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Derek Sherinian

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars Actually, I'm not a big fan of Derek Sherenian or his Planet X. When he was in Dream Theater still I'm not impressed with his playing. I prefer Kevin Moore and Jordan Rudess. But... when I listen to this album, wow, the music blows me away. So bombastic! His collaboration with Yngwie -who?- Malmsteen, Al diMeola, Steve Lukather, Tony Franklin, Billy Sheehan, Zakk Wylde and Simon Phillips have delivered "nutritious" music. A brilliant composition of fusion and prog rock/metal. You did a great job, Mr. Sherenian! If you can keep your good work like this in the future, maybe I could fall in love with your music. Definitely 4 stars for this album!

- freehenk, wong kudus, live in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Report this review (#17336)
Posted Tuesday, August 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars With albums like this it is no wonder why Sherinian was fired by Dream Theater.That's not for being an inadequate musician but due to his mainstream orientation and his preference to a lot more simplified formats compared to D.T stuff.However, this album will make you do the headbanging thing in "Sons of Anu",it will send out a romantic feeling in "gypsy moth" and in general will make you listen to it more than once.Yet you will realise he has gone far away from what he was doing with Theater.All in all a considerable effort.
Report this review (#17337)
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Thats the style of music i like , Derek Sherinian is one of my best keyboards players in other word , he is my idol, I like his style he is one of the best keyboards players, a previous member of Dream Theater will be strong enough to shake the world with his records his music is spirtual i like it god bless you all out there .
Report this review (#17338)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I noticed an immediate change in Derek Sherinian's music right from the beginning of his latest release Black Utopia. The cover evokes a futuristic (?) civilization of what looks to be a post nuclear holocaust image(s) on the outskirts of a "normal" city with an interesting design of a crucifix in the shadows of the skyline. The music is most certainly darker and heavier than it ever has been before and the best that I have heard yet from Sherinian and his mates. He always creates magnificent music and I was wondering how he was going to come up with something fresh and different being that he plays strictly instrumental progressive rock, which actually provides more flexibility than music with vocals. He has not strayed off course too much over the last two releases. This time out is an entirely different approach than you have heard before so get ready for some changes. For starters, he decided to invite an all-star cast to support this project. Legends such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Al DiMeola, Steve Lukather and Simon Phillips, amongst others, are all part of this determined instrumental onslaught of prog-rock.

Deep in the corners of our minds there are dark places we all have whether we want to admit it or not. Sounds, images and words place or prompt these thought processes inside our heads. As disturbing as they may be at times we must be realistic and acknowledge those thoughts and feelings. I think musicians such as Derek do just that through their music. It must be a wonderfully therapeutic experience releasing those demons. Even though his utopia is black, there is always hope for change, and if you look to the horizon of the image on this cover, there is light and life beyond the doom and gloom. Therefore, the message is more than clear to me, allow the acceptance of all our feelings and you unlock the gate to immersion in the music. This is what this is all about for me and it can be for you as well.

Thanks to the music, for a while, I can have some kind of release during my day. Unleash "The Fury" chained inside you and it becomes a "Sweet Lament," such is life in the danger zone of emotions; this is how this music speaks to me. That says it all. It is easy enough to let it all go and then move on to the next chapter of your life. I know I am waxing prophetic and getting intense but I feel this music provokes this mindset and for me that can be a good thing to acknowledge. And how about you fellow prog- heads? Can you let the music take you away for 60 minutes of your life to find some other place inside your head you have not visited for a long time? Let Derek Sherinian and his music show you the way, I promise you will enjoy the trip. Sherinian has become the consummate bandleader and virtuoso with few equals; once again, he provides an album that serves as his truth.

