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Planet X - Universe CD (album) cover

UNIVERSE

Planet X

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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lucas
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A very energetic album, thanks to Donati's superb drumming and Kennedy's bass sections. This is in the same vein as its predecessor, Derek Sherinian's first solo album. Recommended to fans of Dream Theater and Derek Sherinian.
Report this review (#11109)
Posted Sunday, November 2, 2003 | Review Permalink
4 stars Vicious fusion from keyboards/guitar/drums trio; heavy as Hawkwind, agile as Mahavishnu, enough energy to light Tokyo for a month! Small caveat:for better or worse, the brief space poetry intro to "King of the Universe" evokes the spirit of Robert Calvert at his most bombastic...
Report this review (#11112)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars When Derek Sherinian was leaving Dream Theater he said that his new band will be the "sickest" musical project ever created. He gathered some of the most incredible playing musicians that are walking on Earth and formed Planet X. With virtuosos like Tony MacAlpine one guitar, Virgil Donati on drums (he is called "The Thunder From Down Under" :)) and Tom Kennedy on bass as a guest, he recorded the first output by his band named "Universe".

The album starts with "Clonus". When I heard this track for the first time it blew my head of through the window. The heaviness of this tune and the whole recording as well is overwhelming. But well, that's the major problem: there isn't actual much variety through the record. Most of the songs have the same basic sound. We are attacked by heavy riffs one after another and after some time you can't even recognize them. There is only one small beautiful middle-section in the "King Of The Universe" and some slow down in the "Poods Of Trance", but that's all. Because of that some songs on "Universe" become boring, predictable and repetitive. Come on guys, sometimes the listener wants to rest from instant rocking.

This supposed to be an fusion-metal release. To me it's more metal then fusion, so probably that's the reason I'm not fully pleased while listening to this recording. If you're more a prog-metal fan this CD will certainly appeal to you. If not, head for "MoonBabies". It's a much more fusion oriented, adventurous and better CD.

Report this review (#11114)
Posted Tuesday, August 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an amazing effort by Planet X. Universe is full of melodies that will stick in your head for a long time.

Every song is unique and has something to offer. My only complaint is the intro to king of the universe, it shouldnt be there not only is it cheesy but it ruins the mood of the song.

For a debut album this takes the cake. There is not one thing to complain about(except the above) Really a must have for any fan of dream theater and mahavishnu orchestra

Report this review (#42297)
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
AtLossForWords
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Debut from Planet X is a success, but not a milestone.

Three excellent musicians, Derek Sherinian, Tony MacAlpine, and Virgil Donati collaborated to form Planet X. The talent of this band is undisputeable. Donati is a drummer with near perfect technique, and demonstrates it all through the album. Tony MacAlpine is a guitarist of varied talents and adds a slightly neo-classical touch to this predominately jazz album. Derek Sherinian, the former Dream Theater keyboardist once again shows of his amazing musical talents, but are still lowered by his poor sound production.

The tracks are all equally technical, but the album lacks variation. The compostional skills aren't anything amazing, but if you dig amazing technique and you can handle quite a bit of it this album is for you.

The production is top class, the guitar, drums, and bass are all powerful and balanced. The keyboards have poor tone, but that may be more of a problem with Sherinian's synth selection not the quality of the studio.

Good technique, poor variation, and good production give this album three stars.

