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Donahue, Tim And James LaBrie,: Madmen & Sinners

Might James LaBrie be (gasp!) bored singing for Dream Theater? Since the release of Dream Theater's Train of Thought in fall 2003, LaBrie has appeared on at least two full-length concept albums created by outside writers specifically for his voice and more side projects are on the way, including a role in Ayreon's two-CD epic The Human Equation. In many ways, Madmen + Sinners, LaBrie's collaboration with fretless guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Tim Donahue, is similar to his one with Henning Pauly (Chain) on Frameshift's Unweaving the Rainbow. They both are heavy-duty two-man projects (LaBrie singing and either Pauly or, in this case, Donahue, playing almost all of the instruments), and they both contain some of the prettiest and most aggressive singing LaBrie has ever done outside of Train of Thought.

Madmen + Sinners, however, is heavier than Donahue's last project Into the Light, whose self-titled 2000 album featured another notable vocalist in Kelly Hansen (Hurricane, Unruly Child). Here, Donahue uses gothic textures rippling with pipe organs, Gregorian chants, demonic voices and church bells to augment LaBrie's dramatic deliveries. The album's sweeping cynicism is played out in song stories like the stomping Dream Theateresque opener "Million Miles," which takes a look at the Cold War; "My Heart Bleeds," which tackles religious hypocrisy; "Children of the Flame," which mocks those who believe in Judgment Day; and "Master of the Mind," about an insane asylum run by nutcases. Despite the bitter tone of some of these lyrics, the songs come alive with riveting and intricate arrangements that recall mid-period Dream Theater. Eight of these 10 tracks clock in at longer than five minutes, with two pushing past the seven-minute mark while the epic 16-minute title track closes the album.

Whether LaBrie is speaking in a distorted voice ("My Heart Bleeds"), singing accompanied by a lone electric guitar ("The End") or against a wall-of-sound organ ("Let Go"), he once again proves his vocal versatility. And Donahue, who spent more than two years pulling together this whole thing using recordings made in disparate parts of the world, deserves credit (despite his cynicism) for crafting a fine modern progressive-metal album that passes through various aural moods without losing its melody or its bite. Just as I prefer Frameshift's Unweaving the Rainbow to Train of Thought, so too will Madmen + Sinners take priority in my collection over the latest Dream Theater disc.

Track Listing:
1) Million Miles (7:07)
2) Let Go (2:37)
3) My Heart Bleeds (5:58)
4) Feel My Pain (5:29)
5) Morte Et Dabo (2:22)
6) Children of the Flame (5:50)
7) The End (5:10)
8) Wildest Dreams (5:55)
9) Master of the Mind (7:23)
10) Madmen & Sinners (15:50)
Total Time: 63:44

Added: April 21st 2004
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Tim Donahue Web Site
Hits: 2683
Language: english

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