Many thanks to Planet X for another ride in their universe of very different and interesting music. This album is a breath of fresh air. I own all of PX albums and I follow them since their first output “Universe”. I find this as one of the most focused efforts of theirs. First of all I prefer Garsed to Macalpine on the guitar chair. I think Brett fits better this kind of “alien” music even if Tony played very well on the other releases from the band. Rumors are that for the next chapter the band will have Greg Howe on board. I hope it could be true because Greg is probably the biggest gun in these territories. Holdsworth plays here just a couple of solos, they are nice but don’t change the overall feel of the music … Brett contributes a lot more. What you can find here are a lot of dispair times at the point that sometimes you lose the guys. It is very funny and interesting. If you are a musician you have a lot to think about here rhytmically. If you are not, don’t worry because the music is really entertaining if you love this style (metal plus fusion I may say). I really appreciate Virgil Donati’s drumming. Sometimes I find myself focusing on his playing and wow, I have to say that he’s incredible. I hope this band will release more albums in this area … I think it is something new and that this style has the potentials to be something even more interesting in the future. But this Quantum is already a very nice album that I find myself listening over and over. Even better than Moonbabies if you want. Bravo to the guys, Brett and Virgil in particular.
Self-founded band of Derek Sherinian (Billy Idol, former Dream Theater) from 1999, describe themselves as ”the sickest instrumental band in the world, …a band that played so fiercely, it would strike fear in the hearts of other musicians when they heard us”. Their latest piece of work is such a didactic play. It uniquely demonstrates what happens when a number of exceptional musicians team up. An incredibly fast-pacing roller coaster ride. The perfect fusion of rock and metal. Featuring guest appearances by Allan Holdsworth (Soft Machine, UK, Gong), Brett Garsed (John Farnham) and Rufus Philpot (Al Di Meola).
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By what criteria do you rate a progressive rock fusion album on steroids? If I was rating this merely on musical skill on display, it would have to be 5 stars.
Yes, there is mind-blowing technical prowess on display throughout this album and I laugh at the the sheer audacity of what these musicians present with finesse. I am sure Vinnie and Simon Phillips are grateful they were not invited to play drums on the opening track – for drummers out there – listen with caution – as Virgil kicks serious poly-rhythmic butt! Complexity that most rock drummers wouldn’t comprehend, and if this isn’t enough wait for the double-pedal speed kick in the final track’s extended drum extravaganza!
This progressive drumming master class never abates and as much I believed it was Virgil who keeps the excitement going through their live album I hesitantly suggest that there are just too many time changes on every single track and that his compositional style weakens this album. I would have thought that Derek Sherinian, as the awesome keyboardist he is, would have surely been able to at least share 50% of the compositional credits. I would have preferred a variety of compositional styles as the repeated minor motifs that appear in nearly all the tracks make this almost repetitious towards the second half of the album. [Hence my initial award of 3 stars].
The second track is the highlight for me and the very different piano approach in the opening bars with the unmistakable touch of Holdsworth’s shimmering chords is wonderful. His solo is like most if not all Allan’s work – unmistakable tone, breath taking speed and beauty. It is indeed a loss that instead of playing on the whole album, Holdsworth contributes only here and on track 4 with another master solo over an impeccable Donati groove (I loved the openness and space here).
What I did note was how similar Derek’s keyboard solos sound to Holdsworth; indeed even Garsed’s guitaring had tone and approach that approximated the ‘noodling’ of Holdsworth. One can’t help but think what might have been. That’s not to say that Brett Garsed’s playing is lacking; on the contrary I believe that with not much notice he came to the rescue and pulled out some amazing playing. One does sense though that overall this album is more keyboard dominant and that rhythm guitaring in particular was lacking or so close to the keybooard mix that it’s not noticeable.
The track ‘Poland’ has grown on me with each listen and ends with Sherinian’s keyboard providing an alien soundscape including dolphin-like cries over which is there is a great Jimmy Johnson bass solo. This stands out as a beacon of melodic light from the dark sheets of keyboard and at times muddy bottom end that permeate through the album.
[UPDATED PARAGRAPH-December 2008: When I initially wrote this 3 star review I stated that I wasn't emotionally engaged and that perhaps with time this album would grow on me. Well it certainly has. A year later and I regularly play this album - the 'Alien Hip Hop' opening track is now one of my favourite hard fusion/prog metal tracks of my collection. I'd now give the album 4 stars.]
The production and musical standards are high – even the packaging and great cover art make you hold this CD with anticipation and appreciation.
This all instrumental album – a hybrid between Dream Theater meets Return to forever on steriods, establishes the unique Planet X style. In spite of some criticism, if you like intense frenetic rock fusion, then you’ll enjoy the ride.
