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Dream Theater

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2 stars Although I'm a fan of Dream Theater -- having bought most of their albums and being lucky enough to see them perform five times throughout the years -- I'm probably not the best candidate to review a new album from the Long Island-formed Berklee-educated prog metal founding fathers.

Over time I've tired of their "riff for riffing's sake" formulaic, predictable approach; though I have to admit that even on the worst albums there's always some decent material to sink my prog teeth into (I'm thinking the Portnoy overhyped Systematic Chaos here as the most extreme example of high cheese factor with decent progressive moments).

I don't have an emotional attachment to the band like I do Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson (who daringly recently reinvented his sound with the proggressive jazz fusion-oriented The Raven That Refused to Sing), Opeth and Riverside; all bands and artists (to name just a few on the international prog scene) inciting emotions and imaginations while also being at the top of their game musically (in a technial sense). I've even been coming back lately to Iron Maiden's excellent sci-fi tour-de-force, Final Frontier as an excellent example of an established multi-decade metal act's ability to reignite the listener's passion.

Dream Theater? Not so much; these days the boys are a one-stop, by-the-numbers, an-album-and-tour-cycle-every-two-years rehashed force to be (or not to be) reckoned with. Who can blame them? They all have families, cash-flow needs and responsibilities; nevertheless, ambition and personal needs don't make for good album inspiration.


As I streamed their self-titled 12th album the first time, my first impression was technical -- the master is too loud. With the first listen-throughs the cranked-up loudness frankly drowned everything out. I thought Dream Theater hadn't succumbed to the so-called "Loudness Wars" that have plagued modern albums such as Iron Maiden's 2000 and on Bruce Dickinson/Adrian Smith reunion discograhpy, and even more extreme, Rush's nearly-unlistenable Vapor Trails, Death Magnetic from Metallica, et al.

Beyond the loudness, their seems to be a lack of cohesiveness throughout. Almost every sound, turn, melody and idea here has been presented before by the band. Nothing fresh, exhilarating, groundbreaking, new or exciting. Not helping the case, the drums sound robotic, mechanical and "off" to me; a situation which is also not helped by the excessive loudness (the powermetal-esque beats (note the "Enemy Inside" for this) and guitar drown painfully out subtlety and nuance on many of the songs).

Across the album -- and jarringly juxtaposed to "A Dramatic Turn of Events" that retained a classic "Images and Words"-esque uniformity -- things meander without cohesion, failing to offer intrigue, hooks or generally something for the listener (new or old) to come back for. There are exceptions, here, however: "Enigma Machine" is a pretty good instrumental; check out 5:00 where you'll find Mangini definitely has the speed down, hence the "fastest drummer in the world." "Behind the Veil" starts out strong but loses my interest and so forth. "The Bigger Picture" is a capable if not predictable ballad. I also find "Surrender to Reason" is decent - very Rush-inspired. Ditto with "The Looking Glass." The "Illumation Theory" has some pretty good moments too (it better, given its length).

Without a more in-depth track-by-track detailed review I'll close things here and leave you with a thought as you explore this new outing from the band: will Dream Theater's massive audience come back their self-titled Dream Theater album as a defining classic for this band 1, 2, 5, 10 years down the road? Or will it just be a tired exercise in stale, beleaguered ideas from a band 10 years past its Scenes from a Memory prime?

Either way - prog on!

Report this review (#1038518)
Posted Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've been a fan of DT since 1992, and until 2005, when they kind of lost me (with foreign influences, and beginning of predictibility). Since their last great album (Train Of Thought), every new LP had at least one track to hang on, to keep my interest in the band. Their last effort is a little more than the precedent (A Dramatic Turn of Events): recycling riffs and classic DT moments, but adding a more classic prog approach. Also, a big Rush influence (especially tracks 3 and 7). The order of tracks is perfect, they flow seamlessly, culminating with the last two tracks (reminding me of classic tracks like 'Another Day' and 'Octavarium'), adding a final teaser (probably / hopefully) for the following epic (hoping to be a concept album - sort of wishful thinking, by me;), which hauntingly stuck in the listener's mind. A little less guitar riffs, but very punchy. Less circus and more solid piano work. Not so high pitch, but fine vocals. Perfect, integrated and mind-driven drumming. More present bass than any DT previous work. Less metal, more prog. I suppose that Dream Theater is a decent LP and was conceived in order to attract new listeners, and also reinforce the interest of the fan base. This LP cleary establish Dream Theater as a pillar of contemporary progressive rock movement. Their finest work in a decade.

LATER EDIT: I think that if this LP was to be the first ever issued, everyone would have been praised 'DT' as a masterpiece. But, since Dream Theater is well established, and great things are always expected from them, we all await THE ALBUM. This LP is one of the very listenable albums, is a grower, and very musical - the melodies remain stuck in your head, long after the listening. It is exactly as promised: a quintessence of what Dream Theater is about. Personally, I like most of all the works of Rudess (nice sounds!) and LaBrie - great vocal harmonies! Of course, all other members' work is top notch. And I like the false beginning (similar for the first, and the last song), and also the false ending, kind a like Esbjorn Svensson... I can hardly wait what's next!

Report this review (#1039884)
Posted Friday, September 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Dream Theater?!!

Yes, Dream Theater needs a long rest! What I am hearing in this album is NOTHING new and creative! The only thing I can mention is John Petrucci's awesome guitar solos that somehow stand alone.

It's a long time Dream Theater releases an album every two years. I believe they lack good ideas- they are awesome musicians; and certainly they can come up with a good production- but this is not what I expect from them. Dream Theater needs to stop somewhere and start to look back to what they have accomplished. They need to relax and detain themselves from overworking.

Unfortunately, I feel I am listening to a total cliché when listening to the new album. It's sad that I have to listen to great John Petrucci solos among all these unrelated sections and sounds.

They can further elaborate their ideas. They can make more beautiful songs. They can bring more cohesion to their songs/albums.

Surely, there are a few good moments in the songs but overall I think they are trying very hard to remain Dream Theater while they cannot!

Well, while we are still at it: don't you think Dream Theater even lacked a phrase, word, title, or anything else for their new album thus calling it simply "Dream Theater"?!

Report this review (#1040622)
Posted Saturday, September 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars With great anticipation I have been looking forward to the release of Dream Theater's next masterpiece. The band have given the fans an opportunity to listen to a live stream of the album, which is due out tomorrow 9/23. At the time of writing this review, I have had the opportunity to listen to the album a few times and I'm so excited about it, I wanted to write a review of it to share with other Dream Theater and prog metal fans in general. Not everyone may have had an opportunity to listen yet so hopefully my analysis will be beneficial to those pondering to purchase. I think the guys have been able to produce an album that packs together all that Dream Theater is all about. A delicious combination of Dream Theater history. Worthy of it being an eponymous album. It has edgy metal songs, beautiful ballads, two instrumentals and of course the lengthy prog epic. When A Dramatic Turn of Events hit the shelves back in 2011, I was a bit skeptical that they could pull off releasing an album worthy of carrying the name Dream Theater. After Mike Portnoy left the band, I was having doom visions of the band splitting up after releasing the next album or something. But then the audition video's came. And I knew that after they picked Mike Mangini, they had chosen a worthy replacement drummer. Boy, was I ever surprised with A Dramatic Turn of Events. An absolutely killer album, in my view some of their best material since Images and Words. I saw them on tour and couldn't believe the enthusiasm of the fans and how rejuvenated the band seemed. And now, a couple of years later, the follow-up album. This album has Mike Mangini as a full contributing musician. Involved in the writing process and everything. Like many fans, I've been able to listen to the album now and I absolutely love it! I had already heard The Enemy Inside and Along for the Ride, released by Road Runner on Dream Theater's youtube channel, but having had the chance to listen to all 9 songs was great. I'll review the songs one by one: 1. False Awakening Suite- The album opener is an instrumental 3-piece overture in a bombastic orchestral style. When I first heard it I could envision the band opening with this at their concerts. It is very reminiscent of some of the instrumentals in Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. It is a very short instrumental though, only 2:42 minutes long. But I like it very much, a great way to open the album! 2. The Enemy Inside- The already released first single off the album is a great prog metal tune that I thought would have fitted nicely on Train of Thought as well. It really has that steamroller kind of feel to it. 3. The Looking Glass- With the first riffs I thought I was listening to a Rush song. This is a super accessible song that I think would also make a great single. LaBrie sounds awesome in this song too! 4. Enigma Machine- The second instrumental song and it is a great tune that reminds me a bit of Hell's Kitchen or Stream of Consciousness ... outstanding guitar work by Petrucci and keyboard work from Rudess. 5. The Bigger Picture- A song that I have played many many times. I really believe one of the best on the entire album. LaBrie's vocals are awesome. In this song he really puts his soul in it. Petrucci's guitar solo is phenomenal and Rudess' piano parts are a memory to the kind of piano playing on Steven Wilson's Grace for Drowning album on which he also contributed. 6. Behind the Veil The song starts out very atmospheric and then kicks in with some awesome heavy riffing. I was really impressed by the guitar solo in this song. 7. Surrender to Reason Another song that kind of reminds me of a Rush song, especially the keyboard parts. 8. Along for the Ride The song that could be considered the ballad on this album. A great vocal opportunity for LaBrie who really shines in this one. And the keyboard solo? A trip back to 70's ELP! 9. Illumination Theory- 22 minutes of epic progness, that's what you get with the last song on the album. I think it's a song full of surprises. Love the symphonic part in the middle of it! All in all, I really love this new album. It exceeds my expectations and I can't wait until the band starts their US tour schedule.
Report this review (#1042385)
Posted Sunday, September 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars 9.5/10

A legacy that speaks for itself.

Here we are. Twenty eight years and eleven albums later, the kings of progressive metal deliver a new work. First of all here's the warning: do not expect anything new. This is Dream Theater being Dream Theater, with everything you've heard in your discography. Some songs may sound familiar? Yes, they can. But this does not detract in any way the merits of this album. Why change when you are on top, having influenced a whole genre?

This convenient self-titled album, their twelfth (as well as the twelfth album Genesis also received the name of the band) is a breath of fresh air for those who thought the band was going down. His previous release, A Dramatic Turn of Events, was a disappointment to many (myself not included), although you would not believe the note he received here on the website. But anyway. One of the major criticisms of ADToE were about simple-minded Mangini's drums in anything resembling the man who received the title of "world's fastest drummer", but we already know what happened - Petrucci had programmed the battery of the parties before the announcement of Mangini as Portnoy's replacement, and as a drummer say he is a great guitarist.

Now Mike is actually integrated into the process of creation. But the drum once again is the great defect. I do not know if it was the kit he used or the production of sound that did not help, but just hated the sound of it here. As a drummer, I have to admit that the feeling was that the sound was too artificial, like it was computer generated just like the previous album. Even sftwares Devin Townsend uses in some of his albums to emulate the sound of drums sound more organic. Hence the joke: "Mangini, return the can of Lars Ulrich!".

Fortunately this defect is compensated by the skills of the other members. These gentlemen are masters at what they do and owe nothing to anyone. John Petrucci continues to fry our minds with his explosive solos, and since he is the leader of the band is certainly the highlight here. Although still as intense as ever, is in the most melodic that it captivates me more (I speak of it later). Jordan Rudess keeps his powerful style and eclectic, as it has been since he joined the band. His dynamic with Petrucci are fabulous as always, and the fact that through it we are led to the more classic prog, with references to the giants of the 70s.

But I have to point out: I'm more than happy to see evolutions of John Myung and James LaBrie. The first has several shining moments, showing a groove that I swear never heard him before. Considering how the bass was inaudible in Black Clouds and Silver Linnings, is really a progress and both (or just a help output). And LaBrie is presenting a progression vocal quite good, especially because of how much his voice has been hampered by its food poisoning in the mid 90s. While he will never be like Russell Allen, Daniel Gildenlow or Devin Townsend I think that is as part of Dream Theater as the other members, and just watch your exciting performance in The Bigger Picture and end the epic Illumination Theory tell he is still dared to give some treble without sounding compromised.

Now, about the songs.

After ten years without an instrumental, are comforted with two in this album. The first is False Awakening Suite, which brings us to the days of the Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, being quite effective in its purpose of being an "overture". The only defect is that it is too short, with only 2 minutes once when the album's setlist I left I thought it would be over 10. but oh well, still a great opening.

Next song is the single The Enemy Within, which is nothing other than what you heard in the band, with crushing riffs, masturbatory instrumental sections and chorus and addictive. I confess that the first few listens I was bored with that song by their appearance clich�©, but as I was listening to more it grew on me.

The song that follows is one of my favorite album: The Looking Glass. The opening riff is unapologetically Rush-esque - I can almost feel listening Limelight. This is a song that would come in handy, offering a dose of his genius in just under 5 minutes. Mangini brings interesting elements in the battery, but is hampered by production (or your kit, whatever) while Petrucci offers one of his most melodic solos, accompanied by Rudess' organ and Myung's groovin bass.

Enigma Machine is the instrumental by which all were waiting for, and does not disappoint in no time. The weight, as well as multiple bars and various melodies worked with each musician taking your time, make me instantly associate this song with epic The Dance of Eternity. we have waited for this for 10 years, and it's good to see that there are no disappointments.

I know most of you will choose to listen to the album Illumination Theory as a favorite, and I would do that ... but I'm honestly inclined to share this post with The Bigger Picture. This could be the most beautiful song from them "Disappear" Six Degrees and The Best of Times. There is a ballad itself, but somehow touched me in a very deep, emotionally speaking. The melody is majestic, and LaBrie is better than never. And Petrucci's solo ... My God, this solo. It is so beautiful it could easily lead me to tears.

Behind the Veil opens with a keyboard solo very atmospheric, quite unusual by the standards of the DT ... but behold, a killer guitar riff explodes in the style Metallica-esque. The rest of the song is quite normal for the patterns of band, although the guitar solo of Petrucci is a killer.

Surrender to Reason is one of the most dynamic songs here, showing several times and alternating heavy riffs with melodic passages enough. There are again quite influence of Rush here, especially in Petrucci's solo

Along for the Ride has attracted a lot of controversy, being rejected by the very fans. I heard it's because of the timbre of the keyboard Rudess, then I can deduce that these people do not appreciate ELP otherwise not complain much. Anyway I'm no fan of ELP and not bother with this song. It's just a ballad pros average levels of the band, and while the song is weaker disc is not bad as they are saying (nothing beats face Forsaken, learn it).

And then we come to the end. And by God, which order. Illumination Theory is certainly among the pantheon of the best songs they've composed. It's the epic we know esa band is capable of, and we are not disappointed in any moment. Here's everything a fan could ask for, as well as new elements that really please me. The introduction is quite cinematic, before driving for a demonstration of the skills of the members. LaBrie enters 4 minutes, and I have to say that this section verse-chorus-verse-chorus is phenomenal. After a brief instrumental music falls at a time totally atmospheric. When the orchestra enters at 8:41 minutes, my God ... I feel like I'm leaving this time and going to another reality. It is something divine, words can not write. LaBrie's vocals go full steam ahead on 11 minutes, and it rocks! You can see that he's excited to sing that way, it's really exciting and a slap in the face of those who denigrate his image. A new instrumental section comes up with amazing solos Petrucci and Rudess and then, after 15 minutes, the opening theme is played again, with another and most impressive Labrie's vocal performance, which is really exciting and beautiful. The song ends in a glorious manner, as is appropriate to an epic of this size, but wait a minute: there are still 3 minutes! And then, to our surprise, Rudess and Petrucci end with a beautiful and simple duet, which reminds me very State of Grace, from Liquid Tension Experiment I. A wonderful and touching way to end this perfect song.

5 stars, is all I say. A masterpiece, yes, a masterpiece.

Report this review (#1042821)
Posted Monday, September 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars This new album is easily their best since SDOIT and I believe it may even surpass that effort. It's jam packed with the standard DT fare of riffs and solos, but it's also heavily edited and focused, with melodies and concise song structures moving things along at a speedy clip. Add in the orchestral parts, the experimentation by Rudess, and the great mix on the bass, and you've got yourself something very special.

The album is also a "grower." The more I listen, the more I pick up great nuances, echoes of themes, allusions, etc. The drums are especially interesting to unpack. On my first spin, I counted them as solid but not particularly inspired (compared to Portnoy's drumming on SDOIT, for example, I found them to be following the songs, not leading them), but the more I listen, the more Mangini's genius comes through.

It is just a brilliant effort all-around. I disliked SC and BC&SL but am loving this one. 5/5 for me.

