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Dream Theater - Awake CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.13 | 2127 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars DREAM THEATER seems to be one of those bands whose works you either love or you hate, and this album I definitely love. Try as I might, I simply cannot find fault with this--not even in JAMES LaBRIE's voice, which many people seem to despise. It's true, his voice may shock the listener at first, especially if all you've ever heard from him is his guest appearance on AYREON's album The Human Equation. It caught me by surprise as well, just what an abrasive, nasal yowling he can summon up when he wants to...and while I don't think I could listen to an entire album of him going on in that tone, the important thing is that LaBRIE seems to know when it's appropriate to sound that way and when it isn't, and he has sufficient versatility as a vocalist to find an appropriate sound for just about any sort of music. Tracks like "Voices" and "The Mirror" do well to show off his many contrasting techniques in the course of a single song.

Another strength of Awake lies in the pacing of the album; each song seems to be placed where it will have the maximum impact, whether that be the sudden explosion of "The Mirror" after the album's acoustic piece, "The Silent Man", or the placement of the subdued but remarkable "Space-Dye Vest" as the closer...this is the kind of track you need to meditate in silence on for a few seconds after listening, and it's built right in. But what I think best serves DREAM THEATER in this album--despite what some have said--is the discipline they show in the construction of their songs. Unlike some of their later works, which, while they sound good, have a tendency to ramble on a bit much and bore the listener, it seems to me that the band has taken care to make its points and explore its sound--but without trying one's patience. Even the instrumental, "Erotomania", runs exactly as long as I think could have feasibly done, and stops just before the point of overdoing it. Don't worry when you see song lengths of 10 and 11 minutes, because the pacing of each song and the length of solos seems to have been controlled as well.

As I listened to the album to make this review, I started coming to a conclusion that...while I may be wrong...perhaps this more disciplined approach is due to the absence ofDREAM THEATER's current keyboardist, JORDAN RUDESS. Instead, this spot is filled by KEVIN MOORE, who seems to hold a different philosophy on how to work his instrument into a song. MOORE's work is perhaps a bit more reminiscent of PINK FLOYD keyboardist RICK WRIGHT's...that is, if you can imagine WRIGHT playing with this sort of band. MOORE tends to stay in the background for most of the album, and while not playing anything very flashy, he seems to know just what tone is needed where, from the captivating, warped-sounding synths in "Caught in a Web" and "Lie", to the subtle pipe organ in the background of "Scarred" in places. One of the best songs of the album, "Space-Dye Vest", is entirely his baby, both lyrically and musically. I have absolutely no idea what that title is intended to mean, but this is where MOORE really shows what he brings to DREAM THEATER. This track has a more atmospheric, brooding feel to it reminiscent of PINK FLOYD songs like "Nobody Home", a resemblance which strengthens all the more when the sound clips come in.

Other favorites besides "Space-Dye Vest" include "6:00", "Caught in a Web", and the vicious one-two punch of "The Mirror" (lyrically among the most interesting), "Voices" and "Scarred" (which probably have the most emotional pull) and "Lie", which almost seem to be like two parts of the same song. Overall, Awake seems to be well balanced between "smart" and "accessible", and seems to be completely without any true flaws. There are a few songs that, if I don't have time for the full album--and I highly recommend listening to this one in a single sitting (preferably on a good stereo system)--that I might jump over, like "The Silent Man" or "Innocence Faded", but they are still solid, enjoyable songs, and I don't think there is any need to drag down an excellent album's rating. Disciplined, and lyrically and musically interesting, of what I've heard so far, Awake seems to be one of the best of DREAM THEATER, and I think anyone even remotely interested in prog metal, even some who might not get near a harder band like SYMPHONY X or OPETH, should make sure to have this one in their collection.

FloydWright | 5/5 |


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