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DISTANCE OVER TIME

Dream Theater

Progressive Metal


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5 stars I've listened to this album 4 times since its release. No, that's not enough to form a complete (and static) opinion on an album, but I can already tell that this one belongs right up next to Dream Theater's other classics (Images and Words, Metropolis Pt. 2, Six Degrees, Octavarium). This is the first time Mike Mangini really feels like part of the band, and it really works out spectacularly.

There will be Portnoy Fanboys dragging the ratings of this album down by giving low ratings and writing negative reviews before listening (you can tell based on how generic they are), but don't let them deter you from checking out this album. It is definitely one of their strong albums.

That being said, this album takes a tighter and heavier approach to writing than their albums since Octavarium, but it's not trying to be like those earlier, heavier albums. Tracks don't clock in any longer than 9 minutes, and this album is their shortest since "Images and Words".

Although the tracks are tighter and shorter, Dream Theater hasn't lost any of their creative (nor progressive) edge. Each track was thoroughly composed and clearly had a lot of thought put into it. The album also has a nice flow to it, and each track feels deliberately placed.

Lastly, this album isn't trying to be something it isn't. Mangini is no longer acting as a session drummer, and the band is not trying to go back to their days with Portnoy (stylistically). The band has evolved and incorporated this magnificent drummer (which becomes apparent when hearing this album) into their style. Everything on this album clicks.

(The date on this review says Jan 1, 2019 because I accidentally gave this album a star rating back then. I wrote the review for this album on Feb 23, 2019. Sorry for the confusion)

Report this review (#2113501)
Posted Tuesday, January 1, 2019 | Review Permalink
1 stars Same old, same old. Portnoy was right when he thought the band needed a break from recording.

After Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, the band came up with continous releases bringing the same ideas over and over again.

Distance Over Time has the same problems from the last albums, it's only a skill showcase. There's no cohesion, no heart, it's the same wall of notes that takes you nowhere.

In The Astonishing, Dream Theater at least tried to step back and bring something new, more experimental. Unfortunately, backfired.

With Distance Over Time, they came back firing on all cylinders with the zillion notes and the usual fantastic skills, but period. Offcourse, you're going to find good playing skills in here, but the lackadaisical musicianship that plagued the last releases is back again!!!

Obviously they're top notch musicians, deserving all the props. Distance Over Time has it's moments, it's a well-made album, but if you're looking for an honest prog album, keep away from it.

Report this review (#2137994)
Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars A very nice surprise from a band that I thought they lost all creativity spark, only releasing one album (A Dramatic Turn of Events) that I could actually enjoy after they released Octavarium. Initially, I thought that this would be more of the same, especially after the release of the singles, but fortunately, the album is quite variated and shows the band at the same time trying new ideas and experimenting with a more mature songwriting style. It also their heaviest album and the mix is finally good again, where every instrument has its own place and power, sometimes being too loud, but still very enjoyable.

Untethered Angel: A typical Dream Theater piece, which its own flavor of cheesiness and extended instrumental mid-sections. The intro is very typical of DT and when the heavy guitars and drums enter, the new mix helps to give the song a new shape. I was really unsurprised when I've listened to this for the first time, but the song has grown on me and the chorus is actually really memorable: 7.5/10.

Paralyzed: One of my favorites short songs from them. It's slow, groovy, heavy and beautiful, and it's not as cheesy as their other similar songs, thankfully! The intro is really awesome with a great crescendo composed by a great guitar riff by Petrucci and some memorable fills by Mangini. 9/10.

Fall Into The Light: Another typical Dream Theater piece, with some heavy guitar riffs and classic verse-chorus progression. The strongest element, however, is the mid-instrumental slow part with some great guitar solo. 8/10.

Barstool Warrior: An instant DT classic. Very colorful and uplift song with some great arrangements, very reminiscent of Image & Words era. 10/10

Room 137: First composition of Mangini and a really fresh and different song for DT catalog. Features some really heavy guitar riffing, with some nice solos and weird elements (especially the chorus). 9.5/10

S2N: Myung's composition, and one of my favorites tracks from the DT catalog. It starts with a furious bass riff from him and then develops into some sort awesome pandemonium. Groovy, weird, heavy and some of the best and most rocking outros of DT. 10/10

At Wit's End: Another awesome piece starting furiously by Pettrucio arpeggios where the song develops on. After that, the songs then evolves into a slow and really beautiful outro, followed by another great and slow guitar solo closing it at 8:30 mark. 10/10

8. Out Of Reach: A very nice ballad that is a good break from the previous tracks. Some nice piano work from Ruddess. 9/10

9. Pale Blue Dot: The album's closer in a chaotic and very interesting and complex 8 minutes long epic. I hadn't enjoyed at first, but after multiple listens the song has grown on me and some of the weirdest and complex instrumental passages became quite fun to listen. 9.5/10.

