Inside Out is a label renowned for housing progressive metal powerhouses and titans in the genre when it comes to complex performances, convoluted compositions and individual brilliance on the virtuoso level… Basically if you’re good at what you do in the realms of prog, you end up here somehow!

And that is exactly where we are right now. When you mix five musicians of a ridiculously high calibre when it comes to what they do, you get that ‘supergroup’ (a.k.a we’re bored, lets collaborate and make music then do our own shit again) thing. Jeff Scott Soto, Derek Sherinian, Billy Sheehan, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal and Mike Portnoy (a.k.a the guy who was fired from the band he formed and then got fired from Avenged Sevenfold… Oh dear!) are the latest group of musicians to pump out some high quality music, so let’s just see what makes this symphony a bit crazy.

With a release like this and the genre it is, and the fact two of the members were in a band together and worked on three releases, it’s no surprise that the whole Dream Theater sound/style/approach/comparison (delete where relevant) is bound to rear its head. The iconic ‘Monster Lead’ tone of Sherinian’s keyboards brings back memories of ‘Falling Into Infinity’ by the modern day titans of progressive rock and metal, and whilst it was an album overlooked at the time (but had some fantastic moments!), it seems right at home here. The rhythmic prowess of Portnoy on the drums combined with Sherinian’s synth wizardry leads to a tight atmospheric effect and when you add in Sheehan’s low end virtuosity and Bumblefoot’s unique brand of insane six string showmanship, you have a very formidable musical foundation.

Despite Portnoy being a bit of a dick at times, his drumming is spot on throughout the album and his backing vocals compliment Soto’s incredible delivery well. Be it the slightly aggressive but perfectly clear and melodic work on “Coming Home” which is a fantastic single and an excellent showcase of what to expect from the band; hard hitting rhythmic groove, headbang friendly riffs and some fantastic soloing. Opening track “God Of the Sun” goes for that big grand prog pomposity approach – a flashy, atmospheric 11 minute opus which has two distinct sections – one of no nonsense, hard hitting metal, and one which consists of showboating the skills on offer from each of the band members.

With 9 tracks ranging between 4 minutes to 10+ minutes, it does deliver a well packaged musical punch. Tipping it’s hat to influences of old like the very Deep Purple like “Divine Addiction”, or the empowering and infectious “Alive” or the ambitiously named closing track “Opus Maximus” which is basically 10+ minutes of symphonic progressive metal which brings a real grandiose feel to the release and goes for the sign off with style approach.

In all, it’s a pretty solid release. Initial listens had me convinced it’d be a knock off Dream Theater given the Portnoy/Sherinian factor, but it is much more than just their shared band history. Yes, it feels familiar to the progressive metal titan sized elephant in the room, but has so much more. The dynamics between Sheehan and Bumblefoot, using the fretless variations of their instruments to add a kick and unique flair to their riffs and soloing, along with Soto’s brilliant delivery, which leads to the lack of slightly nasal/airy vocals LaBrie and Dream Theater are known for, makes this a fresh experience. Yes, it’s extravagant and sounds familiar, but it has that hint of freshness, a new twist on an old trick which has worked well in the past, and will probably continue to do so in the future, and for the whole ‘supergroup’ entity thing which Sons Of Apollo fall into, survival and freshness are the main things… And Psychotic Symphony certainly shows they promise to keep bringing things like this forwards.

(8/10 Fraggle)