Review Summary: Scroll to the bottom of the page... If the line-up doesn't make you want to get this, read on....
Over the last century, abstract art has seen its fair share of movements; from cubist to futurist art, from expressionist to action art – all ideas of artists who wanted to push the boundary of conventional art in attempts to capture on canvas all their Technicolor visions in its entire grotesque. They breathed fresh life into art forms that were rapidly degenerating into a collection of clichés, becoming banal and mechanical: without soul. But in spite of the diversity they infused into art, there are two striking characteristics that are common to most movements and are two pillars on which modern/abstract art firmly stands: formlessness … and … dissonance.
The former is nothing new in music. Many musicians, over the years, have experimented with the form and structure of songs and the music (like time signatures) and gave rise to whole genres that allowed these musicians to push the boundaries of conventional music. Progressive bands like Dream Theater, Tool, and Fates Warning even gained fame for the ever dynamic canvasses they created in their songs. The latter however, is a whole different story.
Enter Planet X; a band of stellar musicians who take things a few steps further. They claim to be metal fusion: they are one of the very few bands who are exactly what they claim to be. An album filled with top drawer musicianship and some of the most bizarre melodic structures you would have ever heard, they are the representative of abstract art in modern music. In the words of legendary drummer Simon Booth himself “Planet X is a band that is playing the almost impossible."
And the almost impossible starts as soon as the album begins: with a brilliant roll from the maestro drummer Virgil Donati followed by a breakdown that will have anyone spellbound as to how they’re holding it all together. And how they hold it together! The fluidity and the absolute precision of all the musicians throughout the album, despite the complexity of their compositions, are astounding and alone make the album a pleasure to listen to. Add to that the dissonant melodies that fill the album: created by the use of possibly the most obscure chords and chord progressions (mostly by Derek Sherinian) and the non conformity of instruments to uniform scales and you have a treat for all avant-garde music lovers.
Some people might be put off by the fact that it’s an instrument only album but the album does well to remain diverse, not falling into a lot of clichés that are associated with instrumental albums and it remains rock solid consistent. It, in fact, remains the only instrumental album that I’ve managed to listen from start to end without any pauses.
One might wonder how an album with just four instruments manages to hold a person’s attention for the better part of an hour. Well… that would be attributed to moments of pure genius distributed throughout the album that come in every so often with the purpose of letting you sit up and take notice. A special mention then goes to a breakdown section in the middle of the opening track (Alien Hip Hop
) where Donati by just changing his hi hat and snare hits constantly re-moulds a steady riffing pattern into patterns that seem completely different…. If the description seems futile, it’s because it is.
My only conclusion to the review that I have been so awkwardly trying to write out is just to listen to it. I do not guarantee that you will like it. In fact if you want a crazy riff-fest to headbang to you, in all probability, won’t. Abstract art is like that: a particular artwork may find complete adoration from one and complete disgust from another. Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. If so, I have found Picasso and Dali in my PC speakers.
-- Synthesizers (I always thought he was better than Rudess: after all, Change of Seasons was his work. He proves me right on this one)
-- Drums (One of the best drummers alive today)
-- Bass (New guy from London... already a hot commodity in the music scene in the US supposedly)
-- Bass (Has recorded with the likes of Roger Waters, Allan Holdsworh and Simon Booth)
-- Guitars (legendary in jazz/fusion circles for his skill)
-- Guitars (was guitarist for the glam metal band Nelson... boy he can play)