10. Viper King: It's a bonus track and wouldn't really fit in the original tracklisting, but think at some of the heaviest and grooviest songs by DT. It could've been easily a single due to how catch and fun the song is. 9/10.

Conclusion: A really nice surprise and an album I can't stop listening in repeat. After many years releasing some decent-to-mediocre materials, Dream Theater is finally able to deliver a fresh and engaging experience. One of the best albums of their catalogue, for sure!

Report this review (#2138014)
Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars My congrats, Dream Theater still keeps slipping! 'The same old sun' in the prog metal sky... In essence, Distance Over Time was first released back in 2007. Under the title Systematic Chaos, yep yep. Since then, Distance Over Time was reissued three times under different titles (Black Clouds & Silver Linings, A Dramatic Turn Of Events, Dream Theater...). And finally, please find it re-released again, this time under its current title. (The Astonishing was not so self-repetitive, though too long and boring, almost impossible to listen entirely.)

Dream Theater is one of the strangest and most intriguing phenomena in current 'serious' music. Incredibly high rated, but... I like very much a mate's opinion: 'Well, as for their musicianship... Academicians! Really, academicians!.. But nothing to sob over. Nothing! You see? Go in one ear and out the other. Great music - and nothing memorable. How can it be?!'. What to say? I fully agree. Even in their triumphant 1990s and early 2000s... Indeed, there was an era of magic fly in their long creative life. Awake, A Change Of Seasons suite, Falling Into Infinity (simplified and unusual), Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, Train Of Thought... This was a time when they flew really high. But it ended up with Octavarium. And even from that splendid era, no memorable track can be mentioned. At least I can't.

By the way, there's a popular myth linked with Dream Theater: they are believed to be founders of prog metal. This myth is smashed by a simple fact: the year 1983 was not after the year 1989 but before it. What should be called progressive metal? A combination of metal sound and prog sophistication, refinement and conceptuality? Then sorry. The first album in the world which met this requirement was released in 1983. Six years before the debut release by Dream Theater and even two years before the formation of Dream Theater. That album was The Plague by Demon. Yes in 1979-1982 Demon was just a NWOBM band, and yes since 2005 they are just gray-haired contemporary hard rockers with occasional prog elements. But in 1983-2001 Demon was a real prog metal band. The first prog metal band in human history.

Nevertheless, most of prog metal bands more or less imitate Dream Theater, even such talented artists as Eternity X, Symphony X, Redemption, Rhapsody, Skylark and even Greyhaven. What we see in the global prog metal scene since 1980s? Four clearly distinguished directions. Number one: prog metal of the Demon type. Founder? Demon. Followers? No follower. Number two: the founder is Italian Presence, the followers are nobody. Number three: Fates Warning and others. Who are those others? Approx a dozen of artists, including really essential like Mekong Delta and Pain Of Salvation.

And the direction number four: the leader is Dream Theater, successors are HUNDREDS. Or maybe even thousands. I remember that in early 2000s I counted about 150 Brazilian prog metal bands of that kind in the PRW sale list! Looks like almost every artist who's into prog metal wants to be similar to Dream Theater. Of course this credo is somewhat useful for a musician, because 'being like Dream Theater' first of all means 'being instant virtuosi'. In other words, even slavish imitation of Dream Theater is good craft for an instrumentalist. But the same thing makes prog metal in toto quite monotonous. Herds of academicians and quasi academicians, but no track to sob over. So, Dream Theater's influence upon the global prog metal scene is in some sense corrupting, ha ha.

They entered the year 2019 at their zenith, powerful and influential as never before. And they made another clone of the same endless flawless post-Octavarium album without face and essence. Only two tracks contain fresh ideas. Both were introduced to the public long before the album release date, as promo videos. Dream Theater are excellent merchants and know how to show it to good effect. They really chose the best two tracks from their new album to promote it.

