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Dream Theater - The Astonishing CD (album) cover

THE ASTONISHING

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.41 | 644 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Thorkiller
2 stars ...and The Confusing. That's probably the word that sums up my current relationship with this band. To be honest, I started losing interest in Dream Theater all the way back in Octavarium. The only good thing about that album is the self-titled song, and after that the album releases has been absolutely medi-core. Other than that, DT has meant a lot to me way back as a younger kid getting into prog music, but that was actually when they made good albums. And for each album DT released without Portnoy, I related myself more and more on why Portnoy wanted a break from the band and eventually quit the whole thing as a result. I just can't relate to the music anymore, which is also the same reason Portnoy decided to end the relationship. It's just so sad that the rest of the guys didn't see it the same way.

This review will not go through every song and detail about the story, but more as a overview of the current path that DT has taken the last few years, and their last few albums, especially this one. Sooo, I sat down in the couch and prepared myself for 2 hours of music that I didn't really get a good vibe from either the INCREDIBLY cheesy trailer on YouTube, or the two singles released online, beforehand. And listening to the first few songs, I knew exactly where this train of thought was heading.

It was heading full speed to Petrucci-Land, a place where drum-mixing has a progressive meaning; progressively WORSE for each album they release apparently. And how hard is it, really, to listen to feedback from TWO albums beforehand, that people who liked them even complained about the mixing? As we all know by now, Petrucci have seemed to take complete control over the ship since Portnoy's departure. And that was also my main concern about DT's future when they brought in Mangini, which btw is a amazing drummer (too bad everything is triggered to death and poorly mixed). The feeling I got when I first finished the album, was the same as the two previous albums. It's sounds like they've just run out of ideas and desperately tries to recycle stuff from previous work.

I feel like "The Astonishing" is like a reeeeally long version of the song "A nightmare to remember", from the BCaSL album. This epic, grand scale fantasy, angels and demons themed sound that both Ayreon and Symphony X did a 100 times better already. Petrucci was not afraid of mentioning Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones as influences to this album, and if he grows a little more beard and pump even more iron, he's going to turn into a bear straight out of those books, by this rate. While it sure is brave and admirable to try to make a Rock-Opera, it just turned out very nerdy and cheesy. But I quite like the idea and theme tho, this future utopia where the only music is some kind noise that some flying Matrix-like robots are delivering as the "only acceptable (and propagandic) music" from the government. But to execute this in form of a concept album, was a little too much to expect. The whole setting of this album just felt like such a downgrade from their previous, well respected and very much intellectual concept albums. It's like Petrucci forgot how to create some depth and symbolic meaning in their music, and instead went full on making a kids bedtime story book (Any1 starting to feel Portnoy's absence here???). Because that's literally how I feel like the lyrics and the plot turned out; very cliché and a story so foreseeing that it was almost embarrassing at times.

It's almost hard to think this is the same band that gave us Scenes From a Memory and And Six Degrees. Those where good stories. But somehow a 40+ year old man comes up with Emperor Nafaryus and Crown Prince Daryus, which sounds way to childish to be taken seriously by me, anyway. After a couple more listenings to the whole thing, I still feel somehow the same. I truly think it's hard for a band, already made 12 albums before this (and played probably every scale and technique in existence on those), to come up with something fresh. And it just felt like they made this because it was the only thing they really could do, to not repeat themselves. The album has a few cool parts here and there, and I like the live orchestral approach to things. The playing ability is also present, but it lacks serious dynamic. Generally I feel that their newer work has become more compressed, more studio polished and straight out lazy made at times.

So where does this leave DT now, in the future? They have already done normal, big, small, double, softer, harder and even more mainstream albums. And to me, it all sums up the point Portnoy had (not trying to sound like a Portnoy fanboy here). DT's creativity is running out. They should have done like Porcupine Tree, stop while you are at your best, and do something else for a while. And eventually come back refreshed and with new ideas which is more than just the same old. I think it's a hard time being a DT fan these days, because so many of us long for what once was.

With Portnoy's departure, they didn't just lose a drummer. They lost, maybe the biggest creative force and visionary in the band. And that's been proven and shown, sadly, for the 3rd time now...

Thorkiller | 2/5 |

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