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Dream Theater - Octavarium CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.67 | 2051 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The Collins Cobuild dictionary states that "an octave is the musical interval between the first note and the eighth note of a scale." So, what might an "octavarium" be? Dream Theater's new album Octavarium appears to define the word perfectly. The album contains eight (8) mandatory songs and one could argue that between the first track and the eighth one there are eight musical intervals...

But, what everybody really wants to know: "is the album any good?" I am an avid fan of progressive metal music and have been a fan of Dream Theater from the very beginning of their career. I've enjoyed their music over the years but I was most impressed with their last release Train of Thought and I must admit that the band has again struck a very solid chord with me on Octavarium.

As always, you'll find some great guitar work by Petrucci, awesome drum work by Mike Portney, exquisite keyboard work by Jordan Ruddess and in my view, an Oscar winning vocal performance by James Labrie.

1. "The Root of All Evil" - 8m25s - (9.5/10)

Soft atmospheric intro followed by crunchy guitars, heavy bass and a big drum beat. Matter of factly, the music progresses 8 measures at a time. Dream Theater have been known to pay homage to the so-called leaders in metal. Can they be paying homage to Power Metal, the genre and style of music that this track can most closely be associated too? Labrie's vocals have a little more effects added to them than usual but they work out quite well with the music here.

2. "The Answer Lies Within" - 5m33s - (8/10)

Beautiful soft piano driven ballad. LaBrie's vocals are truly exhilarating. Acoustic guitar and other keyboard orchestrations (violin) are added to very good effect. Some may be reminded of Oasis? There most definitely is a parallel with the genre and style of music associated with Oasis but lets not get carried away with comparisons here. This is a powerful song, perhaps containing more mainstream elements than I care to find on a progressive metal album, but this a strong track, regardless of it's influences.

3. "These Walls" - 7m36s - (9.5/10)

Great experimental opening, lots of cool guitar effects. The opening moments is a little deceiving as it is another soft track with a heavier chorus. I like the soft keyboard work in the verses and the stronger, more urgent bridge and chorus are imposing musical moments as well. At this point of the album one might be wondering if this is really a progressive album at all. Progressive elements being kept at a minimum so far.

4. "I Walk Beside You" - 4m29s - (9/10)

A clock is ticking, panning from left to right while a simple keyboard lick (or is that a guitar lick) is repeated throughout the song. Many will be reminded of U2. I know I was. It certainly the kind of music that U2 have been doing for years. Of course, Dream Theater add their own little influences to the mix. I was impressed to hear such a song on a DT album. It really shows another side of the band that most are not familiar with and so, a most unpredictable track to find on an album by such a progressively influenced band.

5. "Panic Attack" - 8m13s - (10/10)

This track effectively instills in the listener everything one associates with a "panic attack." Fear, terror, frenetic behaviour are all highlighted here. This is a fast paced track with frantic musical moments and a most entertaining progressive passage. I love everything about this track. Labrie gives one of his best vocal performance right here.

6. "Never Enough" - 6m46s - (8.5/10)

The band continues to build on the momentum created by the previous track. Again, Labrie's vocal performance is topnotch. There is another excellent progressive musical moment. This track is different than the others in that the verse is faster and catchier than the chorus which is slow and not as exciting as the rest of the track. The band mixes everything up so that none of the songs sound alike. This is truly an awesome accomplishment.

(Side note - One need only listen to 90% of albums out right now to realized that most bands follow a formula that tends to make their songs sound similar, with very little variety overall. This album could be mistaken for like 8 different bands, each performing one song. Or, better yet, Octavarium is an album full of Dream Theater songs paying homage to a very wide variety of musical genres and styles?)

7. "Sacrificed Sons" - 10m42s - (9/10)

This track starts with a series of news flashes from 9/11, very eerie and atmospheric, very sad and gloomy track. It's not a gothic metal track but one could argue it certainly got the depressed atmospheric mood going for it. I like the James Bond orchestrations, I mean, every time I listen to this one I get the feeling that I'm at the movies, it's got the "movie soundtrack feel" going for it.

8. "Octavarium" - 23m59s - (9/10)

Starts off very slow and atmospheric, takes about 4 minutes for the song to get going. Pamela Sklar makes a guest appearance and plays the flute, you'll also hear an acoustic guitar and a piano, this is a very slow moving track. Seems to take forever to get started. There is a change of pace at about the 9 minute mark and then a 2 minute instrumental interlude at about the 12 minute mark. The song undergoes another change of pace at the 14 minute mark, building towards a faster and faster pace all the time. There is another 2 minute musical interlude before the track goes all out metal during what can only be described as the climax of the song. And just as everything started off, the last 4 minutes of the song returns to a slower atmospheric ending. Unfortunately, most people will not have the patience to sit though a 24 minute track, let alone appreciate such a lengthy song. It is a massive undertaking and a classic closer as far as I'm concerned.

There have been a slew of new albums promoting progressive music lately and particularly in the past couple of years that, in my view, all contain very, very good music. This prog addict is certainly not complaining...

A very motley mix and highly entertaining progressive metal album!

Vanwarp | 4/5 |


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