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Dream Theater - Awake CD (album) cover

AWAKE

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

4.11 | 1521 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Wicket
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Ahh, the wonderful feeling of experiencing what was taken away form you.

Power's back on, the hurricane's history and my ever-expanding music library is back in business again. It's funny how I listened to this album more than anything during the actual hurricane.

This along with "Systematic Chaos" is one of the outfit's darker albums. Yes, there are some heavy riffs (in 90's standards), but these two albums are, indeed, the most haunting and riveting of DT releases. While "Train Of Thought" went straight for the heavy metal approach, these two records differed greatly in their similar approach, and "Awake" would further develop on the blueprint established by "Metropolis" and "Learning To Live" amongst others on "Images & Words".

"6:00" is an interesting track simply because "Images & Words" still lingers in the band's sound, but the heavier aspect in the band's future sound is coming, almost like the "somewhat-calm-before-the-storm" feeling. There's still a "pop" aspect in this album, the same one that would carry with the band until "Metropolis, Pt. 2" (despite ballads like "The Spirit Carries On").

"Caught In A Web" was almost to seem like the next "Pull Me Under", another progressive track with hooking lyrics and a catchy chorus,, but yet there's that slumbering beast known as "metal". It begins to emerge here. It breaks out unprenounced behinds LaBrie's soaring vocals, but you still don't really see the metal aspect in the band's music yet, especially with "Innocence Faded" next, which is almost entirely their version of the pop song.

"A Mind Beside Itself" is quite an interesting suite. This was just one in a line of songs (or tracks) that DT would release on their albums. There was always that one song (or group of tracks) that the band would use to try and push the boundries on the limits of music. "Metropolis, Pt. 1" was that very track on "Images & Words", followed by "A Mind Beside Itself" on "Awake" and "Burning My Soul > Hell's Kitchen > Lines In The Sand" on "Falling Into Infinity."

"Erotomania" was the outfit's time to shine. This instrumental section focused on Petrucci's chops, Portnoy's blistering speed, Moore's haunting qualities and Myung's.... eh... bass.... skills (the guy doesn't get enough love for the the awesome things he does to support this band). "Voices" continues behind Petrucci's guitar, although you can still hear the metal coming in, especially after 50 seconds, where Petrucci drops the octave and shatters the subwoofers, followed by LaBrie's tantalizing "every Sunday Morning" line, "the spider in the window, the angel in the pool, the old man takes the poison..." The entire suite is gold, and it's construction is wonderful, except....

"The Silent Man". Eh... The sudden interruption into this acoustic guitar-laden track just breaks the magic made before in the previous two tracks. This song just doesn't feel like a part of the suite. It's....missing a conclusion, this suite. It doesn't end. At least, not properly. The song itself is wonderful, by itself, but as a part of the suite.... It kills it, I'm sorry. It doesn't work.

And then, like a flip of the switch, the inner beast is unleashed...

"The Mirror > Lie" is the perfect evidence that Dream Theater had planted their left foot firmly in the world of heavy metal. The beginning riff just screams "face-crushing". The first and a half instrumental minutes would be played at live shows before and after this album's release called "Puppies On Acid", which makes sense, I guess... These two songs are the true manifestation of Dream Theater's dark side, one that would be explored, extracted and expedited in future releases like ToT and SC, which is perfectly reasonable. The sound bites and clips used extensively throughout "Images & Words" and "Awake" were mainly the work of horror soundtrack-specialist Kevin Moore. "The Mirror" is a reflection on Mike Portnoy's alcoholism, another blueprint that would later be developed by Mike Portnoy's Twelve-Step Suite.

"Lifting Shadows Off A Dream" is one of the few tracks where John Myung can start off to shine. It's a very subtle track, backed by Moore's haunting and chilling chords that really set the atmosphere of this song. Coupled with LaBrie's soaring voice turns this track from another chilling horror movie into a bright, uplifting song about hopes and dreams. This is another one of Dream Theater's magical qualities, and one that would continue to define their music for years to come.

"Scarred" almost seems like "Shadows, Pt. 2". Again, it starts with Myung on the bass backed by Portnoy's cymbal taps. It starts off in a similar quiet, sleepy fashion, only this time the tempo picks up and the energy increases. That progressive metal begins to rear its ugly (and awesome) head again, and it becomes another fantastic epic, wrapped together by Moore's haunting organ sounds. But if you thought he was creepy before? You'd need to hear the most underrated Dream Theater song in existence.

"Space-Dye Vest" is not exactly the type of song you'd dance to, or get married to, or drive in the car to or....pretty much do anything to. It's a scary song, really. It's all Moore in the beginning, and then the slow electronic beat kicks in and LaBrie sings in to lull you to sleep, a deep, dreadful, eternal sleep, that is. The sound clips from movies and tv shows once again bring in that second element, that atmosphere of the outside world. It's just another majestic element of Dream Theater's music, and the true reason why Moore was brought aboard to Dream Theater to begin with.

Now I'll probably get complaints that "Oh, Space-Dye Vest is not metal! It's not DT at all! It's just their attempt to sound like Coldplay or Radiohead or Muse!" First, you're wrong. None of these bands were in existance when this song was recorded. Second, none of these band's are talented in depth. Towards the end of the song, Petrucci lights up the electric guitar and the metal aspect comes in. Yes, it's another haunting, dreary song, but it's all Dream Theater here.This is not them imitating someone else. This is 100% authentic through and through and by far one of the bands most underrated songs.

Positives: The quality, the structures, the atmospheres this outfit creates throughout this entire record. It literally sound like you're listening to a soundtrack of a movie. There's really nothing quite like it anywhere else. The instrumental talent is there, the songwriting talent is there, the complexity is there, the pop elements are there, the metal aspect is emerging there. It's a fantastic album as a whole.

Negatives: "The Silent Man" should not be a part of the suite. Great song by itself. Not in that suite.

Overall: This is a crucial release from this band. "Images & Words" laid down the blueprints of the future. "Awake" continued by laying down the foundation to cement this band in place and to develop their sound further. Sort of similar to the construction of the Washington Monument, the development slowed to a crawl, if not completely halted during "Falling Into Infinity" before continuing the construction on "Metropolis, Pt. 2". This is an important release for any Dream Theater fan. It contains everything that DT fans are familiar with. It's a great release for any fan of progressive metal.

Wicket | 5/5 |

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