Released: 2003, insideout
There was a time when keyboards were the enemy of metal. That is clearly not the case today however there is till some hesitation in some circles to fully embrace the sound of the keyboard. Accordingly I’m going to do three quick reviews of three solo albums by three keyboardists, all on the Insideout label. They are Tomas Bodin, Ryo Okumoto and Derek Sherinian.
There are so many reason why many metal fans will dislike this. I mean c’mon…a keyboardists solo album from a band that, while respected and admired, is admittedly very mellow by metal standards. This is heavier (perhaps the final measure of which all music should be judged on a metal site? ) than Bodin’s but not as heavy as Sherinian’s..
This is truly a solo album in one sense as it has Ryo’s picture in the book no less than 20 times and his face on the cover as well. There are about 18 guest stars on this CD as well making for a fully packed book with notes, lyrics, and photos. There is an added bonus disc of a video of ‘The Making of’. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should, but it is undeniably great value for the die-hard fans. In all honesty, I haven’t watched it yet. Maybe one day I will.
Musically the songs range from rock to free-form jazz things, to experimental wackiness making for a sonically diverse and album rich in tonal diversity, the hallmarks of good prog. There are saxophones, acapella parts, and of course tons of keyboards! ‘Highway Roller’ is probably the heaviest, fastest and funkiest tune on the disc and accordingly the most accessible with it’s rock feel. It comes as no surprise as Glenn ‘The Voice of Rock’ Hughes lends his vocal talents to this cut. The CD ends with a totally solo instrumental piece called ‘The Imperial’ with acoustic piano and an ambient sci-fi vibe.
Most of Spock’s Beard are here which again asks the question when is a solo album just the same band with another name. Pretentious? Hardly. This is so low-key it could hardly be accused of that. The need to create art and create as much of it as possible? Certainly. This is where you as a fan decide do I need another Spock’s Beard CD?
In all fairness this is a showcase of Ryo’s undeniable talent and as a fan I am always impressed by virtuosity so it tips the scale from a slightly above average CD for a genre with little discernable metal force, influence or impact. Prog fans bump this grade up a point, thrashers bump it down a mark