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


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.31 | 3164 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars I am with Brian Adair when I say that some times I like the idea of this album, sometimes I hate it. The thing is, it tends to be that I like the idea when I am not listening, and dislike it when I am. I don't want to imply at all that this album is garbage, or that there's nothing about it I enjoy. I'm not someone who trashes popular albums for the heck of it--but it does seem my tastes are different from some on this site. Nor am I one of those DREAM THEATER-haters who feels a need to trash every album they put out just because it's DREAM THEATER. When they deserve five stars, I'll award it, as I did for Awake. I was also pleased with Train of Thought, even though I didn't think it as strong as Awake, and Images and Words wasn't too bad either. This, however, had some significant problems that get in the way of my wanting to listen to on any kind of regular basis.

I don't know if anybody remembers a book called Fortunately, Unfortunately from when they were little kids, but it will provide a perfect format for this review. ;-)

Fortunately, I do not have the problem with JAMES LaBRIE's voice that some people seem to be having--after I heard his performance on AYREON's album The Human Equation, I was permanently cured of any dislike for his singing. Unfortunately, on Scenes, we don't get to hear all of the different kinds of singing LaBRIE is capable of. Maybe some people who didn't like his screaming on Awake might breathe a sigh of relief, but for me it makes the performance seem like it was lacking some of the dynamics it could've had.

Fortunately, the premise for Scenes from a Memory is a very interesting read, and fun to contemplate. I'd rank it up there among some of the best concept ideas out there, rivaling works by PINK FLOYD and AYREON. Unfortunately, the execution of this concept just doesn't work out anywhere near as well as it could have. The trouble, in my opinion, is the opposite of the problem I have with PINK FLOYD's failed concept, The Wall--instead of the music being lacking and dominated by the concept, Scenes goes for the other extreme: the music gets so far out of control that it ends up interrupting the flow of the story. I find myself wanting to skip ahead to the parts where the story itself is happening.

Fortunately, it's quite evident that DREAM THEATER has some talented musicians. I've heard that on previous albums like the masterpiece Awake, where that lineup produced some truly wonderful, memorable music that has earned a very special place among my collection of prog albums. Unfortunately, there has been a lineup change since those times, and bad things have happened. I know some people are great fans of his, and he was even featured on the cover of Keyboard Magazine, but if I'm to form an opinion from this album, I do not like JORDAN RUDESS prior to Octavarium. He's talented, yes, but I think he is one of the main sources of DREAM THEATER's breakdown in discipline. He simply goes on too long, and I don't always like the tone of the synthesizers he uses. He needed more time to develop as a keyboardist with an appropriate sense of when and when not to play--his best moments are certainly not here.

Fortunately, there are a few good songs that do stick out to me as memorable in and of themselves, and are one of the (few) reasons that at this time I've decided to hold on to Scenes and see if the whole album will grow on me. The first is "Overture 1928", one of the better metal moments on the album (I know, I know, some reviewers don't care for the metal influences, but I seek it) and the second, which meant even more to me, was the inspirational "The Spirit Carries On". I saw one reviewer trash this song for the gospel choir--but I really feel that was unjustified, that the choir is perfectly in context with this song. The best way I can describe "The Spirit Carries On" is (ironically) exactly what that same reviewer alluded to--like one of ROGER WATERS' songs from The Final Cut or another of his solo albums, both in vocals and chord structures...the difference is I mean it as a compliment. This song is so different from the rest of the album that it is instantly memorable. The length--6:38--means that it is among the most restrained of the songs on the album. When this lineup of DREAM THEATER is not straining to be prog, good things happen, and this song is an example of it. (I'll be revisiting this theme someday when I give a positive review to Train of Thought.) I may be a sentimental sap, but the lyrics and delivery of this song just about bring me to tears, and even if I end up selling this album, there's no doubt I'll be ripping this song to keep forever. Along similar lines to "The Spirit Carries On", there is also "Through Her Eyes", which probably gets even sappier, but still, for the restraint and for LaBRIE's vocals, I still enjoy it.

Unfortunately, most of the songs are so bogged down by endless, undisciplined soloing that they're impossible to tell from each other. I have no objections to fast, technically impressive solos. SYMPHONY X pulls it off quite nicely on a regular basis and I love them for it. There are two things, however, that SYMPHONY X does that DREAM THEATER does not, and these make all the difference. 1) SymX keeps the pacing and rhythm of the music fast most of the time so as not to bore the listener as the solos are going on and 2) seems to understand exactly how long they can get away with doing the same type of thing before they need to change instruments, themes, or stop the soloing altogether. This is what I refer to as discipline--knowing how much you can get away with before it crosses the line into self-indulgence, and having the guts to edit the self-indulgent parts out before the album hits the shelf. DT, unfortunately, slows down too much, and I'm convinced that most of the time, slower music just isn't their strong suit. This accentuates the feeling of the album dragging its feet during the solos, too, and makes it all the more clear when they don't STOP when they need to. Sometimes they have a good thing going...I seem to remember a very cool Eastern-inspired riff in "Home", but they manage to make you completely forget the good they did by going on way, WAY too long for their own good.

Ultimately, I think "Fans only" describes this album to a T. I think one has to be a serious DREAM THEATER fan to get into this album, and the way things stand now, I am only a casual fan, and I think they're better off when they tend more towards pure metal, and the metal element is only an occasional visitor here. It may be a little embarrassing to admit all of this, considering the accolades this album gets...but getting into DREAM THEATER with this is like jumping into the deep end of the pool before learning how to swim, and I'm not quite sure I even want to.

FloydWright | 2/5 |


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