Dream Theater – Dream Theater
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Consistency is the name of the game to career longevity. Well some bands age like fine wine, some like sushi. It’s a fact of life and we see it demonstrated time and time again. Now looking at the shelf life of Dream Theater, these giants have been around forever and started life as one of the flag bearers of the Progressive Metal invasion of the 80’s along with Queensryche, Fates Warning and others. Exceeding expectations, 12 studio albums into a decades-spanning career is the stuff of legend. It’s evident that progressive metal might be only strengthening in the last few years, but it’s the older bands like Dream Theater, that are still forging the ways for what the genre is and will be.
Over 20 years into their existence, Dream Theater still shows no obvious signs of aging or slowing down, which is basically a testament to the band´s authenticity and drive. With Dream Theater, their 12th platter, the band once again proves that they’re seasoned elder statesmen of progressive metal with no sushi in sight. This is yet another slab of righteous, highly technical progressive music with tons of hooks and it demands the horns be raised high in homage.
The album starts with an orchestral masterpiece “False Awakening Suite”, which reminds me of Metropolis Pt. 2 “Overture”, but it’s more dynamic and much heavier compared to the later. Mike Mangini comes up with some interesting patterns which easily add emphasis to each orchestral phrase and in turn complementing John Petrucci’s chugs. “The Enemy Inside” on the other side is heavy as hell. It’s straight forward and has that in your face vibe. The heaviness in this track easily reminds me of Train of Thought era. The instrumental section is so wonderfully done with Jordan and John nailing their respective solos flawlessly.
“The Looking Glass” has an upbeat 70’s or early 80’s progressive rock vibe with melody being the focal point. The way this song has been arranged is completely different from what Dream Theater has done earlier. Lyrically, this song describes how everyone is totally open with their lives on the internet and are really obsessed with fame and attention. “Enigma Machine” is an absolute monster of a roller-coaster! This is a track which stands out and reflects the unique technical side of Dream Theater. Mike Mangini is on top of every damn variation and fills. This is classic, highly technical, frantic progressive like the good old Metropolis days and it sounds rock solid.
In songs like “Bigger Picture”, “Along for the Ride” and “Illumination Theory”, there’s an actual chorus built into the section where James LaBrie catapults from his soothing intro leads into elevated barks that are still kept in a tuneful frame of mind. Even once the electric portions join in, there’s an aspirant ambiance that reflects the album’s primary muses. It becomes a journey into the unknown filled with potential for an emotive catharsis, always keeping wary of an omnipresent danger element.
If noticed carefully, this album also has the timings of tracks like “Awake”, heaviness like “Honor Thy Father”, epicly cinematic and orchestrated like “Octavarium” and then “YTSE Jam” type of instrumental with a more modern sound. In fact, a lot of this album pleasantly reminded me of Falling into Infinity just in how John Petrucci approached his parts; they were very free-flowing and experimental at times. With reference aside, this album is the first one that I felt actually took me on a spiritual adventure from start to finish unlike any other, especially with the intro to “Behind the Veil” that would go perfect with the epic “Avatar” like scenery.
The album ends with an epic 22 minutes “Illumination Theory” which has awesomeness written all over it. It’s divided into 5 parts and each part delivers what was expected from John Petrucci and team. The orchestral part towards the middle section is arranged so beautifully and the moment when Petrucci comes in and crushes the piece to smithereens is so fantastically written! Without doubt, James Labrie puts on one of the best vocal performances we’ve seen since last one decade. I remember in one of DT’s most recent interviews, where John Petrucci asked Jordan Ruddess to write the saddest music he has ever come up with. After listening to the final part, “Surrender, Trust & Passion”, I feel that that goal has been delivered flawlessly, tearing the listener with so much pain.
Another interesting feature of this album is the lyrics penned by John Myung on “Surrender to Reason”. It’s so beautifully written and arranged with some epic melodies which change at the turn of the dime. At the end of the day, a Dream Theater fan will surely be humming the awesome chorus:
“Restless Angels, Help me find my way….
Restless angels, help me find my strength…
Restless Angels, Let love show the way, Let grace lead the way
Surrender to reason”
The creative nucleus of Dream Theater is of course, guitarist John Petrucci. Petrucci continues to shred with precision and his solos are as spectacular as expected. He makes listeners forget the goofy title of “Enigma Machine” with one of the most breathtaking solos he’s ever laid down. Mike Mangini has done a great job on the drums. Unfortunately, I can’t judge the drum sound mix wise; I would need the CD or a better mix. But if we look at his drum patterns and his “rhythmic brain”, he nails it perfectly, but hey something sounds strange at times in the snare.
Apart from the drum sound, the only flaw about the album is that it doesn’t feel like all the songs flow together nicely. It doesn’t have that sense of whole album narrative, not so much in a conceptual sense, but musically it all sounds like there’s no order in the choice. If anything, “Dream Theater” carries a settled, gusty feeling to it. The album rages, but it’s so finessed and perfected from years of experience between guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and keyboardist Jordan Rudess, it’s not so much a routine for these guys. “Dream Theater“ is the sound of veterans who know when to punch in and make the long-termed and hours-intensive shifts count.
Veteran status aside, Dream Theater goes the extra mile on this self titled album to outclass and outwit most of their industry competitors and a lot of it has to with having a stabilized unit in their camp. They’ve established their own class of embellishment that strays from wanking and instead reaches to first caress the soul then throttle it once the listener has reached a certain level of coziness. Orchestration of both static and non-static elements has been Dream Theater’s forte and their painstaking craft has paid off more than not.
In short, I can clearly say this album covers the entire discography of Dream Theater, a collage of progressive music, a hallmark album for a gifted team of artisans that has plenty of them already. “Dream Theater” is one of the most invested albums Dream Theater has yet conceived. Prepare to be not only submerged but actually touched by this album. Offered in multiple discs in different varieties, “Dream Theater” is an emotional leviathan that works beautifully in either format.