Report this review (#1043323)
Posted Tuesday, September 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Easily the best prog album of the year, actually, easily the best Dream Theater album since Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Everything that makes this band "Dream Theater" is there. I'm not talking about crazy sections, mellow parts, unique signatures, mind exploding riffs... These things are still there, but I'm talking about the atmosphere, each epic movie that Dream Theater is presenting us with every new album. For the last 11 years, these "movies" were great and enjoyable. But we always had that, there are hundreds of albums that are just great. Yet we were missing epicness, we missed the musical impact that Images and Words and Scenes From a Memory created. Until now. This self-titled monster is hard to comprehend, it has a very thick shell, hard break in, but once you do, it is one of the most ravishing albums you can ever hear. Practically a masterpiece like most Dream Theater albums, and this is just the immediate response. Once the dust clears, once the real audience understands what this album brings with, it will be named as a source of pride milestone in the forthcoming years.
Report this review (#1043519)
Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars A good fan-service album but not a masterpiece.

This album is some kind of a trial for the new formation with Mike Mangini at the drums. The first when all the team has been working on the writhing of this album. Well, as a lot of people on this site, I'm a fan of Dream Theater mostly for what they've done at the beginning of their career.

It is hard not to compare every new album of a band with their previous works. I believe this album is what DT sold us on the last posts on their website and youtube. It's sure epic, it has a lot of good melodies but the writhing is nothing more than what they gave us the last albums.

Now, if you're looking for some groundbreaking ideas of composition this is not an album you should buy.

The true force of this album is to give fan what they usually like : heavy riffs, keyboard and guitar solos, great drums breaks, change of time signatures.

Said like this, you would ask me : so what is wrong with this album ?

It's wrong because back in the beginning of DT their force was to surprise us with every new compositions, even the ones I like the least are still a punch in the face while saying : hey we are not selling the same thing every 2 years.

Taken as it is, this is a great album for the fan. Even the title says this. Dream Theater sells Dream Theater. Good, but disappointing for a prog fan like me who asks for surprises.

Report this review (#1043595)
Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars A dull and tedious effort by the Dream team.

I used to really love this band. But it has seemed for a while now they are content to just go through the motions. Some point along the way, Dream Theater have lost their inspiration and with each new album it becomes more evident why Mike Portnoy asked the band to take a much-needed break and then left when they would not. There is nothing creative here, just directionless riffing and noodling and another step backwards from the previous album. I was hopeful that Dream Theater would one day step out of this niche that they have forced themselves into and reinvent their sound, but at this point it is safe to say that will never happen. Their fan base as grown too large and uncompromising to change. It is a shame for a band with the technical chops and the ability to play whatever they desire, to chug along and put out a new album every 2 years without passion for what they are doing. When a band ceases to care about the music they are creating, it really shows.

I thought the addition of Mike Mangini might do some to rejuvenate the sound, but the drums here sound robotic and programmed. I will admit, however, that his 'explosive' nature of playing adds some much needed stimulation in the music. I can almost predict how every instrumental break down will unfold as the guitar and keyboard arpegiate in unison that same signature 'Dream Theater' progression. The one that instantly tells you its a Dream Theater song. I think you know what I'm talking about.

I don't mean to discourage you to not buy this album, if you have liked the recent output, you will probably be satisfied. You might even like it more than A Dramatic Turn. But if you haven't enjoyed their output this side of 2000, don't expect that to change now. I'm sure most fans will be impressed with this album as the reviews here suggest, but not this fan. Fans only - 2/5 stars

Report this review (#1043880)
Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I can understand why a person who has no enjoyment of metal or hard rock at all in his or her blood doesn't like DT. I can't understand people who enjoy harder edged music who constantly criticize the band. Certainly all of their albums don't hold the flame as high as their more appreciated work but the flame is held pretty damn high by any of their albums when you compare it to other bands and music out there. I don't understand people who constantly compare albums from an artist with other albums by the same artist. To down rate the Dream Theater self titled album because it isn't up to the same standard as "Images and Words", as far as I'm concerned, is a nonsense approach. How does the damn thing stack up to other releases released in the prog metal or hard edged prog sphere - now that makes sense. Against "Images and Words" "Dream Theater" doesn't come close. Against just about anything else it leaves much of the competition in the dust.

I enjoy prog because of the fact that the music is more complex in theme and structure than the radio friendly drivel that you get with a flick of a radio switch. I enjoy prog because it is music for intelligent ears and not for bunny hopping airheads. I enjoy prog because most of the time the musicians know how to play their instruments and I enjoy the fact that many of the prog musicians prove that fact by playing what they do.

There are all kinds of elements and structure throughout DT albums and if the musicians "wank" with their instruments then yay - that's part of the reason that I love the music. If Petrucci is a better guitarist than the guy in your favorite band then that isn't his fault - and I love the jealous nonsense arguments that you use to pull him down a peg in your own estimation. The same applies to Mangini, Myung and Rudess. Face it - they are probably way better by a country mile - and I love it when they constantly prove it. Those who can't fault the instrument prowess claim that their reason for DT hatred is La Brie - are you kidding me?! Anyone who claims that the man can't sing doesn't know very much about vocal ability. If he was a weak link in the band don't kid yourself that he would still be there because the other band members are nice puppy hugging guys that don't have the heart to get rid of him. With DT every element of their music screams quality.

Fact is I really don't care about the haters hatred of the band because I will bet those haters that DT don't much care about their hatred anyway - their loyal listener base is strong enough that they don't have much reason to care. I will also bet those haters that the DT follower base is way way stronger than that of the bands that those haters love.

This isn't DT's best album by a long way but it is a very strong album in its own right. This could be their weakest album and as far as I'm concerned it falls at the back end of their catalog but it will smack most of the competition upside the head. Well, time for me to weigh in on the new Dream Theater release. This band is the top of the heap for me and I'm not ashamed to say so. It is probably the only band that leaves me open mouthed a lot of the time while listening wondering how in hell they just did that and, more so, how they did that coherently. The technicality is astounding a great deal of the time and through that technicality they are highly melodious. I took my time coming up with this review - you have to with an album like this as there is just so much that you miss on first listen or the next few listens after that. I will say that few bands come remotely close when it comes to the expertise that is on display instrumentally throughout a Dream Theater album and this is no exception to that rule. Few bands hold the amount of melody packed into an album than Dream Theater does and they do it so easily.

John Petrucci - Man, what a guitarist! I don't know that anyone else in music today is even remotely close talent wise. Beyond that the rest of the band members are so highly skilled that the impact of what they do astounds me a lot of the time especially when they do it live.

"False Awakening Suite" - Grand opening to the album. Almost theatrical musically. Bombastic, almost cheesily so.

"The Enemy Inside" - Hard metal opening that settles into a hard rocking number. A lot of riffing here. Mike Mangini stands out with his technical precise drumming. Petrucci and Rudess are always on top form.

"The Looking Glass" - A nod to Rush is clear here. Rocking, more light hearted track. La Brie's voice is as strong as ever thus far. Again Mangini impresses, he is just so spot on. The Petrucci solo is sublime and you can clearly hear John Myung in the mix which is nice as it is not always easy to discern his part in the sound as a whole.

"Enigma Machine" - A rocking instrumental which borders on fusion in places. Very solid, fun, track.

"The Bigger Picture" - Emotive, softer side of the band which they do so well - which serves as a very pleasant break from the hardness of the previous tracks. I love this one. The lead guitar is very moving on this one.

"Behind The Veil" - Starts off gently before seguing into diamond hard rock territory interspersed with melodious rousing sections. Rudess struts his stuff as does Petrucci with the ever present rhythm machine that is Mangini and Myung driving them.

"Surrender to Reason" - Another clear nod to Rush to begin with followed by nice acoustic guitar fronting La Brie. The track hardens into hard rock territory with rousing vocals and lead guitar. I like the bass in this one.

"Along for the Ride" - Nice softer side of the band once again. Rousing stuff.

"Illumination Theory" - The album's giant weighing in at in excess of 22 minutes. Grandiose start. This track is a musical adventure showcasing the talent of the band. It segues from hard rock turf into fairground type rock before softening at the third way through point into a "Gates of Delirium" psychedelic kind of section. The orchestra turns the track towards the majestic with a rousing section. Already a musical adventure and we haven't reached the halfway point yet. The orchestral section is ended by a hardcore Led Zeppelinish kind of hard rock piece coming in followed by some brilliant musical interplay involving all of the members - this is jamming at its best. The grandiose returns and it is stunningly beautiful.

Wow! Anyone who does not see the merit in this must not attempt to tell me that they have any kind of musical appreciation within them. Love it or hate it the album is a pure showcase of the best musical talent in the world today. It may be too heavy in parts for some but the technical brilliance and ability, the melody throughout as well as the pure quality of what is on offer cannot be disputed. It really has a bit of everything in it and it serves up some of the best music that the band have released. A very solid 5 stars from me.

Report this review (#1046527)
Posted Saturday, September 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is shocking all the negative reviews for this album, because this is easily one of their best efforts. The song writing is excellent and there is some amazing musicianship. They have an amazing block of albums from IMAGES AND WORDS, AWAKE, METROPOLIS PART 2: SCENES FROM A MEMORY, and SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE. While that block of albums is amazing, this self titled release is the best album since SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE. The whole album is solid, but the standout tracks are THE ENEMY INSIDE and ILLUMINATION THEORY. ILLUMINATION THEORY takes a page out of Rush's playbook with a very atmospheric movement migrating into a drum and bass groove that kicks the track into high gear. I would not listen to all the negativity on this one as it is a solid effort worthy of the Dream Theater name.
Report this review (#1046819)
Posted Saturday, September 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
3 stars After the last album that has left me on my appetite, the band is back with their first release with the new drummer present from the first stage of the recording to the last. Mike Mangini on drums is following the pace of the the band's music with ease and we don't miss the absence of Mr. Portnoy. The music is still characterized by the playing of John Petrucci on guitars who from the song "The Enemy Inside" show his talents with some exquisite guitars solo. In the "Looking Glass" song, if it wasn't for the nice bass and guitar solo break, the song would be a total miss with his simple chorus. Things gets better with "Enigma Machine" with some nice instrumental music, brighten up by some nice soloing of Jordan Rudess. "Behind the Veil" show a James Labrie playing the devil with his voice to capture the dark essence of some parts of the song, which is quickly getting back to a brighter mood. In this song the keyboards of Rudess are in the background just to create the atmosphere. "Surrender to Reason" has a nice acoustic intro followed by classical arrangements with some nice bass parts by Myung and a Petrucci who take a riff of the book of Rush's song "By Thor Thor and the Snow Dog".

The epic "Illumination Theory" start with a dark and very heavy intro and some typical but efficient instrumental parts for the band. Mike Mangani and Jordan Rudess are very active here with some fast and complex parts. Then the break that divide the song in two parts with a breather, where we can hear some nature and animal sounds (birds). Was it an inspiration from "Close to the Edge"? Then some movie soundtrack passage, a nice bass break and a James Labrie who is getting back with his heavy voice. You can also notice the short Keith Emerson keyboards parts from Jordan, who is on fire on this song. The end section of the song is the return to a more relax atmosphere after the storm with a slower pace where Labrie's vocals are very emotional. As with most epics Dream Theater's song, this is the highlight of this cd. After many spins of this cd , I don't think it's a better album than the well acclaimed "A Dramatic Turn of Events". So I am not sure that those who have enjoyed the latter, will love this one. Not essential, 3 stars

Report this review (#1046839)
Posted Saturday, September 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars When Dream and Day Rush into Infinity

And once more a new Dream Theater album hits the shelves and I find myself thinking: 'Do I really need another DT album?' I am a fan since 1989; that year I got totally blown away by 'When Dream and Day Unite' and since then I have been a loyal fan and customer, purchasing every album and attending a number of concerts. Their debut is still today for me their masterpiece, one of my desert island albums and although I enjoyed most of their releases, they all left me a little disappointed for not being as great as WDAU. Now many albums down the line I thought, I actually don't need the newest one. But then I heard the album as a stream and as the last notes rang out, I clicked on purchase.

I can't really say what it is, but this album touched me more than most of their last number of releases. I just love it! Maybe it is because for the first time I really enjoy James LaBrie's vocals? With my unconditional love for their first album Charlie Dominici was for me always the better singer. Maybe it is the warmer and melodic atmosphere of this album? Maybe the brilliantly beautiful guitar solos give it that special touch? Maybe it helps that you can actually hear John Myung's Bass like in the good old WDAU days? Maybe it's the little parts that sound a bit like WDADU and Falling into Infinity? Maybe it is the Rush quotes?

I have to admit this album is not in any way revolutionary nor does it feature outstanding compositions but the little details and gems to be found on the this album just add up to something bigger than its parts. I am tempted to give five stars, but I subtract half a star for not reaching its full potential on the compositional side.

Report this review (#1047509)
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars No, "Dream Theater" is not a masterpiece. Objectively speaking, this album is not as good as their releases in the past. It seems their creativity is drained, which is evidently true with their eponymous album title. I had high hopes for this album, being a fan of DREAM THEATER, and was excited of the prospect of several instrumentals and an epic track. "Dream Theater" does have a few worthy tracks, but to find them you have to sift through all the mundane music they generated for this album.

"False Awakening Suite" and "Enigma Machine" are the two instrumentals on this album, and they're fairly decent. Not quite as good as "Erotomania", "Stream of Consciousness", or "The Dance of Eternity", but they have merit. "False Awakening Suite" is very symphonic, dark, and reminiscent of the mood in "Black Clouds & Silver Linings". "Enigma Machine" is also dark, very heavy, and has catchy riffs. Again, some of it sounds like "Black Clouds & Silver Linings". Overall, these two are fairly attractive songs.

The single, "The Enemy Inside", is also a pretty good track. Not quite as good as "On the Backs of Angels", but it's heavier and has elements thrash (MEGADETH). Vocals could use some work, the riffs are a little basic from what you'd expect from DREAM THEATER, but they're decent. The solo in this song is pretty awesome, which makes for one of the top tracks on the album.

The epic track, "Illumination Theory", is what I looked forward to the most. DREAM THEATER has always put out good epic tracks ("A Change Of Seasons", "SDOIT", "Octavarium", "The Count of Tuscany") so I was expecting something in that vein. "Illumination Theory" took a while to appreciate because the song structure was so different from their other epics. I'd say that this track, after giving it some thorough listens, is the least best among their epics. The atmospheric string section is awesome, it felt out of place in the song though. Riffs are fairly strong, but it's nothing special given earlier works. It sounds like their previous album, "A Dramatic Turn of Events". The so-called 'Easter egg' at the end is a nice touch, but again, out of place. In my mind the song is over, then that part comes in and it's just unnecessary.

All the other songs are just fluff, nothing special; just your average DREAM THEATER songs that they crank out to meet the needs of the fans. All in all, it's an average DREAM THEATER album that should satisfy the fans.

Report this review (#1049025)
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Top 3? Probably not. Top 5? I think so...

The album showed real promise as soon as 'The Enemy Inside' premiered... DT has an affinity for releasing an album's least interesting song as the single. If 'Enemy' was it, well then...

More importantly, this is the first DT album since Six Degrees that fairly represents their overall sound; you can hand this album to a Dream Theater newbie and know they'll be left with a fair impression of what to expect.

The album features encouraging improvements from so many former weak-spots: better lyrics than Black Clouds, LaBrie's voice is strong as ever, and there continue to be more melodic contributions from Rudess. Speaking of which, that obviously-Rudess-conducted string waltz in 'Illumination Theory?' He's just won me over'I've long suspected Rudess hiding a lack of true composition behind a veil of unending notes. I was wrong. I read an interview with Petrucci prior to the release, and he talked about the slow instrumental breakdown in the middle. I was expecting something 'pleasant' like the soundscapes at the beginning of 'Octavarium,' or the end of 'Count of Tuscany.' This is something entirely new.

'The Enigma Machine' is probably their most listen-able instrumental since 'Hell's Kitchen.' Of course it doesn't approach 'Dance of Eternity,' but you can actually groove to 'Enigma.' The three pronged attack of 'The Bigger Picture,' 'Behind the Veil,' and 'Surrender to Reason' continue in the some general 'heavy melodic' direction heard on the last album, but honestly, I'd rather heard this run of songs three times through that ADToE once (Side note: Anyone else feel like the 6/8 bit near the end of 'Bigger Picture' should be longer?)

The album isn't without it's share of guilty pleasures. In one of the pre-release interviews, Petrucci comically understated himself by describing 'The Looking Glass' as Rush inspired. Um... no. The main riff in 'The Best of Times' is inspired by Rush. 'The Looking Glass' is a cover of a Rush song that somehow got left off Moving Pictures. Still, I can't get enough of it, and wish it were released as the second single instead of 'Along For the Ride.' Regarding which: Petrucci can, in fact, write a truly moving 4 minute ballad. Unfortunately, he writes about 3 painfully cheesy ones for every one tear-jerker, and 'Beneath the Surface' was great, so we *were* about due. I can only imagine Rudess was smirking as he recorded that solo... and about five minutes after the song debuted, Keith Emerson was on the phone with his lawyer trying to find out if 'tone infringement' is a thing.

