Call me a doofus, but when I put on an instrumental CD written by one of prog-rocks best known keyboard players, I expect, nay, I demand lots of hefty keyboard chops to dazzle my brain and make my jaw drop like an amusement park thrill ride. At least that is what I hoped for when I spun Inertia, the first solo album by Derek Sherinian, a man who has tickled the plastic planks for everyone from Alice Cooper to Dream Theater to Planet X. It's not as if there isn't copious amounts of keyboard, but I was hoping for some serious shredding, and it just isn't here. Instead, most of the songs appear to be guitar-driven with keyboard interludes. Regardless, the ten instrumental tracks are all very well written, each showing Sherinian's mastery of composition and his generosity in allowing his guitar-playing friends to dominate the tracks.
Stylistically the title track reminds me of early Satriani, although the guitar is played by session guitarist extraordinaire Steve Lukather. Becki-ish melodies combine with a jazz-fusion groove and Holdsworthian keys to make an exciting album opener. Zakk Wylde joins the fray in "Evel Knievel", a thrilling rock ride as manic as any stunt performed by the title daredevil. With his signature metal riffs, Zakk brings an adventurous sense of danger to this arrhythmic song, one of the best on the album. "La Pera Loca" (The Mad Dog) opens with be-bop piano amidst a wash of percussion sizzle before becoming the raging beast, this time played by Lukather. Here the guitars and heavy rock organ trade licks like a mad dog, savagely running, spittle flying, only to stop abruptly, wait a beat, and then take off in the opposite direction. In "What A Shame", Lukather plays a heart-rending melody over arpeggio piano as the song slowly heats to a raging frenzy with Wylde adding his aggressive tone to the mix. Other highlights include a dark and heavy cover of the Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein", the very progressive "Rhapsody in Black", and the sultry jazz undertones of "Mata Hari". As stated above, you're not going to find buttloads of blistering keyboard here (which is not to say that there isn't any, just not buttloads) but you will find ten well-written instrumental tracks full of dead-on playing well worth multiple listens for instrumental rock fans. I bet this goes platinum in Japan.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, May 2001.