Report this review (#62713)
Posted Sunday, January 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars well theres no doubt this is an awesome peice of prog metal.. i fail to see how some people can associate this with jazz, i cant hear anything hear that resembles jazz whatsoever! The thing lacking with this album is the songwriting quality. These songs just seem like noisy, confusing jams where everybody shows off their best chops.. extremely hard to listen to..the way i like it. I suppose the songwriting is not all that important in this sort of band anyway. By far the best moment in this whole album is about 3 minutes into the first song where Virgil Donati goes for about an 8 second drum break, which is just mind bogglingly awesome!!! and then changes the complete time of the song. Of course Donati is the highlight in this album, the guitar and keys do notning that youve never heard before, which i think is a bit of a shame. Watch out for the last track 2116, the timesignature is just insane. Virgil does this thing where he drags the beat by slowing and speeding up within the bar. its awesome like all of the drumming on this album.
Report this review (#80271)
Posted Sunday, June 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars it s a "universe" of... melodies that you never forget...incredibles riffs....perfects armonys...change of rhythm....in a moment sound a minor scale..in other, a pentatonic...and anohertime sound crhomatic scales....the solos of 3 guys are amazing...full of quality and innovation...THAT IS PROG!!!!!!!!
Report this review (#83321)
Posted Monday, July 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Sometimes a band comes along that defines what it is to be inspired, and expresses this with a kind of music that few knew existed. Whatever muse influences drummer Virgil Donati, keyboardist Derek Sherinian and guitarist Tony MacAlpine to weave such creations is an animal of many realms; jazz, classical, metal, all equally represented but mixed and matched in a way no one had ever dreamt of.

Each piece is so complex and angular, and played with such brilliance and faculty, that Planet X's 'Universe' comes off as a singular experience rather than a collection of cuts. To single out a few tracks wouldn't do this one justice; a heavier and more powerful work than their follow-up 'Moonbabies' yet no less adept, with shameless flash, a great production and no time wasted with unnecessary passages or sentimental journeys. Donati, Sherinian and MacAlpine cut right to the meat, slice it masterfully into chunks and serve it pure without too much spice to cover-up the flavor of divine heaviness. If you can imagine the feeling musicians must have had when they first heard the Mahavishnu Orchestra, you get a sense of this project... otherworldly, a metallic fusion of cosmic proportions and a force to be reckoned with.

Report this review (#109190)
Posted Sunday, January 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars PLANET X are a US all instrumental group formed by ex-DREAM THEATER keyboardist Derek Sherinian,after he was fired by the band at the end of the 90's.Named after his first solo release and recruiting Tony McAlpine on guitars and Virgil Donati behind the drums,PLANET X released ''Universe'' in 2000.This is an all instrumental ultra-heavy work,where Sherinian can't hide his past being a member of DREAM THEATER.The album is an absolutely killer fusion release with changing tempos and nice sudden breaks.The guitars are quite heavy flirting with metal,while Sherinian's keyboard work will remind you of his days with DREAM THEATER.There is also an obvious mood for vitruosity and high-class complexity,when the band's members really bring their skills to the front.All in all,''Universe'' will satisfy every demanding fan of good virtuosic instrumental rock and comes recommended by my side.
Report this review (#156291)
Posted Saturday, December 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Gerinski
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Hi-skill metal-fussion chops. There's no doubt of the instrumental skill of these guys, my favourite being Virgil Donati's amazing drumming. MacAlpine has a great technique too and his playing is somewhat more versatile than that of many guitar shredders out there. I also appreciate the leaning to fussion compared to the straight metal orientation of many other chop musicians. I saw them live in a very small club in Belgium during the tour for this album and I really enjoyed the gig, seeing this music being played 3 meters from your nose leaves you speechless. They were also very friendly in the after-gig where I could talk a little with them and get their signatures on my copy of this CD.

As a studio album it's spectacular for the first 2 listens but it gets repetitive and depending on your mood even boring. I enjoy virtuoso playing but I also demand some deeper musicality in the package. Taken as isolated tracks they are ok, but there's too little variation and even if some riffs and scales are really interesting, when taken as a whole I can't help feeling a lack of sensibility in the compositions.

A great demonstration of technical skill which will delight chop fans but which will probably disappoint more sensible listeners who search for rich prog music.

Report this review (#271407)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The debut from PLANET X was a pleasant surprise to say the least. I've owned their second album "Moonbabies" for several years and while I liked it, the more laid back tunes did little for me so I gave it 3 stars. As I listened to this for the first time I kept waiting for a mellow track to pop up but none came, it was heavy tune after heavy tune. I really like the way Sherinian plays on this one too with a lot of background synths.The drumming from Virgil Donati might be the most impressive part of this record though.Tony MacAlpine is lights out as usual and we get some guest bass from Tom Kennedy.

