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Dream Theater - Distance over Time CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.71 | 367 ratings

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5 stars 'Alas poor [humanity] I knew [thee] well.'

During the course of this, our twenty-first century, Dream Theatre could have erred on the side of a fewer releases. Perhaps Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds & Silver Linings could have been redacted into one truly stellar work? No matter. By contrast, if only Stanley Kubrick had erred a little on the side of excess, we would have his thirteen existing films and a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte and a possible 'Aryan Papers.'

In addition to A Dramatic Turn of Events (especially 'Bridges in the Sky,' 'Outcry,' and 'Breaking All Illusions'), Distance Over Time marks a new apex for Dream Theatre, mature and elegiac. In 1977-78, Yes and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer 'hit' a creative 'wall' from which they were never the same. Albeit subject to debate, Dream Theatre has avoided such a 'wall.' Notwithstanding a few personnel changes, Dream Theatre's work has remained consistent. What The Yes Album signifies in the history of Yes, one might draw a parallel with Dream Theatre and Images and Words; Fragile and Awake; Close to the Edge and Scenes from a Nightmare, Pt.2. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and, well, the comparisons aren't exact, but the general progression is. Conversely, in the Dream Theatre catalogue, one will not find a Union or Love Beach. Back in the 'Dark Ages' of the 70's, I studied the guitar without gaining any meaningful proficiency. However, the 'masters' were apparent: Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Steve Howe, and, yes, Jimmy Page. We all know a fuller list must include Les Paul, George Harrison, Larry Carlton, Elliot Randall, Steve Hackett, and, you know, Trevor Rabin is no 'slouch' . . . . To this fuller list, one must add John Petrucci. 2/3's of the way through 'Fall Into the Light,' Petrucci delivers an ethereal and lyrical passage that is sublime. Speed alone does not equal quality, but Petrucci's prowess includes speed that is appropriately called for or perhaps, in the instance of the remaining third of 'Fall Into the Light, not.

Beginning with John Petrucci, John Myung, Mike Portnoy, Kevin Moore, Derek Sherinian, later, Jordan Rudess and Mike Mangini , the members of Dream Theatre have carried on the instrumental virtuosity that dates back to King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Of course, in actuality, the representative progressive rock players are the inheritors of a much larger tradition: classical, jazz, choral / sacred, and global. Since Images and Words (practically the beginning), Kevin James La Brie has been the voice of the band. To ask Dream Theatre not to display their prowess is disingenuous.

Some have commented about Petrucci's membership in the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever the denominational allegiance, the view is global. Through Petrucci's lyrics, the band displays the particular respect for angels as demonstrated in Islam: 'On the Backs of Angels,'' Outcry,' and 'Untethered Angel.' Knowing human history, Petrucci's question in 'Pale Blue Dot,' 'Who's out there to save us from ourselves' is apt. Whatever one's world view, it is impossible to ignore humanity's ostensible predilection towards the 'darker angels of our nature' rather than 'our better angels' as President Lincoln mentioned in his first inaugural address.

And, with Myung and Petrucci's 'S2N,' we have a contemporary version of William Wordsworth's, 'The World is Too Much with Us.' Our supposed age of information is often a labyrinth devoid of any real meaning. Could all those eyes transfixed by smart phones simply be our age's version of 'navel-gazing?' Those individuals responsible for the paintings in the Caves of Altamira and Lascaux in our deep, European pre-history possessed the same Imagination we possess. Fortunately for their descendants, they did not 'navel-gaze.'

Perhaps, combined with Dream Theatre's customary instrumental prowess, Distance Over Time takes us on a cosmological, anthropological set of reflections on human potential and human limitation that often leaves us 'At Wit's End.' In listening to 'Pale Blue Dot,' I have to think of one of the 13 films I mentioned earlier from Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove: or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb. Let's hope that the reflection of a mushroom cloud does not become the final image any of us sees on the screens of our smart phones.

Let's hope that the title of Michael Shaara's prodigious work of historical fiction concerning the Battle of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels, doesn't encapsulate what our descendants attribute to us.

ken_scrbrgh | 5/5 |


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