Derek Sherinian has carved out a place for himself over the years as one of the most distinguished keyboardists in rock and metal, easily identifiable by his guitar-like approach to the ivories. After playing for the likes of Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Bonamassa and Steve Vai, Sherinian currently has a fitting, well-earned position in Sons Of Apollo and has dropped several solo records starting with 1999’s Planet X. His latest, The Phoenix features many of the legendary connections he’s accumulated over the years, including Bonamassa, Vai, Zakk Wylde and current Apollo bandmates Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and Billy Sheehan.
A player of Sherinian’s caliber has an obligation to start strong, and that he fulfills with the title track; the beginning jam-out harkens back to the Eat ‘Em And Smile version of “Shyboy” with said song’s purveyor contributing on the bass to put a stamp on it. From there it evolves into a proggy Apollonian showcase with Zakk jumping in as a welcome counterweight, setting the stage for “Empryean Sky” which lets Sherinian hold his own overtop the concrete rhythm section of Sheehan and Simon Phillips. “Clouds Of Ganymede” gives off heavy “Subdivisions” vibes, Sherinian’s key-work sounding more like Joe Satriani on Not Of This Earth than what normal ears would identify with a run-of-the-mill piano man. Those people get their wish with “Dragonfly” as Sherinian drops the effects and goes au naturale for a complex number with a jazz fusion twist.
“Temple Of Helios”, as one can imagine by the mythological title snaps things back to the album line of energized electro-prog, making for another cool jam in the process. It doesn’t have to all be originals, let alone instrumentals though: Joe Bonamassa steps in for a jumping cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Them Changes” that drops out into a grooving solo section, letting Sherinian take the back seat for a tune then burst back to the forefront again with “Octopus Pedigree.” “Pesadelo” rounds out the album, a final shot of full-bore guitar and keyboard shredding with a Spanish guitar break in the mid-section as a colourful contrast. Though it’s only 8 tracks, The Phoenix is chock full of power and prowess from Sherinian and his gang of musical masters, making for another remarkable addition into his solo catalogue and into that of his collaborators. Coming off of this, news of a third Sons Of Apollo album would be doubly exciting, but another record like this from Sherinian wouldn’t be bad either.