Report this review (#17339)
Posted Wednesday, January 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have to say that the sound of DEREK SHERINIAN is not a copy of the sound of DREAM THEATER! First of all, there is no annoying "average guy" vocal (as one of the reviewers of DREAM THEATER called it :-)) in DEREK SHERINIAN - the music is solely instrumental. For this reason "Black Utopia" is easier to review as I do not need to complain about possibly silly lyrics :-) The album features a lot of complex guitar work, which sometimes sounds as that of Ozzy Osbourne (sorry, capitals are reserved for prog artists only), for example, shortly after 2:40 of "Nightmare Cinema". Keyboards are rather numerous and mostly create atmosphere, except in "Gypsy Moth", where piano is a principal instrument. As to its heaviness, I would rate this album as light-metallic: while there are typical metallic elements on it, such as a characteristic guitar sound (as in "Nightmare Cinema", "Axis of Evil", "Black Utopia") or slow "ballads" ("The Fury", "Starcycle", "Sweet Lament" (it would be really great to dance with a well-dressed beautiful woman to "Sweet Lament"! (I am sure Derek can afford that, or rather her :-)) :-)), the bass guitars do not dominate the background all the time ("Gypsy Moth" lacks bass guitars almost entirely), and the music is much more imaginative and artistic than on a typical (non-prog) metallic album (and maybe that is why we call it progressive metal, not simply metal?!). Overall, "Black Utopia" leaves a really favourable impression. I've been listening to this album a couple of times a day for the whole last week! Not an immortal masterpiece, but certainly an indispensable album for prog lovers, especially for fans of DREAM THEATER and LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT.

Report this review (#17341)
Posted Thursday, April 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This will be short. As Derek Sherinian himself states: "Black Utopia is the evil cousin of Inertia". I´ve always been a Dream Theater fan and since Derek Sherinian left Dream Theater, I´ve tried to follow his work, specially because I´m playing guitar myself and there are always some guitar heros like Zakk Wylde, Steve Lukather etc. on his cd´s. Every guitarplayer should triy to listen to Derek´s music and specially to "Sweet Lament" on Black Utopia. It makes you cry:) Luke´s solo on this track is a "one take".

Report this review (#17342)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Ah well i have to say this is a very poor atempt indeed to write music. Here you got a 44 minute total instrumental album feauturing guitar greats as Lukather, Wylde ,Di meola and Malmsteen and although there are several other talents on this album the guitars is what it is really focusing about... Basically there is not really much of the songs that are intended as melody, infact the whole album seems to be about showing how fast each of these guitarists can play as the guitar duells are plenty. Infact i am amazed that this is Sherinians project as he seems to get no space at all and although the previos albums have been in the jazz/fusion genre this is far from it...It is basically reduced to basic prog-metal with some slower songs inbetween but frankly there is not much interest for non-musicians here. If you like original guitar oriented albums i would rather suggest something with Joe satriani or Steve vai
Report this review (#52107)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Bob Greece
5 stars For me, this album is just perfect. It's heavy and instrumental, in a similar vein to Liquid Tension Experiment. Surprising that even though Derek Sherinian is a keyboard player, he has let the guitarists take the lead on this album and it is the guitarists that give each track their form. The Yngwie Malmsteen tracks are fast guitar shredding. The Zakk Wylde tracks are heavy and rythmic and very much like his playing on Ozzy Osbourne albums. Al DiMeola's playing on "Gypsy Moth" sounds like Spanish guitar. Jerry Goodman plays violin on this album but I have real trouble picking out the violin sound, which is a shame.

This album is pure prog metal fusion. It has no connection with jazz fusion except that it's totally instrumental. There are no weak tracks on this album. If you like Liquid Tension Experiment then you might well like this too.

Report this review (#57394)
Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Basically the same concepts described in my review for Planet X are good ones for this album. But:

This is an album by a keyboardist but is full of guitars. Well, take a look at the line-up. What would you expect with Yngwie Malmsteen and Zakk Wylde? This makes this album closer to progressive metal, especially with Malmsteen. The Sons of Anu is a great opening, a really good song. Nightmare Cinema continues with the prog metal, and with Stony Days and Starcycle you come back to Planet X sound. But then Malmsteen comes again in Axis of Evil. It's a great couple that with Derek and Yngwie. Black Utopia is another example with heavy guitar riffs.

