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Dream Theater - The Astonishing CD (album) cover

THE ASTONISHING

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.41 | 644 ratings

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Evolver
Special Collaborator
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars (Warning: this review contains a synopsis of the plot of this album, gleaned only through repeated attempts at trying to pay attention for over 2 hours at a time to sometimes garbled, and more often painfully cheesy lyrics, sung too often over unmemorable music. It is this authors attempt to piece what can be discerned from this album solely from what can be heard, and assemble them into a cohesive, if not humorously entertaining plot. If you dare to read the actual meaning intended by the composers, their version is located at the band's web site. YMMV. Lord Nefaryous indeed.)

When Dream Theater, who's musicianship and technical abilities have always been first rate, create a rock opera that spans 2 full CDs, over 2 hours of music, and call the set "The Astonishing", the results should be, most certainly... well... astonishing.

Whiskey! Tango! Foxtrot!

It's difficult to put into words just how many things are wrong with this album.

Let's start with the story. "Far in the future", a world exists without music. An original concept, huh? Let's ignore the fact that this concept has been done before, most notably by a certain Canadian trio, that Dream Theater must have been familiar with, as they have covered some of their songs in concerts. So, in the synopsis that's given to us very early in the lyrics, we are told why there is no music. Is it some sort of "Footloose"-like society that has banned music? Did something occur to somehow obliterate music from the world? No! Apparently people in this enlightened land "have no time for music". I guess all of the iPods and such were obliterated by a electro-magnetic pulse, or a bad firmware update or something.

We then meet our hero, Gabriel, who recently lost his wife, Evangeline, to some sort of illness. It seems that this event has driven Gabriel over the edge into madness (or perhaps the cause was Gabriel realizing just what Collins, Banks and Rutherford did to his once majestic band --- but I digress), so he decides, justifying his actions as being for the sake of his son, that he would take matters into his own hands and incite the people away from their productive lives and into a revolution so they can listen to Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and of course, the Bieber. These people must deserve what they get, because by the end of the track, they are calling Gabriel "The Chosen One".

It's at this point in the album that I get so fed up with the story, and the embarrassingly ham-handed lyrics, that I turn to the music instead of the words. So let's get into that.

The album opens well. The overture is what I had hoped for in this album. It's an overblown symphonic rock blast, with Petrucci and Rudess riffing over strong orchestration. The next track, with the story I outlined above is not bad musically either. But then, the musical continuity goes out the window.

For most of the rest of the album (2 hours, remember?) it appears that words were given to James La Brie, and he would make up a melody for them, and Petrucci and Rudess would get the band to fill in behind him. There is no musical continuity bringing the individual tracks together. Think about the great rock operas out there. All of them have memorable themes that wind through many different disparate songs. But here, all we get are unmemorable little ditties, some with decent prog metal breaks (but mostly not). A woman listening with me at one point said it sounded like bad Journey songs (I couldn't disagree).

There are a few good songs scattered about the album, but not enough to keep the entire work from being tedious.

And the "uplifting" finale? "Astonishing" it's not.

Evolver | 2/5 |

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