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Dream Theater - Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes from a Memory CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.31 | 3133 ratings

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5 stars In the movie "The Quick and the Dead," director Sam Raimi "pulls out all the stops" and uses "every trick and cliche in the book" vis-a-vis every Western ever made. And an all-star cast - including Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Keith David, and Lance Henriksen - all deliver "over the top" performances, with Hackman almost literally "chewing the scenery." It is one of the finest subtle parodies ever put on celluloid.

"Scenes From a Memory" is like that. DT pulls out all the stops, and uses every trick and cliche ever used in progressive rock. And DT's all-star cast of superb musicians - Petrucci, Portnoy, Rudess, LaBrie, Myung & Co. - all deliver "over the top" performances, with lots of musical "scenery chewing" going on. And although I am not particularly fond of progressive metal (though I have come to appreciate and respect DT's pre-eminent place in the subgenre), this album is one of the finest amalgamations of prog-rock - and NOT just prog-metal - ever put on vinyl (OK, CD...) Indeed, although the band was clearly progressing over it's first few albums, I'm not sure anything could have prepared even their fan base for this album: it is as if the stars aligned magically to create a gestalt in which everything simply "came together" for the band.

It is almost impossible to review this album "piece by piece": it must be taken as a whole. Ostensibly a murder mystery, the story does get a bit convoluted: although there are a couple of suspects, fratricide enters the picture, as does the possibility of "spirit possession" (saying anymore would "give away the game"). Still, it is very well written, and extremely well-executed.

There ARE some influences here. Rush, certainly; a bit of UK, a bit of ELP, even a whiff of Zappa. Most unexpected, however, were the strong Floydian touches, including the opening track (a gentle "lift" from Wish You Were Here), the opening of "Home," and especially the opening of "The Spirit Carries On," right down to the Gilmour-ish acoustic guitar, Waters-like lead vocal, and female chorus of "oohs." The "Overture" is excellent, and although it is true that "Dance of Eternity" is among the most exciting, even compelling, prog-rock instrumentals in quite some time, the jam at the end of "Fatal Tragedy" is just as good, if not better.

I do have some minor misgivings and criticisms, including that the album is somewhat "uneven"; that sections sometimes seem strung together in a haphazard manner; that Labrie, while an excellent vocalist (particularly here), does not always have the best "timbre" for the material; and that the album could probably have benefitted from a minor "trim."

However, all of that is really beside the point. Because it is impossible NOT to be impressed - VERY impressed - by an album of this calibre: the composition, musicianship and production are all first-rate. Indeed, it is one of a very few things I've heard in the past 15 years that Peter Rideout refers to a "a modern masterpiece of prog."

It is wonderful to know that progessive metal has contributed to the pantheon of must-have masterpiece concept albums - a truly rarified group to be in.

maani | 5/5 |


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