At the end, I thought in giving it four stars, but after some time without listen to it, I don't miss it. The reason is because this is only an amusing album.

Report this review (#60946)
Posted Tuesday, December 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars For me this album contain some of the best music i have heard in a long time. Beeing a musician, i mostly play the keyboards but i was at first a guitarist, i spend 10 years lerning classical guitar, this album really touch everything i like about music. Incredible musicianship, lots of feeling musically and strong arrangements.

The album starts with the incredible guitar works of Mr. Malmsteen then, you have Al DiMeola joining to put the cherry on top of the cake, wow!! And the good thing about the album is that it doesn't stop after only one song, all of the album is incredible musicianship!!! One of the highlight of the album IMO is "Axis of Evil" in witch you have one of the best guitar duel of the century, Malmsteen vs Wylde, AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, BREATHTAKING !!!!!!!!!!

IMO, anybody who gave this album less than 4 stars maybe because: 1. they don't know nothing about music, 2. they don't understand or like the beauty of the electric guitar. Sorry is i offended anyone, but the musician and guitar fan in me had to say it.

5 Stars nothing less.

Report this review (#84411)
Posted Friday, July 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Derek Sherinian has a very interesting solo career after he was thrown of Dream Theater. However Black Utopia is not their best album.

The most attractive elements of this album is to hear so many electric guitars when he is a keyboardist (and a good one BTW). In fact, in the line-up of Black Utopia you can find some great guitar heroes like Yngwie Malmsteen, Al DiMeola, Zakk Wylde and Steve Lukather. But this is not enough to make a great album. There are some very good songs and interesting sections but most of the time the tracks sound with lack of inspiration and excess of technical skills.

Anyway, prog metal fans could really enjoy this record and there are some highlights like the powerful and sometimes dark "Nightmare Cinema"; "Starcycle", a song which reminds me some of the best works made by the legendary Jeff Beck; "Axis of Evil", a song which mixes perfectly heavy sections with some great guitar solos by Malmsteen and Wylde; and of course "Black Utopia" maybe the best song of the album cos their powerful riffs and rhythmical base.


Report this review (#143604)
Posted Thursday, October 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars DEREK SHERINIAN Black Utopia.what an album !!!!!! is really good .every song is just amazing .and an all star players line up [ Yngwie Malmsteen Al DiMeola Zakk Wylde Steve Lukather Tony Franklin Billy Sheehan Jerry Goodman ] what really get my atention is that the guitars players take a lot of playing and make the album sounds more like a band and not like a solo keyboard players album .derek playing is like always lots of feelings strong playing and talent .oh and BTW those who said that prefer Kevin Moore and Jordan Rudess their should listen to this monster album .a masterpiece
Report this review (#158149)
Posted Wednesday, January 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars i sew the names Yngwie Malmsteen, Al DiMeola, Zakk Wylde, and Billy Sheehan on this release, and i was sure its going to be awesome....GOD I WAS WRONG!!!

this release is much heavier then his other releases, some times i like it, but its not one of this times. this album is not focusing on the keyboard, and its really surprising because after all its a solo album, i would say that its a good thing but the problem is that i feel that the other musicians just came, improvised something for 10 min, toke they money and left (and its probably what really happened) i feel like they give zero afford to this release. you can hear exactly witch player plays were, and the players are really different, so it gave the album some colors. but again, i feel that the afford from the other musicians was zero! if their is something good that i can say about this album is that Derek sounds great like all ways.

Report this review (#169417)
Posted Thursday, May 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars.This was an absolute blast ! Hey when you have Al DiMeola, Zakk Wylde and Yngwie Malmsteen as your featured guitarists you know the metal is going to fly. And fly it does ! Simon Phillips is on drums, he's played with Jeff Beck and Joe Satriani. Jerry Goodman on violin from MAHIVISHNU ORCHESTRA of course, while Billy Sheehan and Tony Franklin take care of the bass duties. Oh and Steve Lukather plays lead guitar on a couple of the mellower tracks. Of course this is Derek Sherinian's baby, yet he really does not take the spotlight very often, rather he leaves that role to the virtuoso guitar players for the most part.

