I had an idea a couple of months ago and now the idea have turned out to reality. John Petrucci released his new instrumental album “Terminal Velocity” digitally on the 28th of August and now it’s time to release it (October 30th) in a physical version. I asked five of the Stargazed Magazine writers if they wanna do reviews in a different way. They said yes and here we are with six different reviews of the new album from Dream Theaters guitar player John Petrucci. Here We Go.

Martin Nygren:

6/10

If I had to single out one and only one of the records that has made a big impact on me, there really is only one clear candidate and that is Dream Theater´s magnum opus from 1992, the jewel in the progressive metal crown: “Images and Words”. This record actually started a movement of young bands, tired of old standards, breaking out of the mold and being freed of the shackles of what metal “should” sound like. And one of the protagonist of that movement was Dream Theater´s phenomenal guitar player John Petrucci whose solos on songs like “Under a Glass Moon” and “Learning to Live” showed that metal as a genre can be in constant evolution and progress.

When going solo for the second time (his first: Suspended Animation was released in 2005) the listener can expect a couple of things. Timing, tone, phrasing, spectacular skills and most of all: feel. Anyone brushing off Petrucci as a soulless shredder are simply wrong and should be punished by listening to Michael Angel Batio on a loop for 14 days.The biggest selling point for “Terminal Velocity” is the reunion with long time friend and former bandmember, drummer extraordinaire, Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, Sons of Apollo, The Neal Morse Band) handling the drum duties with Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, Flying Colors) ably supplying the basslines.

Here Petrucci have all the time in the world to use all the tools in his toolshed to really let go and do something totally different. But he opts not to.Basically, this is a stripped down version of Dream Theater. No keyboards and not a vocal line within earshot. And I must admit that I miss it dearly.Although being raised on instrumental albums from Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, Vinnie Moore and Joe Satriani this somehow doesn´t connect with me. At all. Which is sad as I think that JP is one of the greatest guitarists of all time.It isn´t without its merit however, Mr Petrucci is far too good of a song writer to NOT write a couple of ditties that you can hum along to. And this is where a paradox knocks on the door and enters the equation: the best songs on here is the more traditional ones.

Yeah, I know, I stated earlier that I think he should have taken more chances.So sue me.“Happy Song” truly does credit to its name. It is a major chord bonanza where Petrucci calls out his inner child to play and is a true joy to hear. Mike Portnoy gels like no time has passed whatsoever and gets to show off both technique and dynamics on “Glassy-Eyed Zombies”. The true highlight comes with the last song on the album, “Temple of Circadia” which is just as beautiful and epic as one would want from one of the masters of the genre.But it is too little, too late. Too much of this record meanders off in no particular direction at all and is mostly suited for very well played but a bit unnecessary solos.

I´m certain guitar nerds all over the place will geek out to this record and all the more power to them. I´d really wish I could join in on the lovefest but instead I´ll stand in the corner, moping.

Ah, vad är väl en bal på slottet…? (translation: What is a ball on the castle?)

Peter Andersson Öhrn:

5/10

A solo album from Dream Theaters John Petrucci. Now- will it be an Yngwie frenzy or more of the feeling of Joe Satriani or just an instrumental Dream Theater album?
The first song (titlte track) has in my world Steve Vai written all over it. “The Oddfather” has a splendid mix of frenzy and perfect harmony. So do “Happy Song”…..Its hard not to imagine James LaBries vocals here and there of course, but to decide if it´s sometimes beautifully performed with class and style. Out of the blue…comes “Out of the blue” where he brings his blues side to our attention. Beautiful piece of work here too. A resting place for my ears, and through almost the whole of “Glass Eyed Zombie” he continues to focus on feeling rather than tempo. I find the second part of the album more appealing than the first part. However, still the feeling that i loose somewhat interest during the course of the album. Temple of circadia” do feels like something his main band has left out, then again is the albums second longest song.
It is quite demanding to listen to an instrumental album. We all know the skills of Mr Petrucci but I get the same feeling of “oh dear” during a concert when the guitar solo starts. The feeling of “when will it end?” but “Out of the blue” stands out for me.

Kristoffer Pettersson:

8/10

Progressive brilliance!

The year is 2020, John Petrucci, the guitarist from Dream Theater, now 53 years old decides to release a new solo album, his second studio effort, and the first one in over 15 years time. Work began in March and John spent five days a week writing and recording the record, which took two months to be completed.

