***Amazon doesn't have a 'half' star rating, or it would have been 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Let me start with a little background: I'm a Progressive Metal Drummer. I know because it says so right on my website. Also, because I've been playing Rush and Dream Theater since the late 70's. But this guy, Yan Maillard...holy crap! I could play like him...if I had 2 years with nothing else to do but practice. And an extra arm and leg wouldn't hurt.
But hey, this is a review of the CDs, not their excellent drummer....
First, I didn't buy #1. No matter how good it is, I'm not going to spend my hard-earned cash on an all-acoustic CD. Sorry, that's just me. That said, I've been waiting for Charlie to do something ever since his Dream Theater days. Don't hate, but I've always preferred his voice to James LaBrie's. But, that's another story, too. So, when I heard about this, I was very excited. Like I said, I passed on #1, but immediately bought #2 & 3. Since 2 & 3 are parts of the same story and indistinguishable in style or tone (a good thing, btw), I can write this all together. On with the review....
Let me just say...I WANTED to love them.......but, I only like them.
If I had to express the reason in one sentence, I'd have to refer back to the scene in Amadeus where the king is critiquing his music, "There are...too many notes...." Now I, like everyone else, laughed a lot at that scene. Of course, the king was being ridiculous. How can a song have too many notes? A song has as many notes as it's supposed to have...right? Well, I used to think so........
It's brutally obvious every one of these guys, including Charlie, are masters at their craft. Arpeggios, progressions, key changes, time changes, cadence...these guys are all over it. And, as The Bard put it, "...therein lies the rub." They're all over it all the time. They never let up. It's like a constant, "Look what I can do!" They do it great, they just won't stop doing it! Every song, almost all the way through is full of...of...well, notes!
There are a lot of great hooks, but you hardly get to feel them because they don't stick around for more than 4 bars. It's actually physically exhausting to listen to music like this...and I'm as Prog Metal as anyone!
Now, in their defense, from the notes on their website, it seems that's exactly what they were going for. Well, they succeeded. The problem, for me is, it's just not necessary. The musicians are great, but they've almost ruined the music by putting all their chops into every part of every song.
As great as Yan is, I lay most of the blame at his feet. He's an outstanding drummer--a veritable virtuoso--but, if I had to put a name to it, I'd call his style here overplaying. Now, I'm really torn saying this because I've always been a fan of, "More drums!" On the other hand, I realize how important it is for songs to have some sort of foundation. I need something in the mix that I can point to and say, "There's the beat." It doesn't have to be the drums, but that's my preference. Not to say there's no beat at all; there is one, you just have to wilderness tracker to find it.
It seems rather simplistic to say I need to be able to headbang to it, but that's what it comes down to. And, don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for AC/DC-simple; something more along the lines of Rush's La Villa Strangiato or Dream Theater's Under a Glass Moon. The musicians are riffing away, but there's always a solid foundation (I agree with Mr. Stahlgren here).
Sadly, Dominici is missing that. As talented as they all are, the music just could have been arranged better. It's great Prog but, as we all know, that plays to an extremely narrow audience. Not that they need to try and get on the radio, or anything but, if they would have made it a little more accessible, it would play to a wider audience.
All that said, I can live with it. I put them on my mp3 player and it's actually growing on me. Like I said, I like it, but I don't love it. It's just sad for me because I wanted to love it.
What I liked even less were the lyrics--specifically, the rhyming of the lyrics. I love concept albums and, hearing this was one, made me even more excited to get it. The story was great and I enjoyed the characters and everything, but I hate when the writers make everything rhyme. It's just so elementary and simplistic, especially for such advanced music, that it cheapens the whole experience for me. And, oddly enough, the more technically advanced the music, the worse rhyming lyrics are for it.
Last and least, in some places, Charlie sounds uncomfortably (for me) like Geoff Tate. Now, with his voice, I can understand that and forgive it, it was just glaringly obvious in some parts.
These CDs are filled to overflowing with power, technical expertise and feeling. But, that's the problem: it's unnecessarily complicated and there's just too much of everything.
I like it...but I wanted to love it.