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Dream Theater - The Astonishing CD (album) cover

THE ASTONISHING

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.45 | 597 ratings

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Rune2000
Special Collaborator
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Dream Theater breaks their two year per album cycle to deliver us some high concept art. Too bad it's not nearly as good as the band seems to think that it is...

After the breakup with Mike Portnoy the band have so far released one great album with A Dramatic Turn Of Events, one bad album with their 2013 self-titled release and one average album - The Astonishing. I do respect Dream Theater for going all in with their their concept and thus giving their fans more than just another DT-release, but The Astonishing exposes one of the band's biggest weaknesses; they simply can't write lyrical content. This becomes even more obvious when they have to write a concept album and the story makes more damage to the album than good.

Before going it to the lyrical content, let me be clear that I do enjoy this album's music. The album would probably be a great single disc release if the band removed some of the unnecessary narrative moments, backed up only by a piano, and made more of the tracks instrumental. But since this album is meant to be experienced as a concept album with an accompanying story that the listener can indulge in, there's just no way for me to overlook the lyrics.

I would summarize my biggest problem with the lyrics by simple stating that they leave little for the imagination. Everything is watered down and extremely simplified thus leaving me with a feeling of dissatisfaction as if the band could have done so much more with the concept and the characters. Here are some of my spontaneous suggestions for improving the storyline (possible spoilers ahead):

1. Skip the cliché character descriptions and their motivations - You're not making yourself any favors by creating one dimensional characters that are only there to move the plot. Either skip the whole description of the characters and make the listener create their own background stories for them or go all in and indulge into the characters.

2. More focus on the Nomacs storyline - Human characters are obviously in the center because the story is about their feelings and not about the cold machines. But why did the band put so much effort in creating the Nomacs and used them prolifically in the imagery when they have nothing to do with the actual story? If you want to go all in on the fantasy/sci-fi genre then why not create a story where the Nomacs where created by the humans but eventually overtook control of the human minds? Or how about a story where the Nomacs where actually built by an alien race in order to control the humans by removing the feelings (ie Nineteen Eighty-Four)?

3. Skip the whole Romeo & Juliet ending - it's an overused plot that creates tension and tragedy but feels cheap and uncreative.

4. Skip plot details that go nowhere - Usually when a new element is introduced to the story it is done in order to make them significant later on. The Astonishing throws us a bunch of small details that just lead nowhere and are abandoned as soon as they are mentioned.

5. Be more consequential with the magnitude of Gabriel's gift - We learn that Gabriel has the gift of healing but it only seems to work for plot convenience. At least write a line and mention why he manages to heal one character and not the other.

6. Create a closure for the X story arc - the character seems to be completely wasted with no real purpose to his existence in the story. At least write a passage or two about him at the end of the story in order to create some sort of closure.

I don't blame Dream Theater for trying but they should have someone on their camp who could have at least given them some constructive criticism on the written word. Why not try a collaboration with a published fantasy writer where the band collaborates on the lyrics with an outside party or write lyrics for an established fantasy story? The music on the album is pure Dream Theater so it's pretty decent but the lyrics are poor thus if you are able to overlook the latter The Astonishing is a good, but non-essential effort from the band.

***** star songs: Dystopian Overture (4:51) Act Of Faythe (5:01) Brother, Can You Hear Me? (5:11) The Road To Revolution (3:35)

**** star songs: The Answer (1:53) A Better Life (4:39) Lord Nafaryus (3:28) When Your Time Has Come (4:19) Ravenskill (6:01) A New Beginning (7:41) 2285 Entr'acte (2:20) Moment Of Betrayal (6:12) Begin Again (3:54) The Path That Divides (5:10) My Last Farewell (3:44) Losing Faythe (4:13) Whispers On The Wind (1:37) Hymn Of A Thousand Voices (3:39) Our New World (4:25) Astonishing (5:51)

*** star songs: The Gift Of Music (4:00) A Savior In The Square (4:14) Three Days (3:44) A Life Left Behind (5:49) Chosen (4:32) A Tempting Offer (4:20) The X Aspect (4:13) Heaven's Cove (4:20) The Walking Shadow (2:58)

** star songs: Descent Of The Nomacs (1:11) The Hovering Sojourn (0:28) Digital Discord (0:48) Machine Chatter (1:03) Power Down (1:25)

Rune2000 | 3/5 |

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