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Dream Theater - Falling into Infinity CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.32 | 1554 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Unfortunately, this album seems to be catching a lot of flack, and there's no question that like many DREAM THEATER albums, there's very little middle ground about it--either you love it or you hate it, and in my mind much of it has to do with what exactly makes you a DT fan. For those DT fans who are in it for the unrestrained soloing, the complex time signatures, and meandering progressions that define their so-called magnum opus, Scenes from a Memory, I can see where Falling into Infinity might be a disappointment. However, I don't turn my nose up at good music, regardless of where it's found--even if it manages somehow to get air time on the radio!

This is a more accessible DREAM THEATER than one usually sees, but I've personally found that the more accessible, and yes, radio-friendly DREAM THEATER gets, the better the overall quality of the music gets. When there's something there to put a check on their excesses, when they just relax and stop worrying about making "good prog" and just make "good music," then that's exactly what happens--even if it isn't all 100% pure, Scenes-style prog.

DREAM THEATER is a band that can be made or broken by its keyboard player (as nearly happened under JORDAN RUDESS). What DEREK SHERINIAN brings to the table is a much more laid-back, jazzy style that's almost reminiscent at times of RICK WRIGHT from PINK FLOYD--the genius is in what isn't played rather than what is. The rest of the band takes their cue from SHERINIAN; PETRUCCI's wild shredding gives way at times to a gentle, atmospheric style, PORTNOY slips into a simpler, but more effective groove, and JAMES LaBRIE opts for a tone that at times seems almost fragile, such as in "Hollow Years". Occasionally this backfires, as in parts of "Peruvian Skies," but it's not glaring enough to take away from the overall album.

The best moments on Falling into Infinity include the heavy "Burning My Soul," with SHERINIAN's crunchy, overdriven Hammond--but it's really the song's companion piece, "Hell's Kitchen," that will leave you with the most lasting impression. "Hell's Kitchen" is a kind of DREAM THEATER that only happens once in a blue moon: a soft, flowing, organic piece full of emotion and restraint. Heavily inspired by PINK FLOYD, DEREK SHERINIAN brings in the gentle sounds of a Rhodes electric piano and at one point PETRUCCI does a GILMOUR-like wail that you're not likely to forget any time soon. While he shreds some later as the song builds up, it never seems to get out of hand.

The transition into "Lines in the Sand" is done very smoothly, and this twelve-minute song is well worth its full length. Here, PETRUCCI shows why he is the strongest lyric-writer DREAM THEATER has. Bringing in a Catholic perspective without being overbearing, he writes one of the most striking lyrics I've ever seen on a DREAM THEATER album:

"Sometimes, your castles in the air And the fantasies you're seeking

Are the crosses you bear"

Believers will find much truth in this. With the musical allusions to "Amazing Grace," and perhaps even "What Child is This", it's amazing that this song hasn't been picked up by churches with contemporary services, for special events. It will be interesting to see if, ten years down the road, the resistance to all bands labeled "metal" gives way to bring in things like this.

While the next song, "Take Away My Pain," isn't quite as distinctive musically, and some will be angry at how radio-friendly it is, if you really sit down and listen to the lyrics, you begin to realize that PETRUCCI has given a touching tribute to his father, as he records the journey from grief to resolution. The image of his father's face in his own, staring back at him in the lake is reassuring in a way--and it's this successful resolution that distinguishes PETRUCCI's writing from the trendy angst poetry PORTNOY has a tendency to turn out.

Unfortunately, it's PORTNOY's lyrics that are one of the few drawbacks on this album--on "Burning My Soul," for some reason it feels like the "don't give a shit" comment is gratuitious, just for shock value to prove how "heavy" and "dark" his work is. In fact, has PORTNOY ever written anything upbeat? "Just Let Me Breathe" sure doesn't suggest it. Here he engages in some bitter, Marilyn Manson-like wordplay and satire, but to be honest I don't think it quite measures up to Manson.

The album closes on a soft note with "Anna Lee" and "Trial of Tears," neither of them masterpieces, but neither of them a waste of space on the CD, either. While not perfect by any means, I never feel as though my time has been wasted while listening to Falling into Infinity--which is, of course, the ultimate test for a DREAM THEATER album. For those who are not dedicated solely to prog or metal, or for those who are still testing the waters in both genres, I think this is a great album to ease your way in and see how you like it.

FloydWright | 4/5 |


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