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Donahue, Tim: Madmen & Sinners

I have been listening to progressive metal for over 10 years and it's strange cause I've never heard anything from Tim Donahue before. It's even more strange that he has released six albums already none of which I heard of until Madmen & Sinners came out.

This may be of the best progressive metal albums of 2004, and one of the contributing factors is that Donahue reaches a broader audience this time must by the inclusion of Dream Theater vocalist James Labrie. Donahue obviously wrote this album with Labrie on mind. I can't think of a better match and James Labrie delivers an outstanding vocal performance which perfectly matches the atmosphere of the album.

Madmen & Sinners is a 68-minute progressive metal album comprising Tim Donahue on fretless guitar, bass and keyboards; James Labrie on vocals and Mike Mangini on drums. I have been watching Mangini closely since I first discovered him in Extreme and then Annihilator, Steve Vai and finally Labrie's solo project Mullmuzzler. He recorded his drum parts back in the USA and sent the over to Donahue who mixed it at his home studio, and the drumming is fresh and creative on the entire disc.

The fact that Tim Donahue has always played fretless guitar gives him his own edge. The instrument sounds distinctive and gives him a lot more freedom in his writing and playing. It has to be pointed out that Donahue's playing is very articulated, smooth and emotionally engaging. Although Madmen & Sinners is primarily his own project, this album in no way sounds like a one-man-band project. There is plenty of room for James Labrie's expressive and dark vocals plus some Gregorian chants which all give this album its own character. James sings quite differently from his role in Dream Theater and what's so interesting is that whenever he participates in a side project (Frameshift, Ayreon, Mullmuzzler), he has so much to offer. His singing style shifts from dark soothing vocals on "The End" to a really aggressive style on "Master of the Mind" or "Million Miles". You've never heard him sing the way he sings in "My Heart Bleeds" or "Children of the Flame". It's a pity he is criticised by much of his own fanbase for not sounding 'harsh' enough, but he has a voice that is 100% James Labrie and instantly recognizable, and not another dated Halford, Dickinson or Kiske clone.

The first 10 plus times I listened to this album, I was reminded of Dream Theater's Scenes From A Memory, only less complex and less flashy. But then my opinion slowly started changing and the similarities between to two albums began to wither. This album is definitely its own thing. The added Gregorian chants with Latin language, the fat organ sound and the few spoken parts give way to the dark and brooding melodies. You can tell why it took Donahue nearly three years to finish this album since he handled the recording, mixing and production duties himself. Everything is so balanced and each instrument plays in perfect harmony with Labrie's vocals beautifully layered on top of it.

Tim Donahue has created a great album. Hopefully we'll be hearing more from him but I'm in no hurry. This is already one of those discs that I will be playing on and off, for for some time, since there is so much to discover here. Highly recommended to prog metal fans who like their music intense, powerful and emotionally charged.

Track Listing:
Million Miles
Let Go
My Heart Bleeds
Feel My Pain
Morte Et Dabo
Children Of The Flame
The End
Wildest Dreams
Master Of The Mind
Madmen And Sinners

Added: March 17th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Tim Donahue's Web Site
Hits: 2504
Language: english

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