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Dream Theater - Dream Theater CD (album) cover

DREAM THEATER

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.45 | 489 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

zeqexes
3 stars Dream Theater's newest album is rather important for two reasons: the first being that it is self-titled, showing that the band is confident that this is an offering including and encompassing of all Dream Theater's elements. The second reason is that it is the first which involves Mike Mangini in the writing process of the album. However, older and observant fans will realise that since Mike Portnoy has left the band, John Petrucci has stepped up to the role as the 'leader' and the main representative for the band. So, John Petrucci is really to 'blame' (no negative connotation) for this album.

As would be expected for a self-titled album, it is an album that attempts to include everything that Dream Theater is. In this album we have heaviness and melody. But there's one more facet to Dream Theater: their progressiveness. Whether this album includes that element is opinion. If to you, progressive music means having 5 minute long solos in 17/16 time signature, then you probably won't be disappointed by this release. If progressive means to keep exploring music and progressing the way in which you can construct songs and melodies, then this album falls very short. This album is overall quite bland in the songwriting department, which isn't to say that the songs aren't catchy, that there aren't good riffs, that the musicality isn't there. What I mean is that the songs aren't very creative. Most of them follow a standard verse-chorus structure, contain a couple of solos, and then they're over. There's nothing really in them which satisfies a need for a bit of creativity, as while they have decent melodies, riffs etc, they're just simply unimaginative and predictable.

Let's have a closer look at the songs. The opener, "False Awakening Suite", is a short instrumental opening track, designed to hype up the listener for the following songs. It's quite Symphony X-esque, and while it is quite energetic, musically it's a bit dull. The riffs being thrown around aren't momumental, but overall I think it does achieve its purpose of starting the album with a bang.

Next we have a number of songs, mainly in the 5-7 minute range. Several of these (such as "The Enemy Inside", "Behind the Veil" and "Surrender to Reason"), while having sound melodies and riffs, fall short of the creativity that was evident in the band's earlier releases such as "Images & Words" and "Falling into Infinity". Each of the three songs I mentioned earlier have basically the same tone and don't really bring much to the table that another one of them already did.

"The Bigger Picture" and "Along for the Ride" offer some melodic release from the heaviness of the other songs. The former song is a power-ballad style song (similar to "This is the Life") whereas the latter is a more acoustic, chilled song (think "Beneath the Surface"). They're both good songs, the former being one of my favourites from the album, and will please the fans appreciative of melody.

"The Looking Glass" is another one of my favourites, and is very much in the style of Rush (as is "Surrender to Reason"). The sound and tone of the track is something that harkens back to the band's early days. "Enigma Machine" is an instrumental track which attempts to create an atmosphere similar to what a band like Megadeth would. It's full of heavy, quick riffs and solos. For me, it's not really interesting in any way, as basically all it is is a collection of fairly mediocre riffs. It certainly falls short of previous Dream Theater instrumentals such as "Hell's Kitchen". The band could have really surprised us on "Enigma Machine" with something intriguing but still interesting, but instead they decided to give us a 6 minute slice of stuff we've heard countless times from them before.

This leaves us with the grand epic at the end of the album "Illumination Theory". It opens with an anthemic riff that the band actually stole (or 'borrowed') from the 19th century composer Tchaikovsky (listen to his first piano concerto). The remainder of the opening movement ("Paradoxe de la Lumiere Noire") continues in this bombastic, anthemic fashion, until it segues into the next movement, "Live, Die, Kill". This section is fairly standard Dream Theater, but is quite strong melodically and rhythmically. After about 7 or 8 minutes of the song, all sound drops away and the listener enters into an ambient and atmospheric soundscape of noises ("The Embracing Circle"). This movement continues with strings joining, and playing a very beautiful melody (referencing Tchaikovsky again). The band references Rush as they open the next movement with a drum and bass pattern, similar to the one found in "Cygnus X-1". There's some great vocal work here and the overall tone is quite standard Dream Theater. The concluding movement is a bombastic and anthemic closer, which is again quite standard for DT. But, when you think the album's over, there's a hidden track, a beautiful piano and guitar piece centred around one riff/chord progression. This is another great moment of the album.

Overall, this is formulaic Dream Theater, nothing we haven't heard before from the band, and the songwriting isn't creative. But there's some great moments that make this album worthy of owning.

zeqexes | 3/5 |

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