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Dream Theater - Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes from a Memory CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.30 | 3095 ratings

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2 stars Not a masterpiece - and not Prog - just long

There's a lot of "bling" but no real substance in this album - similarly to "Images and Words", which was the last Dream Theater album I reviewed. In fact, the two are pretty much interchangeable - there's nothing much to distinguish the two from each other, in terms of musical styles and textures apart from the annoying "relaxation tape" section right at the beginning.

It's been a real slog to review this, as it simply does not hold interest. Most times I've switched off somewhere in the middle of song 3 - but I've felt that I should give it a real chance, since it's so highly rated, so I've kept at it over the last year and a half, in order to build up a picture of why it holds no interest, and why I do not find it to be a masterpiece.

Firstly there's the "relaxation tape" bit. What's that about? If it wasn't for the fact that I've heard these kinds of words so many times on old tapes from the 1970s, I'd still hate it for the patronising way the words are delivered.

Before the acoustic guitar enters, a background female voice is apparent - strongly reminiscent of "The Great Gig In The Sky". The vocal is terribly "precious", and the guitar playing precise and without feeling. The music itself is very cliched, reminding me of something from "The Wall", but without the drama.

The first indication of prog is the title of the next piece "Overture 1928". The first issue I have is with the production - it's just too brittle, which gives a clinical sound overall. This, combined with the pristine execution just makes the entire album sound fake and loses a significant amount of musicality.

Then there's the music itself. The main riffs are terribly derived - the first one sounding like it might have come from an early Van Halen album, and the drumming is so precise it sounds like it could have been done via a MIDI drum machine with no quantization. The technicalities and fills are so "in your face" that it's difficult to appreciate the music that underpins the technical trickery.

"Strange Deja Vu" is a very apt title: From which NWOBHM classic does that riff come? Answers on a postcard to... ;o) It all seems so familiar - the only real saving grace is that the instrumental timbres are very "hot". Pity about the vocals and dreadful half-baked harmonies. Structurally, there is nothing exciting going on - typical rock song structure, and the overall effect is that of a standard and forgettable rock song with extended bridge passages. These are quite interesting in and of themselves - but do not either grow from the existing music, or bear any realation to previous thematic material as one would expect in prog rock. The sudden shifts of mood may appeal to some, but I find they disturb the progression of the music rather than enhance it.

At 1:39 the first bridge occurs, and has a smorgesbord of Queen about it. The riff and melodies are good, if not particularly imaginative, and do not really develop, but drop into and out of a soft rock flavoured mush at 1:54, then there's a drop to a quasi-Rakhmaninov piano section - very basic, but quite nice in itself if, again, unrelated.

The tune to "Through My Words" reminds me of "The Living Years" by Mike (Rutherford) and the Mechanics - a very simple pop song, which is utterly unremarkable.

"Fatal Tragedy" - somewhat of a tautology, begins with horribly cheesey grade 3 standard piano overlaid with a snarly Vai-esque riff. There is no real harmonic invention - the safe option is chosen all the way through, and attention is paid to timbre (the sound of it) with various layers. A plethora of cheesey devices lead to a monotonous riffing section at 2:30 ish - but none of this stops this from being a very standard rock song with excessive frills and decoration, which is ultimately derivative and forgettable. There might be a mind- boggling succession of changes, but ultimately, these do not generally serve to drive the music but are wearying, and explain why I've normally stopped listening by now. Some of the pyrotechnics are very good in and of themselves - impressive and immaculately executed, but I can detect no real feeling for musical direction and drama, rather the opportunity to stick together the ultimate collage of bits and pieces.

The main problem I have here is that this piece challenges the analyst in me - in ways that I'd prefer not to be challenged. I don't want to have to piece together the collage myself to view the overall picture - I expect the creators of the work to give an overall coherence to the music that makes analysis difficult, rather than blatantly obvious. When the building blocks of the music are so obvious, it detracts from the overall big picture - and I'm really not surprised as, musically, there isn't one. This is music written to go with a concept - the music itself is non-conceptual and disjointed.

"Beyond This Life" starts promisingly with something that sounds like it came from the old school of thrash, with a nice dark mood - which is spoilt by that horrible keyboard.

I think a final summary is better than a continuing blow-by-blow account, as the "blows" are densely packed - and if you like that sort of thing, then this is probably right up your street, and will make you feel like an analyst listening to it.

If you are already analytically inclined, then you will probably hate this and find it somewhat amateurish - despite the obvious virtuosity, polished performances and production.

It's not really prog rock, as there is nothing organic about the music - on the contrary, there is a profound digital edge to it - which again, some people might find appealing.

It's not really metal either, despite the metal riffs and "hot" guitar sounds. Metal is driven by riffs - they are not incidental.

It's kind of progressive, in that there is a deliberate attempt to fuse a variety of different styles together - even if it doesn't work particularly well, as the whole album ends up sounding very samey on a casual listen.

So you could see it as unique - but it sounds like a soft conglomeration of a lot of other bands work. A kind of nu-prog, I suppose.

It's not altogether bad - there are moments that are really, genuinely enjoyable - but these are few and far between, IMO.

In short, if you're already a fan of DT, you've probably already got this album and completely disagree with every word I've said.

If you're not already a fan, then I would advise buying some real prog. King Crimson are very good :o)

Certif1ed | 2/5 |


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