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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.