Instrumental rock albums with keyboards as the dominant instrument are an acquired taste. More over-the-top than their instrumental-guitar counterparts — think Derek Sherinian's debut solo album, Planet X — they are usually all about flash. Take 25-year-old Greek musician Bob Katsionis, who plays keyboards with a fast-as-you-can abandon that betrays his youth but also with a technical proficiency that's beyond his years. (He also plays seven-string guitars on Turn of My Century, while Jimmy B. handles the string bass.)
A classical organist who earned a degree in Church Organ Studies, Katsionis appears to worship these days at the altars of Dream Theater, Rush and Yngwie Malmsteen. Indeed, “Planeterium” (yes, that’s the way it’s spelled) calls upon classic Dream Theater, right down to the Mike Portnoy-influenced drum pounding, while “Windows to the World” recalls Eighties-era Rush. And at first, “Automatic World Science” sounds like the more grandiose moments in Malmsteen’s music, but then segues into a lovely piano melody backed by some soaring guitar work. Meanwhile, “Enhanced Fear” showcases some of Katsionis’ heavier guitar work, and his talk-box machine and wah-wah pedal emit bizarre vocal sounds on the Asian-tinged “Song of the East.” “Sapphire” drips with atmospheric aural tapestries, and “Forbidden Erotica” is among the album’s more mellow moments. Then there is “Cold Pale Skin,” whose tinkling keyboards mimic the sounds emitted from a toy mobile hanging above a baby’s crib. Other tracks, specifically “Cosmic” and “Exploration,” feature a musical structure and style better suited to lyrics.
Despite working in several bands during the past decade, Turn of My Century is Katsionis’ first solo album, a fact that leads to a little self-indulgence – musically and otherwise. The liner notes scream “Geek!”, as he thusly explains the stories behind the music: “ … The lead sound is a variation of the amazing ‘B14 Monster Lead’ of Korg’s Trinity, which in my case is number A01 in both program and combination modes!” But Katsionis is a cool geek with exceptional musical talent. I’m frightened by how much better this guy could get in 10 years.