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DREAM THEATER

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.44 | 516 ratings

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Mr. Mustard
2 stars An eponymous album this late in a band's career is always an interesting paradigm to follow; The Beatles certainly made it work. But any sort of establishment of a new and refined sound here is completely misplaced; as this is the same Dream Theater we've been spoon-fed from the beginning. In fact, dare I say the album has taken a turn backwards from the previous album, A Dramatic Turn of Events, which definitely showed promise. Here we find Dream Theater not only adhering strictly to the formulaic approach they are so known for, but doing so insipidly.

Perhaps the first thing one notices is the absolutely horrible mixing and production quality. This is nothing new for Dream Theater, as many of their recent albums have been brick- walled to death. The mixing is uncharacteristically horrible as well, with the vocals being buried in the mix in favor of guitar. While the drums have gotten a slight boost in the mix, the tone is atrociously bad, lacking any kind of intensity and punch.

Besides the production, the album falls apart musically as well. The best way to describe it is, well, amateurish and lazy. I sense as if there was no self-control when putting this album together, as it seems as though any riff or other musical bit they thought of was used and deemed as good enough.

Besides this, the musical structures are unimaginative, and hardly deviate from the standard verse-chorus format, especially 'The Enemy Inside' and 'Along For the Ride.' The same is true with 'The Looking Glass' (though I do appreciate the Rush-inspired opening), 'The Bigger Picture,' 'Behind the Veil' and 'Surrender to Reason,' all of which offer nothing new musically.

This leaves us with just the opening 'False Awakening Suite,' the instrumental 'Enigma Machine,' and the epic 'Illumination Theory.' Despite being the only strong points of the album, they all lack a sort of cohesion, and are mostly uninspired.

Oddly, of these, the strongest is probably the 'False Awakening Suite.' Its concise nature and intense cinematic approach make this enjoyable.

The band has had some success with instrumentals in the past, but 'The Enigma Machine' is pretty sloppy. The main riff is amateurish, and the rest is just an unimaginative mesh of riffs and solos.

This brings us to the epic, which always seems to be the high point of any Dream Theater album which contains one. Right off the bat your hit with a beautiful Tchaikovsky-esque strings melody that serves as the main theme of the song. Following is some standard DT instrumental work. However, this is where it starts to lose any sort of cohesiveness. The ambient section, while short, is unnecessary and disrupts the flow of the song. The subsequent string section has an inspiring feel, and is certainly the high point of the entire album, but it is nothing you wouldn't hear in any motion picture. And of course, without any real transition, we're right back to the instrumental madness which continues until a predictably dramatic, yet strong LaBrie performance concludes the epic. A good song overall, with some strong and weak points, but it isn't nearly on the same level of their past epics.

If I have been harsh on this album it is for good reason, as I truly know what Dream Theater is capable of, as has been exemplified with masterpieces such as Images an Words or Scenes From a Memory, and even as recent as their previous album. But the songwriting is just too bland on this one. This heavier and more mainstream approach does not suit the band well, as they were always at their best when perfectly mixing melody, intensity, and complexity. But no band can stay great forever; every group loses their creative spark, and maybe this is that album, or maybe not. Regardless, the fact remains that the innovative and inspirational sound that graced their preceding albums is missing. And as such, I do not believe the album justifies the branding of the name Dream Theater.

4/10

Mr. Mustard | 2/5 |

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