Released: 2002, Frontiers Records
GENIUS: A ROCK OPERA is an extremely ambitious progressive metal undertaking from Daniel Liverani, a relative unknown in the metal universe. By way of introduction, Liverani is a classically trained music virtuoso of sorts, having started his musical training at the tender age of 6. At the age of 17 he taught himself to play guitar and then began self-producing his own demos. My impression from reading a little bit about him is that he is a musician’s musician, well-respected among his peers, though he is likely an unfamiliar name to most metal fans.
GENIUS is the first chapter in a trilogy that tells the story of a boy named Genius. Genius is a drummer, and as the alarm clock in his bedroom goes off one morning he begins to imagine the rhythm of the chime as a rhythm he is playing on his snare drum. Apparently, this rhythmic pattern is the magic code that admits one into dreamland and Genius enters a place where no human being has ever been. The story is rather detailed, but I can summarize the concept up by saying that in dreamland our dreams are being controlled by Twin Spirits. The part of Genius is played by Mark Boals, best known for his spot as the singer on several Yngwie Malmsteen albums over the years. There are 10 characters in all and each is voiced by a different vocalist. The cast is quite impressive, as it features greats like Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), Chris Bohltendahl (Grave Digger), Steve Walsh (Kansas), Lana Lane, Oliver Hartmann (At Vance) and Midnight (Crimson Glory).
So how does the album stand up overall? Well, it’s a valiant effort to do something really ground-breaking, but it comes off a little flat. As mentioned earlier, the story is rather detailed. The entire dream experience that Genius has is supposed to last 10 minutes, but the story will take three albums to tell? The album begins with the voice of the Storyteller, who speaks the interludes that tie each song together. He begins with the line, “Since the beginning of their existence humans have never wondered how nor why their dreams have been taking place in their minds.” Oh really? I thought man had been struggling to understand dreams since Adam, but that’s just me. As for the music, it’s catchy but forgettable for the most part. As with much of prog metal these days, the music swings from melodic hard rock to light metal and all points in between. The guitar work is good, but not as heavy as I would have preferred. There are three standout tracks and they carry the album. The opening song, “Without Me Today” is sung entirely by Boals and starts things off well. The other two standout tracks are “Paradox”, voiced by Boals and Gildenlow, and “My Pride”, which is handled primarily by Walsh and John Wetton.
The bottom line is this: while it is a relatively enjoyable listening experience, GENIUS falls a little short of the mark. Since the project is intended to be a trilogy, here’s hoping that things improve on the remaining two discs. Methinks those who enjoy progressive music, and especially complex concept albums, will enjoy this one more than the average metal fan will.