"The Fury" is just that from the hands of Malmsteen.The synths and drums add some support as well. "The Sons Of Anu" is an uptempo rocker with great riffs as Malmsteen's fluid and fast guitar comes in. This is a shred-fest ! It calms down 2 minutes in but the guitar continues to play so beautifully with background synths. A change before 4 1/2 minutes as we get some intricate nylon guitar from DiMeola as Sherinian answers with a flury of keys. Not to be out done DiMeola comes back with his electric guitar, and he's on freaking fire ! More keys and guitar before Malmsteen ends it with a blazing solo. "Nightmare Cinema" is probably my favourite. I love the contrast between Wylde's heavy guitar attacks and the atmospheric calm with Shreinian's dark keys. Just an incredible track. Dark and very heavy. "Stony Days" features Lukather on guitar and he does a beautiful job on this more fusion influenced track. "Starcycle" is actually a cover of a Jan Hammer tune. Lukather is back but much more aggressively. He's outstanding on this one as Sherinian does his Hammer impression. Nice. Incredible guitar though.

"Axel Of Evil" joins Malmsteen and Wylde for the only time on the album.They do not disappoint. Crushing opening as drums pound and Keys run wild. Malmsteen and Wylde trade fire. Unbelieveable ! A wondrous calm 2 1/2 minutes in. Check out the guitar 4 minutes in as this gets pretty emotional as these two guitarists display how gifted they are. It gets chaotic a minute later before the song ends explosively. "Gypsy Moth" is obviously a nod to DiMeola who plays his nylon guitar with presicion as Goodman offers up some violin melodies. Sherinian plays keys throughout. "Sweet Lament" places the focus squarley on Lukather and his soaring guitar melodies. "Black Utopia" is the closing track with Zakk on guitar. There is some atmosphere to this one early before violin and drums come in. Heaviness arrives 1 1/2 minutes in and it steam rolls everything in it's path. It gets even heavier 2 minutes in. Check out the guitar ! Keys and calm 5 1/2 minutes in continue until the song fades out after 7 minutes. Silence until some brief weird sounds to end it.

I will be getting Sherinian's next two recordings after being knocked over by this one. A must for Prog-Metal fans. Very impressed.

Report this review (#171780)
Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Wow, how utterly dissapointing this was for me. Here I was expecting to get some good keyboard-charged Fusion music froma n undeniably great ex-DT member, and instead I get this. I mean, seriousely, there is nothing progressive about this. It's just a bunch of guitar wankers with some input from Sherinian, but really, this is a guitar album, and I am very dissapointed by what I heard. Not only are the keyboards nearly non-existant, but there is absolutely no soul whatsoever to this music. Can it even be called music, is my question? Yes, there are some moments on the record that got me bopping my head, I'll admit, but at the end of the day, what it progressive about this? It sure isn't true Jazz/Fusion. It's just Sherinian hiring a bunch of crappy guitar 'legends' to play every single note known to man as fast as possible while he backs them up. Sorry, but that isn't my idea of good or original music.

Such a shame, as I really enjoyed Derek's work while he was with Dream Theater. Ah well, you can't win 'em all, I suppose. This album may grow on me over time, but one thing is for certain: it will never be a 'progressive' record in my eyes. Too much thrashing and not enough heart. This is straightforward metal trying to be something more, and it fails. Sorry, Derek fans, but this just isn't my cup of tea. I'll be lucky if I listen to this thing once every five years. Sadly, another dust-collector on my shelf. This one's only for the most dedicated of fans.

Report this review (#180788)
Posted Monday, August 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Third Derek Sherinian's solo album is made in the tradition of previous one: even more participated guitar heroes added in. If debut album was ambitious and experimental but raw one with team of unknown musicians, strarting from his second album, Sherinian plays with music stars all around.

