without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
There is a question that has been on my mind in the aftermath of experiencing a host of Dream Theater emulators, and that is “How does one actually outdo Dream Theater?”. For a long time there was no answer to this, as I was completely convinced that “Images And Words” was the pinnacle of pure progressive metal as it has existed since it broke away from its Power Metal roots in the late 80s. Upon bumping into Dominici’s “O3 A Trilogy - Part 3”, I got the answer in the most unsubtle of ways, by none other than the man who was at the helm of the original progressive powerhouse himself in their early years.
Charlie Dominici experienced a sudden resurrection in the past couple of years, which took everyone by surprise as he hadn’t been seen anywhere in the metal world for 25 years. Nonetheless, this revival came to a head when this album was put out and every band that has ever picked up their instruments in the name of DM was schooled in how this style can truly be manipulated into something dark, thought provoking, complex, heavy, and still within the realm of general accessibility. One could dare assert that this album could have more appeal to non-progressive fans than about 95% of the albums that have been put out under the label.
The first lesson that is learned in this advanced course in metallic perfection is to create a compelling story to fit you’re concept. Given the heightened turmoil in the world today and the mad speculation going on in all social circles about where it came from and where it will end, what better way to grab your average socially conscious thinker than with a tale of world destruction and rebirth. This story could easily appeal to any ideological and theistic persuasion, though the template is told through a story running parallel to Armageddon as told in Christian scriptures. It is also interesting to note that the story is told in reverse of the events in the bible, from the beginning of man’s destruction to the new beginning. To make a long story short, this is one hell of a mind trip, and will mess with you in ways that few apocalypse sci-fi movies could hope to.
The second lesson is to never underestimate the power of a straightforward, gavel pounding riff in keeping a complex style of music centered. Sure, there’s plenty of fancy keyboard playing that dredges up memories of Kevin Moore’s work with Dream Theater and guitarist Brian Maillard can blaze across the fret board with the best of them, but all of these songs are pretty well riff driven. “Liquid Lightning” and “Hell On Earth” are both excellent examples of a mid-tempo, darkened, quasi-thrash approach to this style that could rival the heaviness of Overkill’s mid-90s material. Granted, the odd time signature usage and the heavy keyboard presence tilts things towards recent Symphony X releases, but the riff character definitely has less of a neo-classical and more of a basic nature to it.
The third lesson is to make sure that the vocalist can pull off a semi-aggressive tone and still sing cleanly, all without coming across like he’s trying too hard to be one or the other. James LaBrie does not pull off the former style very well, as a quick listening session of either “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence” or “Train Of Thought” will tell you. Charlie, by a surprising contrast, is able to sing aggressively and also sing in a lighter and more somber tone than LaBrie usually does. Every song on here gives a wide array of examples of half-gravely, half-clean yells done in a tuneful yet aggressive manner, but “So Help Me God” stands alone as probably the most amazing straight clean vocal job I’ve heard. The character of Dominici’s voice is a little different here than on “When Dream And Day Unite”, coming off a bit more experienced and reserved, yet still remaining familiar to any who’ve heard it before.
The fourth and final lesson is to leave the listener with a lasting impression by closing off the concept album with a hell of an epic finale. As far as I’m concerned, “Genesis” rivals if not surpasses “Pull Me Under” and “Under A Glass Moon”, as this song just attacks the ears mercilessly with one amazing idea after the next. The riff set stays fairly basic, but right from the beginning this thing just oozes with climactic moments, trading one or more riveting solo section with a series of instrumental build up sections. It’s basically the 246 riffs principle of Dark Angel’s “Time Does Not Heal” for the first 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Afterward, a very memorable set of verses and choruses guide the listener to the final revelation of man’s fate.
So what we have here is a darker and heavier answer to the question posed by “Images And Words”. I can’t really say it surpasses or falls short of said album, but I personally view it as a different yet equal album. It basically surpasses every other Dream Theater album, and definitely runs rings around the bulk of the progressive scene as it exists today. They say that if you want the best out of a style, you have to go to the originators. Well, Dominici is technically one of them, and this is their finest moment, and definitely one of the finer moments for this often inaccessible genre.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 9, 2009.
For those of you unfamiliar with his legacy, I will begin by explaining it. Charlie Dominici was the second vocalist hired by Dream Theater (then known as Majesty), who performed on their first album, When Dream and Day Unite. However, shortly thereafter he parted ways with the band, due to age and musical differences, and was replaced by James LaBrie (who has stuck with them ever since). After reuniting with the band for a show in 2004, singing the entire debut album and an unreleased song from the same period, he settled down again and began work on a solo album, reborn with new vigor.
While that album was a far cry from the progressive metal sound of Dream Theater, it nevertheless jump-started a new solo career. Two years later he released another album, but this time there was one huge difference: he wasn't alone. He had hired new talent, ultimately forming an entire band that, yes, played good old prog metal.
Now it's 2008, and he's back again, better than ever. With his (or shall I say their?) third release, titled O3, A Trilogy - Part 3, he has managed to fashion one hell of a record that is definitely a competitor for Album of the Year. Why? Keep reading, and you'll soon find out.
