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Sherinian, Derek: Blood of the Snake

Keyboard maestro Derek Sherinian continues to keep himself busy-fresh off his tour with Yngwie Malmsteen comes the follow-up to 2004's Mythology, titled Blood of the Snake. Featuring an amazing list of musical guests, as is always the case for each Sherinian solo album, Blood of the Snakes is a musical feast of prog, fusion, and metal styles that is sure to please any longtime listener of the eclectic keyboard player.

Dream Theater guitar player John Petrucci joins his former bandmate on the Jeff Beck influenced opener "Czar of Steel". Seriously, this tune could have easily been a leftover from Beck's Wired or There and Beck albums, with Tony Franklin and Simon Phillips providing the tight, funky rhythms and Petrucci and Sherinian blasting off into space with rocket fire melodies and searing chops. Zakk Wylde lends his guitar and vocal talents, along with violin legend Jerry Goodman, Franklin, and drummer Brian Tichy, on the mix of metal and prog that is "Man With No Name". Check out Sherinian's monster solo here, which is pretty mind-blowing, which then segues into a molten lead break from Wylde. Sax player Brandon Fields and bassist Jimmy Johnson join Sherinian and Phillips for the upbeat jazz number "Phantom Shuffle", a different sort of piece than we are used to from the keyboard player, and pretty refreshing actually. Maybe we will hear more in this style at some point in the future?

"Been Here Before" is a moody and melodic rocker along the lines of Speed of Sound era Ronnie Montrose, with some smoldering guitar work from Brad Gillis and Wylde, while the rampaging title track sees Wylde again at the helm, this time trading crazy spots with Yngwie Malmsteen as well as Sherinian. Fans of Sherinian's band Planet X will love the mix of insane metallic chops and melodic fusion on this one. Gillis returns for "On the Moon", a sedate and somber jazz piece also featuring Fields on sax, Sherinian on piano, and the rhythm section of Phillips and Franklin. Metal is center stage on the crushing "Monsoon", a song that once again pairs up Wylde and Malmsteen, with Zakk providing the brutally heavy riffs for Malmsteen, Sherinian, and himself to blow blazing leads over. "Prelude to Battle" has a strong Middle Eastern feel, and features a myriad of musicians, including Goodman, who adds some soaring violin, while Malmsteen steals the show on "Viking Massacre", a rampaging metal thumber highlighted by plenty of dark guitar riffs and neo-classical solo excursions. Billy Idol and Slash join the fun for the closer "In the Summertime", a cover of the Mungo Jerry classic. It's a fun version, and the guys sound like they had a blast recording it.

Once again, Derek Sherinian has come up with a solo album of varied styles and textures, assisted by an all-star line-up of veterans of the progressive, fusion, and metal scenes. He's consistently put out solid material time and time again, and after each release the listener looks forward to the next one, anticipating what exciting sounds and guest musicians he will unearth. On top of everthing though, Sherinian just sounds like he is having fun, which is what it should be all about anyway.

Track Listing
1) Czar of Steel
2) Man With No Name
3) Phantom Shuffle
4) Been Here Before
5) Blood of the Snake
6) On the Moon
7) The Monsoon
8) Prelude to Battle
9) Viking Massacre
10) In the Summertime

Added: July 30th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Derek Sherinian Website
Hits: 8066
Language: english

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Sherinian, Derek: Blood of the Snake
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-07-30 09:01:12
My Score:

While it is undeniable that Derek Sherinian has an incredibly impressive career as a keyboardist, with stints that include KISS, Alice Cooper, and Dream Theater, what truly puts his talents in display has always been his solo material. Albums like Planet X, Inertia and Black Utopia are all masterpieces of instrumental music with rapid-fire guitar riffs, mind-bending solos, and excellent songwriting. Blood of the Snake, his fifth release, also sees Sherinian teaming up with some of the greatest guitar players in the world, while it also allows him to explore the depths of world music, including his Armenian roots.

