"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Planet X - "Quantum" (CD)

Planet X - "Quantum" CD cover image

"Quantum" track listing:

1. Alien Hip Hop
2. Desert Girl
3. Matrix Gate
4. The Thinking Stone
5. Space Foam
6. Poland
7. Snuff
8. Kingdom of Dreams
9. Quantum Factor

Reviewed by on February 18, 2009

"The dichotomy of songs on the album is just as engaging as the musical shifts within the individual songs."

When Planet X released their first album back in 2000, the goal of the group was to "have a band that played their instruments so fiercely, it would strike fear in the hearts of other musicians when they played." Time has tempered their devotion to that edict, but that temperance has been all for the better.

Planet X is officially a duo, created by Derek Sherinian and Virgil Donati. In the past, Planet X featured players like Tony MacAlpine and Billy Sheehan, both of whom fit with the aggressive manifesto for the band. For “Quantum,” however, Sherinian and Donati recruited noted jazz session musicians guitarist Brett Garsed, and bassists Rufus Philpot and Jimmy Johnson. Even guitar virtuoso Allan Holdsworth plays on a couple tracks, making the transition from prog metal to prog fusion complete.

Sherinian begins the album with multi-layered keyboards on “Alien Hip Hop.” Immediately, the increasing jazz elements are noticeable, and once Donati joins in, the change is complete. Syncopation and irregular rhythm changes replace heavy double kick drums and virtuoso solos. “Alien Hip Hop” transitions easily between a funky progressive verse and more straightforward rock chorus. As the song progresses, each section builds on the musical base from before, ending as a full progressive mash.

The second track, “Desert Girl,” is one of the album’s highlights, partly because it features Allan Holdsworth. The track is also a great demonstration of the heavy metal roots of the band. Jimmy Johnson’s bass line sounds like it came straight from Metallica’s “The God That Failed.” Sherinian and Holdsworth tastefully layer on keys and guitars, switching between Sherinian’s heavier style and Holdsworth’s fusion, though Holdsworth isn’t above a few 32nd notes now and again. That seemingly disparate musical styles can be fused so well makes “Desert Girl” a track to put on repeat.

The rest of the album spirals off from the end of “Desert Girl,” with a mix of jazzier tracks like “Matrix Gate,” “Poland,” and “Snuff,” and heavier ones, such as “The Thinking Stone,” “Space Foam,” “Kingdom of Dreams,” and “Quantum Factor.” The dichotomy of songs on the album is just as engaging as the musical shifts within the individual songs. The jazzier songs feature more instrumental textures and soundscapes, with the keys and guitars featured only slightly above the band’s overall sound. Heavier songs are just the opposite. Kick drums and a front and center bass are accentuated with extended solos.

The album clocks in at just 50 minutes and 50 seconds, which is surprising for a prog-fusion metal outfit, but it serves as a tangible example of the album’s strongest trait, restraint. On earlier Planet X albums, the goal seemingly was to fulfill the band’s manifesto completely, and each song was merely a showcase of the band members’ virtuoso shredding talents, which were admittedly prodigious. “Quantum” keeps shredding in the background, and focuses more on creating pieces that develop and explore musical themes and the interplay between players.

Highs: The album is an example of some of the most talented prog-metal musicians seamlessly combining metal and jazz.

Lows: Sometimes the straight jazz misses its mark and becomes a collection of random notes.

Bottom line: A very well done album that showcases the branching out of prog-metal’s top talents.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)