Report this review (#2138173)
Posted Thursday, February 21, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dream Theater Distance Over Time is very good record. I've been following Dream Theater some years now and seen them live once. There's something on this record that hooked me immediately. My avourite Dream Theater album must be Awake but with "new" drummer Mangini, this must be their best. There's quite strong musical ideas on this new record, and especially playing sound really inspired and superb. It well recorded and mixed record. I give four stars at the moment and later change to five, if it still feels as good as now. Mr. Mangini is playing some relly cool stuff on this record, and so is Mr. Petrucci. I hope some day they will do larger dynamic range record. At the moment, we have to accept that everything is compressed to superhard. Still, it's at least four star album. Well done boys!
Report this review (#2138712)
Posted Friday, February 22, 2019 | Review Permalink
TCat
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars Of course, everyone knows Dream Theater. Through the years, they have had a pretty typical history of players coming and going. But one thing holds mostly the same through the years, and that is the high quality Progressive Metal sound. They have had a huge influence on progressive metal and continue to do so. However, lately, it seems that the music never changes much and that is everyone's biggest complaint.

One thing that is obvious on their 2019 release, is that the tracks are kept down to under 10 minutes. There are no behemoth songs on here. And, surprisingly, that is the thing that drew me to this album. I'm not saying that huge compositions over 10 minutes and going up to a half an hour is a bad thing, but honestly, any riff or solo in one track could be transported to another track, and hardly anyone except for the rabid fans would even notice.

Being somebody that appreciates Dream Theater's talent for musicianship and amazing music, and their undeniable influence on music, I am not exactly one of those rabid fans. I couldn't really tell you the difference between "A Change of Seasons" and "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence". You could play one and tell me you were playing the other one, and I wouldn't know the difference. I have heard both of these tracks and agree that they are both amazing, but I could more easily tell the difference between two "Yes" epics like "Close to the Edge" and "The Gates of Delirium" without a problem. But, the thing is, since these are important Dream Theater epics, I should be able to distinguish one from the other better. The truth is, there just isn't that much that is different.

So, seeing that this album has no enormous epics, I was curious to see if something else was different, for better or worse. Beginning with "Untethered Angel", I immediately notice that overall, this track could have shown up most any other album, and except for the differences in lead singers, it wouldn't have sounded out of place. Great music with excellent musicianship, in other words, nothing new. "Paralyzed" starts with a very encouraging guitar riff at the beginning, but as the tune plays out, it just becomes another Dream Theater song with a good, yet short guitar solo. "Fall Into the Light" is driven by heavy guitar riffs. John Petrucci said that he was trying for a guitar sound like "Metallica" on this track. Okay, it sounds like Metallica especially in the middle slower section, with Dream Theater keyboards, so what? Is that really different and new? The organ solo that comes later is great, but its no longer a surprise with this band, in fact, its expected. By the way, if this song was amid other tracks that didn't sound like typical DT songs, then it would have stood out a lot more.

And so it goes. "Barstool Warrior" is typical DT. "Room 137" uses "The Beautiful People" (Marilyn Manson) riff. "S2N" has an excellent bass riff and is actually more of a stand out, even if it is reminiscent of Rush's "Cygnus X-1". I do like the bottom- heavy sound of this one. The 9+ minute "At Wit's End" goes back to typical sounding DT, but has a long useless fade out before returning for a short reprise. They just had to get it over 9 minutes I guess. "Out of Reach" is a piano-led ballad. It's nothing special, but at least it is not corny. "Pale Blue Dot" moves into the djent territory, but its still definitely DT. The bonus track "Viper King" is also typical.

So, after all these years, there just isn't anything surprising here. DT fans will probably love it, but I don't see any overall progression in their music anymore. Progressive Metal fans will probably love it too. No doubt that the music is great as always, but there just isn't anything here that you haven't heard before. It's like "Star Trek". It's great and it's fun, but it needs new life and more surprises, otherwise, you already know what's going to happen in the end.

Report this review (#2138877)
Posted Saturday, February 23, 2019 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars DREAM THEATER sure has had an amazing run throughout their three decade career which began all the way back in 1989 with the debut 'When Dream And Day Unite.' Lauded for the following 'Images And Words,' this Boston turned NYC based band was one of the key players in reviving the slumbering progressive rock scene and ground zero for bringing progressive metal into the larger public consciousness. Lo and behold, despite all the turbulence of the ups and downs throughout their career and just as many misses as hits, the band returns 30 years after their debut with their 14th studio album DISTANCE OVER TIME which continues the stability of the 21st century lineup which includes many of the legends: James LaBrie (vocals), John Petrucci (guitars), John Myung (bass) and Jordan Rudess (keyboards). And continuing the DT ride since his debut in 2011 is Portnoy's replacement Mike Mangini on drums.