"Clonus" has this really good heavy sound to it as synths join in. Guitar comes to the fore after a minute and again a minute later. "Her Animal" has this heavy beat with synths. Impressive. The tempo picks up after 2 minutes. Nice.The guitar rips it up 3 1/2 minutes in. "006 Boots" has this good drum intro as keyboards and guitar join in. I love the way the drums rumble throughout. Synths roll in late. "Bitch" is maybe the heaviest yet as the guitar plays over top. Synths join in too. Nasty stuff. Nice guitar solo 2 1/2 minutes in. "King Of The Universe" opens with spoken words before the music kicks in around a minute. It settles after 3 1/2 minutes with keys, drums and guitar. It picks up 5 1/2 minutes in and we get some excellent drum work a minute later.

"Inside Black" has more heaviness with lots of bottom end. "Europa" is more uptempo with keyboards and drums leading.The guitar comes in over top with some screaming attacks. "Warfinger" is dark and experimental then it picks up but it's still dark and heavy. The guitar is crying out. "Chocalate" must be the dark and heavy kind. The guitar solo 3 1/2 minutes in sounds amazing. "Pods Of Trance" is more uptempo. This is aggressive especially the guitar. It settles before 2 1/2 minutes with synths and drums. The guitar returns to change that. "2116" opens with synths, keys and drums that build. A change 2 minutes in then it settles again 3 1/2 minutes in before picking back up a minute later.

I much prefer this heavier style. A very solid 4 stars.

Report this review (#311345)
Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
jampa17
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Progressive Metal with jazz flavor, you can't ask for more!

The debut album of PLANET X has a lot of strength, heaviness, groove and jazzy flavor. when I approach an instrumental progressive album, I tend to fear an avalanche of different solos, few logic melodies and a lot of shredding. This is not the case at all with the album UNIVERSE. You can hear songs worked at detail, catchy melodies, a lot of different time signature changes and a musical direction with taste, more than just exercises of pure skills.

Maybe that's way this album is not that popular between metal lovers, which is interesting when you see that the amount of heaviness in the album tend to segregate the jazz fans as well. They choose a dangerous balance of heaviness and jazz groove, well, that's just great for me and I'm sure there's a lot of different twist and turns to any music lover in general. Not as good as it's follower album MOONBABIES, This particular piece is wonderful because the musicians has taste, they never work "too hard -too cool" in this arrangements. Donati, Sherinian and McAlpine seems to have a partnership of years, while this is basically they first album together. The result is great, really, the musicality of the album is everywhere and the band just reached every standard of quality, both of production, sound quality, stimulant purposes that really excite me every time I push play.

On in on, maybe I'm talking too much and saying the same. Well, such is life. I think that if you just put attention to the music and close your eyes, you will have a wonderful journey of sounds and you will have fun along with it, for sure. This is good for both jazz and prog metal fans, maybe a little more pushed to heavy fans, something that they eventually tuned down in their next releases.

Strong 4 stars album, just a bit less tasted than their wonderful MOONBABIES. Hope to hear more of them any time soon.

As an ending, maybe the only problem with the album is that it's too much alike to Derek Sherinian own albums. This music is better oriented, better composed, but sometimes is hard to distinguish some parts of the song. But even like that, it's really and excellent addition to any prog collection. And I'm very glad that this album is part of mine.

Report this review (#445542)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars Formed by ex-Dream Theater keyboard player Derek Sherinian (who has also played with Kiss and Alice Cooper), this instrumental band's line-up also features guitarist Tony MacAlpine (who to date has released 11 solo albums) and drummer Virgil Donati, (there is also a guest bassist, Tom Kennedy). It is somewhat surprising that there is only one longish track, with "King Of The Universe" just cracking eight minutes, but there is no disputing the note density. This hard rocking technically brilliant album is going to impress many people. That being said, it is possible to dismiss this as an ego trip if the critic was so inclined. There is little in the way of passion or soul, but if the listener wants to stand there with their mouth open in awe, then this may just be the one for them.

