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Dream Theater - Octavarium CD (album) cover

OCTAVARIUM

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.65 | 1538 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Octavarium" represents what DT should have done after "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" (IMHO, their best post-Moore studio effort) instead of the forcedly metal- driven "Train of Thought". This album stands somewhere between the diverse musical ambitions of "Six Degrees" Vol. 1 and the poppier facet of "Falling into Infinity", resulting in a more consistent album than the latter. It is clear that DT is not as much interested in using and abusing odd time signatures and tempo shifts as in the previous album, and maybe that's the main reason why some specific portions of "Octavarium" happen to remind me of the "Infinity" album to a certain degree. Anyway, it is the band's more metallic side what is shown at the starting point: the wild 'The Root of All Evil' (which continues the AA-inspired trilogy) kicks off the album with a explosion of emotional struggle that is well commanded by the solid combined performances. The aggressiveness is maintained and enhanced in 'Panic Attack' and in some sections of the dramatic second part of 'Sacrificed Sons'. Regarding the latter, it is particularly impressive how the eerie waltz-like first part stands as an autonomous region in itself, yet, together with the second part, they fulfill a cohesive whole - 'Sacrificed Sons' is one of the best compositions in this album. 'The Answer Lies Within' drifts on calmer waters, with LaBrie offering the inspirational sentimental drive that he usually delivers so well in DT's softer numbers (once again, the first part of 'Sacrificed Sons' comes to mind). The icing of the cake is the namesake closing suite, which fills the last 24 minutes of the album. It is good to learn that after more than 15 years writing and recording albums, the band can still manage to create something that is both true to their progressive influences and genuinely exciting. Even though there are many passages in which Portnoy's drumming, Myung's lines and Petrucci's guitar iterventions burn like forests in flames, it is the magic of "WYWH", the exultation of "Tarkus" and the splendor of "Supper's Ready" the raw materials that the band decided to study and recreate as a point of reference for the 'Octavarium' suite. This straightforward connection to the prog side of prog metal is the main factor that makes this whole album so closely related to the best of their multicolored trademark sound. In many passages of the album Rudess has made good use of the room given to his keyboard input (not unlike the 'SDOIT' suite), and in this particular monster track he effectively shines brighter than ever, including the steel guitar and its derivative, the Continuum (a bundled steel guitar-synthesizer). 'These Walls' is a ballsy rocker with a bit less fire than 'Panic Attack' or 'The Root Of All Evil', leaning closer to the realms of melodic hard rock in order to take advantage of its catchiness. A great deal of catchiness can also be found in 'I Walk Beside You', a pretty, not too complicated song which sounds very much like something out of U2's latest albums - perhaps the best song U2 hasn't written since the "Achtung Baby" days. 'I Walk beside You' is nothing special in the album's grand scheme, but indeed it is, in itself, an attractive song with plenty of potential to become a radio airwaves winner. Also, it showcases again the power that Labrie brings consistently to the band's most emotional repertoire: emotion with a rocking hook. More sophisticated, but bearing a British influence on its sleeve as well, 'Never Enough' brings a breeze of the so-called Brit-pop refashioned with prog metal clothes - like many before me, I've noticed the Muse influence in this one, as well as on 'Panic Attack', only that the latter happens to be more successful at conveying the sophisticated energy in pure DT fashion. Generally speaking, this album is not a step forward for DT, but a successful labour of reconstruction and rediscovery, a labour that, hopefully, will help them to look into a more constructive future horizon than the one that had been dreadfully anticipated (and is now diluted) in "Train of Thought". This is not a masterpiece, but it sure qualifies as excellent for the most part.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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