SONS OF APOLLO - CD
Sony Music Japan - Out now
Sons Of Apollo’s debut album in 2017, Psychotic Symphony, was a breath of fresh air. Five musicians of exceptional talent had come together to record an album that risked being self-indulgent, sacrificing showmanship for songs. Instead what they delivered was undoubtedly one of the best debut albums of the last decade and they followed that with their ground-breaking second release, last year’s Live with the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony, a superb collection of interpretations of Rock classics coupled with symphonic versions of songs from that debut album. I have written before that second albums can be notoriously difficult to write when the debut has been so successful and well received so the big question then is how does a second helping compare to Vol. 1?
It’s excellent. It is in fact Vol. 2 in every way and equally as good. Needless to say then that the songwriting is both highly original and creative and everyone is on top form when performing. I can’t single out any particular track for any special reason because the whole is greater than the sum of the collective parts but just to mention one, King Of Delusion is a stunning piece of work that demonstrates everyone’s abilities to the max. The production team of Keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Mike Portnoy remains the same giving a lovely consistency between the two albums - throw both discs into a multi-disc player and hit the ‘Random’ button and you will be hard pressed to separate the two albums. Bumblefoot’s solos are never flash; his rhythm parts perfectly balanced with the keyboards (there are several outstanding parts and solos from Derek Sherinian) whilst Mike Portnoy and the most reliable bass player in the world, Billy Sheehan, not only hold down the beats and time changes but also colour the tracks with their own flourishes. Jeff Scott Soto’s voice of course just gets better and better as the years go on. The album culminates in a six-part epic that is one of the finest and most coherent pieces of Prog-Metal this journalist has ever heard. There seems to be no limit to Sons Of Apollo’s creativity.
That production by the way sounds multi-layered, bright and powerful thanks in part to the BSCD2 mastering and Sony have delivered a beautiful package for this release. First off there is a bonus disc consisting of instrumental mixes of all eight tracks – yes, really! Not content with that, they have added A Capella excerpts of all eight tracks as well (the total running time of the album is just under an hour so there is plenty of room for these without losing quality) and both discs are housed in a sturdy digipak. A 36 page full colour glossy book is mounted in the middle and a 12 page monochrome Japanese book is also included.
Summing up, Prog-Metal can be and has frequently been in the past, too complicated but Sons Of Apollo have recognized that so if you have been put off in the past but still want to try, I recommend you start your collection here.
Wither To Black
King Of Delusion
Fall To Ascend
New World Today
New World Today
Adventures in Bumbleland
Day Of The Dead
The New Reveal
As above but instrumental
As above, A Capella excerpts
OZZY OSBOURNE - CD
Sony Music Japan - Out Now
Has it really been ten years since Ozzy’s last studio album? When Scream was released in June 2010, the iPad was only four months old, Yukio Hatoyama was the Prime Minister of Japan, Wikileaks did not exist and we still thought Nuclear Power was safe – March 2011 was a good nine months in the future. The intervening years saw Ozzy touring and releasing live recordings but very little else and after a series of health problems, he has now revealed that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. We wish the man well and we love him but at the age of 71 and considering all the above, one does wonder if this will be the Prince of Darkness’s final release. Let’s hope not.
Opening with a vocal choir that snaps onto a pounding guitar riff which Ozzy throws a Sweet Leaf ‘All right now!’ over, we are quickly immersed in familiar waters and the album goes through a succession of songs that have some great twists and turns as well as a good helping of friends to see him through. Ozzy goes mournful in places and he’s the master of that vocal delivery as exemplified on Goodbye, likewise when he delivers the chilling Under The Graveyard, his voice resonates with the reality that ‘we all die alone’. The riffs are there the voice is there, the titles are there and pretty much everything else you would expect from an Ozzy album is there but something is different… it is over-produced.
A quick look at his previous work shows producer Andrew Watt to be a more than competent but he’s more suitable (and has worked with) Justin Beiber, Lana Del Ray and Post Malone, the latter of which makes a guest appearance on two tracks. Watt also plays most of the guitars on the album and he is a good player but the edginess of Zak Wylde is missing. Also, an autotune unit can be heard on Ozzy’s voice (and guest Elton John’s voice as well) which takes more of the rough edge off the album. Ozzy has certainly used effects on his voice all through his career and I’m not knocking him for doing it but through this album, it’s too much. We like Ozzy’s rough vocals and the producer has taken them away from us and as much as I enjoy this album, I can’t escape the fact that the dangerous part of Ozzy seems to have been ignored in favour of a more polished recording.
That said, after repeated listens, it does grow on you and it is Ozzy and therefore, good. Sony have once more used their BSCD2 mastering which gives everything an extra depth and the release comes with two sixteen page booklets – one English and one Japanese – and terrific bonus track called Darkside Blues. It is all housed in a silky digipak that oozes quality.
Straight To Hell
All My Life
Ordinary Man (featuring Elton John)
Under The Graveyard
Today Is The End
Scary Little Green Men
Holy For Tonight
It’s A Rain (featuring Post Malone)
Take What You want (featuring Post Malone and Travis Scott)
Bonus Track for Japan