Planet X is the band of ex Dream Theater keyboard player Derek Sherinian. This is the most incorrect sentence to begin with. It is true that I discovered Planet X after Dream Theater and the first solo albums of Derek Sherinian. But, lets start again.. The basis of Planet X exists out of three very high skilled musicians. Virgil Donati on drums, Tony Macalpine on guitar and Derek Sherinian on the keyboards. I don't know the first "Universe" album of these guys. But I loved the live recording "Live from Oz". Recorded in 2001 on tour in Australia but it was released in this year. On this album produced (like this album) by drummer Simon Phillips, Derek was not much in the frontline. The music was often more a kind of prog-fusion and Tony Macalpine played fantastic and melodic guitar solos.
Planet X are:
Virgil Donati – drums; Tony Macalpine – guitar; Derek Sherinian – keyboards
Special guests Bassists:
Tom Kennedy – Jimmy Johnson – Billy Sheenan
There are three guest bass players on this album, and all three of them are respected and skilful musicians. Jimmy Johnson played for instance together with Alan Holdsworth. The album opens with the title track "Moonbabies" (5:37) and we immediately hear that Derek has more to "say" on this album. Mysterious keys in the beginning, very complex music sometimes but also those melodic guitar parts. "The noble savage" (6:12) starts with some jazzy guitar chords of Tony and amazing drum work by Virgil. For him it must be fantastic to work with drummer/producer Simon Phillips. In this heavy track are again some nice melodic guitar parts. "Ataraxia" (6:15) is not so heavy and reminds me of the kind of fusion the Simon Phillips Band played a few years ago. The keyboards of Derek have a more prominent role here. But he is never freaking, he plays mainly for the composition. Tony Macalpine plays a delicious Holdsworth like solo. And I think Donati is an underrated drummer. He is playing the most complex rhythms here. For me this one of the better tracks.
In "Tonaz" (4:00) Tony Macalpine's guitar is duelling against the keyboards of Derek Sherinian. Next is "Boy white a flute" (5:56) another favourite of mine. Derek has sometimes that UK sound of Eddy Jobson. This composition has a lot of variation and aggression and nice keyboard work. "Interlude in Milan" (4:38) starts and closes as a jazz-fusion piece but develop into a heavy middle section with solo's of every member. "Digital vertigo" (4:22) is an up-tempo complex piece of music in which the band also manages to integrate some melodic parts. I don't have to explain to you where the inspiration for the track "Ground zero" (6:00) came from. This is also one of the highlights of the album for me. It is mysterious and has some parts, which gives me a Deja-vu feeling. Mainly because of the Jobson sounds and Holdsworth like emotional guitar solo. "Midnight bell" (3:54) has a nice fretless bass solo; great drum work and high-speed guitars. The last track of the album "Ignotus per ignotium" (9:28) we already knew from the live album "Live from Oz". A complex piece of music with a fantastic guitar solo of Tony and amazing drum work of Virgil. I think the production of Simon Phillips has a positive influence on his drumming.
Conclusion: Just another great album by this talented band. There is a difference between the previous live album and this new studio effort. The live album was more guitar orientated and included a lot of melodic guitar solos of Tony Macalpine. On "Moonbabies" the keyboards of Derek Sherinian are more in the picture. Although I loved all that guitar work on the live album, I think on this studio album the balance of the different instruments is better. The label "file under Progressive Rock" is correct I think. If you like the heavy side of prog or heavy fusion, you will enjoy this album. You can say the band has developed an own style, which is a mixture of complex and heavy music combined with some melodic jazz-fusion. And those complex parts can't hide the skills of this bunch of very talented musicians.