Second album was real success, mainly because of new drummer Simon Phillips and perfect session guitarist Steve Lukather participated on it. Using the same formula for his third solo album, Sherinian made some mistakes, in my opinion.

First of all, just physical growth of star musicians participated can't guarantee high standard of music automathicaly. So, Yngwie Malmsteen is very fast guitarist for sure, but his Kalashnikov- style solos destroyed musical structure of this album. Zakk Wylde plays his usual Ozzie Osbourne's style heavy metal, which is not bad if used in right place.Even Lukather was pushed to play as fast and heavy as he can. Acoustic piece played by Al Di Meola is nice, but out of place again. All album sounds like sountrack of guitar heroes technique demonstration championship ( if you still remember, it's a keyboardist solo album!).

The total result is eclectic collection of very competent but fast,heavy and very formal guitar instrumental pieces ( in many cases it's difficult to name these compositions as songs, it's more guitar technique demonstration).

So, after really successfull second album, third one missed that high musical level ( still saving high technigue level). It's a good album for axe-heroes fans, but it gives not too much to music lovers.

Still 3, because of high musical technique.

Report this review (#243553)
Posted Thursday, October 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Derek Sherinian is a musician that needs no introduction, so I will stop only on the music here on this third album from his solo career from 2003 named Black utopia. Jazz fusion with progressive metal elements is what everybody will find here, a good doze of guitars that at some point , at least I, I sweared I'd listened to some album of a guitarist. To me, he never take the lead, is present on every piece, he's work is very well melted with the rest of the instruments. Again a line up that will make envy every band involved in this kind of music, among others Malmsteen, DiMeola, Phillips, etc. A solid and well known musicin who contriputed a lot to the sound of this album, who seams to be more as a unit sound then a solo project. Anyway a good album, that worth to be investigated, not his best but a good one. The pieces are well developed, crunchy guitars, specialy Zakk Wilds unique style, excellent druming by Simon Phillps, and above all Sherinian keybords are always whre must be. 3 stars for this one.
Report this review (#294319)
Posted Friday, August 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Knitted by nanas...

Derek Sherinian is joined by an all-star cast for his third solo release. As well as previous collaborators Simon Phillips, Steve Luthaker, Jerry Goodman and Zack Wylde this album also features contributions from Billy Sheehan, Brian Tichy, Yngwie Malmsteen and Al Di Meola.

The Good: Sherinian moves even further away from fusion for this shredalicious, strictly metal affair. The standard of composition is high, the musicianship higher, and the album remains interesting and engaging throughout. Whilst it is one of his heavier releases, it also has some lighter moments in the form of Satriani-esque Stony Days and Sweet Lament. However for me the main events are the cover of Jeff Becks' Starcycle, and a nylon-string Al Di Meola solo on The Sons of Anu, which segues into a heavy riffing section and blows me away every time.

The Bad: Whilst I respect Malmsteen as a technically gifted guitarist I also find his particular brand of playing to be a bit boring. The guitars in general do also have a tendancy to overpower the keyboard parts in the mix which is shame, especially considering this is, by definition, a keyboardist's solo album.

The Verdict: Strong from start to finish.

Report this review (#457219)
Posted Sunday, June 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In 2003 a tireless Derek Sherinian launches his third solo album entitled ''Black Utopia'', released again on Inside Out.For this album the line-up of ''Inertia'' took an upgrade with three more musicians added to the guest list of Sherinian: Bass parts are provided in a few tracks by Billy Sheehan, Jazz/Fusion legend Al Di Meola also contributes with his guitar in a pair of tracks and the virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen appears also in three pieces.The later was touring with Sherinian since 2002, propably this was the reason of his appearance on the album.

