Sons of Apollo are a prog metal supergroup featuring alumni from such titans in their genre as Dream Theatre, Journey, Guns ‘n Roses, Mr Big, et al, and the dramatis personae contains some of its biggest names… Portnoy, Sherinian, Sheehan, Soto and Bumblefoot (Ron Thal). With their debut album, 2017’s Psychotic Symphony, given their pedigree the issue was if they would live up to the fan’s expectations, but they easily passed this test. These guys are real heavyweights in the truest sense. Derek Sherinian: Apollo was the God of music and we are his mighty offspring.
For this release, they’ve followed what appears to be a new trend and recorded ‘live’ at the Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, following Devin Townsend who did the same thing with Ocean Machine recently. Here, with the occasional backing of an orchestra and choir, the Sons show an ecstatic crowd just what they’re made of, with some powerhouse playing, coupled with the type of almost impossible time and key changes which only virtuoso musicians can carry off. From the opening notes of ‘God of the Sun’, the Sons hit the ground running and, with the exception of instrumental track ‘Figaro’s Whore’, they give us all the tracks from their debut album, which are given extra power onstage. These guys generate enough onstage power to light up a small city. They have true rock ‘n roll swagger to go alongside their virtuosity, and it shows.
But the attraction of this 3CD/1DVD package will be the range of cover versions performed by the band. As Mike Portnoy says, most of these covers will probably never be performed again, so this is your chance to catch them. Sadly though, due to permission to record some of them not being granted by copyright owners, not all the covers made it onto the DVD, so Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’, Van Halen’s ‘And The Cradle Will Rock’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ aren’t included. But, nonetheless, they perform some quite stunning versions of songs from other acts they’ve added to their show. The use of the orchestra is shown to full advantage on Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir;, as it also does on Ozzy’s ‘Diary of a Madman’. Portnoy and Sherinian return to one of their previous bands, Dream Theatre, to perform ‘Line in the Sand’ and ‘Just Let Me Breathe’, and Queen’s ‘Show Must Go On’ is dedicated to Freddie.
The only cover which falls flat, for this reviewer, is ‘Comfortably Numb’. Their version is largely faithful, but I can’t fathom why Bumblehead plays the solo at the end at breakneck speed. There are those times when guitar runs can be so OTT they detract from the song, and not for nothing has Gilmour’s guitar work on this classic been lauded by many critics.
This is a really good album by top notch rock musicians and, with this release, the Sons have set the bar high and their next studio release will be awaited with considerable anticipation by their fanbase.