But unauthorized tributes to your influences is a time-honored symphonic Prog tradition. One true flaw with the album, which is purely technical (and I'm far from the first to point this out) is the synthesized-sounding drum tone. The band hyped about how everything was pre-mic'ed so that they could capture spontaneous fills, etc... but somewhere in the process, all the life was smothered out of the kit. It's a shame, because Mangini's performance is great; it just sounds like he's in another room for it. Some curiosity remains about what the band will do with this material live. Petrucci has essentially promised that they'll open with 'False Awakening Suite,' as the piece was written for just that purpose, but what about that fake ending at the end of 'Illumination Theory?' Will they just skip it? Take a bow before returning to their instruments and finishing, like Transatlantic? Try to fake out the crowd with the pause? Or, will they do it the right way: leave the stage entirely, and come back and open the encore with it. Your move, Dream Theater.

Report this review (#1049035)
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is better than A Dramatic Turn of Events but still not great. Mangini's drumming is really good but they are definitely lacking Portnoy's song writing skills still. When I heard the intro "False Awakening Suite" I was pretty pumped, expecting the best but things kind of were a roller coaster from there. This first song is killer and showed a few things more reminiscent of bands like Symphony X. I was also glad that Labrie was not involved as that's usually better in my opinion.

"The Enemy Inside" is also a good song. Heavy and in your face and not ruined by Labrie's singing as he fits the song well. Definitely some good riffs and what we have all come to know and love about Dream Theater. "Enigma Machine" is my favorite song on the album. That could be because no Labrie, or that some of the riffs remind me of the Inspector Gadget theme. Rudess also puts in some really cool keyboard sounds in the middle that one might not expect to fit, but it does, in fact it fits really well. "Illumination Theory" is another good one. Again, Labrie makes it work. He has some sort of effect on his voice in the beginning which is cool. It starts out heavy hitting and then slows down then builds up again, as any good epic should.

As for the other songs not mentioned by name, not great. Some are slower which isn't necessarily a turn off for me, but Dream Theater's recent albums haven't been great in that department, these aren't any better. They just don't match up to the likes of "The Silent Man" or "Space Dye Vest." There are a few good riffs in there, worth listening to if you're a big DT fan but otherwise not worth it. This is why I rate it 3 stars. It's not a bad album, but overall you wouldn't be missing much if you never listened to it. I also think DT needs to get a new singer, that in itself could bump this album up a star.

Report this review (#1049653)
Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars I beleive that for the last 10 years DT have lost much of their poetic side. The keyboards are struggling to fit in and the latest albums cannot be compared with Images or Metropolis. Developing their heavier side have alienated an audience which loved their differentiation from the Metal genre. This is probably the last album I will run to buy from day 1 as I got bored listening to the same stuff. Some of the riffs in Enigma machine remind me a lot of "Honor Thy Father" to give an example. Very well executed but we should ask ourselves if we are searching for an instrumental "show off" or music that will be etched in our memory forever. And I must sadly confess that Dream Theater have lost their skill in making this type of music any more. 2 stars only because they are one of my most favorite bands (for their older material)
Report this review (#1049777)
Posted Wednesday, October 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars I think I'm in a pretty interesting position to review this new Dream Theater album! As much as I like the band and own all their albums, they are certainly not one of my favourite prog artists. I consistently purchase their albums knowing I'll get some technical and demanding progressive metal that needs plenty of replays to appreciate, but there's so many other progressive artists I spend a lot more time on. I find it fascinating the response in our circles the band brings - those who think they are almost pinnacle of the genre, and those who think they are embarrassing and overblown. I perfectly understand both reactions! So I kind of slot somewhere in between, able to appreciate what they do so well and the mastery of the progressive metal genre that has earned them such a deserved reputation, yet never so thrilled by them that I want to listen to them all the time.

So another Dream Theater album, and my usual sound-unheard purchase (like I do with most prog albums, now that I think about it), even though I was little bummed to see an uninspired cover and a `self titled' work at that. For a moment I was slightly curious - `Self-titled'? Perhaps the guys are going to go at us all guns blazing with a reinvigorating album that reshapes the prog metal genre that deserves the all defining self-titled tag. OK, I'm pouring it on a little thick, but with make or break time for new drummer Mike Mangini to really prove his worth, and the band rallying against the perceived opinion from some fans that they are finished and useless without founding member Mike Portnoy, I figured they were determined to make a real statement of reassurance and daring. Needless to say, it didn't turn out that way, instead we get a mostly textbook `Dream Theater' album that sees the band playing to all their already established skills and musicality, even if they do that damn well. It's kind of nice to know you're in safe hands, but also disappointing that the band didn't use this opportunity to make a really big statement and surprise everyone.

After the first track, I was almost convinced Dream Theater were playing a bit of a sly joke on us! Upon seeing the track listing on the back CD cover for the three part `False Awakening Suite' that opens the disc, I thought `Beauty, open with a long multi-part epic!' Sure enough, it's a snapping keyboard-orchestrated instrumental call-to-arms, with Jorden Ruddess (like over many of the pieces that follow) clearly having overdosed on the symphonic grandiosity of Emerson, Lake and Palmer during the sessions for the album! But turns out this so called three part `suite' runs a total of two and a half minutes! Then it's on to the first single `The Enemy Inside', kind of a very typical shorter Dream Theater piece, and everything you'd expect to hear when you think of the band. Initially quite unengaging, but repeated plays reveals a compact punchy piece with a lot of momentum, a catchy vocal melody, a number of battering-ram styled drumming variations from Mike and a winning quick band run-through of choppy time changes near the finale. `The Looking Glass' mixes 80's hard rock with joyful AOR/Journey styled melodies, some nice lyrics about the fame game, and just listen for John Myung's snarling bass at the three minute mark! If only he sounded so upfront and full-on all the time (once again, as has become a bit of a DT trademark, his bass is frequently mixed way too low). Sadly the finale is a total bust, after a repeat of the chorus the track finishes five seconds later in truly lazy and uninspired fashion.

`Enigma Machine' is the first sign of greatness on the disc, a tricky, aggressive, and dynamic instrumental of proggy technicality. Heavy and cinematic one second, playful and groovy the next, it's pretty much the sound of a band having a great time! I have to say, though, to my ears the main twisting guitar melody sounds a little too close to the theme tune of `Inspector Gadget'! Surely it's not just me that picks up on this! Then onto another DT regular - the `breathy James Labrie track'. Unfortunately, I usually find these really schmaltzy and a little embarrassing. However, `The Bigger Picture' is a sophisticated arrangement, thoughtful in the opening, gutsy in the heavier middle and joyful AOR for the finale. James, never a favourite vocalist of mine, is admittedly sounding better than ever these days, thankfully having learned a lot more restraint over their last several albums. I still don't feel even the slightest trace of emotion or genuine feeling from him, but on a surface level, he's a lot more pleasant to hear these days, and he's definitely experimenting with his arrangements.

The album then hits a run of tracks that successfully mesh commercial directness and progressive sophistication. The opening and closing sections of `Behind The Veil' features some very intimidating spacey synths ala Riverside, while the chugging repeated riffs are very much in the Metallica vein. Add in some pumped up bass power and a very catchy chorus for good measure in this strong uptempo track. `Surrender To Reason' features stirring synth-orchestral backing, Steven Wilson/P.Tree styled jangling acoustic verses and biting staccato heavy riffs throughout with yet another sing-along chorus. `Along For The Ride' is all classy power ballad territory for the chorus (get those cigarette lighters out for this one live, people!), plenty of nice tricky proggy fills throughout and a very E.L.P/`Lucky Man' inspired Moog solo in the middle!

The five part 19 minute `Illumination Theory' is certainly Dream Theater at their most ambitious. Although they've done numerous long pieces before, the use of a proper live orchestra implemented in quite a surprising way for them is fresh and new. A grand theme to open with, full of groovy heavy foot-tapping rock with scorching thick Hammond runs and maniacal gothic cabaret piano/synths. The verses of the first vocal section that follow are a little try-hard with some forced aggression from James trying his best with some awkwardly messy lyrics (the chorus works better though). The band then tears through a brief heavy, almost whimsical medieval run before fading out into sonic ambience, phasing effects and far away bird calls very much like Yes' `Close To The Edge' and finally giving way to a stirring and pompous orchestral overture. This section is impossibly moving and unlike anything the band has tried before, lasting several minutes in which we don't hear any of the band members - quite a risk, but one that pays off. Then the band re- enters in noisy E.L.P-styled form, whether it's the growling chunky bass, the dazzling unhinged piano or the pummeling drumwork. The wailing vocals from James here sound the closest to his original screeching 80's style (urgh, not my thing at all!), and John Petrucci lets rip with some scorching and exhausting lead guitar soloing. All in all, a very successful epic that shows the band at their strongest while also open to experimentation.

The band then finishes properly on a two minute hidden track, a simple piano and guitar piece that is very refreshing and restrained, and they should seriously consider working in this style more often. I wonder if they think by toning down the technical overkill they'll be robbed of their defining identity, but this far into their career they really shouldn't let such doubts hold them back. It's by far one of the best moments on the album, and certainly the most simple and heartfelt.

As good as this all is, it's definitely time for Dream Theater to try something different. Do a more acoustic based album, or a concept album with a bunch of smaller pieces that weave together. I don't think we need any more albums like this that are just simply `more of the same', even if that same is still good. I'd rather the band try a new direction or type of writing and fail than lazily rehashing the same pieces like they do here, even if I do enjoy it. When an established band gets to enjoy a long discography of numerous releases, it's the more experimental, risky or different albums that will ensure that reputation remains. I would rather look back and say `That was the album where they tried `x' style, etc' instead of `Wow, look at that, five albums in a row of the exact same thing' (I'm exaggerating the case here, but you know what I mean!).

Fact is, whether you personally like them or not (and lets face it, not many prog bands divide opinion so strongly like these guys!), there is no denying the status Dream Theater hold in progressive circles. The band are legends of the genre, and this alone means they shouldn't be so scared to experiment more, shake up the formula and challenge not only their fans but themselves. Seriously, even just one `different' album from them won't scare off the entire fanbase, so I still hope for a real surprise from them in the future...maybe next time.

Four stars all the same.

Report this review (#1053344)
Posted Friday, October 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've now have had a chance to listen to this album a few times and slowly digest it, I like much more that the last release personally, I think it's the best in quite a few albums I heard some people are complaining it's not "Heavy" enough ( Like Train Of Thought) and they are right, but why should it be another Train album? I love the way it has the classic vibe of DT on here with some Homage to RUSH ( check out "Looking Glass"). I feel this album flows well and James Labrie really shines on this album along with Mangini. The production is great every nuance is heard and felt! ( I have some great headphones and let me tell you it rocks)

The best song on the album is the 22 minute Illumination Theory an Epic Journey of rock & Metal

I'm not going to review each song, tons of other people have done and will do that, all I can say it's a great album and if you are a true DT fan you will enjoy this album quite a bit.

My Faves are: Enigma Machine Illumination Theory The Bigger Picture Surrender to Reason

Report this review (#1053591)
Posted Friday, October 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars An eponymous album this late in a band's career is always an interesting paradigm to follow; The Beatles certainly made it work. But any sort of establishment of a new and refined sound here is completely misplaced; as this is the same Dream Theater we've been spoon-fed from the beginning. In fact, dare I say the album has taken a turn backwards from the previous album, A Dramatic Turn of Events, which definitely showed promise. Here we find Dream Theater not only adhering strictly to the formulaic approach they are so known for, but doing so insipidly.

Perhaps the first thing one notices is the absolutely horrible mixing and production quality. This is nothing new for Dream Theater, as many of their recent albums have been brick- walled to death. The mixing is uncharacteristically horrible as well, with the vocals being buried in the mix in favor of guitar. While the drums have gotten a slight boost in the mix, the tone is atrociously bad, lacking any kind of intensity and punch.

Besides the production, the album falls apart musically as well. The best way to describe it is, well, amateurish and lazy. I sense as if there was no self-control when putting this album together, as it seems as though any riff or other musical bit they thought of was used and deemed as good enough.

Besides this, the musical structures are unimaginative, and hardly deviate from the standard verse-chorus format, especially 'The Enemy Inside' and 'Along For the Ride.' The same is true with 'The Looking Glass' (though I do appreciate the Rush-inspired opening), 'The Bigger Picture,' 'Behind the Veil' and 'Surrender to Reason,' all of which offer nothing new musically.

This leaves us with just the opening 'False Awakening Suite,' the instrumental 'Enigma Machine,' and the epic 'Illumination Theory.' Despite being the only strong points of the album, they all lack a sort of cohesion, and are mostly uninspired.

Oddly, of these, the strongest is probably the 'False Awakening Suite.' Its concise nature and intense cinematic approach make this enjoyable.

The band has had some success with instrumentals in the past, but 'The Enigma Machine' is pretty sloppy. The main riff is amateurish, and the rest is just an unimaginative mesh of riffs and solos.

This brings us to the epic, which always seems to be the high point of any Dream Theater album which contains one. Right off the bat your hit with a beautiful Tchaikovsky-esque strings melody that serves as the main theme of the song. Following is some standard DT instrumental work. However, this is where it starts to lose any sort of cohesiveness. The ambient section, while short, is unnecessary and disrupts the flow of the song. The subsequent string section has an inspiring feel, and is certainly the high point of the entire album, but it is nothing you wouldn't hear in any motion picture. And of course, without any real transition, we're right back to the instrumental madness which continues until a predictably dramatic, yet strong LaBrie performance concludes the epic. A good song overall, with some strong and weak points, but it isn't nearly on the same level of their past epics.

If I have been harsh on this album it is for good reason, as I truly know what Dream Theater is capable of, as has been exemplified with masterpieces such as Images an Words or Scenes From a Memory, and even as recent as their previous album. But the songwriting is just too bland on this one. This heavier and more mainstream approach does not suit the band well, as they were always at their best when perfectly mixing melody, intensity, and complexity. But no band can stay great forever; every group loses their creative spark, and maybe this is that album, or maybe not. Regardless, the fact remains that the innovative and inspirational sound that graced their preceding albums is missing. And as such, I do not believe the album justifies the branding of the name Dream Theater.


Report this review (#1054543)
Posted Saturday, October 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Dream Theater's newest album is rather important for two reasons: the first being that it is self-titled, showing that the band is confident that this is an offering including and encompassing of all Dream Theater's elements. The second reason is that it is the first which involves Mike Mangini in the writing process of the album. However, older and observant fans will realise that since Mike Portnoy has left the band, John Petrucci has stepped up to the role as the 'leader' and the main representative for the band. So, John Petrucci is really to 'blame' (no negative connotation) for this album.

As would be expected for a self-titled album, it is an album that attempts to include everything that Dream Theater is. In this album we have heaviness and melody. But there's one more facet to Dream Theater: their progressiveness. Whether this album includes that element is opinion. If to you, progressive music means having 5 minute long solos in 17/16 time signature, then you probably won't be disappointed by this release. If progressive means to keep exploring music and progressing the way in which you can construct songs and melodies, then this album falls very short. This album is overall quite bland in the songwriting department, which isn't to say that the songs aren't catchy, that there aren't good riffs, that the musicality isn't there. What I mean is that the songs aren't very creative. Most of them follow a standard verse-chorus structure, contain a couple of solos, and then they're over. There's nothing really in them which satisfies a need for a bit of creativity, as while they have decent melodies, riffs etc, they're just simply unimaginative and predictable.

Let's have a closer look at the songs. The opener, "False Awakening Suite", is a short instrumental opening track, designed to hype up the listener for the following songs. It's quite Symphony X-esque, and while it is quite energetic, musically it's a bit dull. The riffs being thrown around aren't momumental, but overall I think it does achieve its purpose of starting the album with a bang.

Next we have a number of songs, mainly in the 5-7 minute range. Several of these (such as "The Enemy Inside", "Behind the Veil" and "Surrender to Reason"), while having sound melodies and riffs, fall short of the creativity that was evident in the band's earlier releases such as "Images & Words" and "Falling into Infinity". Each of the three songs I mentioned earlier have basically the same tone and don't really bring much to the table that another one of them already did.

"The Bigger Picture" and "Along for the Ride" offer some melodic release from the heaviness of the other songs. The former song is a power-ballad style song (similar to "This is the Life") whereas the latter is a more acoustic, chilled song (think "Beneath the Surface"). They're both good songs, the former being one of my favourites from the album, and will please the fans appreciative of melody.

"The Looking Glass" is another one of my favourites, and is very much in the style of Rush (as is "Surrender to Reason"). The sound and tone of the track is something that harkens back to the band's early days. "Enigma Machine" is an instrumental track which attempts to create an atmosphere similar to what a band like Megadeth would. It's full of heavy, quick riffs and solos. For me, it's not really interesting in any way, as basically all it is is a collection of fairly mediocre riffs. It certainly falls short of previous Dream Theater instrumentals such as "Hell's Kitchen". The band could have really surprised us on "Enigma Machine" with something intriguing but still interesting, but instead they decided to give us a 6 minute slice of stuff we've heard countless times from them before.

