Supergroups are often a hit or miss thing. We all thought Chickenfoot would be a lasting thing and it was plus there’s been so many attempts in recent years that I’m losing count. But in 2017 we were introduced to Sons Of Apollo; the supergroup consisting of Jeff Scott Soto, Billy Sheehan, Derek Sherinian, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, and Mike Portnoy. The debut album Psychotic Symphony became a favorite with many and live the music was just as intense as on the album. So needless to say when they announced their sophomore album MMXX I was excited for more but also worried that they’d fall victim to the sophomore curse.
When they first teased the debut single “Goodbye Divinity” I was extremely worried because it sounded way to tweaked by effects and I thought they overdid it with the futuristic theme. But once I got the entire thing and saw how it leads into the album to set the mood. My worry quickly disappeared as I was pulled right in by Jeff Scott Soto’s strong vocals. The power he has is still amazing and why to me he still qualifies as one of the most underrated vocalists in rock and metal.
The power doesn’t stop there as the whole album feels like the guys said “screw ten, let’s turn things up to 20” because “Asphyxiation” is definitely the heaviest and most intense track I have heard from Sons Of Apollo. It’s a type of heavy that’s actually hard to put into words because it’s not overproduced or amplified in any way. It’s the intensity that you feel coming through the speakers, it almost feels like Mike Portnoy is in the room with you going full steam behind his monstrous kit.
I’m also very intrigued by the back and forth play throughout the album between Derek Sherinian and Bumblefoot. We’ve all gotten used to dual guitar players that will play back and forth with each other or guitarist and bassist or bassist and drummer. Hearing the play between keyboards and guitars is so rare that it instantly grabs you here. I even caught myself occasionally going who was who because both Sherinian and Bumblefoot are so skilled that the keyboard effects tricked me at least once to think it was guitar. Just a reminder that keyboards fit so well into rock and metal that we should have more of it.
Plus the keyboard intro to “King Of Delusion” sets you up to thing it’s a bit more of a classical single then everything just kicks in bringing this heavy metal blues vibe that I could easily see in some dark, metal Disney movie as a key plot point. Like the big villains number or something. Or if not Disney the boss level of a video game. Then dead center there’s a breakdown and reset that calms you just enough before kicking your ass again.
And of course I can leave out the epic closing track “New World Today” which is definitely a journey through the talents of each member of Sons Of Apollo. We all to often have to wait for a live show to get the solos from each member to showcase themselves but this song allows them each to shine individually while still being the fine tuned machine they are as a whole. It may be a long song in time but it definitely doesn’t, it’s like your favorite movie that ends too quickly because of how involved you get that you just start it over again because you can.
I can safely say that Sons Of Apollo have done what many bands struggle to do – survive unscathed with their sophomore album. MMXX definitely shows that they didn’t lose anything from their debut or change too much to be different. MMXX is the perfect balance of new without changing sound to continue what should be a lengthy run as a band while still being strong enough to stand on its own.