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The latest musical venture in a seemingly incessant string of bands since parting company with Dream Theater a few years ago, hard working, wing spreading drummer, Mike Portnoy, is currently exercising his virtuosic chops within Sons of Apollo. And it's a tasty prospect on paper. Reunited once again with Dream Theater keys man of yore, Derek Sherinian (with whom he last worked in 2010 for an instrumental act), the Sons also feature Mr. Big's Billy Sheehan (another Portnoy collaborator in said instrumental project, and The Winery Dogs); ex-Guns N' Roses' guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal; and vocalist Jeff Scott Soto of Malmsteen/Talisman fame and, more recently, giving his pipes a workout within his eponymously named band, SOTO.

My expectations were firmly primed to hear something retro, given the musical histories of the personnel comprising Sons of Apollo. Something retro flavoured with a twang of virtuosity. And that's precisely what's served up on 'Psychotic Symphony'. As much as this is an amalgam of some serious talent, it's also a fusion of stylistic elements for which each of the musicians have previously been renowned for in other bands... but adopted, adapted, and blended to create some music loaded with varied retro flavours. 70s and 80s rock/metal idioms have been regurgitated here, but with a progressive edge... albeit, during some passages, it does lapse into generic prog. Regression more than progression, I guess, where the virtuosity feels a tad forced and "for the sake of". The musicianship is overwhelmingly impressive during said parts, but simultaneously stilted. The opening number, 'God of the Sun', around the eight minute mark, is shamelessly guilty of such.

BUT... these parts are few and far between. There's a natural flow and groove to many of the proggier passages. There's still an adherence to generic rather than genuine progression during certain passages of music, but it all binds together very nicely indeed, and not as stilted as I thought it was going to be, based on the opening track. 'Lost in Oblivion', for example, at the 2:15 mark, for around a minute and a half, has some naturally flowing progressions where it genuinely sounds as if the musicians are playing off each other in a fully organic manner.

A quirky, keys-centric, minute long piece, 'Figaro's Whore', seems out of place in proceedings and would've been better had it segued from/to preceding and/or following songs. 'Divine Addiction' treads a little too close to Deep Purple territory, particularly with its keyboard intro à la Jon Lord. And the album's been book-ended with its two lengthiest compositions, climaxing with 'Opus Maximus'. Unlike the opener, this is purely instrumental. And like the album's first song, there are some great displays of virtuosity in terms of the players' combined technical abilities, but it does slip into stilted prog genericism.

So, in summary, a symphony this might be as there are several different musical movements that feel like they're part of a whole (with the exception of 'Figaro's Whore'), but none of it is particularly psychotic, and the progressive elements are more often generic than genuine. Expectations based on use of the word "psychotic" are primed for much wilder experimentation. It all depends what your expectations are for what constitutes psychotic music, I guess. People only previously exposed to pop music will undoubtedly think this is the most deranged thing they've ever heard. But, when you've encountered the likes of Fantômas, Solefald, Psyopus, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Unexpect, Diablo Swing Orchestra et al, who all offer true sonic psychosis to varying degrees of creative insanity, Sons of Apollo's music is most definitely not psychotic. But it is most definitely very good.
Inside Out
Review by Mark Holmes
20th Oct 2017
1) God of the Sun
2) Coming Home
3) Signs of the Time
4) Labyrinth
5) Alive
6) Lost in Oblivion
7) Figaro's Whore
8) Divine Addiction
9) Opus Maximus
"As much as this is an amalgam of some serious talent, it's also a fusion of stylistic elements for which each of the musicians have previously been renowned for in other bands..."