Since this is a concept album, and the last chapter in a trilogy of them at that, each track is a piece in the puzzle of a story. That story is actually very well-crafted, and is contemporary, which makes it somewhat of a black sheep in the herd of Lord of the Rings-wanking fantasy albums. Let's just say that it involves terrorism, which, outside the realm of metal, is a big topic.
The album doesn't quite start out with a bang, what with its slow, ambient, and eerie intro to the opening track "King of Terror", but after 2 and a half minutes of soft sounds, it suddenly explodes with pounding guitar riffs and drum smashing goodness, providing a fantastic backdrop for Dominici's godly vocals. Seriously, even after all this time, and at his old age (isn't he in his 50s now?), he still delivers a fantastic performance. The train keeps on going with the thundering opening riff of second track "March Into Hell", bombarding your ears with supersonic goodness. The song is very guitar-intensive, making it a bit of a treat for those like me who enjoy these sort of things, for a lack of a better explanation. While the CD slows down for the ballad "So Help Me God", showing off Dominici's raw emotion (that doesn't last very long compared to the other tracks), it picks right back up with the catchy "Liquid Lightning", which has a very groovy riff and a radio-friendly but still very well-done scheme. The chorus... let's just say you'll be needing a new jaw after you hear it. I think of it as a main single of sorts, but with less suck.
So now you're halfway through the album. What now? In comes the 10-minute epic "Enemies of God", which has an intro that reminds me a bit of Meshuggah, that then explodes into another impossibly catchy melody. This song also contains some very well-done solos (but then, I forgot to mention, all the songs so far have, except the third one) that show off the technical chops of guitarist Brian Maillard. His older brother, Yan Maillard, is another highlight, leading the rhythm section with very well-done drum fills. Keyboardist Americo Rigoldi lays out the atmosphere perfectly, and bassist Riccardo Atzeni, although shy, manages to produce some attractive basslines.
Moving on, we come to "Revelation". Don't be fooled by the intro, for this is another hard-hitting song with a thrash-esque riff. "Hell on Earth" is the second-most-epic song here, with a heavy emphasis on keyboards and some extremely well-done riffs. The album's closer, "Genesis", is basically one of the most amazing things I've ever heard. Starting off with a very melodic keyboard line, which is then copied onto guitar with amazing results, and blasted into nearly 5 minutes of instrumental wankery. Seriously. Dominici doesn't even come in until 4:45, and hell, there's already about 5 solos by that point, and all of them are amazing. It also has some of the better lyrics on the album, and is the longest, clocking in at 10:49.
The album ends with the sound of nature, which is rather fitting, considering that the album started serenely. Overall, it's one of the best albums so far in 2008, and I'd even go as far as to say it's one of the best progressive metal albums of the decade. If you like this kind of thing, go out and buy it NOW. If you're too kvlt... pick it up anyway.
Highlights: There are no highlights, for the entire album is a magnum opus.
I like to view Charles Dominici as a progressive metal zombie: he was once active in the scene during his stint in Dream Theater before “dying” for nearly two decades, and now has risen up again with superhuman strength beyond his previous form. So after reaching out of the grave, this forgotten idol remembered his glory days in Dream Theater, and hobbled along in hopes of finally recapturing that same energy that gave today’s progressive legends a boosting start; essentially, Dominici has done it again. Marking the third and final boulevard down his conceptual neighborhood, “Part III” towers powerfully in its attempt to alter progressive metal from its own roots, whether it be with metal or progressive attributes. Of course, nearly everyone looking into this CD is hunting for a vibe similar to that of Dream Theater’s debut, yet let’s not get carried away with those expectations; this isn’t a riding-off-previous-fame effort, as many certainly will see when finding a tornado of geometrical metal swirling above their hairlines. Newsflash: Dominici is back.
Now Sir Charles had very little to work with when he first crawled out of his grave with the opening chapter of the “O3” triangle, which stood firmly as an acoustic-only release. Since then, the second block found Dominici conjoined with a full-blown band pursuing progressive metal, and that’s exactly what’s left here. This time around, however, his backing band is heavier, tighter, and better adapted than ever before; not just musically improved, but more professional as well. The overall music has a spastically enjoyable sound with nutty riffs looping around atmospheric keyboards, forceful percussion, and swell arrangements worth a shiny ribbon. As for Dominici, he sounds better and more redefined than anything during those years in Dream Theater. Powerful and bursting with emotion, Dominici’s voice is like a shotgun blast of catchiness, might, strength, velocity, and general goodness all placed into tiny pellets that pierce your skin like little daggers. Overall, expect great vocals from one of progressive metal’s sleeping masters that sleeps no more; an amazing display of his talents throughout.
Who would have ever thought the forgotten vocalist of Dream Theater’s early days could rise above his previous form into something so epic and enjoyable, as this piece of progressive gold clearly demonstrates? Fact is, Dominici has never sounded better vocally, and the musical atmosphere is simply an outstanding foundation for him to do his magical larynx nothing but goodness; clearly one that sounds fantastic whichever you see it. Although it’s a given many will subconsciously skip over this record, take note about Dominici’s final cut in his slicing trilogy of conceptual madness, for it is a very surprising listen in many unusual ways.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com