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Dream Theater - Awake CD (album) cover

AWAKE

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

4.11 | 1540 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Negoba
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Simply My Favorite DT Album

While I had listened with keen interest to Dream Theater during the Images and Words period, it was not until joining a band of Dream Theater maniacs that I became immersed in their sound. Awake was released soon thereafter, and some of my greatest memories of being in a band are connected to that album. Our whole group took a several hour road trip to Chicago to catch DT on this tour. It was a great show, with Metropolis as a great climax. But the entire Mirror Besides Itself was also played. (I was lucky enough to see a recent tour which included this as well.) All that is just to say I'm a little biased.

Awake, of course, is the album after the breakthrough. The band had some money in their pockets and the pressure of not falling back into obscurity. Luckily for all of us, they chose to cater to their deeper fan base rather than make a popularity grab. Awake is heavier, more chops-heavy, and more complex overall than Images and Words. There are less pop / glam elements, which is the main reason I prefer this album to the predecessor.

Awake also still has Kevin Moore, the best songwriter to have ever been in the band. Moore is nowhere near the speed demon that current keymeister Jordan Rudess is, but his attraction to moody textures adds a layer to the music that the band never really has regained. Moore's parting treat is "Space Dye Vest," one of the most melodic and compelling DT songs. To be certain, he's no slouch on chops, and the interplay between Moore and Petrucci is still very good.

Petrucci is very good on this album as well. Though his sound is very grounded in the shredder movement of the late-80's and early 90's (most notably Steve Vai), he integrates the chops into a band context better than anyone had before. His unison bend opening to the solo on "Erotomania" is great, as is the wah solo on "Voices." Of course, his chops are fiery and precise, perfectly shown in the solo section of "Scarred," but it is his riffing on Awake that really makes the album. The added heaviness is what fans either love or hate, and I for one love it.

Drummer Mike Portnoy already was on the way up when this album came out, but after this one, he was firmly established as the new leader of metal drumming. I remember our drummer watching aghast and later remarking "That dude can COUNT." I had never heard a drummer so seamlessly change time signature and shift the accents so perfectly. Portnoy of course has gone on to be the definition of prog metal drumming.

James Labrie is what he is. He's a good glam metal vocalist without anything especially distinctive about his tone. The simple fact that he still keeps up with the others musically was probably his biggest qualification. His pipes are still in full form here, and a vocal chord problem would set him back after this tour. Labrie's voice was always the biggest obstacle for me to get over listening to this band, but as this style has become the standard for a certain subset of power metal, I'm used to it now.

There are no weak songs on this album, though as has been noted it's a little long. The suite of "Erotomania," "Voices," and "The Silent Man" is a great centerpiece, but "Caught in a Web," "Lie," and "Space Dye Vest" are equally as great.

I feel almost obligated to give one DT album a five star, and if any deserve it it's this one. Their importance in the prog metal genre simply cannot be understated. Probably somewhere between 4 and 5 is more accurate.

Negoba | 5/5 |

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