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Sons of Apollo: MMXX

The prog-metal supergroup known as Sons of Apollo released their stellar debut Psychotic Symphony back in 2017 to plenty of acclaim (it was this writer's favorite release of that year) and they are back to jump start 2020 with their follow-up, MMXX, or, 2020, coinciding with the year of its release. Once again, back on board we have Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, Transatlantic, Winery Dogs, Neal Morse Band, Flying Colors) on drums & vocals, Billy Sheehan (Talas, Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, ex-David Lee Roth) on bass, Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, ex-Axel Rudi Pell, ex-Journey, W.E.T., Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Talisman) on lead vocals, Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, Black Country Communion, Planet X) on keyboards, and Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal (ex-Guns 'n' Roses, Asia) on guitar & vocals. This superstar line-up has yet again knocked it out of the park with their blend of masterful musicianship and irresistible hooks.

Upon the first few listens, it's quickly apparent that MMXX is not as immediately accessible as its older sibling, these songs heavier, denser, and less 'hook-laden' than what was on display throughout their debut. Kick-off track "Goodbye Divinity" however is a real catchy metal cracker with plenty of prog firepower, Soto soaring to the heavens over churning rhythms and loads of Thal & Sherinain shredding. "Wither to BlacK" sports some massive riffing and a wealth of intricate passages, and the down-tuned riffing of Thal is cranked up to 11 on the potent "Asphyxiation", complete with some scorching synth & guitar solos plus Sheehan's rumbling bass grooves, Portnoy keeping pace with the bass virtuoso every step of the way. Sherinian's gorgeous yet somber piano & synths kick off the Dream Theater-inspired "Desolate July", Soto flying high on this mid-paced, melodic rocker, swirling organ and sizzling guitar solos abound as the song builds towards its climax, Portnoy as always impressive on the drum kit as the track concludes. One of the albums longer tracks, "King of Delusion" ups the prog & the metal in a big way, intricate rhythms, monstrous riffing, and a blend of atmospheric, almost space rock passages create a sense of dread and haunting menace, the band firing on all cylinders and Soto putting in one of MMXX's best vocal spots. Sherinian and Thal also shine big time on this barnburner with some incredible, jaw dropping solos. Next up is perhaps my favorite of the bunch, the bone-crunching "Fall to Ascend", a dark, metal monstrosity fueled by huge riffs from Thal & Sheehan, Soto snarling with savage intent, and Portnoy rumbling underneath like a man possessed. The middle section of this song is insane, with the entire band playing off each other in spellbinding fashion, and the comparisons to Dream Theater are sure to be there. "Resurrection Day" follows, another dark, ominous progressive metal beast, Sherinian's synths having a majestic, symphonic flair, with Sheehan & Portnoy rock solid on the rhythms and Thal delivering a wall of crunch. Sheehan's acrobatic, elastic bass solos are another added bonus on this fabulous track, with Thal & Sherinian getting in on the fun as well. Closing things out is the near 17-minute epic "New World Today", a feast for prog lovers of all ages, starting off with some sonic explorations from Sherinian before Thal & Sheehan lurch in with some tasty riffs and Soto's potent delivery. The band takes you through many twists and turns, Deep Purple styled organ, hard rock guitars, layers of vocals, and jackhammer drumming all highlights of this extended excursion, the synergy of the players just astounding to behold. Strap yourselves in for a wild ride!

So, now many listens in, I'm still finding MMXX not quite as accessible as Psychotic Symphony, but I don't think it ever needed to be or was meant to be. This sophomore release is a different beast all together, but in a good way. Definitely heavier, and perhaps with more meat on its bones, MMXX is another complete winner from Sons of Apollo, who after two stellar studio albums find themselves in a unique position, a modern day supergroup who are actually living up to their billing. Well done gentlemen!

Track Listing
1. Goodbye Divinity (7:16)
2. Wither To Black (4:48)
3. Asphyxiation (5:09)
4. Desolate July (6:11)
5. King Of Delusion (8:49)
6. Fall To Ascend (5:07)
7. Resurrection Day (5:51)
8. New World Today (16:38)

Added: February 5th 2020
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1187
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Sons of Apollo: MMXX
Posted by Mihail Dimitrov on 2020-02-11 17:54:30
My Score:

Agree with the writer, one out of the top albums of the year for me. As a big fan of Derek Sherinian's work, I would take a half star off for the fact that he uses some passages from his solo albums here. Everyone who has listened closely to them would find out which and from were exactly. This is the only thing that disappointed me a little, I didn't expect that and find it unnecessary as he is a very talented and potent songwriter and I doubt he has run out of ideas. But this cannot overshadow the fact how great this album is.

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