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Dream Theater - Octavarium CD (album) cover

OCTAVARIUM

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.66 | 1995 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Insin
5 stars Depending on who you ask, Dream Theater is either pretentious or genius. They've done concept albums, meta-album cycles, the Twelve-Step Suite, and they've even written a forty-two minute song that takes up an entire CD. With Octavarium, they take it to another level. Basically, the whole album is a nugget. It's been analyzed by the fans and there is a webpage floating somewhere out there dedicated to better understanding all the references it contains. In short, it's an album based off the concept of, yes, you guessed it, the octave, with a recurring theme of fives and eights. Each song is in a different key, riffs are repeated subtly throughout it, and it continues the meta-album cycle, starting where Train of Thought ended and finishing on the same note that that begins the album's first track, Root of All Evil (coming "Full Circle").

I understand the hate for Dream Theater's self-importance, but concept albums and high levels of technicality are impressive, and obviously, I like music to be impressive. As do most people. These nuggets make the album a more interesting listen, and I really enjoy it. There are weak points, but most of the songs are solid, and the title track is undoubtedly one of Dream Theater's finest works.

The album flaunts its influences shamelessly; I Walk Beside you an uninspired attempt at a radio-friendly, poppy sound with some guidance from bands like Foreigner and U2, and Never Enough, while a good song, basically rips off Muse's Stockholm Syndrome. Panic Attack also exhibits the same Muse influence, to a lesser extent, sounding more original, but clearly a reference to Hysteria. It falls on the heavier end of the Dream Theater spectrum, and the lyrics fit the music extremely well: it's frantic, headbangable, and even nervous at times. The Answer Lies Within is a return to balladry and it's definitely the worst song on the album, a cheesy soft rock number that deserves to be eternally skipped, unless you like their soft stuff. Then it might be worth a listen. Generally, the album's first six songs tend to be more structurally traditional.

Dream Theater definitely saved the best for last. As for influences, the title track displays so many. Part three of the song's lyrics are devoted to naming all of them; it's just a tribute to progressive music as a whole. The structure of this song is incredibly effective and it must be taken as a whole. Octavarium builds up steadily for almost twenty minutes, reaching an intense, climactic bout of LaBrie screaming (yes, screaming) "TRAPPED INSIDE THIS OCTAVARIUM!" It doesn't sound very exciting when I say it like that, but when you get there after tension gradually increases until you're wondering how it could possibly get any more intense, it's incredibly satisfying. Awesome keyboard soloing, plenty of time signature changes, and technicality, it's everything you'd expect from a Dream Theater song, only in a more driving structure of steady buildup. The title track is just a prog masterpiece and probably Dream Theater's best song. I would still be giving this album five stars even if the other seven songs were mediocre because this one makes up for all of their flaws.

The band's albums after this have seemed relatively unambitious (or less pretentious, if you see it that way). That might be because they've already tried everything. Octavarium is an excellent effort, the title track making up for the weaker songs. Dream Theater have taken their dozens of influences and crafted something that some may see as pompous, but I view as uniquely elaborate and bold. Definitely worth checking out for and not an album to be dismissed.

Insin | 5/5 |

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