This leaves us with the grand epic at the end of the album "Illumination Theory". It opens with an anthemic riff that the band actually stole (or 'borrowed') from the 19th century composer Tchaikovsky (listen to his first piano concerto). The remainder of the opening movement ("Paradoxe de la Lumiere Noire") continues in this bombastic, anthemic fashion, until it segues into the next movement, "Live, Die, Kill". This section is fairly standard Dream Theater, but is quite strong melodically and rhythmically. After about 7 or 8 minutes of the song, all sound drops away and the listener enters into an ambient and atmospheric soundscape of noises ("The Embracing Circle"). This movement continues with strings joining, and playing a very beautiful melody (referencing Tchaikovsky again). The band references Rush as they open the next movement with a drum and bass pattern, similar to the one found in "Cygnus X-1". There's some great vocal work here and the overall tone is quite standard Dream Theater. The concluding movement is a bombastic and anthemic closer, which is again quite standard for DT. But, when you think the album's over, there's a hidden track, a beautiful piano and guitar piece centred around one riff/chord progression. This is another great moment of the album.

Overall, this is formulaic Dream Theater, nothing we haven't heard before from the band, and the songwriting isn't creative. But there's some great moments that make this album worthy of owning.

Report this review (#1054639)
Posted Saturday, October 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars It sucks when you find out you might just be wrong about your favourite band. When Portnoy left amid claims Dream Theater needed to take a break and freshen up, I thought it may have just been a bleep on the radar and this band would continue putting out awesome album after awesome album that they have done since Scenes From A Memory.

And then ADToE came along and it fell flat, but forgiven by me due to the robotic drumming making the album feel a little dull.

Two years later and I am so thankful that Petrucci didn't program the drum tracks for this eponymous release otherwise I think I would cry. Thankfully Mangini brings a little (albeit still robotic) humanity back into the rhythm section and restores some faith in this album for me.

It's not that the songs on here are bad - I actually find all of them great - the riffs are hard hitting, the melody is great, a couple of songs (THE LOOKING GLASS and ALONG FOR THE RIDE) are fantastic - it just feels like the band are going through the motions.

The epic ILLUMINATION THEORY feels more like 2 songs stuck together and a symphony to make the listener say "YAY 20 MINUTES!" than actually delivering something meaningful. Could it be that they're truly trapped inside this Octavarium?

It's not like I don't like this album. I am listening to it continuously, but would I introduce someone to the prog world using this album? Doubtful.

2.5 stars. It's good, not essential, and I think would only make fans of the band happy

Report this review (#1054715)
Posted Sunday, October 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars The one thing I come away with after listening to this album repeatedly for the last week is that James Labrie seems to be the weak link of this band. Sure, he has a powerful voice, that can sometimes sound as sweet as Freddie Mercury, and at other times as rough and raw as any metal singer. But since every song with vocals list LaBrie as one of the writers (never as a lyricist), I can only assume that he comes up with the vocal melodies.

As good as his voice sounds, the melodies are far too predictable. Even in the good tracks, two of which have vocals, LaBrie sings notes that sound the same from song to song. On the lesser tracks, the highlights all come when John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess, and even sometimes John Myung, take over with some outstanding solos.

So let's look at the good stuff. The album starts with a very short piece False Awakening Suite, where Rudess blends his keyboards with a string ensemble, to come up with an outstanding orchestral sound. If the entire album expanded on this style, it could have been a masterpiece. The second track, The Enemy Inside is a good, but not great power piece, which is elevated by an amazing break in the middle. Enigma Machine is yet another fantastic instrumental. And the final listed track, Illumination Theory starts as a hard driving rock piece, with another string ensemble break in the center, that sounds like an homage to Tchaikovsky. At about 18 minutes it ends the album in breathtaking style.

Unfortunately, the rest of the tracks all consist of those LaBrie vocals, that we have to sit through to get to the better sections of the songs.

And finally, can we stop with "hidden tracks"? I for one am annoyed when I have to edit a file before I add it to my MP3 player. This way of adding a bonus track may have been clever in 1985, but it's a nuicance now.

So in summary, I rate this album 3.5 stars, that, alas, I must round down.

Report this review (#1055981)
Posted Monday, October 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars I won't deny I have problem with both this band and this genre. Dream Theater is the most famous progressive metal band. Their first studio record was released 1989 and now 2013 they have released their twelfth record with the name "Dream Theater" with the line up James LaBrie(voclas), John Petrucci(guitars), Jordan Rudess(keyboards, etc.), John Myung(bass) and Mike Mangini(drums). The cover picture is boring, very black and and silver sign in the middle.

The best tracks on this record is those who haven't lyrics. I like the introduction(6/10) and the second track is also ok(6/10). The absolutely best song is "Enigma machine", an instrumental track with much musical glory and fantastic musician work. It has a great melody and I like it(8/10). The long suite "Illimination theory" is also okey(6/10). The song contains for example a lot of symphonic tendencies and much variation. The track "Along for the ride" is also nice in many ways(6/10). But the rest is(to be honest) very boring. I hear very good instrumentalists such as the bass and the keyboards but what destroys everything is the American pop voice of LaBrie, the vocal melodies are so mainstream boring and has no progressive hints at all.

I will give this record three very week stars because the album is OK but not interesting. Perhaps two stars would have been fair, we'll see if I lower it later. I wouldn't recommend more than perhaps four tracks (1,4,8,9).

Report this review (#1056244)
Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Dream Theater' - Dream Theater (6/10)

For a band that has uncompromisingly stuck to a single sound and style for over two decades, it's surprising that Dream Theater continue to polarize audiences and spark heated debates. Perhaps it's an essential part of Prog culture to be opinionated and contrary, but I don't think I've seen an album so fiercely contested this year. While some continue to stick to praise of the band's undeniable technical skill, nostalgic style and relative consistency, others have condemned them for precisely the same reasons. While I would certainly argue that the band over a decade past their prime, Dream Theater haven't shown any signs of stopping or even slowing down. Even this, their fifteenth and latest record to date has been enjoying exposure and popularity that most self-exclaimed Prog bands wouldn't dream of having. If it hadn't been painfully clear already on albums past, "Dream Theater" is a sign of a band that have become too comfortable with themselves. With such success and an unquestioningly loyal fanbase, Dream Theater have lost the incentive to innovate and reinvent themselves. Considering they yet retain the legendary musicianship and tightness that first made them famous, it's really disappointing to hear such a talented band so content to play inside the box. Even so, as familiar and predictable as Dream Theater's self-titled might be, it's no doubt a work of some depth and tender care. It won't go down in history as one of the band's shining moments, but it should be enough to satisfy the majority of their fanbase, if not convert newcomers to the fold.

Dream Theater has fulfilled a pretty major role in my life and musical upbringing, and as such, it's difficult to write about them without some sort of nostalgia. I was struck with awe when I first heard them over half a lifetime ago, and since then, I've followed them eagerly. Although my recent attention's largely been usurped by newer bands making more interesting music- Haken and Leprous both come to mind- Dream Theater will always hold a special place in my heart. I'm sure Dream Theater themselves would attest to the fact that newer bands have taken progressive metal to greater heights and excesses, but even now, they continue to breathe life into a genre they helped innovate. There are few bands that have been so influential to the birth of a style, and as far as I'm concerned, that's enough to at least give them a partial pardon for sticking so closely to their original sound. Like "A Dramatic Turn of Events", "Dream Theater" capitalizes on the proggy end of the band's oeuvre. Although I may have been fooled by the fiercely aggressive single "The Enemy Inside", most of the album places a greater emphasis on melodic songwriting and well- rounded arrangements. Fans of their 1992 classic "Images & Words" should rejoice. Much like the two albums that preceded it, Dream Theater's self-titled sounds like a cross- section of their career. The aforementioned "The Enemy Inside" has a biting edge and technicality to it that sympathizes most with 2007's "Systematic Chaos". "The Looking Glass" has an upbeat vibe to it that recalls "Images & Words", and the mandatory instrumental "Enigma Machine" is quite a bit like "Ytse Jam" from the 1989 debut. Even the band's weak link "Falling into Infinity" gets a representation here with the cheesy ballad track "Along for the Ride". When Dream Theater aren't revisiting their older incarnations, they take after Rush; "The Looking Glass" is a stone's throw from Rush's "Limelight", the opening of "Surrender to Reason" is an obvious homage to "Xanadu", and the twenty-two minute epic "Illumination Theory" has plenty of moments that sport the Rush influence proudly.

When speaking of the self-titled's place in the overall scheme of the band's catalogue, "Dream Theater" might be found somewhere between the melodic sensibility of "Falling into Infinity" and proggy throwback of "A Dramatic Turn of Events". Although Dream Theater remain as flashy and technical as ever, the songwriting places a greater emphasis on melody than what's been heard from them in recent years. Those who might balk at the prospect of a second "Falling into Infinity" need fear not, however; in the case of "Dream Theater", the melodic focus has come at no cost to the proggy edge or musical complexity. "Behind the Veil" and "Surrender to Reason" each offer some pretty memorable melodies built around tasty progressive arrangements. "Surrender to Reason" in particular has one of the best choruses the band has ever done. Sadly, there are many passages which feel the brunt of James LaBrie's fading voice, which is really starting to feel the weight of age. I've been a longstanding fan of LaBrie for his usually rich and distinctive mid-range, but with some of the more stressful passages he attempts here, even I can begin to see why some people have always singled him out as the band's weak link. Particularly on "Illumination Theory", LaBrie tries to convey aggression and range that he may have been able to make sound wonderful in younger days, but it sounds like he's trying to push himself past his limits. Even so, there are plenty of moments here where his voice sounds as great as ever- "Surrender to Reason" once again makes for an excellent example.

It comes as absolutely no surprise coming from a band that has built its career around musical virtuosity and stellar performance standards, but Dream Theater can still play circles around other bands. On this time around, John Petrucci earns all special commendations. Although Jordan Rudess still gets some room to solo on the keyboard, all of my favourite moments on "Dream Theater" are Petrucci moments. People often take Dream Theater's technical excellence for granted, but hearing a fresh album reminds me why I was so drawn to this band in the first place. Although Petrucci is most often known for his speed and technical wizardry (both of which are featured on the album), he also delivers some of the most beautiful leads he's ever recorded here. "The Bigger Picture" and "Illumination Theory" each have solos that could easily rival the beauty of those featured on "Goodnight Kiss" or "The Best of Times". Seriously, even if his work with Dream Theater doesn't always give room to show it, John Petrucci is one of the best and well-rounded guitarists out there. Petrucci explores a wide variety of rhythms and leads harsh and lush on "Dream Theater", and the excellence of his performance is more than enough to compensate for some of the album's weaker suits.

Speaking of weakness, "Dream Theater" was meant to be the album where new drummer Mike Mangini (previously of Annihilator) was really meant to prove himself, and his performance is undoubtedly the most disappointing aspect of the album. Seeing Dream Theater with Mangini a couple of years ago, I was able to see him effortlessly recreate Portnoy's drumwork firsthand. By all accounts, he is a fantastic drummer. It's that fact that makes his performance here all the more disenchanting. Although Mangini performed the drum parts on "A Dramatic Turn of Events", he was playing parts written by Portnoy. "Dream Theater" was therefore his chance to prove to fans what he had to offer the band's dynamic. Although his performance is more than functional, it doesn't impress me nearly as much as I was hoping for. Although it's possible that Mike Portnoy is rivalled only by Geoff Tate in terms of prog metal douchery, his drum performances had plenty of attitude and identity. Mangini's drumwork is steady, but never feels particularly inspired or inventive. Whenever he disengages from a steady beat, his fills usually sound the same. Although Mangini certainly has the technical skills worthy of playing with Dream Theater, I'm convinced that there could have been far better choices; for my money, he hasn't brought the performance here I was hoping for, and frankly expecting.

Lyrically speaking, Dream Theater have been dreadfully inconsistent over the course of their career. Although "Scenes from a Memory" is possibly the best-written and thoughtful concept album I've ever heard, and "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" had plenty of intelligent lyrical ideas, I wasn't expecting good lyrics with this album. "The Count of Tuscany" from 2009's "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" had some of the most laughably awful lyrics in prog history- suffice to say, a stories about spooky homoerotic vampires are best left for the bookshelves of impressionable teenage girls. The lyrics on "Dream Theater" are filled with the same clichés and half-baked philosophy that I would come to expect from a Prog band who didn't put much consideration into their lyrics. At its worst, it's as if the basic lyrical content was derived from the jaded conversations of conspiracy theorists and New Age philosophers, and filtered through a Censorship Board of Kindergarten teachers and pregnant Christian mothers.

In what is something of a longstanding tradition for the band, Dream Theater close the album off with an epic. At twenty-two minutes in length, "Illumination Theory" was the track I was most anxious to finally hear, especially after being so impressed by the album's first single. Although Dream Theater complete a checklist of many things I may have been looking for in such an ambitious piece, this marks the first time where a DT epic isn't a highlight on its respective album. Regardless what I may have felt about the band's stylistic stagnation, I was expecting something major from the last track. Although there are some very engaging ideas on the epic, "Illumination Theory" ultimately fails to come together as a whole. In addition to their solid themes and ingredients, what made past epics like "A Change of Seasons" or "In the Presence of Enemies" so powerful was their ability to go full circle, to order and arrange their ideas in such a way that it felt like a full-fledged journey within the course of one track. The piece starts off on a good enough note, but by the time LaBrie's contrived vocals enter the mix, the composition starts losing focus quickly. Even after several listens, no part of the epic really stands out, and the only indicator anywhere during the composition that it is indeed an 'epic' is a section in the middle where the band breaks away from the rock and metal for a period of extended ambiance, like they did with "The Count of Tuscany". The grand finale could have been enough to add some life and colour to the piece, but LaBrie's vocals continue to really irk me here- perhaps he recorded his parts for the epic on a particularly bad day? Especially considering many of the songs on the album are pretty impressive and enjoyable, it's a real disappointment to see Dream Theater's skill and tact with epics fall apart so much. There's always the chance that I'll feel differently about it a year from now, but I doubt it.

As was my experience with "A Dramatic Turn of Events", I'm a little disappointed that "Dream Theater" doesn't have its own identity relative to the band's existing oeuvre. Unlike "A Dramatic Turn of Events" however, I don't get the impression that this album is going to be remembered so fondly by fans a decade from now. Then again, it took "Systematic Chaos" over a year to finally hit me; the same may be true for this album. By any standard of mine, Dream Theater have delivered a worthy addition to their catalogue. All of the things listeners have come to love or hate about them are represented here in full. Slick musicianship and bombastic songwriting both have a home here, but the ultimate impression is one of stifling comfort and familiarity. At this point in their career, Dream Theater give the impression of a President who has been in office for thirty years and has grown complacent, no longer feeling the need to prove himself to the voters with particularly inspired policies or edicts. Dream Theater's self-titled hits all of the marks that a DT album should, but they have left more than enough room for a more determined up-and-comer to approach and knock them off their throne.

Report this review (#1056496)
Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Taste of Majesty

Dream Theater introduced me to progressive rock some seven years ago and touched me with their passion for music, intricate virtuosity, spiritual awareness and gorgeous memorable melody. Since then I have become acquainted with the canon of prog, and for that I am ever grateful to both the band and the prog archives! To love life and good music, I believe, go hand in hand =)

I honestly didn't believe that the band could pull off another strong, passion-filled album since the decline of inspiration from "Systematic Chaos" onward. For me, this was the most enjoyable listening experience to fresh Dream Theater material for a long time!

"A Dramatic Turn of Events" (ADTOE) was a good album and caught my interest, but it frustrated me because the brilliant moments were just a bit too contaminated with either sub par vocals or cheese. What I mean was, unlike a fully coherent master-crafted "Metropolis pt I", "Outcry " for example, contained noticeable flaws. I repeatedly spin the gorgeous "Beneath the Surface" but get stuck in the middle of "Bridges in the Sky" and "Lost Not Forgotten". When I heard "Breaking All Illusions" I enjoyed it very much and was reminded of the eternal "Learning To Live". So a good but patchy album.

Let's take a moment and remember that we are prog critics - and that means that the longer the track length the harder the band must work to impress us. Even fifteen seconds of cheese can ruin an 8 minute track. To compose a flawless "song" is all the more difficult. Prog lovers also expect greater creativity and sophistication than other kinds of music lovers. With that, I wish to express my utmost respect for any successful prog act, even if the mind-shattering brilliance lasts for only one or two albums (thinking of acts like The Mars Volta, Anglagard, maudlin of the Well etc to date). So, considering that the band have already blown us away with over five albums worth of brilliant material and some stunning live albums, I wish to view this self titled album with both measured gratitude and a critical ear.

Why is "Dream Theater" a better addition to the band's discography over the previous release, and IMHO better than much of the 2000s material? The compositions come closer to that clean master crafting that is present in the band's genre-defining albums. To add to their reignited passion, and a return to their proggy roots (both entered in ADTOE), you have an album filled with anthems. This is the key word I want to use. I find myself often happily singing this album between spins, in the same way that I might love to spontaneously burst into song with "Voices", "Wait for Sleep", "Solitary Shell" or "Octavarium" at any given time =)

The notable anthems are "Surrender to Reason", "Behind the Veil", "The Bigger Picture", and "The Looking Glass". The instrumentals are also very pleasing.

