Sherinian, Derek - Black Utopia

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

When I received the promotional copy of Derek Sherinian's new studio album, I expected a keyboard oriented album, as the man is one of the better keyboard players, playing with bands such as Dream Theater, Kiss, Planet X and Alice Cooper. But his third solo album is a very heavy, guitar dominated album with the keyboards more in the background. And Sherinian has an impressive list of guest musicians on this album: Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne) and Steve Lukather (Toto) on guitar, Tony Franklin (Blue Murder) and Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) on bass and Simon Phillips (Jeff Beck, Toto) on drums, and of course Derek himself on keyboards, so this could be fun.

Well, it is fun; right from the first track "The Fury" you will be bombarded with fast and crunchy guitar riffs. Derek wrote the songs together with Brian Tichy, whom he knew from touring with Billy Idol and the first thing they wrote was the trilogy "The Sons Of Anu," featuring Yngwie Malmsteen and Al DiMeola, which is also one of the best songs on the album. The first part is extremely crunchy with some Van Halen touches at the end, while the second part starts off a bit more laid back, but still rocks and the last part is also quite heavy. "Nightmare Cinema" is a homage to the late Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne) and has some references to Joe Satriani (Surfing With An Alien / Flying In A Blue Dream-era) with Zakk Wylde on guitar. In "Stony Days" I get the same Joe Satriani feeling as this is a mellow track with Steve Lukather on guitar. "StarCycle" has some more prominent keyboards and again Steve Lukather on guitar.

The crunch is back on "Axis Of Evil" when Yngwie Malmsteen and Zakk Wylde meet each other on this song. "Gypsy Moth" is a short, sort of acoustic song, with Al DiMeola on guitar. "Sweet Lament" is the last song with Steve Lukather and the solo was recorded in one take! And the album closes with "Black Utopia" with Zakk Wylde on the guitar and again a Randy Rhoads homage. It starts off as a ballad, but after about a minute and a half, the heavy riff comes in and rocks till the last second. And thus ends the roller coaster ride through guitar-land.

As Derek Sherinian himself states: "Black Utopia is the evil cousin of Inertia." I can say after hearing this album that I agree with him. Black Utopia is a very heavy, guitar dominated album with, if you listen well, keyboards and even violin, but it is diverse and does not have the same riff throughout the entire album. I took me some time to like it, but it grew on me and now I find it a good album to listen to. So I'd say this is another well-written chapter in the successful career of Derek Sherinian.

Similar bands: Planet X, Dream Theater, Joe Satriani

[This review originally appeared April 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

Also released by the now-defunct 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: January 23rd 2005
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website:
Hits: 481
Language: english


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