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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

John Petrucci

Suspended Animation

Review by Josh Turner

I'm not one for instrumentals, but I'll make an exception for this one. John Petrucci is one of my favorite guitarists, and I'm curious whenever his name is on the credits. While solos from other guitarists typically sound like mind-numbing incantations adapted from mindless scribbles on a page, John's are nothing short of stupendous. His contributions are always of the highest caliber and they're always worth the wait. Some of the most memorable moments in Dream Theater classics are the fast, technical, and tricky solos that John provides.

As for this album, I've already played through it a few times and I haven't lost interest in it yet. The music just jumps out of the speakers. I've heard a lot of stuff from Kevin Shirley, but this one from the standpoint of sound quality is simply superb. Before anybody ever starts playing, he makes sure they're playing on the greenest grass. The drumming is consistently on par. John's performance is several strokes ahead, and the selection of Dave LaRue on bass is an ace in the hole. The whole album is a series of athletic feats that are sure to raise many eyebrows. Like a dogs leg when you scratch the right spot, my ears were quivering in pure ecstasy.

Most of the tracks are performed by the trio of Petrucci, LaRue, and Dave Dicenso. While there is no Jordan Ruddess, there appears to be some keyboard effects that go un-credited. It may just be electronic drums and guitar effects. It just goes to show the wealth of magic charms these wise wizards are capable of conjuring up. Likewise, the songs that don't have these tricks aren't lacking anything. When John overdubs himself, it's like listening to California Guitar Trio or G3. Nothing is fluff, and everything is there for a reason. Everything he puts into the mix is top-notch. It's not just there to spackle in the cracks because there are no defects in his defenses. The wall he builds is solid, stoic, and smooth. The craftsmanship is quite impressive. For those who liked Liquid Tension Experiment, there is the potential you'll like this album even better.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Jaws of Life
This is geared towards the tastes of Dream Theater fans. In albums like "Images and Words", the music would change course and open the way for LaBrie's compelling voice. Here, however, we get something completely different. We get an infusion of instrumental elation and it's conditioned to go the entire distance. This rapture of rock is a great opener and lets you know Petrucci is in the prime pole position. Once it's out of clutch, we are on a stomach-churning ride for the rest of its duration.
Glasgow Kiss
I can't recall a bass ever sounding so good as it does on this album. On this song, LaRue's bass is a knockout blow to the face. The drums will bruise you with a head butt. The guitars scream one, two, tie him up. A flurry of jabs comes quickly during the solos as Petrucci glides gracefully around the ring. This song takes a short breather between rounds before he is thrown back into this melodic melee. He finishes the middle and final rounds with an onslaught of heavy-handed hits. He beats his targets fast and accurate, and the challenger goes right down to the mat. This is no chess match as any listener will be outclassed. I'm sure fans will rewind this again and again to comprehend just how he managed to float like a butterfly, but sting like Eric Esch Butterbean. With the closing bell, you'll be down for the count, dizzy, trying to comprehend how you got caught by so many phantom punches.
Tunnel Vision
It starts as a jam session and then morphs into something that is more or less electronica. This isn't something you'd expect from Petrucci. Right when you think there might have been some mistake in the studio, it let's loose. This is the Petrucci we've come to expect. Some of the scales he runs upon and the sound effects are quite stunning. Yet, in the last third, it turns into a straightforward instrumental. If there is any filler, this may be it. Then again, there is a lot of energy and flow in these simple passages as well. Not everything has to gush in order to meet our gluttonous needs. After throwing flames and igniting many explosions, it works well to bring everything back to a cool. There are no Dave's on this one. Tony Verderosa contributes electronic and acoustic drums. Tim Lefebvre provides the bass.
Wishful Thinking
The closer you listen, the more complexity can be heard. However, it's not so buried that it puts it out of earshot. The bass is a real winner on this one, but John's guitars are neck and neck every step of the way. They push each other to record-breaking performances. This is one of the best instrumentals I've ever heard. It's right up there with "Hell's Kitchen" and many other Dream Theater and Dixie Dreg masterpieces. Steve Morse would be proud of this one. Oddly enough, this reminds me of the theme song from "Buck Rodgers in the 21st Century". He freaks out the listener with a phenomenal fake finish and then takes us to seventh heaven on a cloudy patch of sky. It's modern day instrumental fare. Like Roine Stolt, he'll impress you with each stroke of the brush rather than muddling the canvas with an overabundance of careless lashes. If that's not all, his final touches add a glossy finish.
Damage Control
This rusty engine is another one that is sure to impress. It's got jet fuel in the tank and nitrous under the hood. It's a clunker, but it makes no apologies. It is pushed to its limits as it bangs its way down the road. The horsepower is set to dangerous levels. Parts of this piece remind me of "Scenes from a Memory" while others are more like Liquid Tension Experiment. The driver has a heavy lead foot. After losing control of the wheel, this one goes off-road for a moment, and the tires get shredded. It's rim against dirt, sparks shoot everywhere. Its inertia is slowed only by the friction from the ground underneath.
Curve
This vehicle is a bit different from the last. It has rockets strapped on its sides and it's much more aerodynamic. Without any drag, it's nothing, but speed. There is no letting up as it thrusts ahead. As fast as he plays, this is smooth sailing all the way.
Lost Without You
This is laid-back, sad, and sullen. I can see where he came up with the name of this song. It's the blues, and its storyteller has an achy-breaky heart. Emotions are burnt out. Fortunately, while the bruises are black and blue, the healing has already begun. In the rawness of the injuries, there are shades are ripe reds and prickly purples. As any doctor will tell, this is always a good sign. After hitting ground bottom, it's back to continue in the fight. There will be better days ahead.
Animate-Inanimate
He ends with the best song on the album. It's a catchy tune with user-friendly beats and exceptionally executed solos. Not to mention, it lasts almost 12 minutes. Each layer of this epic instrumental works wonders on its own, but Petrucci is the central star on this one. This may very well be the best project Petrucci has done on the side. Since it's a solo effort, there is one place to point the finger, and that's Petrucci himself.
 
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