Album review: DEREK SHERINIAN – Reissues (Inertia,Black Utopia,Mythology,Blood Of The Snake,Molecular Heinosity)

Derek Sherinian - Inertia

Armoury Records (re-issues) [Release date 10.02.14]

Sherinian came to wider attention with Dream Theater in 1994 and since he left that band in 1999 the volume of his session work has grown along with stints in Black Country Communion and supergroup PSMS.  He has still managed to create solo works and five of these are now available again.  His musical hero is Eddie Van Halen and from earliest times he pioneered a guitar-voiced synth keyboard approach which is a chief characteristic of his work and has influenced many other prog-metallers.

It will come as no surprise that he attracts some of the best musicians in the genre – almost an A-Z of the great and the good  – and on his second solo album Inertia (2001) he employs the core support team that would serve him well for several albums, including Simon Phillips, Tony Franklin, Brian Tichy and Jerry Goodman.

This is almost exclusively instrumental fusion music par excellence and consequently can be quite intense and demanding. It takes someone like Zakk Wylde to lighten proceedings especially on the superb Edgar Winter-cover ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Evel Knievel’.  Meanwhile, he joins Steve Lukather on the splendid  ‘What A Shame’.  *****

Wylde lightens the load again on 2003′s Black Utopia especially the riffy title track whilst another core component – Luke – lends some gravitas on ‘Stony Days’.  ***1/2

2004′s Mythology is unique in that Wylde and legendary fusioneer Allan Holdsworth appear on the same track , the excellent ‘Day Of The Dead’  John Sykes makes a cameo appearance on ‘God Of War’.  ****

Derek Sherinian - Blood Of The Snake

Sherinian himself calls Blood Of The Snake (2006) his “least cohesive album to date.” But it’s actually one of his best  The opener ‘Czar Of Steel’ sees him reunited with John Petrucci, a marvellous fusion tour-de-force.  Jeff Beck may have been trailblazing this sort of stuff in the mid-seventies but it was never quite this frenetic.

As with ‘Black Utopia’ Yngwie Malmsteen and Zakk Wylde find themselves together again on the title track and ‘The Monsoon’ whilst Malmsteen goes it alone for the almost power-metal ‘Viking Massacre’.

There’s vocal work on the album supplied by Zakk Wylde and Billy Idol (on a cover of Mungo Jerry’s ‘In the Summertime’ which perhaps bizarrely merely apes the original but also features Slash) and some broody sax (Brandon Fields) giving the album a more diverse colouring and arguably more interesting for that.  ****1/2

Sherinian’s sixth solo album, 2009′s Molecular Heinosity, brings back his Planet X collaborator Virgil Donati.  Consequently it points back to his first solo album (especially the first three tracks).  Two tracks feature little-known Japanese guitarist Taka Minamono.  Altogether more jazz fusion than the other solo offerings but rewarding if you can go the distance.  You will be bruised.  ****1/2

It’s nice to see these albums out again and they are newly annotated with Sherinian’s own liner notes and extracts from a 2007 ‘Guitar World’ article.  However there are sadly no bonus tracks and it’s a shame that his first solo offering – ‘Planet X’ – is absent from this collection.  Lovers of shred – both guitar and keyboard – will find much to salivate over and a body of work that reinforces Sherinian’s pre-eminence in this genre.

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.


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