I was quite unhappy with the shortcoming of the epic. It has great moments, but is hopelessly incoherent and quite uninspiring. Unfortunately, I don't wish to repeat it that often. Re-enter the cheese. And I even welcome those anger filled screeches, and symphonic interludes! Let "Octavarium" and "A Change of Seasons" reverberate long into the future of prog, but sadly, not this one.

I often feel that mentoring young talent is probably a soul fulfilling role for talented musicians at this stage in their life. Trying to be 21 again is probably not the way to go, and honestly why should one feel ashamed of that? It's not like this band have to prove any more or give any more than what they have already given. I feel that sometimes, in its worship of youth, our culture fails to capitalise on the wisdom and dignity that age (should) bring.

I say with joy and confidence, with these well crafted memorable anthems that enter the stage - even 21 years after "Images and Words" - that this is an excellent disc to add to your prog collection.

Rock on DT !

Report this review (#1059448)
Posted Sunday, October 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was an initial disappointment. The album might have been overhyped. I think that was it. After a few listens I am quite convinced this is a good album. Not a masterpiece, but really enjoyable (3.5 stars at least). Most of the tracks are quite strong, though they lack variation, especially in the choruses. The mixing isn't great either, but it isn't that bad.

It starts out with the three piece track False Awakening Suite, which, disappointingly is less than 3 minutes long, but sure, it does contain three parts. It introduces the album quite neatly, though it is nothing special.

One highlight of the album is The Looking Glass which is a very Rush-esque song. The Bigger Picture and Behind the Veil are likewise great tracks.

The ballad we have come to expect from Dream Theater on every album is called Along for the Ride. It is probably the weakest track on the album, with little to commend. I'm not convinced about Mangini's drumming on it; he is way too flashy to fit the slow tempo of the song.

As one would expect from Dream Theater, there is technical mastery to be found on this album. New drummer Mike Mangini, replacing Portnoy, the other Mike, is fully integrated this time (on the previous album he wasn't involved in writing) and he is actually a great fit for the band. I can't tell whether Portnoy or Mangini is the better one, but I really enjoy both, and Mangini was able to take a role that wasn't very easy to take.

LaBrie's singing is great. He isn't as flashy as he has been on many earlier albums, but he is very consistent.

The final track, Illumination Theory, is a 22 minute epic. Dream Theater has succeeded with those very well before and many of them are personal favorites by this band. This can't compete with the best but it is nonetheless a great track.

Report this review (#1065708)
Posted Thursday, October 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars A case of Dream Theater fatigue?

No Dream Theater album is bad. But this one I could call the "least necessary" in the sense that we the fans could have waited a year or so for the ideas, to use a sommelier term, to mature better. Black Clouds and Silver Linings were not that good, but at least they were "necessary" to show that the Portnoy-Petrucci creative engine hit a snag. If you are new to DT, and like bombastic, heavy and technically brilliant music with pop sensibilities, like I do, than you should taste it at earliest convenience. If you are a fan, here's some differences.

No epics. Well, one, the 20-minute Illumination Theory, which has many instrumentally cool, frantic parts, but probably the least coherent DT epic. Less wacky synths, more spanky bass, reminding of Rush's Geddy Lee. Speaking of Rush. Blatant Rush borrowings. DT is a band that always made use of other people's ideas, but blended them into a new whole. Here, they directly quote several of Rush's most known songs. No rap-like or sinister vocals. La Brie sticks to what he does best - strong melodic voice. Venom-spitting is a valid singing device, but La Brie, with his silky voice, sounds ridiculous barking his lines. Drums sound kind of hollow, production-wise. As if there is production bullying going on in the band. First they "bullied" the bass player now the new drummer. I'm joking, of course. Overall, enjoyable, instruments shine as always. Just don't expect a revelation.

Report this review (#1068247)
Posted Monday, October 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Dream Theater are still an Enigma Machine

"Dream Theater" opens with a very dramatic classical orchestration with heavy dark foreboding strains 'False Awakening Suite'; that lasts just under 3 minutes, yet inexplicably is in 3 parts, but it is a grand start to this latest Dream Theater project. The metal speed licks really take off on 'The Enemy Inside' and there is that familiar DT sound with Labrie's vocals, and the precision riffing of Petrucci along with the power of Rudess keys and the rhythm machine of Myung and Mangini. They really are a force to be reckoned with, blending heavy duty power metal riffs with melodic orchestrations on this release. The violins and cellos certainly are a blast of fresh air not found on other albums of recent years, not counting the one off "Score" concert. The music in the opening song greets me like a long lost friend and is as great as any other DT I have heard. I looked forward to hearing new original instrumental breaks and the band certainly pour out their passion on this track; an incredible start to the album.

Next up is 'The Looking Glass' with a melodic guitar riff and some odd time sigs mixed in the structure. Sounds like they are channelling Rush; is that a bad thing? Even the lyrics are about the pitfalls of fame sounding like Neal Peart's ideologies in his composition 'Limelight'. It has a great lead break over a pulsating bassline, but overall this is not one of the best songs I have heard from the band, a bit drawn out and too reliant on a basic melody.

'Enigma Machine' runs for 6 minutes, beginning with chiming keys that are chilling and ethereal. The deep metal distortion crashes through beautifully. It locks into a weird time sig, reminiscent of the Inspector Gadget theme, but it has a compelling atmosphere. This track is one of the reasons to get hold of this album. The lead break goes into overdrive with twin powering on the speed licks and trade offs with the keyboards. Then it goes up a few gears with staccato Hammond flourishes, and double kick drums at a frenetic pace. Rudess chops out some amazing keyboard phrases and then there is an astonishing lead break with hyper speed fret melting Petrucci who is blindingly brilliant. The pace slows into a shuffling crawl, till a new section takes over with more fractured signatures and gob smacking riffing, then a drum solo and more melodic motifs. What a masterpiece instrumental!

'The Bigger Picture' is a long song at 7:40, and features LaBrie in a melancholy mood, softly singing to a gentle piano. The tranquil atmosphere is a standard for DT who always include a soft ballad at some point. After the blitzkrieg attack of the previous track it is not such a bad thing in context. The chorus builds into a heavier vibe and very catchy melody. The song actually gets quite heavy with choppy riffs and a string orchestra cascading over like warm honey. The lead break is glorious, empowered with twin harmonics and simplistic string bends and sustain. This song grew on me as a genuine highlight due to the powerful melodies.

'Behind the Veil' opens with ominous horns and atmospherics, a cinematic soundscape, and very eerie keyboard shrieks. Suddenly the peace is punctured like a balloon with a flurry of thrashing metal riffs, and it locks into a rocking rhythm with very dirty guitar distortion. LaBrie moves into his nasty mood with spiteful lyrics and it is apparent this has a dark edge about the evil that men do. The instrumental break is terrific with Rudess and Petrucci having way too much fun trying to outdo each other in technical finesse. This is an aggressive song and certainly a thrashing prog fest by any standard.

'Surrender to Reason' is layered with synth strings, opens with an Alex Lifeson guitar sound and transcends into Porcupine Tree territory with acoustic guitars in the verses, then builds into tricky distortion riffs and grandiose organ flourishes. Not a highlight of the album but it has the power to grow on you.

'Along for the Ride' is the obligatory ballad of the album, LaBrie revels in these and of course it breaks up the incessant complex riffs and instrumental workouts. The acoustics are crystal clear, and LaBrie is an accomplished balladeer. The problem is this sounds the same as other DT songs and sticks to formula. The band could do with a revamp and try something different as it's getting very similar from album to album. Having said that, there is a section where Keith Emerson walks in and begins to play a ditty on the Moog, actually it's Rudess at his rudest mimicking 'Lucky Man's sound, but of course a Moog moment can never go astray for the prog afficianado.

'Illumination Theory' is the huge momentous epic, a 22:17 pomp romp of prog excess as only Dream Theater can perform. It is in 5 sections in classic prog style, a multi movement suite in the classical tradition; I Paradoxe de la Lumière Noire, II Live, Die, Kill, III The Embracing Circle, IV The Pursuit of Truth and V Surrender, Trust & Passion. It segues together like all great epics almost seamlessly and I can only shake my head in awe at the end of this mammoth track. It opens with stirring string ensemble and then plunges into a rhythmic distorted metal outbreak. So far so good. Then a riff that is lifted from "Images and Words" locks into place and LaBrie decides it's time to sing. The musicianship is awesome and saves this from getting dull even after 6 minutes of kanoodling and spouting off New Age influenced conspiracy theories about the Illuminati; "we seek to understand." A lovely keyboard workout follows and then a lead guitar domination, certainly driving the point home that the band are virtuosos. The music settles into an ambient scape with ghostly reverberations and strange chimes. There are even bird sounds as the orchestra movement begins to play; an extended violin and cello arrangement that stirs the soul. This piece stands out as it is a genuine classical symphony sound that is generated. It sounds like someone switched channels and we are hearing the ending of some old classic romance movie. This would make a beautiful concerto on the live stage and it took me by surprise after all the rock.

The power metal returns as though lurking round the corner ready to strike, with loud LaBrie languishing eloquently about mothers, children, wives and fighting for your life, teachers and students, crimes and freedom; whatever he is on about LaBrie is giving the microphone a real pasting. The epic shifts up a few gears as the pace quickens, with frenetic piano spasms and a schizo staccato riff, along with hyperactive percussive rhythms. The brilliance of all this chaos is answered with a swift lead guitar speed picking passage until Rudess says shove over it's my turn. Rudess' keyboard break is insane here with some of his best arpeggios and he is answered by Petrucci's wah wah workout; okay, we know you can play, genius! After this indulgence where is there to go but to move back to conventional melodies, a reprise of the string ensemble and LaBrie singing uplifting lines such as "you must suffer through the pain, when you surrender to the light you can face the darkest days." We believe his conviction and a huge crescendo climaxes. It is all so majestic and uplifting that you can't help but be mesmirised by the sheer spectacle of it all. The band go into full flight as the finale nears, with Petrucci's soaring lead guitar licks and Mellotron sounds emanating beneath. The darkness has lifted and all is well with the world again. Oh, just time for a ghost track with stirring symphonic prog nuances and a piano to boot. No complaints from me; this is bombastic prog at its proudest, with DT waving the prog metal flag triumphantly.

This latest Dream Theater album is a real mixed inconsistent affair; moments of brilliance with moments of familiar territory that demands some kind of diversity. The band are getting too familiar to be honest, and could do with a real shake up to try something different. Each album is sounding the same and some of the material on this latest album leaves a lot to be desired especially the middle section. Also Mangini's drums sound a bit synthetic lacking Portnoy's punchy style. The creative department also needs a shake up as there is not a lot of lyrical punch and Mangini had input into the songwriting but it has not affected the band that much at all; they still opt for the safe approach revisiting what has worked on previous albums.

Of course the opening tracks, and instrumental are brilliant, along with the epic final track, so this could be enough to warrant a 4 star rating and I have to consider whether this measures up to other 4 star albums of DT. And what is with that dull album cover and uninspired title? Not exactly as if there was a lot of effort put into it. One has to ask, if this does not measure up to the masterpiece releases whether this is as even as good as "Awake", "Six degrees?" and "Black clouds and silver linings", all of which I awarded 4 star reviews. Really it is not as good as these, so is it then better than the middle of the road 3 star albums "Systematic Chaos", "Train of Thought" or even "Falling into Infinity"? Well, it definitely had more impact on me than those which leads me to believe a marginal 3.5 star rating is warranted. I will settle for 4 stars but only due to the astonishing symphony intro, the awesome instrumental and colossal epic that I really enjoyed, especially all the symphonic elements, and guitar and keyboard freakouts. Dream Theater still hold the attention and even though this is no masterpiece it is well worth a listen and as always is going to divide the prog fanbase, which has become an essential part of the band's appeal. Love 'em or loathe 'em, Dream Theater still has the power to make the prog community wake up and take notice.

Report this review (#1070143)
Posted Friday, November 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars Dull. Bland. Not even trying anymore.

I'm genuinely sad to say that the band I idolised as the epitome of rock music a decade ago have truly lost all their creative talent as a band. Their last few albums have all been desperately uninteresting, especially the previous album, but this one is equally as bad. I was listening to my music library on shuffle the other day, the 2007 remix of Take The Time from Images and Words came on, and I just marvelled at what a breathtaking piece of music it was. There's more variety, creativity and passion in that one song than on this entire album combined. I don't know what it is, but it seems like they don't care about being innovative - or even interesting - at all any more, it honestly makes me sad. They should have stopped releasing albums years ago, then I could look back on them fondly. All I can do now is wonder what happened to them.

Report this review (#1070930)
Posted Saturday, November 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
3 stars It's time. It's time for me to give up trying to fight my urge to write a review for this new Dream Theater album. Anyone that follows me will know that I am no fan of the "mighty" DT, though I have a healthy respect for them as I feel they kept the prog fire burning through the 90s, kinda. I also respect their technical ability, especially that of Petrucci and his nine arms.

However, none of that changes the fact that this album is pompous, overblown, and stilted. Just as with all of their albums after "Awake", their tracks seem like nothing more than stitched-together pieces of instrumental fireworks, and then they ask Labrie to caterwaul over them. I use the term "instrumental fireworks" in the worst sense, as these shows of skill seem more suited for high school seniors trying to impress girls. Yet, Petrucci and his crew (as he seems to be in charge this time) can play mind-bending instrumental passages, but can they just make a darn song already? All I ask is for a cohesive and mature attempt at art, but DT continually leans toward attempting to fit as many notes as possible into one minute.

Honestly, I was surprised at first. "False Awakening Suite" is actually quite good, even though it IS a 3 minute song that is divided into three parts. Cliche much? Anyways, it is quite epic (as expected) and good overall. I liked it. Then, "The Enemy Inside" appears, and the album goes to hell. Not only does the over-production pretty much hurt my ears, but Labrie sounds worse than ever. This guy CANNOT SING. Sheesh. Each track, then, sounds exactly like the previous one. Wailing from Labrie, guitar solos from Petrucci, and not much else. The keys from Rudess are buried in the over-saturation of the mix, and they don't do much anyhow. I also heard that Myung's bass guitar was finally going to be audible! Yippee! It only took them a career as long as I am old to figure that out. And guess what? I can still barely hear it, and it is basically unremarkable.

So, after an album full of blah songs, "Illumination Theory" arrives. This track is meant to be the grand epic of the album, and I think it's okay. It's nothing special and it really drags in the middle, but it's pretty good for what it is. One plus is that Labrie is gone for large amounts of time, which would make any song better.

Overall, then, this is just another DT album. It's complex. It's epic. It's heavy. But, it's also meaningless, immature, and downright annoying at times. When the final epic began, I glanced to see that it has a run time of over twenty minutes. My first reaction? "Do I have to?" I made myself listen to this album; and, surprise, it sounds like all their other albums. But, I guess when you are selling albums like hotcakes, that's all you really care about anyways.

Report this review (#1074811)
Posted Saturday, November 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
1 stars Ugh. Where to begin? Another album from DT that I've completely lost interest in before I even finished listening to it. These guys are now the AC/DC of Progressive Metal. To quote one of my favorite old school thrash albums, "The always changing, never changing, nothing changes..." You've got 2 instrumental tracks here, 'False Awakening Suite' & 'The Enigma Machine' which are both decent BECAUSE they are instrumentals. So, the focus should be on the musicianship. The entire rest of this album is awful songwriting. And like 'TCOT' from 'BC&SL', with it's fast forward inducing volume swells, the supposed epic 'Illumination Theory', is a mediocre song that achieves it's length by a long-winded, dull excursion into what it would sound like if Jordan Rudess was replaced with an iPhone app. I used to really admire these guys, but if this is all they have left in the tank, then it's time to either pack it in or become an all instrumental project since the only time they show any signs of their old creative magic, is when they're not constrained by the DT song structure schematic that serves up some of the most truly god-awful and uninspired melodies in the genre. And let's not even get started on the lyrics....... 1 out of 5 stars. I'm feeling generous.
Report this review (#1074930)
Posted Sunday, November 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Reconciliation Album

Yes, this album lubricated my long-time feud with the band. I was frankly tired of the same old clichés, and since Octavarium, my listening capabilities were someplace else. Is it the fresh blood of Mike Mangini? (we love you Mike!!) The symphony hired for the album? The simple (but tasty) artwork? Or simply the return to the formula of Octavarium?

Well, the opening track is a sure winner: explosive choir with a theme that could fit a swashbuckling movie! Also, the multiple winks and nudges to Rush across the album is charming. Since Dream and Day Unite, the Rush factor has not been that present; and it's a good thing. I first started to listen to the band because they were all Rush fans and I happily grab here and there wiffs of the Holy Triumvirat.

