olde blue-fusion song "New York on my Mind". I wished Goodman was featured on that cut. It soon begins to get very soulfully blues-rocking in the solo-laden mid-section and that jazz feel is buried until the ending. Tremors of U.K. LIVE come in clearly on "Rhapsody In Black" evoking nostalgic visions of "Night after Night" sans Wettonesgue angsty psuedo-opera-vox -- thank goodness. Post-analysis thoughts: This mission has produced intense jams but not as intense and overwhelming as Sherinian's prior Universe creation. If this was an approach towards new directions for Sherinian's music, he has produced a fine album. But this reviewer would like to see Sherinian approach some of the more well-known jazz rock fusion guitarists and create a monster that will overshadow all of his past admirable solo efforts. He is poised now to do just that. But will it happen? I hope so. The time and the talent are ripe for this to happen. End transmission. ~ John W. Patterson,

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Planet X: Universe (CD, 56:18); InsideOut Music, IOMACD 2000 Cyberhomes: and I quote my earliest, "first impressions", upon receiving this awesome release, ". . . Oh baby, this rocks heavy like U.K. meets Prong! Derek Sherinian on keys, Virgil Donati on skins, Tony MacAlpine on axe and Tom Kennedy guests on bass. Highly recommended, heavy fusionoid rock with a King's X, low-end punch and an ELP "Barbarian"/"Knife Edge" noir-rock, fear/dread/threat groove. This stuff be PHAT!! Syncopated, thumpin', pumpin', and crunchin'. MacAlpine devastates all time-space continuums with his solos. Sherinian transports you into caverns of Pluto and buries your head in ice. Dorati pummels your aorta and cerebrum into submission whilst Tom Kennedy's bass lines would make Tony Levin or John Wetton drool. Jens Johansson has met his match with Derek Sherinian! If you dug Mastermind's EXCELSIOR! or just grabbed their new live PROG, FUSION, METAL, LEATHER and SWEAT, (conveniently named after a quote from my write-up of their NEARfest 1999 gig where the CD was recorded), you will REALLY dig the heavy fusion-rock of Planet X!! Dig it!! BUY THIS CD!! KILLER!! KILLER!! Etc, etc. . . ." Months later, after sometimes playing this CD 10 � 15 times a week, I have yet to tire of its huge, dense, gut-punch. There are so many excellent prog metal, metal fusion, prog rock, rocky jazz fusionoid, and just plain butt-kicking rock things happening here. Sherinian and crew have broken the record for most riffs, solos, intricate unison lines, notes per minute, bars per song, and cool songs per CD. These guys are smokin'! The music is intelligent, hard-hitting, in-your-face, and massive. There's little room to breathe, little time to get bored, and believe me � turn down your bass response on your CD player. I killed two car speaker woofers on this baby. I didn't care because the total devastation of my brain and my speakers was a fair price to experience this amazing onslaught of sound. Some folks have whined in newsgroups as to Donati overdoing it on his endless double bass drum pummelings. I say, "Ah shaddap, and see if you can do that work of ceaseless power! He's amazing!" Man, just listen to all the effects and runs Sherinian is pulling out of his keyboard array. It is maddening! Kennedy is superb on bass, everywhere a threat of near perfection. Just listen to that great jazz solo breakdown on "Warfinger". MacAlpine plays exactly the way each song's moment needs. His interpretation of this fusion rock is powerfully poised. No flash, no sham, no weakness � just raw superior power and finesse! Good grief � he even does Holdsworthian riffs that actually rock your socks off! Must I go on? Of course. My favorite tracks: "Europa", "Clonus", "Bitch", (IMHO: offensive song name guys, really), "Chocalate" and "2116" My least favorite moment: The theatrically pompous and overly bombastic monologue/scene-setting intro on "King of the Universe" totally demolished the power and glory "flow" of the disc. It was 100% cheesy and its flaccidly flawed attempt to generate some sci-fi fantasy aura to the song fell flat on its face. I kept muttering to myself, "Oh please, get on with it. This guy's pseudo-Shakespeare doth wound me so deeply." Other than that small soliloquy snafu to be forgiven quickly, I highly regard and recommend this release as one of the best heavy progressive rock works of 2000. You weenies complaining about Donati's drums or MacAlpine's riffs need to try to do what they accomplish yourself. No way. ~ John W. Patterson Update: The track I disliked, according to Derek, was intentionally supposed to be a "dig" at the pompousness of some progressive rock out there. TOP TOP PICKS Personnel: Derek Sherinian - Awesome keys of heavy onslaught Tony MacAlpine - Screamin' and crunchfest guitars Virgil Donati - Drums of ultimate sonic mayhem Special Guest! . . .Tom Kennedy - Bass monster thumper and pumper Tracks: Clonus Her Animal Dog Boots Bitch (IMHO: offensive song name guys, really) King of the Universe Inside Black Europa Warfinger Chocalate Pods of Trance 2116

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Planet X:
2000, Inside Out Music America

The Derek Sherinian - Tony MacAlpine - Virgil Donati collaboration known as Planet X has released a collection of exploratory tracks on Universe that are right out there with the real Planet X. The tonality on these tracks is pretty dissonant across the board which makes the music pretty inaccessible to the average listener. For an educated ear, the tonal exploration and lead work that follows it could be pretty interesting. However, the characteristic of this music that made it lacking in luster for me was the oppressiveness of the rhythms that drive the outside-sounding progressions and harmonies. The rhythms sounded very monotonous and stale to me causing the music to become oppressive to listen to.

It is amazing how MacAlpine can shift gears so easily and switch from one genre to another as seamlessly as a chameleon. MacAlpine's playing is impressive, as always, and even moreso to some extent because of the difficult progressions he harmonizes with. In fact, all three are obviously great musicians, but the end effect just does not strike a resonance with me. I was disappointed that there was not more melody and cohesion in the composition, but instead there was intangible harmonization, disenchanting rhythms, and a conspicuous absence of inspiring melodies that have made MacAlpine one of my favorite musicians. In a word, dissonance. But, maybe that's what you might find on Planet X and that is what was intended. I think there may be a divergence in opinion over Universe by Planet X among the average listener and the educated musicians because of the inaccessibility of the harmonization involved and general dissonance. But, my primary goal in this review is to warn the listeners what they are getting themselves in for with the dissonant foundations that Universe is based upon. This is definitely not a sound for MacAlpine that is within the scope of anything he has done before, at least that I have heard!

1) Clonus
2) Her Animal
3) Dog Boots
4) Bitch
5) King Of The Universe
6) Inside Black
7) Europa
8) Warfinger
9) Chocalate
10) Pods Of Trance
11) 2116

~ Christopher Ruel ~ ~




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