Review Summary: An album which will not only lift your spirits, but also soundly regains John Petrucci's solo career after 15 years.
On his latest solo effort, John Petrucci seems to be in very high spirits indeed. The song titles consist of either wackily humour ("Happy Song", "Glassy Eyed Zombies") or vague movie references ("The Oddfather", "Snake in My Boot"), the musicianship comes mostly with an uplifting tone and the mental image of Petrucci playing guitar on Terminal Velocity
isn't far from the guy dancing in his home studio. Maybe I'm in the minority with that last one. Nevertheless, it's nice to see the Dream Theater axeman venturing out into solo territory for the first time in 15 years, the only other full-length effort being the excellent Suspended Animation
. What's nicer to hear is that, as disheartening as this year has been for virtually everyone except London MPs, John Petrucci seems to have genuinely enjoyed constructing his sophomore solo release.
Generally, Terminal Velocity
seems to have a much less serious feel to it than virtually anything else Petrucci has been involved in. You won't find multi-part epics lasting for over 20 minutes here. Instead, you'll find solos towering to lofty heights and riffs having more in common with classic metal a la Steve Vai than snippets of a progressive rock odyssey. I mean "Happy Song" sounds like it could have been on a pop punk album circa 2001, and considering how unusually well that song flows, you'd be forgiven for thinking that John Petrucci has only been bubbling with these vast ideas for a lot longer than the last year. The opening title track is perhaps the best example of the man combining his intricate guitar work with a more lenient musical tone, the surrounding rhythm section relaxing with its mid-paced prowess before Petrucci solos his way to the end of the song. It can sound a bit pretentious at times, admittedly, but not more so than on any album in Dream Theater's discography. Similarly, "Snake in My Boot" (I thought of this title as a Toy Story reference, how fun) aims for the same lenient rhythm section but ultimately turns out to be forgettable. It lasts little over four minutes but is far too slow to kick off, and when Petrucci does hammer in a few solos it seems their existence is somewhat abrupt, as if the song was meant to end muddled and flat.
There are songs here where John Petrucci does develop quite adventurous songwriting, and I'm not referring to "Happy Song". Instead, you have the likes of "Gemini" with its powerful progressive bombast or arguably the album's heaviest song, closer "Temple of Circadia" which could arguably stand shoulder to shoulder with any of Dream Theater's finest songs post-2000. The former develops an excellent level of prowess and even filters in some versatility, the mid-section consisting of a beautiful Latin American guitar arrangement before laying down welcome heaviness for the song to finish on a high. The latter by comparison also aims for bombast and does very well. The introductory couple of minutes draw you in, Petrucci's heavier guitar work coming into its own as it builds upon a crescendo of battering rhythms, before the song takes a dark-tinged, quieter voyage, allowing even more focus on Petrucci's guitar work and the subsequent rhythm section supporting him. Both of these songs are very well-written and clearly point towards adventurous ideas, more of which should have been put into Terminal Velocity
Honestly, it's nice to hear an album as happy as Petrucci's sophomore solo effort. With much of the year seeing bands (and indeed musicians' solo efforts) focusing on the negative or the downright mundane turnout of politics, Petrucci seems to have taken a backseat and not allowed conceptual interference, instead letting the music do the talking. Thankfully, it's a great album to listen to for those who simply don't get enough of his talent in Dream Theater, but what's even more promising is the axeman is seemingly allowed to breathe and on this evidence, being given free rein seems to have given Petrucci a fresh musicianship approach.