Like I said, the Octavarium recipe was a very thing and they re-visited the pattern this time again: catchy riffs (Lifeson inspired), audible bass (finalIy!) and well mixed vocals (not too loud). I am satisfied with the fact that the Nightwish approach is less there, but I do honestly miss the Portnoy vocals that gave the band an additionnal edge.

I'd say go with this eye closed, it's a good year for them!

Report this review (#1075558)
Posted Monday, November 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
Retired Admin
3 stars And so Goliath fell...

Almost to the day it has been one year since I have posted a review on ProgArchives. Why, I can't say, perhaps a degree of ennui, a lack of free time, or just other priorities around the site. But with the release of a new Dream Theater album, I, as a well-known Dream Theater fanboy, feel the obligation to share my thoughts on my once favorite band of all time's latest work. And the sad fact is, this album heavily contributed to my word choice of my 'once' favorite band. Dream Theater, as anyone who has read my biography for them may agree, have been one of the most influential and powerful progressive metal bands of all time. With simple non-repeatable opuses such as Images and Words, Awake, Scenes from a Memory, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, and Octavarium, these behemoths of the prog metal world were kings. In the past 6 years, however, they have experienced a truly disheartening fall from grace. I embraced Systematic Chaos as a new look at a classic sound with heavier, darker, grittier, and perhaps more 'mainstream metal' sounding tones. Black Clouds and Silver Linings, the band's darkest album to date, had its moments, with songs such as The Count of Tuscany listing among my favorites, but alas, it was the last album to feature key member and founder Mike Portnoy.

But have no fear! Dream Theater had not been making music for 25 years to give up at a little bit of a setback. With a cheesy reality television program and all, they announced the legend (among drummers, at least) Mike Mangini would be filling in at the throne. The world record holder for fastest drumming was a professor of percussion at Berklee, for heaven's sake. The man knew how to pound them skins! With the release of the aptly named A Dramatic Turn of Events, I saw a miniscule glimmer of hope for my beloved Dream Theater. The tone had softened, the creativity knob was turned up maybe 3 notches, and by golly, I could hear John Myung for the first time in ten years. While Dream Theater had done better in the past, this album gave the classic die hards hope, myself included. And this album had not even included Mangini as a composer!

So when the band announced, in another dramatic turn of events, that their 12th studio offering would be a self-titled album, I expected heavenly greatness. Soaring guitar lines, gorgeous keyboard lines, thumping bass lines, mathematical drums, and angelic vocals were sure to greet me as, in a typical way of a DT fanboy, unnecessarily ordered the Special Edition (I don't even own a 5.1 surround sound system, why did I need a DVD of it?). The single The Enemy Inside left much to be desired, however, but I felt confident. For years Dream Theater had released their most commercially satiable song first ' Constant Motion, Rite of Passage, On the Backs of Angels (well maybe not that one). When my preorder came in a day before the release date, I scurried back to my stereo and inserted this new offering from the prog metal gods.

And oh did they deliver. At first. The False Awakening Suite was just that ' a terrible false awakening to sub-par Dream Theater. The introductory track is phenomenal. Crushing riffs, epic instrumentation, and a righteous display of Dream Theater's raw power opened their new album showing this group of mid-40s metal heads can still kill it. The short fragments of powerful prog metal actually flow into each other beautifully, which is something that was severely lacking on their last album. I was ecstatic. When the Enemy Inside followed, I got nervous, but another tactic of Dream Theater is to plop a popular song second on an album (e.g. The Answer Lies Within, Constant Motion, A Rite of Passage, Build Me Up, Break Me Down). I forged on. The Looking Glass wasn't terrible, but it was not what I was expecting. The cheesy major scaled riffs, much in a key of Rush, mixed with James Labrie's terribly predictable vocal melodies, was not the hottest combination for the band. With one out of three satisfying me, my worry began to grow.

The Enigma Machine is where I realized this album would not be what I thought it would be. The song was advertised as Dream Theater's return to crushing instrumental tracks ' their first bona fide instrumental track since Train of Thought's killer Stream of Consciousness. This song, however, truly proved to be an enigma to me, a humble Dream Theater enthusiast. The introduction, a horrible over-synthesized riff written by our good wizard Jordan Rudess, called to mind the beauty that is Erotomania from Awake, a delicate showing of the band's instrumental prowess but keeping the showmanship to a respectable level. This song, however, was a showing of how the band does not know how to responsibly mix cool riffs, instrumental ferocity, and transitions. Awkward key changes, immature section transitions, and far too many childish instrumental flourishes. While impressive four bar solos have their place and are impressive under certain circumstances, when they are awkwardly juxtaposed within an already awkward song, they show that the band is trying way too hard.

After my turbulent journey was complete with The Enigma Machine, the first predictable Dream Theater power ballad showed its face. In the bigger picture, The Bigger Picture is not a bad song. In general, I am not a huge fan of Dream Theater's incessant dedication to forcing these songs into their albums, but in general this how the band can pull them off. Delicate, whilst cheesy vocal melodies actually blended will with John Petrucci's predictable power riffing. While fairly textbook Dream Theater, it was a nice slice of home pie. To increase my serving of nostalgia with typical Dream Theater plays, Behind the Veil, while perhaps being one of the freshest and most exciting tracks on the album, filled a slot that every Dream Theater album needs ' the moody, dynamically expressive, somber metal song. We see this in the form of Outcry, The Shattered Fortress, The Dark Eternal Night, Sacrificed Songs, etc ad naseum. A welcome sight, and I was pleased to see that Dream Theater effectively pulled it off.

Perhaps one of my favorites, Surrender to Reason is indeed a very nice and creative breath of fresh air on this drab album. While the tonality of the guitar and keyboard dynamic screams Rush, it serves as a nice salute to the band's main influence. The dynamics throughout the album are nicely represented, transitioned to, and elaborated on. The vocal melodies don't make my ears bleed with predictability, and there is a fair amount of fresh riffing. The solo section, as well, brings to mind many of Dream Theater's finest moments in the category.

And of course, before we arrive at the main attraction every Dream Theater fan was waiting for (Illumination Theory), we have to make the dreadful stop at James Labrie's favorite moment of the album ' the hopeful major scaled ballad. Another familiar play in the Dream Theater playbook, Along for the Ride pretty much explains my experience throughout the song. I listen and enjoy James Labrie's predictable melodies as much as I can and John Petrucci's emotive playing that is accented by Rudess' tasteful piano and string accompaniment (my favorite tone of his). While is not even in the same league as The Spirit Carries On or The Silent Man, it provides an adequate plug for this Dream Theater album requirement.

And finally, the 20 minute epic. A staple of many a successful Dream Theater album, the long form progressive metal epic is an ambitious undertaking by any band. The numerous sections, interludes, overtures, themes, riffs, instrumentation, arrangement, lyrical themes, and flow are difficult to master in order to make a tolerable epic. The classic band Yes was perhaps the most proficient at crafting epics of this type and even produced an album made solely of four of them. Seeing as Yes is one of Dream Theater's main influences, one can see why Dream Theater was also fairly good at creating memorable 20+ minute songs that were not painful to listen to all the way through.

Thank god for that influence, because Illumination Theory may have been the one song that saved this album from being a 2 star Dream Theater album, an unheard of concept in my book. While not matching to the epic beauty of A Change of Seasons or Octavarium, Illumination Theory is a powerful weapon in the Dream Theater arsenal. Perhaps one of the more metallic of their epics, the first half of the epic is a truly amazing display of Dream Theater's creative ability. If this type of compositional skill had been utilized throughout the album, the album would have been monumentally better. The organic riffs, wizardly keyboard work (despite the fact it screamed of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence), and actually creative vocal lines were a treat. Half way through, however, is where I was truly wowed. I knew Jordan Rudess had composed some string quartet work that was recorded by an actual ensemble, but the actual classical piece that shows off the man's Julliard education was incredible. A truly beautiful work, a string quartet works its beauty into a transitionary role by breaking the epic into two halves.

The second half, however, is so much better than the first. When the strings pull their final draw, Petrucci and Labrie soar in in perhaps one of their most emotive and expressive moments in years. Labrie has a new force behind his pipes that remind me of his 90s glory and the communication between the four instrumentalists is sublime. The actual instrumentation has every ounce of their 90s creativity mixed with their modern day sheen, which surprisingly makes for a nicely polished sound. Near the mid-19 minute mark the song fades and I almost went into an epic rage over Dream Theater tricking me out of 3 minutes, but have no fear, it is only a 30-second silence before Petrucci and Rudess duet in a way not seen since their duet album of 2000. A passion, emotion, and grace is felt in their motions that reminded me why I liked this band's music to begin with.

And I wish I could just use those last two paragraphs for this entire review. But alas, the album has so much more, which accounts for so much less, that I cannot. Immediately after listening to Illumination Theory the latest time, I respun the A Change of Seasons EP to see how their epic writing has changed over the last 18 years. I was sadly reminded that while Illumination Theory was in fact a gorgeous display of Dream Theaterian magic, I had lowered my standards while listening to the album in whole. While reviewing music requires the author to make a delicate balance between comparison and analysis, I could not help myself but compare the pure passion that was expressed through each instrumentalist in their 1995 23-minute epic, the very first the band had ever produced. The soul emitted by this song, compared to the almost plastic nature of their latest effort, is demoralizing to an avid fan of the band.

As a reviewer, however, I can't give an album negative one stars because I feel like they've become worse over two decades of composing. Analytically, this album is not technically bad. The album has many impressive moments that give me hope for the band. In general, however, Dream Theater has taken one step forward and two steps back with this album. They pushed their boundaries since their last effort, but they kept their creativity in such a formulaic, crowd-pleasing mold that I couldn't truly enjoy. Dream Theater has figured out the shape of their own musical cookie cutter and they used it excessively on this album.

The predictability not only of the structures and makeup of many of the songs but also of the actual riffs, instrumentation, and vocal melodies especially also made for a rather lackluster experience on the album. While of course there were exceptions in certain songs, overall I felt as though the band wasn't trying at all when it came to new vocal melodies. The lines felt cold and uncreative and they meshed with the music only on a surface level. The over produced sound to many of the songs, as is they were desperately trying to please their label, also made much of the album sound terribly plastic.

Overall, however, this album is not bad. Granted, as a former die hard Dream Theater fanatic, I'm hard wired to not hate anything the band does, but this album truly tested my dedication. The album has its high points in conjunction to its (very) low points. Given the fact that this review ranks as one of my very longest, I don't think I can say anything more without repeating myself. My only wish is that for their next album, Dream Theater takes a hard look at how they want to creatively represent themselves. Do they want to ferment into a cookie cutter metal band reproducing the same song or do they seriously want another shot at pushing the envelope of their genre? At this point in their career, every member of Dream Theater is financially safe enough to risk not making a Billboard top 10 album, so I dearly hope it is the latter. I can't give this album any more than under 3 stars. 3- stars.

Report this review (#1085405)
Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
2 stars Every new Dream Theater album there's a rain of reviews everywhere. 90% of them are separated into 2 categories: The Fanatics and The Haters. The first one forget everything else give it 5 stars and only focus on the fact this is their favorite band and this is their best album ever. The second will not listen the album with attention, give it 2 stars and call it the worst (once again).

I don't like fanatics and I hate the haters, so...

I always liked DT besides not liking their earlier albums, my favorites will always be Scenes and Six Degrees. I was avoiding to listen the new album (the same as the latest one) just because the facts I mentioned before, I was waiting for things 'cool down' a bit. Well yesterday I feel like listening, so, here's what I think.

Yes, it is a downhill for the band, but I wasn't expecting anything anyway since I thought exactly the same about A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011) but thing in DT HQs are getting REALLY dull and they're taking everything for granted.

When Mike Portnoy was on board he was a big driving force for the band together with John Petrucci, they were sharing lyrics and producer seat, now the guitarrist is alone, and that's not good. To begin with, Petrucci lyrics are horrible most of the time and he seems to be writing for teenagers, and I think he is, intentionally, to 'get' this audience. On the producer side Petrucci pretty much ignores everything but the guitars. Yeah, DT was always guitars and drums, but now only guitars matter. John Myung is said by many to have a voice now... where? On the 20 seconds per song he appears? Usually MYung is just... not there, then out of nowhere his bass will appear for 15 or 20 seconds and then they are gone again. Mike Mangini had a hard time filling some big shoes and he does pretty well, but the sounds of the drums... why? Sometimes it even looks like some electronic kit because of the effects. Petrucci is a very good player, will always be, and he can write some good songs and riffs, but he just can't play the acoustic, and he tries twice on Dream Theater (2013), both times looks like a robot playing. I have never liked James LaBrie voice but I do think it fits the band's sound, but here... LaBrie is soul-less in pretty much everywhere, as if tired or just plain bored, no nice hooks no memorable singing lines. He seems to be happier on his solo project but DT is a safe job, so he stays. My surprise for the album is Jordan Rudess, always disliked his style and always thought he was the weak link of the chain. Despite the fact he uses that kind of Power Metal/Gothic Metal cheap choir keyboards in some moments he pretty much did very well along the album and have more variety in his keyboards sounds.

Now, the songs... they're weak, VERY weak. You know you have a big problem when your best songs are the single 'The Enemy Inside' and the instrumental 'Enigma Machine'. 'False Awakening Suite' is nothing but the worst piece I've heard and it should never be allowed on the record. 'The Looking Glass' is an unexplicable AOR track that sees the band playing some 80's kind of hair metal, at least here you can hear Myung. 'The Bigger Picture, as I mentioned before, sees Mangini playing a drum that looks like an electronic one.

Now, the big suite'Illumination Theory', an 'epic' with over 22 minutes. Well, let me tell you something, this 'epic' has nothing more nothing less than around 14 minutes long indeed and it is a shame for a band like DT to use this kind of trick just to have a longer piece on the album. 22 minutes, less 2 minutes of 'nature and illumination sounds' = 20, right after that less 4 minutes of a really nice orchestral bit but that is COMPLETELY out of place (it could have been used as the intro though) = 16 minutes. Then, before the 20th minute mark the song is over, 20 seconds of silence and then... an inexplicable piano (with a guitar on the background) jam for 2 minutes = 14 minutes of real music...

I said something on my SW review some time ago that fits here completely: DT are great selers, and it shows on this album. They sell their fans a apretty box but empty inside and the worst part is that the bans buy it with a smile. Just this time not even the box is pretty...

Report this review (#1086560)
Posted Saturday, December 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have never written a review on a Dream Theater album, never feeling the need to, but with this one I did. In my opinion I could not think of any other album by them that should be self titled. Don't get me wrong this is not my favorite album by them at all. However, I could not think of any album that so appropriately defines Dream Theater. Yes, it's not revolutionary but if this came out during the Images and Words era it might have been.

Dream Theater is the best album title they could have chosen for it because that is all I heard, Dream Theater period. It is the most Dream Theater sounding album they have created. (If you like that, I do) Another massive thing that stood out to me was one such influence permeated throughout. RUSH!!!! This is their most Rush sounding album to date and is that ever bad? Rush is one of their heroes and they lovingly nodded to their long-time influences. The album was very nostalgic too, their shorter songs harkened back to their debut (which I think is amazing minus the piss poor quality). I haven't heard that type of sound visited by them in quite some time. If Limelight had a cousin from a different band it would be the The Looking Glass. The Looking Glass is so Rushy and passionate. Brings the fine zest of the Images and Words days back (I'm thinking Surrounded). Enigma Machine is a pulsating instrumental with delightful noodling, but its not on par with most of their instrumentals. False Awakening Suite is a delightful and pounding instrumental opener. The Enemy Inside reminds me of Panic Attack which is the song that got my into Dream Theater so I enjoyed that one. Got to have a technical modern heavy beast and that's what that song is. The ballad Behind the Veil nodding once again to the Prog Giants of Rush is a tender, sensible song. Behind the Veil and Surrender to Reason each with a hint of Rush are concise and have some of the best choruses I've heard from Dream Theater. "Restless Angels Help Me Find My Way!" I can see that becoming a chant among fans for years to come. Empowerment! Those two songs also remind me a lot of the debut which I mentioned earlier. Along for the Ride, well it's James's Time to Shine. He does and there is a cutesy moog solo. Jordan likes that. Now comes the epic, Illumination Theory. I can see how its not on par from some of their previous epics, but it's still outstanding. Epic and crushing opening, interesting chorus, and then about 7 min. into we transition into YES. Wait I thought this was a DT album? I hear a nod to Close to the Edge (I do not want to ever compare them on the same scale since Close to The Edge is perfection, but this section just made me smile reminding me of the "slow section") Then comes a beautiful orchestra section that puts shivers in my spin. So beautiful and unexpected. It's so random, but I love it. After that, it all goes down. John Myung must have been having some coffee with Geddy Lee (no change that to wine, Geddy Lee is a classy connoisseur of fine wine) discussing a way to enter in after that orchestra section. After playing that bass part, Geddy smiles stating the reminiscence it has to old school dirty lines he played during the early Rush days. Myung humble and grateful for this, goes forward with it. That bass part after the orchestra section is power. (Not to mention this album overall is bass heavy, some of the most upfront and dirty bass playing I've heard in a while from him). The section explodes into some Awake sounding Labrieness. Did his voice come back? WOW!!! He sounds incredible. Instrumental section explodes, Rudess and Petrucci go on their dueling battles. Mangini has some very fast and complicated drumming. Epic ends nicely courtesty of Petrucci and Labrie. Wait, False ending, Rudess and Petrucci come back with such simplicity and beauty sounding like their "An Evening With...:" album.

