Platypus - Ice cycles - 2000
Platypus is part of the spiral of projects that merge components of different bands in the progressive scene and that besides providing the consumer with a never ending source of new works, give the pleasant sensation that the relationship among most of the best progressive musicians is healthy. Liquid Tension Experiment, Transatlantic,... are a good example of the power with which the progressive thread unites the different tendencies of the genre, in a mixture that goes even further, since the fusion of styles that characterizes the progressive genre, in this case, takes place inside the same record, trying to create a chemical formula able to revive a dead person.
The formula of Platypus is already in their second effort, after their debut in 1998 with When pus comes to shove. The band is a strange and at the same time surprising union, of King's X with Ty Tabor (voice and guitar), Dixie Dregs with Rod Morgenstein (drums), and Dream Theater with John Myung (bass) and their former keyboard player Derek Sherinian, currently working in a solo project named Planet X.
The mixture is, as I told you, strange and interesting at the same time, and I will tell you why. On the one hand King's X. An impeccable band with many years of experience in music and that practices a hard rock with a great metal load guided by Ty Tabor's exquisite technique, with some structures maybe too rigid to the progressive ears. However, in many compositions we can sense that they wrap their disks in a fine veil of progressive flavor. A definition that could also be applied to The Dixie Dregs adding to hard rock a jazzy aroma. And on the other hand John Myung and Derek Sherinian whose quality is not under discussion but that have always played a secondary role, eclipsed by musicians as potent as Mike Portnoy or John Petrucci in Dream Theater. To my to understand, this is then an attempt to cover the necessities and satiate of some musicians with desires of diving more in progressive waters, in the case of the first two players, and of showing that they are more than simple followers for the last two.
Anyway, in this type of meetings, and on the contrary of what one could think, we always find a side that guides the other. The project Transatlantic for example, gathers a series of great musicians coming from different styles inside the same genre, but it is a work marked in a clear way for the sound of Spock's Beard. Platypus is not an exception, since the great work of Mr. Tabor fills the album giving it an air to King's X.
The keyboards open the first composition "Oh god" (4:16) giving a calm and simple entrance to the album, with some soft keys that does not have anything to do with the general tone of the composition. Drums, bass and, mainly, the guitar imprint great power to the rest of the piece. A composition in a mid-tempo tending to slow, and that allows to appreciate in a clear way the movements of the musicians, a typical characteristic of King's X that gives a mysterious touch to their music. "Better left unsaid" (5:24) of an even slower rhythm, transforming into a semi-ballad where the participation of all the instruments makes it very colorist. A soft and rhythmic guitar, a voluminous bass and some keyboards that adorn the composition in a leisurely way, comparable to that of Dream Theater. Ty Tabor's voice can not can sing out of tune, since its voice timbre is in the center of all registries, neither too low or too high, neither distorted or too rigid. "The tower" (3:30) opens the way to a part of great hard rock power at full rhythm, where we meet with compositions more rigid and direct with a not very innovative structure, but with a stupendous "feeling". "Cry" (6:15) is another powerful piece, where the use in a reiterated way of the refrain makes it 80 percent inserted inside the definition of "The tower". The remaining 20 percent is composed of an impressive hard-rock progressive development played in the heart of the piece and that leaves me dumbfounded, with a "crescendo" of keyboards and bass that evolves into a really fantastic guitar explosion. "I need you" (4:17) confirms at this time in the CD Mr Tabor holds the reins, leaving some free parenthesis for his partners, like in this composition, where an enormous guitar rides in a crushing rhythm and blues, crossing and just leaving a small central space to the keyboards. The sixth song is a very clear approach to the sound of Dream Theater. "25" (5:09) is very similar to their last compositions with a frantic guitar rhythm and drums banged on in an intermittent way. With constant blasts of keyboards by Derek Sherinian remembering the stage where he was part of the famous metal-prog group. "Gone" (6:42) is a constant exchange of very mystic and encircling keyboards with parts of guitar force, in a song where the structure, with a somewhat repetitive chorus. It doesn't venture too much in progressive shortcuts, in a line that ascends and gets down in intensity, but that remains a straight line at all moments. The piece that closes the CD is titled "Partial to the beam (a tragic American quintogy)" (10:33) and is divided in 7 small parts. "Intro pompatous" (0:21) is a brief introduction of guitar in a very quick way, "Yoko Ono" (1:27) introduces some keyboards that hit in a rhythmic way the song accompanied by a guitar that looks for irregular forms and more stony roads that make it very interesting. "Yoko two-no" (1:01) is the end of the previous section lowering the rhythm gradually to leave way to the following piece, "Yoko three-no" (2:13), that continues with a paused rhythm full with more acid sounds that give it a psychedelic air. It is linked with "Platmost" (1:16) a remake of "On the run" of Pink Floyd, very interesting. "Yoko againo" (2:08) and "Yoko Outro" (2:07) conclude the work with a last show of all the instruments in kind of a jam with elements that come from all the corners of the group that summarize the intention of the album in a brilliant postscript.
It is a good album that recreates one of the least used sides of the prog rock world lately, as we are speaking of hard rock, with all its elements, recreating the classic and at the same time beloved sound of the great bands we all know. Everything is filtered by a fine progressive sound. The only one problems I find, that make me lower my valuation, is the excessive protagonism of Ty Tabor. He relaxes giving a lesson, but he hides somewhat the good work of his partners, that would have given more variety of styles to the album. Although it seems quite normal, as I told you, in this type of projects.