As far as guitarists go, John Petrucci is a master of his craft. While not quite as well known as some of his contemporaries (Steve Vai and Joe Satriani come to mind) he’s more than proven himself as the guitarist for Dream Theater.
Given Petrucci’s level of talent it could be easily argued that a solo album from him was long overdue. But in 2004 he finally released Suspended Animation. Much of the material that appears on Suspended Animation was written for and performed on many of the G3 tours which Petrucci participated in with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani through the mid 2000s.
The album is completely instrumental and reminiscent of the material on the Liquid Tension Experiment albums recorded in the late nineties with bassist Tony Levin and his Dream Theater bandmates Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess. The big difference being that those albums were musical collaborations that at times allowed all members of the quartet to shine either collectively or individually—Suspended Animation focuses, and rightly so, on Petrucci’s guitar playing.
Perhaps what is most striking about this release is Petrucci’s strong sense of melody. While this is also noticeable on his work with Dream Theater, when the focus is more strictly on Petrucci that strong sense of melody is considerably more noticeable.
Petrucci’s playing also dispels the myth that progressive metal lacks emotion. Every song on this release displays a depth of emotion and a genuine love of the guitar.
Each song brings a little something different to the table Glasgow Kiss has a traditional Scottish vibe to it with Petrucci’s guitar replacing where one might expect to hear bagpipes.
Tunnel Vision features some excellent multi-tracking and the intro is reminiscent of some of the more experimental material from the Liquid Tension and Liquid Trio Experiment releases.
Wishful Thinking is essentially an instrumental power ballad. It has all the elements a hair metal power ballad minus the lyrics and vocals. It further displays Petrucci’s versatility on guitar. Where other tracks on the album display Petrucci’s sense of melody, much of Petrucci’s fretwork on Wishful Thinking is more a demonstration of his skill at harmony. Vocals aren’t really necessary as Petrucci does an excellent job of making his guitar “sing.” The song is also a welcome respite after the relatively hard driving musical onslaught of the first 3 tracks. It allows the listener to catch his breath before launching back into a more metal oriented onslaught on Damage Control.
Curve is another example of Petrucci using his guitar to play “vocalist” much like on Wishful Thinking the guitar is played where one might normally expect the vocals. Curve is considerably more up-tempo.
Lost Without You is another ballad. This one has been around awhile as Petrucci was playing it live at Dream Theater concerts off and on for a few years before it finally has seen official release on Suspended Animation. It has less a metal and more a jazz fusion feel at first but with occasional metal-oriented rhythm guitar work added as accents to Petrucci’s leads. The most apt description would be metal/jazz fusion an interesting combination of musical styles that isn’t traditionally explored (kind of like Icelandic/Vietnamese fusion food).
The album closes with the longest track, Animate-Inanimate in which all of the musical elements and styles Petrucci explored on the previous seven tracks come together like a delicious stew.
Unfortunately, this album has not, to date, been released domestically in the United States. While it’s certainly worth the price of a traditional domestic CD, I wouldn’t recommend it to casual listeners at the rather steep import price tag of $34.99. Not releasing the album domestically is doing Petrucci fans a tremendous disservice as the music certainly is enjoyable and should be heard. The import price tag just makes it a bit too prohibitive for more casual listeners
John Petrucci (official site)
John Petrucci (wikipedia)