Sherinian, Derek - Black Utopia

Year of Release: 2003
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 124/SPV 085-65692 C
Format: CD
Total Time: 43:37:00

With his own Planet X formation, keyboard player extraordinaire Derek Sherinian has delivered pure instrumental fusion with a touch of darkness spread all over the unique material. Having been a member of Kiss, Alice Cooper and Dream Theater, for sure Derek is a true rocker and what better instrument to highlight this passion for rock than the electric guitar. Hence the fact that Black Utopia is not your regular "keyboard player turns solo artist" album. Instead Sherinian has called upon his many friends in the metal field, asking them if they wanted to share a bit in the fireworks of his new project. "The Sons Of Anu" is the most perfect example of what Derek tries to achieve here: a marriage of fusion and heavy metal. Here he fuses the talents of Yngwie Malmsteen and that of Al DiMeola whilst he is more than happy to play second fiddle. Talking of fiddles, Mahavishnu Orchestra legend Jerry Goodman plays violin on no fewer than six of the nine songs on this powerful disc. Bass and drums throughout the entire album are governed by Tony Franklin and Simon Phillips, with Billy Sheehan taking over for Tony on three tracks, resulting in a perfect album where rhythm is concerned.

"Nightmare Cinema" to me could equally come from a Liquid Tension Experiment album. The right ingredients are used to make this the soundtrack to a dark, morbid, mysterious film with Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist Zakk Wylde sharing his hard edged guitar licks. With Steve Lukather taking over the lead in "Stony Days," no wonder a magazine described this album as "a guitar lover's wet dream." The Toto lead guitarist contributes on three songs here, putting Sherinian's keyboards a little in the background. Don't despair however as there's plenty to enjoy from a keyboard lover's perspective as well. One of my all-time Jeff Beck tunes, "Starcycle," has been used for a wonderful rock programme on RTL TV for years and years and I'm pleased to find it here. Having played with Beck (Jeff!) there's no doubt that Simon Phillips does an excellent job, with more outstanding guitar work courtesy of Steve Lukather. For darker and creepy, aggressive sounds we need to demand more help from Zakk Wylde and Brian Tichy. It's Derek's electric piano that turns the song in another direction, calmer, more solemn if you like, giving way to Goodman's experimental violin playing, ending with superb drumming from Simon and more devilish sounds from Derek that remind me of Ars Nova (our Japanese female friends) on acid!

What better way to contrast the power of the electric guitar than by presenting the dramatic contents of the acoustic guitar. In "Gypsy Moth" Al DiMeola does wonderful things whilst Derek tries his best to emulate the unique sounds of Chick Corea, as if you're listening to an ottake from Al's very own Land Of The Midnight Sun. Pity it only lasts under two minutes. I would have loved this little beauty to be given the Return to Forever treatment and last me a lifetime! If ever there was the intention to release a single from this album then surely it has to be "Sweet Lament." Lukather's solo once again is ace and holds the middle between virtuosity and accessibility in order to deliver a song which is the right length for airplay the world over. With the title track "Black Utopia," Derek delivers a sample-card of his many talents by putting all the elements that he already used over the whole album into one compact whole. Accompanied by Sheehan, Goodman, Phillips, Tichy and Wylde once again, Sherinian doesn't swamp you with keyboard antics. He uses his many keyboards and the right sounds to enhance the feeling of each individual song as if they were mini movies. Living in Hollywood I guess it kind of comes natural! As happens a lot these days, right at the very end of this album there's a little teaser. After a lengthy silence suddenly there's this weird sound that sounds like a mix between rewinding some tape and slurping the last drop of Coke from a can. With Black Utopia, Derek Sherinian has delivered a slice of wonderful "metal fusion" with enough melody to please loads of music fans around the globe.

Released in North America by InsideOut Music America (IOMACD 2055-2)

The Fury (0:51) / The Sons Of Anu (7:09) / Nightmare Cinema (5:25) / Stony Days (6:16) / Starcycle (5:04) / Axis Of Evil (6:09) / Gypsy Moth (1:59) / Sweet Lament (3:14) / Black Utopia (8:50)

Derek Sherinian ? keyboards
Simon Phillips ? drums
Yngwie Malmsteen - guitar (1,2,6)
Al DiMeola - guitar (2,7)
Zakk Wylde - guitar (3,6,9)
Steve Lukather - guitar (4,5,8)
Tony Franklin - bass (2 -9)
Billy Sheehan - bass (2,6,9)
Jerry Goodman ? Violin (2,3,6,7,8,9)
Brian Tichy - additional guitars (2,3,6,9)

Dream Theater - A Change Of Seasons (1995)
Dream Theater - Falling Into Infinity (1997)
Dream Theater - Once In A Livetime (1998)
Planet X (1998)
Platypus - When Pus Comes To Shove (1999)
Planet X - Universe (2000)
Platypus - Ice Cycles (2000)
Inertia (2001)
Planet X - Live From Oz (2001)
Planet X - Moon Babies (2002)
Black Utopia (2003)
Mythology (2004)
Blood Of The Snake (2006)
Planet X - Quantum (2007)
Molecular Heinosity (2009)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: May 18th 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 737
Language: english


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