Mike Portnoy is back behind the drums, for the first time in 10 years and the fans couldn’t be happier. They are joined by David Larue on bass. He also played on Johns first solo album.

What does it sound like? Well, fans wont be disappointed on most of the songs. The album starts of with some ear candy and a massive Dream Theater-esque song called “Terminal Velocity”. John and Mike immideatly sets the tone for the album with their astonishingly perfected partnership. The musical chemistry between the two former Dream Theater members has not declined in any shape or form. Second song “The Oddfather” is a long Dream Theater celebration with obvious blinks back in the Dream Theater discography. For example the chorus from “Lost Not Forgotten” of “A Dramatic Turn of Events” is beautifully rewritten and renditioned in the song. Other hommages you can hear derive from songs such as “A Change of Seasons”, “Metropolis pt 2” and “On the Back of Angels” as well as Liquid Tension Experiment type stuff.

Third tune, “Happy song” is a weird one. It starts of like a college rock song ala Sum 41 but soon develops into a nice guitar melody resembling the god-like fingers of Joe Satriani.

Fourth song “Gemini” is another big flirt back in the Dream Theater catalog. An amazing song where the Mike/John collab (sorry David) takes us through Dream Theater land and back again. The acoustic guitar solo presented here is absolute bonkers. Just amazing stuff, were my mind takes me to a lot of different places and emotions and even takes a detour through the sounds of “Crazy” by Seal. Amazing tune!

Fifth song “Out of the Blue”, celebrates the sounds of guitarist Steve Vai in the intro. It quickly turns into a heavy, Gary Moore sounding blues song. Great stuff. Fantastic guitar work again.

“Glassy-Eyed Zombies”is song number six on the album. This song sounds like “Under a Glass Moon” from “Images and Words” mixed with the “Train of Thought”album heaviness. Another good song! And the solos from 4:09 til’ the end of the song? OMG!

“The Way Things Fall” is another good song but probably my least favourite on here. The guitar theme on this song reminds my of the intro of Beverly Hills-90210.

The album ends with “Temple of Circadia”, a “Bridges in the Sky” pt 2 of “A Dramatic Turn of Events”, in a beautiful symbiosis with John Petrucci original songs like “Damage Control” and “Jaws of Life” of his debut album. A fantastic way to end this remarkable album. The guitar parts from 4:10 and forward are unreal. What a player!

Mike Portnoy, come back to Dream Theater please!

John Petrucci has worked with some amazing musicians, such as, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Billy Sheehan and Tony Levin and played in bands like “Dream Theater”, “Liquid Tension Experiment” and “G3”.

Anton Stenlund:

6/10

When I first discovered Dream Theater, there was a lot of people telling me they were just technical and had no depth or emotion, and that John Petrucci was the most technical and soulless in the whole bunch. I didn’t understand a thing, I thought their music was both technical and emotional and I loved it! Throughout the years, though, I have more and more begun to understand why so many have that attitude towards them. It’s easy to get swept away when you hear the bands greatest masterpieces, but when you get down to their weaker efforts, you start to feel how fed up you can be on their music. It kind of ends up being a band you have to be in the right mood to listen to. And on top of that, they have lacked a major part of their strength since the departure of drummer Mike Portnoy ten years ago.

So now the bands guitar player John Petrucci releases his second solo album (his first, Suspended Animation, came out in 2005). It contains instrumental work, not far from Liquid Tension Experiment in the late 90’s, which also consisted of Dream Theater members playing instrumental music. Actually, this could easily be a Liquid Tension Experiment album just by listening to it! So if people expect something a little more easy listened than Dream Theater, this is the wrong place to look.

Now, to get an instrumental metal album to work, you have to work quite hard. Few albums of this kind has become popular among any other crowd than rock and metal guitar players, and there’s a reason for that. You have to make strong tunes, melodies that stick out and doesn’t just sound like a bunch of exercises and scales repeated over and over again. Furthermore, the album has to feel like it consists of more than just the same song on repeat. It’s hard, but albums like Joe Satrianis Surfing with the Alien (1987) has proved it can really work and also hit hard among a wide audience.

In that regard, I think Petrucci pulls it off quite good! It really does feel like good songs with melodies that stick, and not just run of the mill masturbation on a guitar board. However, the album is 55 minutes long, and the average lenght of a song lies around six minutes. You have to work pretty hard to make that work too. And that’s also where the album starts to lack.