I’m new to Planet X and bought this mainly because I read Holdsworth played on it. Actually, he only plays on two tracks, and on one of these tracks, he only solos for 44 seconds. Brett Garsed plays guitar on the other tracks. Anyway, I’m really enjoying this disc. The music is instrumental rock/metal that sounds similar to Andy West’s Rama 1. The credits list Virgil Donati (drums) and Derek Sherinian (keys) as Planet X, and in the liner notes, their photos are bigger than the guest musician’s photos. Ha! Virgil wrote eight of the nine songs, the other is a collaborative effort. There are some tricky grooves happening with insane time changes executed with ease, and at times it seems the complex music was written so they could show off, but why not if your talented and have the chops? On bass guitar, Rufus Philpot plays on two songs and the outstanding Holdsworth alumni Jimmy Johnson plays on the remaining tracks. If you crave high-energy instrumental music, you should check this out.
I’ve been getting into Derek Sherinian’s solo material and Planet X (which he started with drummer Virgil Donati) for about the past four years. I must say I’ve been impressed with most everything he’s done since leaving Dream Theater. He takes progressive rock, metal, jazz fusion and electronic and combines them in unique ways. His keyboard sound and style are somewhat similar to Jan Hammer — however he loves to get the hottest guitar players on earth to solo all over his music, so you only get so many Derek solos per album.
(I refer to this as Derek’s solo material only because I’ve always viewed Planet X as really being a Derek Sherinian solo project. However I’m wrong, because Donati contributed heavily to this album, and he’s the other half of the band. Either way, to me Derek’s solo albums and Planet X are pretty much interchangeable.)
In this case he has Alan Holdsworth and Brett Garsed sitting in on guitar. Holdsworth, who should need no introduction, appears on only a few tracks while Garsed, who is equally superb, handles the bulk of the work.
I think this new release is fantastic, a real solid effort. In fact, I’d take this release over the new Dream Theater hands down. The compositions are creative and unique, the musicianship defies human capability and the engineering is superb.
Unfortunately, at times this also suffers from some of the same pitfalls that plague the genre: that is to say the music becomes so technical at times that it loses its “soul.” And there are times when it just overwhelms you: the first night I was listening to this with the headphones, I had barely made it through track 5 when I had to take a break. The rapid time changes and the endlessly cascading runs of notes just started to confuse my poor brain. I thought, “wow, it’s like the Japanese animation — this stuff could cause a seizure.” It is that super fast paced.
Now, after many more listens, I don’t feel that way as much — now that I’ve come to anticipate what’s coming and to understand what the band is trying to accomplish with each composition. In that sense this music kind of grows on you. But then again I was into the Flower Kings a few years back and now I’m not for some reason. I guess my only complaint is that there are certain passages in the music that are “mechanical” sounding. And at times there seems to be a certain air of pretentiousness, a sense that its “chops for chops’ sake.” (At the same time though I give Planet X with credit for sounding less contrived than Dream Theater or Liquid Tension Experiment.)
Despite these criticisms I still find it really enjoyable, thus I give it four stars. So, if you’re into Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Transatlantic, The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, Neal Morse, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani or any of that complex instrumental rock that is oh so indulgent — and you also have a taste for jazz fusion — you’ll probably find this release highly entertaining and well worth the money.
It has been five years since Moon Babies came out, and it would be wise to say it’s been worth the wait. Instrumental rock, metal and fusion project Planet X are back. Driven by keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drum god Virgil Donati, their new album sees them returning to the composition-based style of Planet X and Universe, more so than its predecessor, which relied more heavily on mindblowing instrumental prowess.
Without doubt, the biggest plus of Quantum is that Allan Holdsworth appears on two tracks. Unfortunately, because of scheduling commitments, he could not do the whole album, but fear not, for another amazing guitarist, Brett Garsed, has returned to the fold, filling the songs with amazing chops and his unique legato phrasings. As most will remember, it was Garsed who played on the very first Derek Sherinian album Planet X, which still ranks as most fans’ favourites. Both Garsed and Holdsworth are known for their unmatched legato-style playing, backed by killer tone and amazing solos. The two Holdsworth pieces, “Desert Girl” and “The Thinking Stone”, are wildly improvised. “Desert Girl” starts out with nice symphonic keyboards and a beautiful piano melody before it picks up pace thanks to Donati’s funky playing. It then launches into a fantastic improvised passage, highlighting Holdsworth’s talents. Surprisingly, the song is also quite heavy compared to stuff we’ve come to expect from Holdsworth’s solo material, so it’s a much welcome change. “The Thinking Stone” has also some cool tribal drum beats and the guitar playing is mindblowing.
The band tests heavier waters on “Matrix Gate”, one of their most complex pieces on this disc, blending busy rhythms with groove-inflected drum and bass battery. Brett Garsed particularly comes to the fore on “Space Foam”, punctuated by simmering synths and big bass. Considering his timing and sense of melody, it is a shame he is still yet to be discovered by the masses. Anything with Garsed rules, so be sure to check out his solo material as well. The atmospheric colouring of “Snuff” and the playful “Kingdom of Dreams” demonstrate how such busy and complex numbers can be turned into relatively easy listens thanks to Sherinian’s keyboard acrobatics. On bass, both Jimmy Johnson and Rufus Philbot (Al Di Meola) do a great job. The bass is loud and central on pretty much every track, and complements the tunes perfectly. As for Donati, the drum solo on the final track is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Those kick drums are phenomenal.
Quantum is going to be one of the best instrumental discs of the year. Period.