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Dream Theater - Octavarium CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.67 | 1993 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Like A Change of Seasons, Falling into Infinity, and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Octavarium is very much a mixed bag.

The band came off the noodle-fest of Train of Thought and took a long look at their music. That's good. I approve of this sort of introspection. However, they overshot the wrong way and ended up with a few too many light and poppy tunes for the album truly to be well rounded. This release does get points from me, however, on account of the limited amount of noodling. There are short guitar solo in half the songs, a keyboard solo in one of them, and then a lot of surprisingly meaningful noodling in the title track, but more on that in a couple of paragraphs or so. An overall concept, or more like theme, uniting the eight tracks here give it enough of a creative and experimental edge to raise it above the level of the other post-Six Degrees albums. The music is very stripped down and focused on melody, which is a very welcome change. Furthermore, the songs fit with themselves very nicely. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the music, while refreshing at first, means that the music here is not nearly as deep or lasting as it could be.

The album opens with the Terminator theme, or something like it, which becomes the third part of the Alcoholics Anonymous suite (begun by The Glass Prison and This Dying Soul). The Root of All Evil is, in comparison with those two, much more laid back and human, focusing on the vocals and melodies rather than series of shredding solos and complicated unisons. The Answer Lies Within comes next, and while it is a nice track, it is not really much of a memorable tune. Something like Hollow Years or Through Her Eyes. These Walls arrives after this, built on an enthusiastic keyboard tune and a very clever bit of drumming. The chorus is one of the catchy and most solid the band has ever recorded. The guitar solo is short and not technical at all--a large surprise after the complete lack of lack of pure technicality on the previous release. All in all, this is a well rounded track, though not particularly progressive in many ways. I Walk Beside You is a fun little U2 jaunt. Nothing much more than that, really. Panic Attack is the fast paced metal song here (almost the only straight metal track on the whole album). The bass and drums especially are in a form not often seen even on Dream Theater albums.

Next wanders in the angst-riddled Never Enough, a cry for a bit of peace and quiet from the band's disgruntled fans who want this or that or whatever. While the band has gotten slammed often for so boldly getting angry back at their fans, I find it a nice bold move that shows that the band is human, and really the guys just want some people to enjoy their music and have fun. An okay song, too, with some cool drum fills and a strange unison portion. Sacrificed Sons is a mostly splendid track featuring some very haunting sounds and lyrics, but the noodling middle section here reminds me of nothing more than Train of Thought and how several great, emotive songs were cut down by random shredding and progressive riffing that didn't fit. Unfortunate, but these things sometimes happen. And with the end of this song, the end of what would be probably a two-star progressive metal album hits us, and from here on out, we have a very clever tune.

The title track is an epic coming on the tails of Dream Theater's last major epic, the forty minute plus Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Only, this song is built for prog nerds, which probably explains why I like it a lot. Opening like Pink Floyd's Shine On You Crazy Diamond, this twenty four minute tune is unique among songs of comparable length in that for most of the duration of the song, it's a constant building, each successive part adding energy and intensity. The entire time, famous bands are being musically quoted and name checked, many of which quite cleverly. Halfway through, Jordan Rudess enters his most entertaining solo to date, a two minute dallying with some keys reminiscent of Styx. The music continues to build, moving into an instrumental section that just begs to be dissected and examined for hidden musical references. It culminates in James LaBrie screaming as hard as he can over a pretty neat and headbangable rhythm, then twisting around and ending in a typical prog epic sort of orchestra way. The final guitar solo is very tasteful, too, not just wild shredding over strings.

If the album were up to the standard of the title track, this would be a very formidable Dream Theater release indeed. Instead, a number of interesting but not lasting tracks make this a good addition to their discography but nothing terribly impressive.

LiquidEternity | 3/5 |


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