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DREAM THEATER

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.44 | 479 ratings

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StrafeSawdoffe
4 stars Top 3? Probably not. Top 5? I think so...

The album showed real promise as soon as 'The Enemy Inside' premiered... DT has an affinity for releasing an album's least interesting song as the single. If 'Enemy' was it, well then...

More importantly, this is the first DT album since Six Degrees that fairly represents their overall sound; you can hand this album to a Dream Theater newbie and know they'll be left with a fair impression of what to expect.

The album features encouraging improvements from so many former weak-spots: better lyrics than Black Clouds, LaBrie's voice is strong as ever, and there continue to be more melodic contributions from Rudess. Speaking of which, that obviously-Rudess-conducted string waltz in 'Illumination Theory?' He's just won me over'I've long suspected Rudess hiding a lack of true composition behind a veil of unending notes. I was wrong. I read an interview with Petrucci prior to the release, and he talked about the slow instrumental breakdown in the middle. I was expecting something 'pleasant' like the soundscapes at the beginning of 'Octavarium,' or the end of 'Count of Tuscany.' This is something entirely new.

'The Enigma Machine' is probably their most listen-able instrumental since 'Hell's Kitchen.' Of course it doesn't approach 'Dance of Eternity,' but you can actually groove to 'Enigma.' The three pronged attack of 'The Bigger Picture,' 'Behind the Veil,' and 'Surrender to Reason' continue in the some general 'heavy melodic' direction heard on the last album, but honestly, I'd rather heard this run of songs three times through that ADToE once (Side note: Anyone else feel like the 6/8 bit near the end of 'Bigger Picture' should be longer?)

The album isn't without it's share of guilty pleasures. In one of the pre-release interviews, Petrucci comically understated himself by describing 'The Looking Glass' as Rush inspired. Um... no. The main riff in 'The Best of Times' is inspired by Rush. 'The Looking Glass' is a cover of a Rush song that somehow got left off Moving Pictures. Still, I can't get enough of it, and wish it were released as the second single instead of 'Along For the Ride.' Regarding which: Petrucci can, in fact, write a truly moving 4 minute ballad. Unfortunately, he writes about 3 painfully cheesy ones for every one tear-jerker, and 'Beneath the Surface' was great, so we *were* about due. I can only imagine Rudess was smirking as he recorded that solo... and about five minutes after the song debuted, Keith Emerson was on the phone with his lawyer trying to find out if 'tone infringement' is a thing.

But unauthorized tributes to your influences is a time-honored symphonic Prog tradition. One true flaw with the album, which is purely technical (and I'm far from the first to point this out) is the synthesized-sounding drum tone. The band hyped about how everything was pre-mic'ed so that they could capture spontaneous fills, etc... but somewhere in the process, all the life was smothered out of the kit. It's a shame, because Mangini's performance is great; it just sounds like he's in another room for it. Some curiosity remains about what the band will do with this material live. Petrucci has essentially promised that they'll open with 'False Awakening Suite,' as the piece was written for just that purpose, but what about that fake ending at the end of 'Illumination Theory?' Will they just skip it? Take a bow before returning to their instruments and finishing, like Transatlantic? Try to fake out the crowd with the pause? Or, will they do it the right way: leave the stage entirely, and come back and open the encore with it. Your move, Dream Theater.

StrafeSawdoffe | 4/5 |

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