Derek Sherinian - Blood Of The Snake - InsideOut Music  2006
10 Songs
Running Time: 52:59 

In 2004, Mythology tested the chains of the oft-restrictive instrumental genre by tossing a few musicians not known as widely inside the progressive inner circle, and pulling one of the better vocal (?!) performances in recent memory from Grand Poobah of the Black Label Society himself. Critically lauds and fan appreciation carried that album farther into the collective metal concsiousness than any of Sherinian's past solo outings, paving the way for his most recent effort, Blood Of The Snake.

The fretless bass of Tony Franklin (ex-Blue Murder / Black Sabbath) joins Simon Phillips' Peart-influenced drumwork,

forming a solid foundation of twisted funk. Sherinian's Middle Eastern trills intertwine with longtime collaborator John Petrucci, to create sort of a jumping-off point for this album. The way these two play off each other (even working in a bit of a guitar/keyboard duel at the end) trumps any of their mutual Dream Theater output, proving that - given a slightly more improvisational environment - they're two of the most inherently skilled musicians in the prog field today. "Man With No Name" makes no secret that Sherinian has come to kick a little ass from the get-go, Wylde cranking out a Sabbathian stomp for Derek to wail over with Emerson keyboard jabs and attacks. It's good to see Zakk stretch himself vocally and succeed, but with such close ties to Ozzy, you'd figure they'd have just asked the man himself to do the deed. Wylde's voice has always been more resonant than Ozzy's, so that could've had something to do with it. As it stands, though, subtle violin (courtesy of Jerry Goodman) adds flavour to the song, Zakk's searing solos testament to Derek always managing to put the best performance out of this chosen collaborators. The aptly-named "Phantom Shuffle" sees the sax of Brandon Phelps sharing center stage with the keys here, Sherinian and the sax even doubling up on a large portion of the soloing here. This could be the first dual sax/keyboard solo in metal history, full of ascending/descending flourishes. No guitars, just Sherinian spazzing out in his own mad genius sort of way. It's Dali-esque, really. "Been Here Before" features Brad Gillis of Night Ranger and Wylde (again), creating subtle, new age stylings. With Sherinian's wistful keys, this could just as easily have been on a Phill Keaggy instrumental album, or something by Al DiMeola. Maybe it took Wylde - making his third appearance here - to yank some honest emotion from Yngwie "The Fucking Fury" Malmsteen, the title track sticking and moving like a hypnotized cobra in a New Delhi marketplace, and creating a wankfest extraordinaire with astounding and unexpected good results. After the metallized "Blood Of The Snake", "On The Moon" seems almost smooth jazz in execution, proving Sherinian master of pretty much any genre that uses a keyboard. Distant, echoing ivories mimic a lone trumpet, invoking the spirit of exploration that imbued much of the '70s Mahavishnu Orchestra output. This mellow segue, of course, just in time to be smacked upside the head by the writhing, violent tourbillion of sound that is "The Monsoon", Wylde and Malmsteen again chugging and churning for all they're worth as Sherinian whips his fellow musicians into a frenzy worthy of the song's name. After the one-two punch of metal-gloved "Prelude To Battle" and "Viking Massacre", Sherinian throws us possibly the summer song to end all summer songs in the form of, well, "In The Summertime". Slash lends his strings to this Mungo Jerry classic, while the unmistakeable snarl of Billy Idol reigns himself in, yet still manages to sound fantastic, even with uber-sappy radio pop. A rollicking ending to another foray into lands metallian for Mr. Sherinian and friends.

Mythology was Sherinian testing the bonds of instrumental metal, sure. But it's with Blood Of The Snake that he breaks those chains, unleashing his most overtly heavy instrumental album yet. A soon-to-be-classic from the only person who could rightly be called a keyboard shredder whose initials aren't Keith Emerson.

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