Dream Theater – Dream Theater

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Dream Theater are back with the second album after the original drummer Mike Portnoy abruptly left the band in 2010. Coming with the self-titled record that has been announced from the rooftops as something most focused and to-the-point in the band’s recent history naturally created expected (planned) buzz around the album itself.

Speaking about the album in one of the interviews, guitarist John Petrucci commented: “I see every new album as an opportunity to start over. To either build or improve upon a direction that has been evolving over time or to completely break new ground. This is the first self-titled album of our career and there is nothing I can think of that makes a statement of musical and creative identity stronger than that. We’ve fully explored all of the elements that make us unique, from the epic and intense to the atmospheric and cinematic. We’re incredibly excited about Dream Theater and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

And though everything he said is spot-on, there is still something contradictory behind his words that simply do not follow the album’s flow. Simply said, Dream Theater is definitely far away from being a musical ID of a band that previously set the standards with seminal records such Images and Words and Awake, reaching the tops with a single composition A Change of Seasons.

If we put aside all the media buzz created prior this record calling it truly unique and all the Mike-2-Mike (abbreviated M2M) shows aired by the band members, stripping this album down for what it is, there is clearly not much to say. And you have to find yourself a way to deal with it. But not everything is that blackclouded.

Songwriting on this new album is far more focused than it was with previous two. If Black Clouds & Silver Linings hit the bottom of the band’s career and ultimately led with Portnoy‘s quitting the band (though the real reasons might be different), with A Dramatic Turn of Events the NYC proggers made a turn that more or less still gave a glimmer of hope for what is to be the band’s 12th studio album. Though Mike Mangini is hell of a drummer and hats off to him, there is no any difference in particular that makes his drumming anything extraordinary comparing with the previous record. The difference is that he was a part of the creating process from day one, but it really feels like he just filled in and did his part without a real moment of bliss. And another difference is that with Mangini the band feels like a group again. At least that’s what they are saying.

Oh by the way, the sound of snare drums on the new album is quite weird. It looks like they softened it during the production process and there seem to be many people complaining on this segment. Other than that, the instrumentation on the record is top-notch what was expected, but it’s pretty generic making the album feels like just another Dream Theater album. It’s not to be expected from this band to experiment and search for new grounds anymore, they are far in advanced stage to permit themselves another crash in such a short time after the 2009′s Black Clouds & Silver Linings.

Sympho oriented False Awakening Suite opens Dream Theater and leads to the first single taken off the record – The Enemy Inside. They chose a song that is the catchiest on the album to go for a single release from obvious reasons. Something like that happened back in 2007 with Constant Motion announcing the same year’s Systemtic Chaos. But from last few singles, The Enemy Inside is the most gifted creatively.

The Looking Glass is one of the two shortest tracks on the album beside the second single Along with the Ride, a mid-tempo filler and nothing more than that. Enigma Machine, with a serious name as it is, is the only full-time instrumental on the record and a first instrumental since Stream of Consciousness on Train of Thought. It’s a classic instrumental by Dream Theater standards, with Petrucci and Rudess doing the solos trading. 

The Bigger Picture kicks off with the main theme of the song and this number in particular originally commenced from The Enemy Inside. Melody-filled, it builds up on the time scale with LaBrie providing his best vocal performance on the album and Petrucci-Rudess interaction. Behind the Veil opens with Rudess’ synthwork leading to a classic Metallica breaking riff that sets the dynamic for Myung’s bass and Rudess’ orchestration.

Surrender to Reason comes along with kind of a Rush vibe, it is the first song the band wrote for the album. With no delay and reverb, Petrucci’s approach on this one is rather direct what throws a shadow for the entire song, making it possible the most straight-in-the face moment. Already mentioned Along for the Ride comes with the lyrics written by Petrucci and is the only ballad on the album. The purpose of the song was met, it’s a singalong piece that will probably be used on the coming tour as one of the songs to set the tempo down.

Although the album closes with Illumination Theory it was for this song that’s been expected to be the album’s centerpiece, as the band returned with a new over-20 minutes epic. Making a comparison between this one and the progressive metal epic of the epics, A Change of Seasons, would probably be the funniest thing you heard all day. It’s largely based on atmosphere with significantly less improvisational factor, if we would still compare it with the best this band wrote. It feels more like few different songs put together in a single piece, making it non-spontaneous most the time.

All in all, Dream Theater keeps the band going on. It will be hailed by some, hated by the others and the middle layer will probably remain indifferent and keep returning to the albums that set the foundations for the exhausted genre that’s giving occasional flips. Or keep looking for something fresh.

Tracklist:

1. FALSE AWAKENING SUITE
i. Sleep Paralysis
ii. Night Terrors
iii. Lucid Dream
2. THE ENEMY INSIDE
3. THE LOOKING GLASS
4. ENIGMA MACHINE
5. THE BIGGER PICTURE
6. BEHIND THE VEIL
7. SURRENDER TO REASON
8. ALONG FOR THE RIDE
9. ILLUMINATION THEORY
i. Paradoxe de la Lumière Noire
ii. Live, Die, Kill
iii. The Embracing Circle
iv. The Pursuit of Truth
v. Surrender, Trust & Passion

Line-up:

* James LaBrie – vocals
* John Petrucci – guitars
* John Myung – bass
* Jordan Rudess – keyboards
* Mike Mangini – drums

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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