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Dream Theater - A Change Of Seasons  CD (album) cover

A CHANGE OF SEASONS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.64 | 525 ratings

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LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Dream Theater made a terrifically difficult album to rate there with A Change of Seasons.

The reason why should be mostly obvious if you've read any other reviews of this EP (though, at 60 minutes, it's longer than even an LP. We should just call it an album, really). The first half features A Change of Seasons, the dramatic title track that spans 23 minutes. What we have with this track is absolutely essential progressive metal. It spans the range of emotions and styles, from the haunting opening guitar moments to the heavier breakdowns to some gentle vocals to something akin to screaming. We have really complicated band moments with Derek's jazzy piano fingers tinkling away over heavy distorted guitar. The band may not have pulled out all the stops here, but as far as Dream Theater (and almost every prog metal band in existence in the 90s) goes, this is everything. The entire range of speeds from shredding and pounding double bass drums to atmospheric moodiness gets its fair share of time here.

Now, the song is not perfect. At a number of points, choppy transitions are abused to shift from one style to the next, and while that can work sometimes, a 20+ minute epic song often needs a bit more continuity and flow than does a quick and wild metal ride. The bass guitar, played by the highly talented John Myung, is much less audible here than on other Dream Theater releases. He seems to be content to merely ape the guitarist, which is not a crime or anything, but when a band sometimes features mind-blowing bass capabilities and other times forgets to write parts for the instrument, it gets a bit upsetting. Lyrically, however, the song is stronger than almost any other song Dream Theater wrote, being easily up there with Lines in the Sand and Learning to Live. The words detail the course of a life, from youth to geezerhood, and surprisingly, this potentially ridiculous concept fits in nicely. It even adds emotional impact to the tune, which is another area of struggle for Dream Theater. I personally find Octavarium to be a stronger epic, but short of that, there is no Dream Theater song of even slightly comparable length and breadth than can stand in the face of this beast.

If that was the only song here, four or five stars pretty easily. However, we are faced with side two, a nearly forty minute live cover extravaganza. I have always been a bit put off by covers, personally. That is not what is the issue here. These covers are, for the most part, only adequately performed and only weakly done. Nothing is really added at all to the Zeppelin or Elton John medleys. They just took some of their music, tied them into longer pieces, and played them. Their cover of Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers is pretty neat, and Sherinian's keys work very nicely with them. The only one of these last four tracks that I find to be worth much in the way of listening is The Big Medley. This one features some more unique takes on some classic (and some less well-known) tunes, including a great Floyd opening and a nice Queen bit. However, the sheer volume of these four live tracks is far too great, playing like nonessential fluff to make the independent release of the title track economically viable. I understand that, but if they were not around, the CD would not only not suffer but probably end up stronger and more interesting for its whole length.

Though bogged down by four pointless tracks, any fan of Dream Theater or probably progressive metal absolutely needs to listen to the title track. It is a staple of the band and the genre, showing the band at their creative and emotive peak.

LiquidEternity | 3/5 |

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