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Dream Theater - Falling Into Infinity CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.33 | 1497 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Falling Into Infinity - Dream Theater's chronically underrated album

When browsing Dream Theater's discography here on ProgArchives, you may note the dramatic drop in rating that occurs between 'Awake' (1994) and 'Scenes From A Memory' (1999). A lot of people dislike this album, and I don't blame them, because this is one of those all too familiar albums where the record label pushed for more commercial songs, which results in crap songs. However, only some of the songs on this album are crap, while the rest stand alongside DT's best recorded material. This album was also the first Dream Theater album I ever heard, and in a way, my introduction to prog as a whole, so it will always hold sentimental value with me.

The album kicks off to a good start with the punchy New Millenium. At eight minutes in length, this is a moderately complex endeavour, certainly not as complex as some of the other work by the band. The verses are all different and the chorus is actually quite catchy. The instrumental is the icing on the cake and with many twists and turns, this is a brilliant opening track.

However, the goodness does not hold for the next track You Not Me. Unsurprisingly, this was one of the tracks that EastWest records decided to tamper with. In the CD booklet, this is the only track which was 'written' by Dream Theater and Desmond Child, with all the others being solely written by Dream Theater. The real story is that this song is in fact a demo that was rewritten by Desmond Child to sound more commercial. The original version of this track is called You Or Me and sounds radically different, owing to an entirely superior chorus, and longer instrumental. If anything the original sounds more commercial as it is simply better. On the studio version, we hear instead a nasty chorus that simply does not flow with the rest of the song, and a seemingly unrealised instrumental, making this a noisy and abrasive song.

Peruvian Skies wasn't modified at all, and it shows. The first three minutes of this track are quiet and moody. The verses contain sorrowful lyrics about a poor Peruvian girl. Oddly enough, the main riff is reminiscent of Pink Floyd's Have A Cigar. At around the three minute mark, the nature of the song is completely changed into a more heavy metal format with double bass drums and a thundering instrumental. This is a completely adrenaline fuelled section, a haven for headbangers everywhere. After one final heavy chorus, the song is done. This is a brilliant song in two parts.

Hollow Years is such a cringeworthy song that you just have to love it. This is an entirely commercial song, with cheesy lyrics and four chord structure included. While I wouldn't blame anyone for disliking this song, I do have a real soft spot for it. Most of the people that I know prefer the 'Budokan' version of this song, where Petrucci extends the guitar solo from 0:25 to 2:30, by adding soaring electric guitar parts. Whilst this is objectively better as a song, I still very much like the old version.

Burning My Soul is another song that was dramatically modified by the record label. Originally an 8 minute prog epic, this castrated version serves as another grating to the ears. I'm probably being quite harsh, as the verses and instrumental aren't actually that bad. You see, once you've heard the better version, the studio version just cannot measure up. This is one to skip.

Hell's Kitchen is a beautiful instrumental track. Before listening to this song, I had no idea that instrumentals could be so brilliant. Ah, how naive I was! With this being a Dream Theater song, there are naturally many time signature changes, but Petrucci's guitar soars over all of them, making you forget how complex it really is. Probably the best thing about this song is the sense of direction. In other words, it's quite difficult to think of a less directionless instrumental. You really feel you are being taken from point A to point B, where point A is quiet and pensive, and point B is loud and epic. The closing to this song is just so epic and symphonic that it rivals the outro to Rush's 2112 and Yes's Close To The Edge.

Lines In The Sand is a long track, at 12 minutes. I've never really been a great fan of this song, because I dislike the chorus. The first 2:45 make up a brilliant instrumental, which leads into a mediocre verse-chorus section. At 5:36, there is a mesmerising two minute Petrucci guitar solo, which makes the whole song worthwhile. I can't get over the fact that the chorus is rather lame, as it is an anticlimax when the song ends on a poor note. However, credit must be given for the wholly prog song structure.

Take Away My Pain is a tragic Dream Theater song in two senses. In one way it is tragic, as it is a song that Petrucci wrote about coping with the death of his father. However, it is also tragic as it sounds completely out of place on this record. The original demo of this song was a straightforward song with a heavy chorus, which really drags out the emotion. The studio version, however, sounds gentler, and quieter, two words which Dream Theater aren't familiar to. I especially dislike the percussion during the verses, which remind me of the beach.

Probably to keep in touch with the fan's anger (or indeed his own) about the record label's decision, Portnoy's third and final opus on the record (after New Millenium and Burning My Soul), is appropriately titled Just Let Me Breathe. Ironically, this is my least favourite track on the record. This song lacks a proper melody, and is just noisy all the way through. The instrumental is sufficiently complex, but lacks the elegance of Hell's Kitchen or Lines In The Sand. Did I mention the irony before?

Mike Portnoy once said that Anna Lee is Dream Theater's most underrated song, and I can entirely agree with this sentiment. In my opinion, this is James LaBrie's best song within the group to date (although he doesn't exactly have the best track record). Whilst it may sound commercial, Anna Lee is a beautiful melodic treat that I can listen to over and over. The song plays like a power ballad, and has all the effect of one too. With simple drumming and simple guitarring, Dream Theater prove that they can take their music back to basics without losing integrity.

Last, but certainly not least, we reach the three part suite that is Trial Of Tears. I remember the day when I was lent this CD marvelling at the impressive 13 minute length of this track, which was far longer than any song I'd heard before, save perhaps the 11 minute extended version of Disco Inferno by The Trammps. After listening to a few of the earlier tracks on the album, curiosity overwhelmed me, and I jumped straight to the end. I made sure I had 13 minutes free so that I wouldn't be interrupted halfway through. I was completely unaware of how 13 minutes of continuous music could sound. Certainly my first impression of the song was how it just seemed to go on and on! I never looked at the timer, as I wanted to be completely unaware of how far I'd got through the song. Needless to say, I was awed after my quarter hour endeavour, and made a decision that long songs were the way to go. For getting me into prog, I say thank you Dream Theater!

The first 1:40 of the track is an ambient section in lieu of Rush's Xanadu. I blush to think that when I first heard this, I thought it seemed extremely long for an introduction. The first part of the suite is titled It's Raining and is essentially a shortish song with deep prog influences. Lots of time signatures and complex riffs permeate this track.

The next part is Deep In Heaven, which is a 4 minute instrumental, supposedly inspired by 70s prog supergroup U.K.'s In The Dead Of Night instrumental. Listen to the two, and you will hear similarities in the guitar part, but Dream Theater's version is more laid back. The drumming at the beginning of the track reminds me of the drumming heard in the bass solo on Yes's Heart Of The Sunrise. A perfect instrumental to link the first and last parts of the suite.

The final part is The Wasteland. This part essentially provides an epic closure to the suite, and indeed the album. I have to say, all of John Myung's songs impress me, and this may just be my favourite of his.

I've managed to go the entire review without mentioning the keyboardist on this album, Derek Sherinian. Though being with the band for 5 years, he only appeared on this studio album (as well as 'A Change Of Seasons' and a live album). You may well be wondering how he fares on this record, and I think the answer is that no news is good news. There is nothing to complain about, and his style, though different to both Moore or Rudess, fits in neatly with the band. He isn't as good technically as Rudess, or stylistically as Moore, but as a keyboardist in the band, he sounds just fine.

I may well be liking these songs because they hold some deep sentimental value, but I truly believe the good stuff on here is really good. True, it has some real turds too, but as a collection of songs, it holds up extremely well against later albums like 'Octavarium' and 'Systematic Chaos'.

baz91 | 4/5 |


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