Taking extraordinary and making something rather ordinary.
I pose a simple, yet existential question: Can raw, unbridled musical talent eclipse the need for fully formed songs? It’s a question often used for anything called Progressive. And supergroup AGE OF APOLLO’s 2017 debut ‘Psychotic Symphony‘ epitomizes the much-lamented answer. Skills alone can’t make a good Prog Rock album great.
If one were to imagine a dream team of Rock musicians I guarantee that Drummer Mike Portney and Bassist Billy Sheenan would make the short list. And Keyboardist Derek Sherinian, Vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, and Guitarist “Bumblefoot” Thal provide more than worthy accomplices.
Think of ‘Psychotic Symphony‘ as a technically brilliant, Heavy Metal tinged assembly of under-cooked Prog Rock. Take the 11(!) minute opener “God of the Sun“. You won’t find tighter rhythms, more breathtaking soloing, or more precise arrangements anywhere. You also won’t find any memorable hooks. And that’s a serious problem that flows throughout. Along with a general lack of fresh.
However, there is solid Prog here. The towering “Labyrinth” sweeps through vistas of Power Rock with ease, despite a wonky finish. And DEEP PURPLE homage “Divine Addiction” is pure guilty-pleasure Classic cheese.
The long standing pair of Sherinian and Portnoy conduct this train to perfection. And although Portnoy’s prowess is a welcome addition to any project, Sherinian’s labyrinthine keys often stray towards self-indulgent. Complexity simply can’t substitute for an absence of notable melodies.
So despite an abundance of veteran Rock talent, precision performances and production, and passion overflowing AGE OF APOLLO’s ‘Psychotic Symphony‘ left me indifferent. Find me some worthy songs with fresh, memorable hooks next time and prove my faith in this supergroup’s potential.