If there is a silver lining to a year that has been filled with much uncertainty, cancelled shows, and a complete departure from normalcy for all of us, it’s the surge of new music coming from many artists that have been inspired by their time at home. After a long 15-year wait, John Petrucci’s highly anticipated second solo album, Terminal Velocity is finally here, and boy, does it pack a punch.
John Petrucci is one of those artists that took this unprecedented time in our history, and seized the opportunity to work on some new music. Although JP had originally planned on working on the follow up to Suspended Animation this year, he never anticipated all the time he would end up at home during the quarantine “I believe that making this record when I did really helped me to maintain a sense of stability and normalcy during such a crazy time in our history.” “It was encouraging for me and my family to embrace something so hopeful and positive as we faced a very uncertain future in the music industry and in the world, and for that, I am truly grateful for having music be such a big part of my life.”
This hopeful and positive mood is perfectly captured throughout the record. Terminal Velocity not only marks another step in JP’s illustrious career, but it also brings us a much anticipated reunion with longtime friend, and former bandmate, Mike Portnoy. “It was very cathartic for the both of us, I think, to be playing music together again after all these years and it really felt great! Mike’s spirited, intuitive and energetic playing truly helped to elevate these new songs to a level that I couldn’t be happier with.” The reunion is complete with bassist Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, Flying Colors) who also played on Suspended Animation, and most recently shared the stage with Petrucci on G3. “It was awesome bringing Dave back to play bass on this album. He is just such a monster player who can handle anything you throw at him with tastefulness and unmatched musicality. His melodic approach to bass lines along with impeccable technique and groove for days really stands out on these tunes.”
With such a versatile and talented trio, it is no surprise that Terminal Velocity achieves dizzying speeds at times, and thoughtful emotional counterpoints in others. The record opens with the title track, and it’s the perfect beginning to this sonic journey. In these crazy times, we need more positivity and this track brings us that energy, an uplifting joy that is sometimes missing in highly technical instrumental music.
In The Oddfather, we hear those chunky riffs and signature “chocolate cake” tone JP has worked for years to perfect. There’s a cinematic quality to this complex track that keeps us going and hoping it never ends.
It is worth noting that although some of the songs in Terminal Velocity had been written and performed before, half of the songs were brand new and written during quarantine. Happy Song is one of the tracks that had been previously performed, and it was a highlight at the most recent G3 shows. As the title suggests, this track evokes a carefree feeling, and just pure joy. Picture whatever brings you happiness- golden retriever puppies, a delicious Five Guys burger, chocolate, good coffee, Majesty guitars, you name it and Happy Song is the perfect soundtrack for it.
Gemini starts off with dizzying riffs that ebb and flow until you reach an unexpected interlude with a Flamenco flair. This track is so memorable because it takes you in many directions and you just don’t want the ride to end.
Out of the Blue is the standout ballad of the record. Soulful, melodic, and emotion-driven. JP is without a doubt one of the most talented guitarists of our time, but one area where he doesn’t get the accolades he deserves is in his emotional delivery. This track has one of his most emotional, and in a way, romantic solos in all of his discography. Portnoy and LaRue perfectly complement the emotion in this song and help deliver one of the best tracks in the album.
To counterpoint the softness and emotion of the previous track, Glassy-Eyed Zombies brings heavy and chunky riffs that fans of heavier tunes will appreciate. This track was another crowd favorite at G3. Our journey continues with The Way Things Fall which is a melodic ode to the 80’s and early 90s. Snake in my Boot has a real bluesy, rock flair. You can’t help but tap your foot to this anthemic track.
The album closes with its heaviest track, Temple of Circadia. It’s reminiscent of Dream Theater during the Train of Thought era, and even more recently with A Dramatic Turn of Events. Temple of Circadia takes us on a journey filled with polyrhythms, and it really highlights the synergy and chemistry Petrucci, Portnoy, and LaRue share.
John Petrucci managed to deliver yet another fantastic album that not only showcases his undeniable talent as a guitarist, but also brings to the forefront his strengths as a music writer and it proves once again that technicality does not preclude emotion. With Terminal Velocity you can have your cake and eat it too. Highly technical album with true emotion and feel. There is still hope in 2020!
John Petrucci’s Terminal Velocity will be released this Friday Aug 28th on all digital and streaming platforms, and on CD & Vinyl on October 30th. Be sure to presave it now so it appears on your digital collection as soon as it’s released! Remember to preorder the fantastic digipak CD and limited edition Vinyl too! https://orcd.co/TerminalVelocity
Review by Victoria Martinez for Dream Theater USA.
Very special thanks to John Petrucci, Roie Avin, and Kim Arthur Sakariassen