To me this album encompasses everything Dream Theater has to offer. There are a few things not tried before, but it's Dream Theater take it or leave it. It might not be the most technical and with song length shortenings, but they are concise and to the point like those in Awake. The sound quality is not on par, but pay a few bucks more and get the 5.1 surround DVD Mix. Ahh! Much better. Mangini is different than Portnoy but he's got some chops and speed! The Cd doesn't give Mangini the credit due but the 5.1 Mix does. The separation is supremely better too. I hope in the next album they get that worked on.

I am a fan no doubt. But I believe that if this album came out during the Images Era it would be considered a masterpiece. Timing is everything. But that is my opinion. Five out of Five. Thanks Dream Theater!

Report this review (#1089455)
Posted Friday, December 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Oddly enough, this is my first time ever reviewing a Dream Theater album. Which is odd, because I have been a massive fan of this band for 10 years now. In fact, if it weren't for this band, I would never have started to play guitar. I wouldn't have discovered the wonderful world of progressive music. we go...

After a return to form with their last album "A Dramatic Turn Of Events", this new album, a self titled 13th studio affair is pretty much a taster of what's to come for the band in the future. So how does it hold up, Well...its a mixed bag really. Much like every Dream Theater album (except for the classics obviously).

Mangini's drumming, which is pretty much the hook for the album is pretty impressive. I've always been in love with this guys technique and ability. It is odd not hearing Portnoy's sound (dugga dugga dugga as I like to call it), but I do like a new spice added to an old broth. James' vocals are also show a pretty noticeable change, with his vocals sounding a lot more comfortable than on previous releases. And with his solo album doing so well, this guy is probably on top of the world at the moment (with his facebombing beard...and a beautiful beard it is).

Mix wise, this album is a lot better. This time the guitar sound isn't too overbearing, and finally...the bass can be heard. John Myung is one of the best players on the planet, yet his bass sound over the past album has almost been inaudible. Good to hear the funk put back in the band again.

And as usual Petrucci and Rudess sound amazing...but they always do. Damn those wizards.

The album's opener "False Awakening Suite" is the band's attempt at creating opening music for their tours. In many ways it reminds me of a Symphony X instrumental, with the intro to "Paradise Lost" coming to mind. A nice little composition with some pretty cool riffs and bombastic uses of orchestration.

The lead single "The Enemy Inside" is one of the best introduction songs these guys have released since "Constant Motion." With a rather heavier approach to the bands sound with some modern metal influences, with the use of discords and stuff, the band show a more modern sound. Lyrically the song deals with the topic of post traumatic stress disorder, and I have to admit, it does have some good lyrical moments.

"The Looking Glass" is probably one of my favourite songs on the album. Now, I will admit, the main riff is pretty much a Rush rip off (maybe a tribute, just to be nice), but as the song goes on, it does move in to rather more beautiful territories. The lyrics deal with fame and are aimed at people who get fame from no work and stuff. I have to admit, some of the lyrics and lines I'm pretty impressed by.

In all of Dream Theater's albums and career, I have never heard what I would describe as a 'filler track'...but I'm afraid that I finally have found one. "Behind The Veil" pretty much just sounds like certain sounds heard on this album meshed together. The chorus is rather weak but there is some rather good moments throughout it.

The album's final track "Illumination Theory" is the album's longest track, being just under 20 minutes (with a hidden Easter egg at the end). In many ways this track reminds me of "The Count Of Tuscany," except the opposite. On "The Count Of Tuscany", I really didn't like the metal bits and favoured the softer bits. But, the metal bits on this song I absolutely love, mainly because it reminds me of a more classic style of metal. The softer moments on this are rather good, but the most oddest bit would be the middle part of the song. It does sound nice and al, it just comes from nowhere. The ending Easter egg is also pretty cool and rather beautiful...and if this was the start of the next album, it would be a pretty cool idea.

In conclusion, this album reminds me of the way I felt when I listened to Rush's "Clockwork Angels". A good album, a return to form, joyous music...but still not 100% rubbing me the right way. By far not their best and by far not their worst, this is a pretty decent affair. Their ain't no instant classics on this album, but there is some pretty decent minor experiments cropping up now and then. In all fairness, James' solo album is in fact a way more enjoyable affair...which I know is a very odd thing to say, makes sense. At the end of the day, Dream Theater have become the new Rush. They will always excel with their talent, always impress with their old and new material and to this day are one of the biggest cult bands on the planet. So really nothing I can say will dampen their already perfect image. Good on ya lads!

Report this review (#1098286)
Posted Monday, December 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Enemy Inside is a great track!

When I first listened to this album I was really impressed with the opening track "False Awakening Suite" as the composition is really neat and tight and I expected the duration would be long - as long as the overture of Rick wakeman's 1984 album. Unfortunately this opening track with great orchestration only last less than 3 minutes. But when I looked at the sleeve, oh ....this short track comprises three movements! tah sounds ridiculous. But it's OK, the band has their own reason for doing it this way. But bottom line is the same: this opening track is so captivating and could be used later as the band's concert opening. Pattern-wise, this sort of style is somewahat following what power metal bands like Kamelot made their album - eg. Karma with Regalis Apertura as opening orchestra and followed by power ballad "Forever".

The pattern is really similar as the followup track is something powerful with heavy riffs: "The Enemy Inside" (6:17). These two first tracks were the one that hooked me to this album. The Enemy Inside is really a killer for me personally as I love how the music moves dynamically in fast tempo style, typical of Dream Theater. From this track I learn that Mike Mangini's drumming is really fast as he provides high-speed drum-playing throughout this track - especially at the beginning of the track. What interesting from this track is the combined solo work of Jordan Ruddes and John Petrucci. I really love how inventive the jeyboard sound is in this track.

There is one track that I really hate since the first time I listened to it, i.e. the third track: The Looking Glass. Why i hate? It's simple: the opening guitar riffs as well as when the music moves. It sounds something like Rush"Limelight". So what? Because I hate Rush Limelight - I don't like the guitar work, really's not rockin' at all. So is the case with The Looking Glass - it's so boring to me.

"Enigma Machine" (6:01) is a nice instrumental piece.Again, I enjoy how mangini plays his drum set. "The Bigger Picture" (7:40) is a relatively slow tempo music with nice melody. Labrie sings nicely here. But ..."Behind the Veil" (6:52) is for me is an excellent track like thw second track. It starts in an ambient mood using thin keyboard work that reminds me to Ocatavarium's epic. The music then blasts off loudly followed with heavy riffs similar to what it sounds on The Great Debate of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. The riffs I really like very much. The melody as it is sung by Labrie is really excellent as well. I also love the interlude part that demonstrates great keyboard work by Ruddes and followed with guitar solo by Petrucci.

The next two tracks are also very good in composition: "Surrender to Reason" (6:34) and "Along for the Ride" (4:45). What makes me interested with this album is the last track that serves as epic as the duration is 22 minutes. "Illumination Theory" is no doubt very intelligently composed. It has soft as well as very soft break. Again I love how mangini plays the drums especially at the beginning part (transition) when he has to plays his multi size tom at approximately minute 3:30. What follows is the heavy riffs in the vein of The Great Debate. One of the strengths from this composition is its ability to combine heavy and soft sides excellently. I really enjoy this epic. In someway it's similar with the disc two of Six Degrees album especially with the orchestra work in the middle of the epic.

Overall, this is an excellent album with great tracks like: False Awakening Suite - The Enemy Inside; Behind The Veil and Illumination Theory. The album really grew on me as the first time I listened to it I felt like being bored with this kind of DT music. But it's OK now especially when lately I love Behind the Veil and Illumination Theory. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#1100704)
Posted Friday, December 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Dream Theater - for me this album is comeback to good old DT. I can feel more joy and flow in song writing and the word "song" in here seems to be a keyword. Some may say there's nothing new in their music that it's repetitive but for me after the heavier albums this is quite a refreshment and some moments bring back the feeling when I first listened When Dream and Day Unite, I&W or Awake and I find it a big advantage. There are very nice melodies and catchy riffs and again like on early 90's albums we can clearly hear Rush influences. La Brie's vocals are the best since very long time. What could be better is too much focus on guitar section - bass and keyboards are back with few exceptions

Ratings: 1. False Awakening Suite - 5/10 - just a good orchestral opening in Symphony X style 2. Enemy Inside - 7/10 - fine single, catchy 3. The Looking Glass - 10/10 - my favorite one, love bass sound in here it could be louder dough, great solo, very rocky riffs, brilliant track 4. Enigma Machine - 4/10 - normally I like instrumentals but not this one - for me weakest point on album 5. The Bigger Picture - 8/10 - very nice ballad 6. Behind The Vail - 9/10 - second best on the album, bass line reminds WDaDU, fantastic solo 7. Surrender to Reason - 9/10 - very Rush influenced beginning and bombastic bass/guitar duet at solo part 8. Along For the Ride - 5/10 - slow, simple ballad with no highlights 9. Illumination Theory - 8/10 - longest track, maybe little too long but has it's great instrumental moments and vocal parts

Overal - pleasure to hear, must have for prog rock/metal fan - 4*

Report this review (#1105327)
Posted Thursday, January 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Dream Theater" is the self-titled 12th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Dream Theater. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in September 2013. Releasing a self-titled album this late in your career, often signals a change in musical direction or maybe more often a return to the roots. In Dream Theater's case that's not really true though, and while I'm not sure about this, I assume that in this case the title is meant to signal that the band are now a more harmonic and tight nit unit, than the case was when Mike Portnoy was with the band. That's a wild guess though and maybe they just couldn't come up with a better title.

The music on the album pretty much continue down the same path as on the last couple of releases. In other words this is Dream Theater as we know them and love(hate) them. The musicianship is outstanding as ever. Challenging guitar and keyboard work, intricate and adventurous rythms, progressive song structures and James Labrie's strong and distinct sounding vocals in front. The most significant change from their previous releases is on the drum post. Mike Mangini did play the drums and was a permanent member of the lineup on "A Dramatic Turn of Events (2011)", but at the time he was hired, the drum parts for the album were already written, and he basically played as a session musician on that album. So this is the first time, he is allowed to put his own mark on the music, and it is heard. While his drumming style fits Dream Theater's music well there are notable differences between his playing and the playing of his predecessor. And that's a great positive in my opinion, as it was something I missed on "A Dramatic Turn of Events (2011)".

The material on the 9 track, 68:01 minutes long album primarily consist of tracks between 2 and 7 minutes in length and it's only the 22:17 minutes long closing track "Illumination Theory", that is really long on this album. Heavier tracks like "The Enemy Within" and "Behind the Veil" stand pretty strong in the picture, but there are generally too many "by the numbers" tracks, that don't really make a lasting impression. Tracks like "Along For The Ride", "The Bigger Picture" and "Surrender to Reason" are examples of this. They are competently written and all feature enjoyable sections, but they don't add anything new to Dream Theater's sound and Dream Theater have simply produced better material in this style before. Even the instrumental "Enigma Machine", which is occasionally brilliant, isn't that memorable. "Illumination Theory" is not surprisingly one of the highlights of the album, featuring structural twists and turns and several intriguing sections. It's interesting how they incorporate classical soundtrack type sections both on "Illumination Theory" but also on the opening track "False Awakening Suite" (oh well the use of classical orchestration is more bombastic on this track and kind of reminds me of Symphony X).

Dream Theater are as always a distinct sounding band, even though their influences occasionally surface. Take a listen to the very obvious Rush influence on "The Looking Glass" and on the opening section of "Surrender to Reason" for an example of that. With this self-titled release they've created yet another quality progressive metal release to add to their already sizable discography. Although the sound production (which features the sharpest drum production since "Awake (1994)"), the musicianship and the songwriting are all on a high level, it's still not an album in the better end of their output, but still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#1186463)
Posted Friday, June 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Dream Theater: perhaps one of the most hated and loved bands in the prog community. A new release from this band that has arguably had the biggest influence on the prog metal community is always up for discussion. Finding myself to be a mild fan, and often a harsh critic of the band, I certainly was intrigued to see what all the post-Portnoy drama would conclude with, what type of album they would make with Mangini fully behind the drum-kit from day one of songwriting.

Well, in the end, I must say I was pretty underwhelmed by the album, which certainly has all the old Dream Theater trademarks, but doesn't seem to really tread any new ground and is often plagued with bad transitions. The album kicks it off with "False Awakening Suite," a decent intro which comes off as a sort of heavier version of the 6 Degrees Overture crossed over with a bit of Symphony X. The single, "The Enemy Inside" shows an aggressive and metal approach with a bit more orchestral bombast than the band traditionally employs, while "Looking Glass" is clearly a Rush fanboy track, although it is decently well done; I admit that Petrucci's solo on this track is brilliant?incorporating dynamic phrasing through a variety of techniques and pairing them with enjoyable melodies. "The Enigma Machine" ends up being a bit of a bland instrumental that incorporates a few redeeming heavy/melodic moments, while "The Bigger Picture" comes off as mostly sappy. "Behind the Veil" starts off with a subtle but powerful intro that uses lots of great synths and a glorious choir sound, but when the guitars come in it feels like they randomly slapped a new song that didn't mesh with the intro. If you're into the classic fast, doubled classic DT instrumental madness, there is a bit of that awesomeness on this track though. "Along for the Ride" is perhaps the best arranged piece on the album, but the level of corny ballad on this one is so extreme that I'll certainly skip it in the future. Finally, the epic, "Illumination Theory" closes off the album. In comparison to other epics it is a bit weak, featuring the good (fun rhythms, majestic symphonic sections), the bad (the transitions between sections often break down), and the ugly (Labrie's vocals are an absolute nightmare on this one and he nearly ruins it). If you're into classic pieces like "The Dance of Eternity" though, you'll certainly be blown away by the insanely technical awesome instrumental section after the ambient middle section; Mangini absolutely kills it on drums, followed by some great soloing from JP, and then there's even a bit of vocal redemption by Labrie that is most uplifting.

Clearly the last paragraph didn't have a lot of positive things to say about the album. But like I said, what we get is about usual from DT with just a little more mess, a little less cohesion between sections, and the same generic ol' same ol' DT sound. Bonus though: if you're a bass player you'll finally get to hear John Myung in the mix, which is quite fun indeed.

Report this review (#1287648)
Posted Saturday, October 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars A great add for your collection but not their best

The self-titled album of Dream Theater was a big step in their career because it was the first time they have a different drummer involved in the composition of the songs. And of course, the really big shoes of Mike Portnoy weren't easy to fit in and walk away just like that. Well, Mike Mangini proves in this album that he is really on the same page of the rest of the band and made a wonderful work making the music interesting, intriguing and powerful.

If it's your first DT album you're going to hear, you will be pleased with the amazing riffs, the complex time signatures and melodic lines you're going to hear. There are some really fresh tracks like THE LOOKING GLASS (very "Rush-y") or ENIGMA MACHINE (a really "happy" and "easy going" instrumental piece) while SURRENDER TO REASON is maybe the most memorable and intriguing. On the other hand, while all the songs of the album are great, is not near the best you can hear from them. AWAKE, METROPOLIS Pt_2 or A DRAMATIC TURN OF EVENTS are way more interesting and the lyrics and melodic lines are more engaging and beautiful at the same time. Maybe the issue with this album is the "snare" sounds, which don't match with the rest of the production. I mean, the ejecution of the drums are perfect, but the sound lacks strength and definition. It's a minor problem, of course, more to do with the mix than with the band itself. The rest is a solid, creative, "usual" stuff for DT, with powerful guitar sounds, great harmonies, fresh keyboards sounds and the enigmatic bass lines fitting great with Labrie's top notch vocals. It's indeed a strong 4 stars album, but it will not convert the detractors, 'cause the band is no interested on doing it so. It's a great addition for those who love Prog Metal and this proves that DT keeps as the referent for the sub-genre.

Report this review (#1311731)
Posted Tuesday, November 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars While I have not been a big fan of DT's output over the preceding decade, finding these albums either hit/miss or lackluster, (and I admit I'm odd that I feel the band actually peaked with "Train of Thought") I was intrigued to listen to this album, since it would be the first to have Mike Mangini fully integrated in the creative process. Perhaps he would bring some new ideas, or spark a change I felt they long needed, and being a drummer I at least wanted to hear what he's got.

Well, it doesn't seem very different from anything Dream Theater has done before. Aside from shorter songs it seems a very standard Dream Theater affair. Mangini is clearly a talented drummer, though I can't say his work here was much "better" or even radically different from Portnoy. I would say he has a more "technical" style, and I do like his drumming, there's some impressive stuff.

