Planet X

Derek Sherinian

Magna Carta Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


What is the more proper description for Planet X? Is it the first solo album from Derek Sherinian, the former keyboardist for (among other bands) Dream Theater? Or is it the first album from a new group led by Sherinian?

If it's the latter, there's no doubt that the keyboard virtuoso has logged enough time as a sideman (counting among his credits Alice Cooper and - for a short stint - Kiss) to qualify for leading his own group. And judging the way he allows other instruments to take the lead, instead of hogging the limelight as he would have every right to do, this feels like more of a new band's birth cries than the first confident step alone in the musical world.

But for all this, there is something that Planet X is missing: one voice leading the way. Without this, the journey hits a few bumps along a mostly enjoyable road.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For this project (which, if memory serves me correctly, Sherinian was working on while still officially a member of Dream Theater), guitarist Brett Garsed, bassist Tony Franklin and drummer Virgil Donati augment the group, and each member brings along more talent than one could imagine. The interplay between Garsed and Sherinian is incredible; there are times I honestly couldn't tell which one of them was handling the lead. Donati's trap work is simply magnificent, while Franklin's bass lines (which occasionally get the chance to step out into the spotlight) act as an anchor drawing all the music together.

The songs on Planet X all draw heavily on a progressive rock background a la Dream Theater, with more than a pinch of metal's punch thrown in for good measure. Tracks like "Day In The Sun" and "Space Martini" all show the mastery each man has with his instrument, and how well they all can sound together.

But two things strike me about Planet X as being a bit odd. First, while Sherinian and crew do keep things short, there are times where I wonder if some musical ideas are being cut off in their prime. Tracks like "Crab Nebula" and "Brunei Babylon" all seem like they could have been stretched out a little more - a strange thing for me to be saying, seeing that often I am complaining that some prog-rock seems to stretch far too long.

Second, there seems to be one focal point missing in Planet X, something that draws all the musical contributions together into something that transcends just a simple band performance. I referred to this as a voice; that doesn't necessarily mean adding a singer. When Sherinian contributed to the side project Platypus, all the music seemed to gel together thanks to some unseen, often unheard force. It's very hard to explain, but you know when it's there - and when it's not. If the hair on the back of your neck is standing up with joy, that force is there. Sadly, that magic isn't with this band... yet. (Maybe time will improve things.)

There is enough on Planet X to celebrate, and it is an enjoyable album overall. And if things click just right for Sherinian and crew, they might even have the power to dwarf another band that Sherinian once was in. They're just not there yet.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Magna Carta Records, and is used for informational purposes only.