As with many of the progressive metal bands that have come and gone since DT's early 90s triumph on the music scene, this band too has had to find that delicate balance between crafting compositions that are accessible to a large dedicated fanbase with finding the room to experiment and expand into newer arenas. And much like many more progressively oriented bands DT has found that it strayed a little left field from what the fanbase expects of them and such is the case with the previous album 'The Astonishing' which found the whole plethora of responses ranging from opinions as the band's absolute worst album ever and should be hurled into the trash bins to the other extreme of those who absolutely adore extremely lengthy rock opera infused pompousness in their prog metal. Fortunately the band seems to have their fingers on the pulse of the situation and always seem to bounce back after dodging the career crashing bullet that plagues bands who have achieved such popularity.

And so it is. DISTANCE OVER TIME seems like an album that was designed to reel the fans back to some of the classic aspects of the band, namely progressively constructed compositions that are based on strong melodies, tight performances and technical wizardry to shock and awe, well at least for those who have not become inured to this now tried and true style of prog metal playing. DREAM THEATER also forged their new creation so that it could be performed in live settings in conjunct with the 20th anniversary of the 5th studio album 'Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory,' which still remains one of the band's most respected and popular albums of the entire DT canon and while DISTANCE OVER TIME certainly doesn't outshine its 90s predecessor, it certainly does revive a sort of musical mojo of heavy no-nonsense metal delivery not heard since 2003's 'Train Of Thought.'

For all the bloated excess of 'The Astonishing,' DISTANCE OVER TIME takes the opposite extreme. While the former was a behemoth double album that sprawled ten minutes past the two hour mark, the latter sits comfortably under the 57 minute run and is the shortest album since the band's debut 30 years ago. Likewise the tracks are streamlined into more digestible chunks with none extending past the 10 minute mark and only 'At Wit's End' coming close at 9:20. From a business perspective, this was a very wise move as it allows prog metalheads the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with what attracted them to the band in the first place without having to dedicate excessive quantities of time and effort to pierce the impenetrable veil, not to mention the annoying fact that when DT releases an album of such overweening length, many tracks contain more padding than a tween's first training bra. For complex music with a technical flare, shorter is always the answer, at least for an album that lacks epic transcendental qualities.

Admittedly, DREAM THEATER is a band i've had a love / hate relationship over the years and i suspect many share this sentiment given the high / low ratings of their albums that checker the canon as high ratings alternate with low ones. For me, DT still found their heyday in the 90s and peaked with 2002's 'Six Degrees Of Turbulence' and everything thereafter has pretty much been a somewhat stagnate retread, albeit a competent one of the former glory. In this regard DISTANCE OVER TIME firmly falls into that camp. The band members as brilliant as they are continuously fail to evolve past their classic 'Awake' sound that implements the punishing guitar antics fortified with keyboard wizardry, operatic vocals and percussive bombast and although DT crafts a roster of pleasantries that tick off all the expects boxes on the checklist. The band seems to alternate between exploring new territories that don't connect with the audience and then retreating to the status quo with no additional surprises.

In the end, DISTANCE OVER TIME successfully dishes out nine well crafted tracks that flow together fairly well without over- sappifying into wretch-inducing ballads and are displayed in rather well constructed vocal rhythmic passages augmented with blistering face melting technical wankery. This is what makes DT an interesting listen time and time again when they focus on these more intense aspects of their sound. However, DISTANCE OVER TIME will offer no surprises, no deviations from anything that has come before and the touched by the gods magical mojo of earlier albums like 'Images And Words' is still a fading memory of the past. So once again, DT delivers a competent album that stands up well amongst the less talented contemporaries but in comparison to the band's own majesty of their history, doesn't really muster up enough goods to really get overexcited about. Generic to the hilt but generic performed in fully fueled DT excellence of course. While the album may make some waves in the here and now of 2019, i very much doubt that DT will be celebrating THIS album 20 years from now.

