John Petrucci - Terminal Velocity

John Petrucci Terminal Velocity cover
John Petrucci
Terminal Velocity
Sound Mind Music
I suppose I was lucky enough, age wise, to start listening to rock and metal in the early 90s, hence capturing the Dream Theater phenomenon pretty much from the very beginning. Top notch musical chop by some guy straight out of a prestigious musical school could be expected, but the sort of creativity, artistic merit and maturity that they displayed early on, was really an eye opener and what set them apart from many of their contemporaries. Unfortunately as the lineup started changing so did the internal chemistry in the band, who persevered, but in the process became too corporate a concern, even dropping some of its founding members and in the process bringing on questionable replacements, not in terms of ability, but in terms of composition. The output of the band has really stagnated in the recent past and only a back to the roots album seems to have done the trick of somewhat revitalizing them, flawed as it may be in places.
Now one of the band’s main proponents, guitarist John Petrucci (the one sporting a tali-beard) is coming out with his second solo offering and the timing seems a little weird, but then again with the covid pandemic in full swing, why not? Reuniting with Theater’s former drummer Mike Portnoy (Sons Of Apollo, Winery Dogs and more) and bassist Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, solo JP and Flying Colors) the musical results are not a million miles away from that album, but there’s a more joyous overall tone, a more carefree approach in a lot of the material here that really seems to benefit it tremendously.
The title track, “Terminal Velocity”, which opens the album is a prime example as it explodes in all different directions, allowing it to touch corners that Theater only visit on occasion, bringing to mind LTE in a pleasant way as well as echoing the great Satch-one.
While the “Oddfather” makes clever word play and has a flair for more drama, as well as a more melodic lenience overall, bringing to mind what can be good about DT at times. Freed from the often boring ideas that Rudess often infuses songs with, this rudderless exercise manages to not sound uncontrollable, but instead like the very distillation of all that is good about DT in no uncertain terms.
“Happy Song” is a little weird, especially if you’re a miserable middle aged bastard like me. It seems to fuse the undeniable chops of JP with a melody that’s straight out of a Green Day, Offspring or Sum41 song, that pop punkish bliss, which soon is turned into a fusioney type jam that’s quite tarty and delectable. Damn those food metaphors, it’s early and I haven’t had breakfast yet!
“Gemini” means more rocking business, with a heavier tone, a nice riff and runs and all the bells and whistles one could expect. It has some nice bluesier moments and even a flamenco section that JP manages to incorporate rather nicely in there. Not bad at all!
“Out of the Blue” by the title alone should let you know that it’s well… bluesy. It’s a nice slower tune, in the fashion of white blues, as popularized of late, by the also late Gary Moore with a few whiffs of the darling solo buds of May, Brian May that is… and there ain’t nothing bad about, kicking back and enjoying a little melody, after all the shredding. There’s a lot of soul here.
“Glassy Eyed Zombies” has this Metalli-theater tone about it and some slight Maidenesque lead, which I don’t mind at all. But at times it also harkens also to some of the 70s precursors of the Brits as well.
“The Way Things Fall” is another lighter tune and while I enjoyed its cheerful soloing, I can’t say the same for the rest of it.
“A Snake in My Boot” is wonderfully out of climate, somewhat unexpected and it’s nice how it manages to go from a boogeroo early part to a middle eastern err... middle and then to fuze it all nicely with some soloing that acts like instant glue, bonding it all.
Last but not least, “Temple of Circadia” (a title that reminded me a little of Thought Chamber’s crazy title nomenclature, as Circadian Rhythm is more or less what we call a biological clock) is quite a highlight, both heavier as well as more focused than a lot of the tracks that precede it, managing to shred it’s way tastefully into a conclusion.
While it doesn’t reach some of the dizzying heights of JP’s own debut “Suspended Animation”, “Terminal Velocity” manages to sound a lot more consistent and the byproduct of a genuine need for expression of some ideas that are possibly not entirely appropriate for DT’s corporate technocracy. The closest thing we could get to a new LTE, but not quite it either. Anyway, you’re welcome you bearded wonder you!