The album has a good sound to it, I think the guitars sound good, heavy but not ridiculous, just have a good tone, the drums sound great, I am still not a big fan of LaBrie's vocals but they are fine, and not placed well in the mix. I hear a tiny bit more Myung but that's not hard considering I never hear his bass at all, it's still not prominent at all and missing on most of it.

While the music is typical Dream Theater, and still hit or miss for me, I do think this is a better album than any of their recent ones with some great standouts. The album opens with the awesome instrumental "False Awakening Suite" a keyboard heavy, fun piece filled with choirs, great melodies, drumming and instrumentation and moves into "The Enemy Inside" which may be the best song DT has made since Train of Thought.

"The Enemy Inside" is packed with great riffs, melodies and has a superb flow. It doesn't linger, it doesn't move at breakneck speed or with abrupt changes, just has a great pace. It's a very well composed song, with everything having its place, and getting show off, but working together, and the drumming kicks ass. It frustrates me songs this good, this well written, are possible but generally elude the band.

"Enigma Machine" is another standout. A classic DT instrumental bursting with epic riffs and virtuosic musicianship, it's compact and packs a wallop. Mangini's greatest display on the album. "Illumination Theory" is the other highlight, a 20 minute prog epic that features it all, "Metal Heaven" as I'd call it, great riffs, great flow and pace, and some awesome moments. There is a long interlude, and everyone gets to show off. I mean everyone, Myung has his section and even LaBrie shows some range and hits some real shockers. As always guitar and drums dominate, with Petrucci and Mangini really impressing. One of the better prog metal epics from the band.

Those were the highlights. "The Looking Glass" is a really good song and it's nice to see DT can be DT, but without lingering on and on or sounding stale. The rest of the album I find lackluster. Uninspired and boring. There are good moments of course but not enough to really call the songs good.

So what to make of the eponymous "Dream Theater"? There is nothing that will surprise you, nothing is added, or removed, and the album is inconsistent. The musicianship is good though, including a real coming out party for Mangini, and there are some songs that are quite good. The others, while not special, are not bad by any means. The shorter songs do of course mean there is less time to linger in the so so areas. So, I have to say this album is not a superb effort, but stronger than the last few DT albums and have some of the better songs they've made in a decade.

Three Stars

Report this review (#1394540)
Posted Sunday, April 5, 2015 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A letter of apology.

Dear Dream Theater,

During the naughties, when you released several bleak albums in a row I was really starting to worry about you. The whimsy and magic from earlier albums that kept me captivated among the hard hitting metal and intricate songs were no more. At first I enjoyed the manic frenzy but after time it started to grow old. When you released Black Clouds and Silver Linings I considered it the final nail in the coffin of a band that I once dearly loved.

In the coming years with the shift in personnel I still didn't want to give you another chance. I didn't listen to any of your music until just earlier this year. The colourful cover of A Dramatic Turn of Events paired with the name to me just seemed like a cocky statement about how you could overcome your own nadir, but I was so busy exploring new music that I didn't have any time for the band who once let me down so badly.

But I shouldn't have given up on you. I am sorry for thinking that there was no way that you would ever be able to make enjoyable music again. Maybe I was caught up on the idea that your time had passed, that the world no longer needed complex progressive metal with a story telling aspect. Maybe I just didn't need the hard hitting riffs at the time. Maybe I had lost appreciation for just how much practice goes into being able to shred the way you do.

Thank you for changing my mind. When I finally got up the guts to listen to your new album I heard a band revitalized. Playing music that they wanted to play, not the music they thought their fans wanted to hear.

Yours Truly, --Queen By-Tor

*ahem* Now that that is out of my system...

Dream Theater's newest album is a far cry from the band who has for a long time been a laughing stock of the progressive community. The songs are tighter, the solos are enjoyable instead of indulgent and the writing has a down to earth feel which makes the album actually relatable.

Even the structure of the work is better thought out. The album is composed of a handful of medium length tracks (between 6-7 minutes), a few shorter rockers and one epic track. Perhaps after learning that a string of long songs and epics just don't work there is a variety of lengths at play that don't grow tired after repeated listens.

This feels like the album they were trying to make with Octavarium but got too caught up in the theme of 8 to actually accomplish. A mixture of darker, heavier tracks blended with some songs that are actually upbeat make for a Dream Theater that we haven't heard since Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. The Looking Glass and The Bigger Picture being two soaring songs that can lift up your heart without sacrificing the music to (too much) cheesiness. Enigma Machine is a hard hitting instrumental reminiscent of the Train of Thought era and The Enemy Inside builds off of the few things that were right with Black Clouds..., and expands them into a new and better territory.

Even Illumination Theory seems like a monument compared to previous works. After Black Clouds and Silver Linings I did not want to listen to Dream Theater play a song longer than 10-minutes ever again. Illumination Theory takes all the themes of the album and takes them for a ride through brilliant and beautiful music. Through its speed changes and all its own sections it manages to never become boring. It is an epic that was made to be an epic, not a song built upon just to make it longer.

In conclusion - This is not only a great album for Dream Theater but a great album for the progressive metal scene. It has completely restored my faith in the band which means next stop, A Dramatic Turn of Events! Even if they never manage to produce another album that I like I will still hold faith that they could. 4 stars, well done boys!

Report this review (#1396018)
Posted Thursday, April 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Call me insane, but I really feel like it's pointless to review Dream Theater albums on a prog-rock-themed forum. No other ensemble in the past 30 years has created a gigantic schism of love-em-or-hate-em listeners, and frankly, it's getting to the point in time where it's nigh impossible to change the minds of the "haters" and it'd be more worthwhile for all the people who still do like DT's music just to sit down and enjoy it.

After all, everyone is going to have their biases on why they love or hate DT. My personal reason is the fact that their music relates so much to classical compositions (which I both perform and compose, BTW). They're not songs you can really jam to (although there are quite a few where you can), they're songs you have to sit down and enjoy, absorb the melodies, embrace the disonance, sit and watch in awe and amazement as these guys weave an unexplainable, unimaginable web of melodies, harmonies and sound effects into not just songs, but emotions. They tell stories.

That's one thing I've always looked for in progressive music, that unmistakeable art of evoking emotion and telling stories. In the 1800's, the Romantic era of composing revolved around telling stories. Beethoven was the first true master of the art, starting with his "Eroica" symphony written in honor of Napoleon Bonaparte at the time, and ending with his epic 9th. Schubert's lieder pieces evoked a sense of reality when you listened to the singer weep her sad, sad tune. It was such a provocative way of making music, it only caught on to even bigger, more elaborate productions in the form of Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" and Wagner's operas.

So when you look at it from that perspective, Dream Theater has created many pieces like that, what with "Metropolis", "Six Degrees", "In The Presence Of Enemies", etc. Sure, have they lost their way a bit from a compositional aspect with the departure of Portnoy? Absolutely. No one can replace Portnoy in my mind. Sorry, Mangini.

If it's any consolation, Mangini's sophomore effort with the band is a MILLION times better than on "Dramatic Turn Of Events". I did say a while ago that I thought DToE was the best Dream Theater album ever made, and while I'm not really sure it is anymore, it's still one of their best efforts to date. The only blemishes I did knock it for was Mangini's drumming, which is vastly improved on this disc. It sound more refined, less copycat and more original. I felt like Mangini was trying too hard to fill Portnoy's shoes. After all, as one of the most beloved, if not THE most beloved member of the band, it would be impossible to replace him.

In fact, in any circumstance, it's impossible to truly replace anyone in any circumstance. Steve Young knew there was no way he was going to be able to live up to the hype of Joe Montana in San Francisco after he was traded. How can you replace a quarterback who won 4 Super Bowls? Simple. Forget about him and win another 3 Super Bowls for the franchise. And I feel that's the mentality Mangini went into the studio with when recording tracks for this album. DT with Mangini is like Queen with Adam Lambert: it's a completely different band. Now did we say that when Kevin Moore was replaced with Derek Sherinian, who was then replaced by Rudess? No, because while both were great keyboard players and pianists, Rudess just has a magic touch the other two didn't have. The same kind of magic Portnoy has.

And perhaps due to the identity Mangini is now creating in the drummer of one of the most popular and respected prog metal bands of our time, this self titled album reflects a bit of a change. In what direction? I still can't say. It's definitely not the heaviest album in their repertoire, but it's also not the most memorable. Sure, the heavy single "The Enemy Inside" is going to be catchy, while "The Looking Glass" tries too hard to be mainstream and falls flat on its face. The "False Awakening Suite", while brilliant, is way too short, while "Enigma Machine" is a classic DT instrumental. Again, not entirely memorable, but still distinctly true to that DT sound. "The Bigger Picture" has nothing in it that keeps me hooked or entertained, whereas "Behind The Veil", while brilliant, has an intro that simply takes far too long in proportions to the rest of the track. "Surrender To Reason" has one chord in the middle I like, "Along For The Ride" should be renamed "Falling Into Infinity", and the whole album is wrapped up with a 22-minute epic that should have been made a long time ago.

Is this album perfect? Far from it. I can recognize far more tracks off of DToE then I can this album, so from a critics standpoint, this album is essentially being held up by an epic intro, a standout single, an awesome instrumental and an album closing epic.

And that's OK.

Frankly, this current ensemble is still in a development stage. This a Dream Theater that wants to bring back its staple compositions that shaped their identity ("Enigma Machine", "Illumination Theory") while still trying to remake themselves with this new chemistry than stay anchored to roots which are drying up with nowhere else to go ("Behind The Veil", "Surrender To Reason", "The Bigger Picture").

This is a veteran band caught through a transitional period. A period where they still want to perform, tour and make music, but one where they have to deal with a new hand of cards dealt to them in a music world that has changed a lot since they first made waves back in 1992 with "Images & Words".

In short, this is a band that still has a story that needs to be completed, a story that, hopefully, comes full circle and re invites Portnoy back to the fold eventually. Only then will we, as critics, as judges, be able to truly judge and define this band's legacy, because when you think about it, most people are analyzing their legacy when they're still going strong, and that's not right. One day, all five of these guys will have become too old to tour, too old to keep pounding away in that metallic fashion they've embraced for many years.

Only then, when they all hang up their instruments, will we truly be able to determine their successes and failures over this band's lifetime.

Only then will we truly understand their progress and motivation into their ever-changing, ever-evolving sound. A identity totally unique to this band, yet always evolving to keep up with the times (AND their audience, that's always important). After all, the Beatles succeeded in doing that, and they're one of the most popular and famous bands in history.

It's not easy, but it can be done. And hopefully, Dream Theater will add their names to that rarefied list of artists to forever stand the test of time.

Report this review (#1407837)
Posted Sunday, May 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
2 stars If Dream Theater released a self-titled album 10 years ago, it would be synonymous with excellence in the prog-metal genre. It would erupt with creative instrumental virtuosity; explode with equal parts hooks, riffs, and brain-melting awesomeness.

But it's not 10 years ago. And it seems like it's becoming a tradition of mine to basically just whine about how mediocre one of the best prog-metal acts of all time has become. These days, a self-titled Dream Theater album means three things: generally cookie-cutter song writing, outstanding musicianship made boring by lack of enthusiasm, and vocals and lyrics that fall flat on their face.

"Dream Theater" (the album) is exactly what you expect at this stage in their game. It plays it safe, which isn't always a bad thing, but it certainly isn't going to pull the group out of a nearly decade-long slump of mediocrity.

After listening to this album a few times consecutively, I decided to perform an experiment. I listened to one of my favorite DT songs, "Glass Prison," and counted the number of times I was genuinely stimulated - emotionally, creatively, whatever. I counted 22 times. Then, I listened to this album's opener "Enemy Inside". The count: 4.

Reviews are much more honest when they take an album at its own merits, rather than comparing it directly against something else - but this should give you an idea of the overall feeling of "blah" that "Dream Theater" offers up.

OK, so what do we actually get with "Dream Theater"? The opener is a disjointed and silly instrumental that comes and goes without direction. It's not connected to any of the themes of the album, and is filled with Rudess' now cartoonish sounding keyboards. Off to a bad start.

"Enemy Inside" isn't a bad track; it's bottom-heavy, has nice soloing, hooks, and shows off some energy. Alright!

"The Looking Glass" is the band's now formulaic second-track single. Sort of middle of the road metal that would impress someone unfamiliar with the prog-metal genre. Pretty banal for people reading this review. I much preferred "I Walk Beside You" from Octavarium, which at least let LaBrie sing his heart out.

"Enigma Machine" is fast and heavy instrumental, and probably the best short track on the album, even though it reprises moments from "A Nightmare to Remember." Since we're talking instrumentals, I'll say a few words about Mangini's drumming. Overall, I'm not impressed. He certainly keeps up with the group and delivers a very precise performance, but doesn't have a faction as much personality to his playing as Portnoy. Portnoy, whom I've described as having George Lucas levels of creative douche-bagery, is at least exciting to hear play. Mangini could be a very realistic drum-machine for all I can tell by his lack of character.

"Bigger Picture," a power ballad, is pretty awful. It's trite and poorly written, giving us lyrics like:

Like a moth burned by the fire and driven to the flame (Prophecies' a blessing and a curse) I must bare this cross alone There's no one else to blame

Petrucci lyrics at their most contrived and uncreative. These are typical throughout the album, which by the way, are sung quite blandly by LaBrie.

"Behind the Veil" is basically the point of no return. It, and the following three songs pass by with a wimper of creativity and excitement. The three observations I raised earlier stick with you for about 25 minutes that basically just made me sigh and look at the clock.

The grand finale, "Illumination Theory," is the only reason any one will remember this album. It's sort of a sweeping epic that (surprise!) deals with issues of self-discovery and cartharsis... just like every other extended Dream Theater song (except that one about gay European vampires). It's actually pretty good; there is a lot of variety and compositional complexity. LaBrie actually sings like he still cares about being in the band, and the song's momentum gives us a lot to enjoy.

So a very mixed bag from Dream Theater's 12th album. In looking at my review history of the group, they have a 63% average... a poor score for a band with their impact on the genre. But, an appropriate average considering that's about exactly how I'd rate this group's self-titled release. Not terrible, but definitely not going to impress anyone new to the party.

Now excuse me, I'm going to go back listening to 6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Report this review (#1446908)
Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Another two years - another Dream Theater release...

There doesn't seem to be an end to the never-ending album-tour-album-tour cycle that the band have been following since the release of their debut album back in 1989! Even thought I would have wished that the band would have taken more time with their releases and not stress them in time for the next tour, this schedule have done good for Dream Theater and they have managed to keep up their momentum. The albums have been climbing in the charts and the fan base seems to expand every single day. Still, everything is far from perfect in the Dream Theater camp as the band have been accused of following the same formula while writing and recording their new albums. These complains have become more prominent with the releases of Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds & Silver Linings. Some of these complains have grown even larger after the departure of Mike Portnoy and the release of A Dramatic Turn Of Events, an album that I consider their return to form after almost a decade of stagnating releases. Where should the band take their music on the follow up to their successful 2011 release? Well, why not simplify the sound even more than they did in the past? But that would create another fan outrage, someone cries! No problem, just add a 20+ minute composition to the mix and pretend that it's a skillfully written interconnected suite.

You might have already guessed that I'm not a fan of this 2013 release, but it isn't for the lack of trying on my part. I began listening to the album right when it was released back in September 2013 and have continued revisiting it over the years. My original reaction was very bleak and I couldn't really make much of the new material. I could certainly hear that Dream Theater have simplified their sound and the shorter track lengths didn't do much to convince me otherwise. Plus, the songs lack an distinct identity and instead are a combination of many influences fused into one melting pot. There are quite a few obvious nods at some of the progressive rock giants like Yes, Rush and E.L.P.. But instead of covering those bands greatest achievements, Dream Theater have embraced the more commercially inclined moments that those bands have achieved over the years.

After the disappointment of the first eight tracks, where even the highlights bring back a feeling of been there and done that, we've finally arrived at the 22 minute multi suite Illumination Theory. Is this the one redeeming factor that will save the album, just like Octavarium did for many fans on the album with the same name back in 2005, or will it be like one of the four longer compositions on Black Clouds & Silver Linings? My take is that it's actually neither! Illumination Theory is not even a real multi-suite composition and should be described as a mix of a few bits and pieces that the band have been working on but couldn't turn into full length tracks.

My take of the 2013 band-titled release is that it's a wolf in sheep's clothing where Dream Theater have released a new Falling Into Infinity but they tried to camouflage it as a new Octavarium. Either way, neither of the alternatives sounds all that original to my ears.

**** star songs: False Awakening Suite (2:41) The Looking Glass (4:52) Enigma Machine (6:01) Along For The Ride (4:44)

*** star songs: The Enemy Inside (6:17) The Bigger Picture (7:40) Behind The Veil (6:52) Surrender To Reason (6:34) Illumination Theory (22:16)

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Posted Sunday, February 21, 2016 | Review Permalink

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