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Dream Theater - Octavarium CD (album) cover

OCTAVARIUM

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.66 | 1537 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Something about the number 8.

Dream Theater's eighth studio album has always been a bit of a let down for me. In my hay-day of Dream Theater fandom this album was released and I bought it in full anticipation. While it was perhaps that anticipation that would eventually lead to my being let down, I think there's more than just that. After all, after the first couple listens I loved it! But with age it would seem that this album has worn off quite a bit. This is for a number of reasons, which I'll soon get into, but the main one being that in terms of Dream Theater, this is some of the more flat music they've done... It simply doesn't have that hook which will keep you coming back for more.

Always with the eights...

Eight tracks, eighth album, and Octavarium, the title track is the eighth track. There's actually something very nice about this theme, and on the liner notes it's repeated with pictures of arachnids (eight legs) and octopuses (same) along with the boy holding the can to his ear bookending the album almost making the first and last track connect in a weird sort of way (after all, the first track is parts vi and vii of their ongoing AA series, while Octavarium only has five parts). Very meticulously thought out and executed, the concept here is the thing of progressive dreams! But will the music follow suit?

Well, kind of.

Octavarium gets off to a shaky start. THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL carries on the (by now) stale AA series started by Dream Theater back in 2002 with ''The Glass Prison''. While the series has been strong until this point this is kind of where it starts to stagnate. Recurring riffs come back like a bite in the ass and the song comes off as kind of weak. Still a good rocker in some respects, this song can be seen as good at best. Following that is the (IMHO) very poorly executed THE ANSWER LIES WITHIN. After a bombastic start the band just dies right off and does something a lot more lo-key. Likely the slowest song they've ever recorded, it's low volume and pace make it very inaccessible to most people. The song in itself is not so bad, but it's the (mis)placement and volume that really give the song a bad name in my books.

Luckily the album starts to pick up from here... but it's still a mixed bag.

THESE WALLS is a strong track that ranks among some of the best stuff that the band as ever put out. Powerful and dark, this is one that gets the blood rushing again. A memorable riff from Rudess and Petrucci make this track one to crank the volume on. Following that powerhouse comes another weaker song. I WALK BESIDE YOU is a good catchy song that would be great as a single. Poppy and redundant, this is one that may scare off the average prog goer. Have a heart, however, as its mid pace and light sibject are actually rather uplifting, making it one of the better songs on the album. PANIC ATTACK picks up more or less where THESE WALLS left off, it's bludgeoning guitar pounding out so that one has to shield themselves against the force. This is, of course, in a good way. The frantic pace of this song likely well simulates an actual panic attack, and as such earns it's keep on the album. NEVER ENOUGH is a song in the same vein which is not quite as well executed, although people who are mad a significant others may laugh evilly at the lyrics at points.

Coming to the end... the longer songs.

Dream Theater has always been a band whose longer compositions have always been enough to impress even the harshest of critics... and it's truly what makes them Dream Theater. On this outing we have two tracks that break the ten minute mark, and based on the content of the rest of the album, will they live up to their predecessors? Yes and no. SACRIFICED SONS has always been a song that (to me) never really did it. A strong lyrical content (albeit a bit late) makes for an emotional song in which the vocals are grossly overpowered by the instrumentals. While the beginning of the song is 'meh' the ending starts to get fantastic thanks to the instrumental work put forth by the rest of the band. While this ending part may be very redeeming to the song it definately gives it a terribly unbalanced feel, and that's not really something that the long, focus pulling song should ever do. OCTAVARIUM, on the other hand, is a work of art. Pulling together the scattered elements of the album, the title track manages to make the best of where the band is at. Surprisingly mid-paced for the band, this song is a lot different from an epic like 'A Change of Seasons', but it's a welcome change. Coursing along with an intriguing story as DT often does, Octavarium goes though it's motions until it comes to it's climax. Then, after quoting several other band and letting James LaBrie scream into the mic for a bit the song fades off into nothing. Quite the redeeming track.

While it may be redundant to be the 516th review of an album, this one still needs some more opinions to it (aka, I'm trying to catch up to my collection with reviews). It seems that the album is either love it or hate it, but I fall to the center of the road. What we have here is an album that is about as uneven as the Swedish Alps. Some very high and some very low points make for a good album. Some great tracks, some bad tracks. 3 stars, not essential, but Dream Theater fans can not be without the title track. Others can pass.

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |

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