Planet X started as a solo project for keyboardist Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, Kiss and Alice Cooper) but has now grown to be a full-time band, consisting of Sherinian, Virgil Donati (drums) and Tony MacAlpine (guitars). This album was recorded at the final show of a two-week Australian Tour, at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne. For this tour the band had David LaRue (of Steve Morse/Dixie Dreggs fame) handling the basses.
The album was mixed by none other than Simon Phillips, who will also produce Planet X’s forthcoming album Moonbabies.
The album opens with a new track, Ignotum Per Ignotius, or at least, it seems to be a new track but it could be a cover also (my review-copy doesn’t have any credits for the tracks, so I can’t tell).
The track sets the mood for the rest of the album: Hard ‘n Heavy! Which is, of course, the credo of the band. Fast riffs that are accompanied by various keyboard twiddles, while every once in a while a bandmember is introduced to the audience. (This introducing of the bandmembers goes on all through the show, and is the only thing that is spoken to the audience, apart from a “how ya doing Melbourne?” at the beginning).
Only one track from the first Planet X album is featured: the 18-minute magnum opus Atlantis, whilst their first album as a band, Universe provides the rest of the tracks.
Almost all tracks are played as one continuous piece, interlaced with solos by each of the core band members (and LaRue gets a chance to shine with his bass-solo in Warfinger). Of these solos, especially MacAlpine’s guitar solo is a real treat. Although it starts as a typical “look how fast I can play” bit, it turns into a beautiful atmospheric piece; a nice resting point in between all the heavy firework, and a superb introduction to Her Animal.
The fact that all tracks are instrumental, and played as one long piece, makes it difficult to determine where one track stops and the next one starts. It also makes it a difficult album to listen to, as it just seems to go on and on. However, this is also one of the prior goals for the band, as Sherinian explains in the accompanying press-release: “When I started Planet X, I had two goals: to start the sickest instrumental band in the world, and to assemble a band that played so fiercely, it would strike fear in the hearts of other musicians when they heard us”.
Overall the album showcases excellent musicianship, with some fantastic licks and riffs, but overall it is just a bit too much of the same. Nonetheless Live From Oz shows that Planet X certainly is a great band to experience live.