As the album moves on, the songs more and more starts to feel like the same thing, and you long for something else as we get closer to the ”guitar music for guitar players”-formula. But it never get bad, and I can’t say there’s any moment where I get totally fed up with the whole thing. What strikes me is rather how well the melodies come across, seeing how this really is 55 minuters of guitar soloing. But Petrucci never loses track melodies in the songs.

Some songs stick out, like the shimmering Happy Song, that really lives up to it’s title, and The Way Things Fall, which catchy hummability even makes me wonder if I’m listening to the Beverly Hills 90212 opening! Overall, it’s not that far from Dream Theater, but without the vocals. Like I said, very close to Liquid Tension Experiment. Both in style and quality.

What Petrucci does on Terminal Velocity is that he makes me hook on for the ride throughout the whole album and enjoy my stay. What he doesn’t do is making me wanna forget that this in many ways just is a side project from a member of a group that usually make more memorable stuff than this. But aside from all that, what this album really does is reminding me what a great guitar player he really is. Those melodies, that clear tone, that force… He really is a great one. And the album is pretty good too.

Edgar Allan Zan:

8/10

Few people are as synonymous with the term “progressive metal” as Dream Theater guitar master John Petrucci is.

For some listeners, John Petruccis’  playing in Dream Theater is complex for the sake of complexity. For other listeners, its pornographic 7-string shredding with more time signature changes than NASA could calculate.

‘Terminal Velocity’ follows a similar musical structure, except that it’s fully instrumental and without as many keyboard solos.

It’s a good showcase for John Petrucci as a shredder, as the format of this album competes with the albums of his shredding rivals Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen. The flavor that Petrucci brings to his punch at the party is that his arrangements and accompanying music are way more complex. Whereas Yngwie can happily wail over a single repeating E minor chord for the whole duration of a 20 minute so-called “Overture”, Petrucci has in the same time circled through the entire library of western music theory just for the backing track.

Backing him on drums is for the first time in 10 years his close friend and old partner from Dream Theater, the amazing Mike Portnoy. For fans of Dream Theater, this is a huge moment, and I’m sure many will relish in the staggering virtuosity displayed by them together.This album is as wonderfully inaccesible as one would expect, but for fans of progressive metal, it’s a joyous affair offered by some of the top players of the genre.

Johan Hagberg:

9/10

John Petrucci is releasing a new instrumental album and if this were twenty years ago or even just one year ago I wouldn’t care. Instrumental music have always been kind of boring but I decided to give this a chance and I believe it was because John first released it digitally in august and you had to wait until october to get your physical copy of the album.

Anyway I got the album sometimes back in july and I listened to it and I said to myself that this is good, it’s really good. The opening track is the title track ”Terminal Velocity” and when John 26 seconds into the song hits that clean tone on his guitar it’s the beginning of a journey to a place I’ve never been before. The beauty of music continues on the second track ”The Oddfather” where John and his old friend Mike Portnoy is making pure magic for almost six and a half minute.

”Happy Song” sounds like I’ve heard it before and when I’m waiting for someone (James LaBrie maybe) to sing we instead got a fantastic guitar part that’s almost like someone singing, absolutely phenomenal and the song truly make me happy. ”Gemini” is the fourth track and here we hear some nice bass lines along with Johns excellent guitar playing and the solid rhythm from Mike Portnoy. It’s hard to believe that it was ten years ago Mike left Dream Theater. It sounds like the two never been apart.

Some of the worst music I’ve heard in my life is when Gary Moore was playing that blues instead of hard rock, it was sometimes really awful. I don’t like blues but when John Petrucci plays the blues in ”Out Of The Blue” it’s even got something started in me. The album continues with ”Glassy-Eyed Zombies” and we are back in the Dream Theater kind of mood with good riffing from John.

When it comes to real beauty ”The Way Things Fall” is the crown of this album. The sounds that come out of that guitar, oh my god this is great and this is the best song on the album. The journey is soon over and the second last song ”Snake In My Boot” is the first song that doesn’t make me go wow, it’s well performed of course but it doesn’t appeal that much to me.

”Temple Of Circadia” is the last stop on this journey that shows me that you can get a narrow minded man to change his opinion. This is extremely good and when I sum this experience up I have to be honest to you but most to myself, this is the best album released 2020. Thanks John for the ride and I hope it won’t take another fifteen years for the next solo album.

Artist: John Petrucci
Title: Terminal Velocity
Label: Sound Mind Music
Date of Release: 2020-10-30