This is one of the few discs I ran out and bought on the day of its release. Following up Scenes from a Memory
was a monumental task, and one the band seems to have fallen a little short on.
First off, the double CD is almost 100 minutes long, disc two being one continuous 42 minute song. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, I think some editing would have been prudent. I'm also sure this is a concept disc, but I haven't figured out exactly what the concept is supposed to be yet. To be sure, it is a task to sit through the whole thing.
Vocalist James Labrie wastes no time in conjuring up his
best James Hetfield voice on the first track. It sounds a little forced. In fact, I think Labrie just sings too much on this effort. The instrumentalists are the real stars here. Rudess gets a little more freedom on this one (although I hate the Thirtysomething keyboard patch in Solitary Shell
). Of course, Pettruci blazes throughout. And what a killer tone on disc two's About to Crash (Reprise)
. Portnoy is spot-on, too.
There are some standout tracks: Blind Faith, Misunderstood, & Overture
among them. There are also tracks like the nearly 14 minute-long The Great Debate
, a song about (and I'm not making this up) Stem Cell Research
, which meanders lyrically, reaching no conclusion as far as I can tell. I'm sure that's probably their point, though, and I just don't get it.