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Dream Theater - Octavarium CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.66 | 1995 ratings

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3 stars As far as I'm concerned, DT's previous album Train Of Thought was borderline awful ... a generally one-dimensional metal onslaught with the odd piano piece thrown in to simulate variety. On Octavarium (the band's ninth album) however, the guys seem to have gotten the mix correct and have produced the most balanced DT record I've ever heard.

There's still plenty for metalheads to chew on, though.The Root Of All Evil, Panic Attack and Never Enough (which has a nice classically inflected solo from Ruddess and seems to borrow from both J.S. Bach and Uriah Heep!) ride on incisive metal hooks while These Walls is also heavy, but is a slow-burning, metal blues monster with atmospheric vibes, and a mammoth chorus, topped off by Ruddess string-synths that make a cursory appearance towards the end.

One problem that I have had with earlier DT albums is that I really do not enjoy Petrucci's soloing style, which sacrifices melody and emotion for speed. This time though, the man seems to have reined in those tendancies (well, most of the time anyway!) and that has added to the value of the album. There are still some patchy moments though.

The Answer Lies Within continues another disturbing trend ... that of the DT piano ballad, (although it's almost redeemed by a lovely string quartet interlude) while I Walk Beside You is way too "pop-rock" for my tastes. Then there's Sacrificed Sons a song about the Al-Queda attack on New York. The subject matter is so overdone that it seems tasteless to me, but the song itself is a strong symphonic effort, with a number of moods ranging from sweeping piano and strings to a metallic centre, and some creative explorations towards the end.

Ultimately my assessment of this album hinges on the concluding title track, and it is a real winner. The 24 minute, five part epic Octavarium may not be best thing since sliced bread, but it is the best DT track since their awesome A Change Of Seasons (which came out a whopping 10 years ago!).

It gets off to a spacey Floydian start (uncannily similar at times to parts of Shine On You Crazy Diamond) that leads into a beautiful pastoral section, with Petricci doing some delicate work on acoustic guitar and Rudess adding piano to an eerie LaBrie vocal. This finally erupts into a Styx-like passage, before funky bass and slick drums announce Medicate (Awakening). When the anticipated power metal riff finally appears, it is thankfully accompanied by a superb Ruddess synth solo. I also like Ruddess' organ during Full Circle, and Petrucci's solo is much better than his average offering. The playing between Full Circle and Intervals is as exciting and progressive as this band have ever been, and the whole she-bang concludes with a epic orchestral sweep.

If it were not for the fine final track, I would rate this as a marginally above average metal album, but I have to say that the sheer scope of the epic makes this album a classic of progressive metal. ... 53% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |


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