''Black Utopia'' sounds so much the same yet different to ''Inertia''.This is still a heavy-sounding album, especially when Zakk Wylde takes over with his guitar, having a strong Heavy Metal sense throughout and flirting constantly with modern Jazz/Fusion.Malmsteen's influence on the tracks he appears is more than evident, these two pieces along with the opening introduction have an obvious Neo-Classical flavor due to his highly technical solos.The rest of the album can be actually labeled as Fusion Metal with plenty of atmospheric soundscapes added for good measure.Sherinian again provides a virtuosic keyboard performance with tremendous pyrotechnics, grandiose preludes and powerful solos, while the guitars remain aggressive and punchy all the way.The biggest suprise comes from the brief but highly original acoustic crescendos of Di Meola, which have their own sound and spark.However the ghost of DREAM THEATER seems to keep haunting Sherinian's composing approach, who's albums have a strong vibe from his past with the milestone US Prog Metal legends.

Sharp, rich and pounding Fusion/Heavy Prog/Metal with huge waves of guitar and keyboard attacks is what ''Black Utopia'' is all about and anyone fond of the more virtuosic side of Prog has find his heaven.Recommended.

Report this review (#927591)
Posted Sunday, March 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars Derek is of course keyboard player with Planet X, among others, but while this is a solo album of his it has to be said that it sounds as if it has been recorded by a master guitarist. When looking into the album a bit more closely the reason becomes apparent in that Derek has seen himself as composer, arranger and musical director and has then invited some guests such as Zakk Wylde and Yngwie J Malmsteen (among others) to come in and let rip. While Derek does provide some extremely complex melodies (aided and abetted by a rhythm section of Simon Phillips and Tony Franklin), it is the guitars that are centre stage.

While there are places where the music calms down, and indeed there is room at times for some acoustic guitar, it is where the guitars are at their most ferocious that this album really flies. Derek has brought in guitarists with quite different styles and has used this to great effect. "Axis Of Evil" sees Zakk and Yngwie shredding and trying to outdo each other on a rock song that just blasts. The note density on this album must be phenomenal yet there are few times when it seems over-indulgent. Over the top definitely, but it is music that makes the listener want more, not reach for the off switch. Derek may be a keyboard player but buy this not if you want to hear a Rick Wakeman soundalike but if you want to hear guitarists going for it at top speed.

Originally appeared in Feedback #73, Jun 03

Report this review (#978697)
Posted Saturday, June 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars With an all-star lineup featuring some stellar musicians, this album almost feels like a bit of a letdown. Main man Derek Sherinian takes a backseat to endless guitar acrobatics by some of the world's most renowned players, yet it all seems rather dull and uninspired.

Now, I love heavy music, I have a bit of a taste for what's called "fusion", though I could never totally come to grasps with what that really means, and enjoy a bit of guitar shredding. But none of it seems coherent on this album. You have guys like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Lukather, Al Di Meola and Zakk Wylde all on one record, and yet, with the exception of a few passages, it feels like they're all just going through the motions.

There's an abundance of great riffs though, which is evident in massive headbangers like 'The Sons of Anu' and the title track, 'Black Utopia', while songs like 'Starcycle' and 'Gypsy Moth' have some nice, exotic flavors to them. But overall, while none of the tracks are bad, I struggle to really listen to any of them all the way through without being bored.

And then of course, there's Mr. Sherinian himself. The fact I've discussed the guitar playing more than the keyboards pretty much goes to show how low-key Sherinian's performance seems to be. Or perhaps I'm just struggling to pay attention. As a whole, I do feel kind of bad giving this album such a low score, but I struggle to justify to myself rating it any higher.

Report this review (#1743939)
Posted Sunday, July 16, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars I agree with some reviewers that there is not a lot of effort by Derek himself as it is a group effort and guitar players are certainly not just an accompanying band. This may be seen upon critically or positively.

On a more negative side, the compositions are memorable which is at the expense of the band not trying hard enough to challenge themselves as a fusion-prog pack. Fortunately, the album is not too long and offers even acoustic moments.

Overall, it is a pleasant album to listen to but it seems to be a lighter effort by all its musicians. And I would wish to hear more Derek solos.

Report this review (#2349204)
Posted Saturday, April 11, 2020 | Review Permalink

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