It is sometimes reminiscent of Colosseum II when they delve slightly into jazz-rock, but by the end of it all I found that I was not only impressed but also bored. It is definitely a CD that can only be digested in small pieces; very much like a rich cake, they have over-egged it. Treat with care.

Originally appeared in Feedback #59

Report this review (#963505)
Posted Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I quote my earliest, "first impressions", upon receiving this awesome release,

". . . Oh baby, this rocks heavy like U.K. meets Prong! Derek Sherinian on keys, Virgil Donati on skins, Tony MacAlpine on axe and Tom Kennedy guests on bass. Highly recommended, heavy fusionoid rock with a King's X, low-end punch and an ELP "Barbarian"/"Knife Edge" noir-rock, fear/dread/threat groove. This stuff be PHAT!! Syncopated, thumpin', pumpin', and crunchin'. MacAlpine devastates all time-space continuums with his solos. Sherinian transports you into caverns of Pluto and buries your head in ice. Dorati pummels your aorta and cerebrum into submission whilst Tom Kennedy's bass lines would make Tony Levin or John Wetton drool. Jens Johansson has met his match with Derek Sherinian! If you dug Mastermind's EXCELSIOR! or just grabbed their new live PROG, FUSION, METAL, LEATHER and SWEAT, (conveniently named after a quote from my write-up of their NEARfest 1999 gig where the CD was recorded), you will REALLY dig the heavy fusion-rock of Planet X!! Dig it!! BUY THIS CD!! KILLER!! KILLER!! Etc, etc. . . ."

Months later, after sometimes playing this CD 10 � 15 times a week, I have yet to tire of its huge, dense, gut-punch. There are so many excellent prog metal, metal fusion, prog rock, rocky jazz fusionoid, and just plain butt-kicking rock things happening here. Sherinian and crew have broken the record for most riffs, solos, intricate unison lines, notes per minute, bars per song, and cool songs per CD. These guys are smokin'!

The music is intelligent, hard-hitting, in-your-face, and massive. There's little room to breathe, little time to get bored, and believe me � turn down your bass response on your CD player. I killed two car speaker woofers on this baby. I didn't care because the total devastation of my brain and my speakers was a fair price to experience this amazing onslaught of sound.

Some folks have whined in newsgroups as to Donati overdoing it on his endless double bass drum pummelings. I say, "Ah shaddap, and see if you can do that work of ceaseless power! He's amazing!" Man, just listen to all the effects and runs Sherinian is pulling out of his keyboard array. It is maddening! Kennedy is superb on bass, everywhere a threat of near perfection. Just listen to that great jazz solo breakdown on "Warfinger". MacAlpine plays exactly the way each song's moment needs. His interpretation of this fusion rock is powerfully poised. No flash, no sham, no weakness ? just raw superior power and finesse! Good grief ? he even does Holdsworthian riffs that actually rock your socks off! Must I go on? Of course.

My favorite tracks: "Europa", "Clonus", "Bitch", (IMHO: offensive song name guys, really), "Chocalate" and "2116".

My least favorite moment: The theatrically pompous and overly bombastic monologue/scene-setting intro on "King of the Universe" totally demolished the power and glory "flow" of the disc. It was 100% cheesy and its flaccidly flawed attempt to generate some sci-fi fantasy aura to the song fell flat on its face. I kept muttering to myself, "Oh please, get on with it. This guy's pseudo Shakespeare doth wound me so deeply."

Other than that small soliloquy snafu to be forgiven quickly, I highly regard and recommend this release as one of the best heavy progressive rock works of 2000. You weenies complaining about Donati's drums or MacAlpine's riffs need to try to do what they accomplish yourself. No way.

Update: The track I disliked, according to Derek, was intentionally supposed to be a "dig" at the pompousness of some progressive rock out there.

Report this review (#2582219)
Posted Thursday, July 29, 2021 | Review Permalink

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