New to the fold is Dream Theater's John Petrucci, playing on the opening song "Czar of Steel". One of the best cuts on the disc, it has a cool Jeff Beck vibe to it, utilising husky bass work and groovy guitar riffs, and a memorable main melody. Petrucci and Sherinian trade off insane solos, as Tony Franklin's fretless bass and Simon Phillips' drumming form the rhythmic backbone of the piece. "Man With No Name" features Zakk Wylde both on guitars and lead vocals, something uncommon for Derek Sherinian. Wylde does a great job building a thick, Sabbath-style atmosphere as he also sings almost identical to Ozzy Osbourne on the first couple couple Sabbath releases. The song could be a perfect tribute to their influences had it not been for the middle part featuring a nice synth hook (which is later repeated by Wylde's vocals) and a smooth piano solo. Add to this this great violin courtesy of Jerry Goodman of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame and "Man With No Name" turns into a cool Derek Sherinian number.

One of the most diverse Derek Sherinian albums, Blood of the Snake contains a wide range of material. Songs like "Been Here Before" and "On the Moon" are among the slower, more emotional pieces. Both of them feature Brad Gillis on guitar, duelling with Zakk Wylde on the former and exchanging melodies with Sherinian on the latter, which is all round a cool jazz piece complete with saxophone, synth effects, and elaborate piano. On the heavier front, Yngwie Malmsteen and Zakk Wylde appear on the ambitious title track, starting with a fuzzy synth patch and building to Wylde's trademark riffs and Malmsteen's super fast lead solo, arguably the best on this disc. Not only is the lead work frenetic, it also boasts a lot of melody before Sherinian chimes in to create a desolate, almost doomy ending. The duo also tear it up on "The Monsoon", where Wylde's mercilessly heavy riffs contrast Malmsteen's fluid neoclassical playing. This song also has excellent drumming and begins and closes with a beautiful oriental melody. As if that's not enough, the Swedish guitar virtuoso also appears on the appropriately titled "Viking Massacre", which, except for the amazing symphonic backdrop and 70's-styled analog keys, would feel at home on any Malmsteen album.

The two most interesting songs, on the other hand, are the fusion jazz of "Phantom Shuffle", driven entirely by a wicked sax lead, funky bass, and improvised guitar and synth licks; and the almost Night Ark-like Armenian ethnic fusion of "Prelude to Battle", highlighted by the instruments of the region, weird effects, and piano. You must check out Ara Dinkjian's albums with Night Ark if you are interested in ethnic fusion with more laidback melodies and regional instrumentation.

The album is closed with the classic Mungo Jerry cover "In the Summertime", featuring special guests Billy Idol with whom Sherinian has been touring as of late and former Guns N' Roses axeman Slash. While it's a fun song, performed successfully, I am not sure it fits with the rest of the material. Maybe it's because Sherinian has always put out more serious songs before, but this one comes across a bit cheesy I'm afraid. There is a two-minute silence at the end before you hear the band drinking and laughing and someone angrily pounding at the door. The guy, who's supposedly Sherinian's neighbour, asks them to keep it down, but Sherinian simply says, "Take it easy, dude. We just finished Blood of the Snake". Given this context, I can see why they chose to end the album with this cover.

Overall, a very good collection of virtuoso performances, great melodies, and solid production.

Sherinian, Derek: Blood of the Snake
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-07-20 11:14:28
My Score:

Derek Sherinian takes advantage of his recent touring stints with Billy Idol and Yngwie Malmsteen by asking them to return the favor on the keyboard virtuoso's fifth solo record, Blood of the Snake. Malmsteen turns in an epic neoclassical performance on the perfectly titled "Viking Massacre," while Idol takes Sherinian's music in new directions on the piano-boogie-turned-Slash-fueled cover of Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime" one of two vocal tracks on Blood of the Snake. Sherinian's all-too-infrequent forays into music with lyrics may leave listeners hoping he'll explore this side of his musical personality more fully on future records. Guitarist Zakk Wylde's vocal contribution on "Man With No Name," for example, eerily recalls prime Ozzy, and the song transports listeners back to the Seventies and Eighties without losing its contemporary edge.

Sherinian firmly stamps his signature sound on these 10 tracks, and his playing dominates pieces like "Czar of Steel" and the piano ballad "On the Moon" despite the heavyweight presence of former Dream Theater bandmate John Petrucci on guitar, Tony Franklin on bass, and Simon Phillips on drums. Elsewhere, Sherinian dives into jazz fusion on the sax-y "Phantom Shuffle," and Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis turns in a startlingly soulful performance on "Been There Before."

Sherinian has emerged as the leader of a new breed of well-schooled musicians who understand that self-restraint and the ability to share the talent on their all-instrumental solo albums are admirable and appealing traits. Blood of the Snake stands as a perfect example.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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