Dreaming Outside the Theater
Few guitarists have been able to take their ability and make a hit record without the help of a more traditional, vocal driven lineup. Jimmy Page had Robert Plant. Randy Rhodes had Ozzy Osbourne. Jimi Hendrix had, well, himself. Some of the only axe-wielders who have managed to make a stand on the merits of their fretboard alone are Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. John Petrucci, guitarist of Dream Theater, has decided to attempt to join that small circle with his debut solo album Suspended Animation, an instrumental record that lets his guitar serve as the frontman.Even without the help of lyrics, Petrucci still manages to feature an assortment of different styles of songs. There’s a love ballad (“Lost Without You”), a bit of middle eastern flavor (“Jaws of Life”), and even some industrial (“Tunnel Vision”). “Glasgow Kiss” has an upbeat melody that could appear seamlessly in the catalogue of either Satriani or Johnson. That’s not to say that Petrucci is relying on other people’s tricks to carry his own debut. Featured most prominently throughout all the album’s twists and turns is Petrucci’s epic guitar style. Raging solo after solo are squeezed in between melodic interludes and heavy breakdowns in each 5-minute-plus song.
Backing Petrucci’s 90-mile-an-hour fingers are the solid foundation of bassist Dave LaRue and drummer Dave DiCenso, but Petrucci writes and produces every song, leaving him firmly in the driver’s seat. Overall, Suspended Animation is a technically precise album for those listeners who can appreciate the guitar, and a whole lot of it. But will any riff from this disc achieve the recognition of “Crazy Train” or “Purple Haze?” Probably not.