3.5 but rounded down

Report this review (#2151829)
Posted Monday, March 4, 2019 | Review Permalink
rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
3 stars After the Octavarium album, I have lost a bit of my enthusiasm towards the band's music. I was not expecting something amazing with this new album. I saw the reviews of the album before it was out. Some said the band was back with some of their best music of the past. When I give a spin to the album at first was a bit disappointed. But if I do this review, it's because, after more listening, the music has grown a little on me enough to justify a review. From the first 2 songs, we are in familiar territory with the band's style over the last 20 years. "Fall into the Light" brings some trash metal Metallica style, but the songs have many rhythms change displaying some impressive playing from every player and some cool melodic parts. There are some vocals effects on James voice in the song "Room 137" and "S2N", the latter show some Rush inspired parts and a more inspired Mangini on drums. "At Wit's End" has a heavy first part, a lighter and melodic second part, a song that starts to fade away at the 7 minutes mark. "Out of Reach" is what I don't like in Dream Theater, another boring ballad like you have in every album. In the song"Pale Blue Dot" we have some cool keys and drums parts and that typical John Petrucci heroic on guitar. The bonus track is a surprise with some groovy more standard rock style kind of music that made me think of Deep Purple. So I think this album is a natural evolution of the band's music in the last two decades. After so many years of great music, we could expect that the band is starting to run out of ideas, but a good band that they are they can't release a bad album. 3.4 stars
Report this review (#2152683)
Posted Wednesday, March 6, 2019 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars 2016's double concept work `The Astonishing' proved to be a very divisive release for legendary prog-metallers Dream Theater, one that was loved and loathed in equal measure by their fanbase, and easy ammunition for those who've long disliked or ridiculed them. Its padded-out length, somewhat trite theme and show-boating excess aside, it was commendable that the band were pushing the whole album format as a still valid proper artistic musical statement in this modern era of disposable music. But despite it admirably being in the manner of the ambitious and creative classic prog double concept works, it was clear that a course-correction of sorts was necessary, so the band have bounced back in 2019 with a relatively compact 56 minute release in `Distance Over Time'.

Initial look at the often shorter running times on several tracks on the back CD cover might have some prog-snobs spitting their drink across the table in shocked outrage for fear of a more commercial release (or perhaps the streamlined songs that popped up on something like their `Falling Into Infinity' disc back in 1997), but all is not as it seems. For `Distance...', while the band have admittedly focused on punchier and more melodic tunes, they are still full of all the instrumental trickery, jagged time-changes and fancy soloing the band is known for, and it makes the album much more focused and memorable than their former release. Sure, it doesn't really do much that hasn't popped up many of their previous discs, but it's simply a reminder of what they do well, and that will absolutely do for this `comeback'.

Opener `Untethered Angel' is a tough hard rock tune with alternates a frantic momentum with grinding breaks, a rousing chorus and a giddy instrumental sprint in the middle, and the self-belief reaffirming lyric is welcome. Keyboardist Jordan Rudess' gothic piano and John Petrucci's crisp guitar soloing is a standout of the knotted heaviness of `Paralyzed', and there's a thrashy Metallica snarl with a Tony Iommi bite to much of `Fall Into The Light'. It also holds both a reflective acoustic break and refined soloing in the middle that is elegant and powerful, but the band step up for a pair of delirious instrumental races in the latter half.

Rudess works a little E.L.P-like keyboard buster into the opening of `Barstool Warrior', home to plenty of seamless tempo changes back and forth from the band, a soaring guitar theme frequently reprised throughout, and James Labrie's confident vocal perfectly conveys the tale of regret that ultimately turns defiant and uplifting. The absurdly schizo horror tale `Room 137' plods with grumbling menace powered by some intricately bashing drumming from Mike Mangini, and the band unexpectedly work in some light Beatles flavours to some of the dreamy vocal harmonies and playful bluesy soloing!

John Myung lets rip with aggressive bass spasms to open `S2N', and he powers throughout the entirety of the observation of the world state lyric, with the track constantly trailing out of control with plenty of spiralling instrumental duels between all the players, despite being anchored by a recurring chorus (and listen out for the ballsy bluesy wail that kicks in at around the 4:45 mark!). `At Wit's End' holds plenty of variety - maniacal pummelling riffing, softer ballad interludes and dirtier grooves, all laced with sparkling piano and simmering Hammond organ in between a pleading chorus. `Out Of Reach' is the obligatory `James Labrie breathy ballad' that pops on all DT discs, although it's one of the more classy examples. Closer `Pale Blue Dot' then races to the finish, a final showcase of maniacal stuttering riffs, commanding drum power and synths that move between ambient and imposing.

(Some copies of the album come with a short bonus track, and `Viper King' is a cool retro rocker that reminds of Deep Purple with its grooving riffs and deliciously murky organ)

No, it doesn't reinvent the Dream Theater wheel (let's cut them some slack, they pretty much invented a template that just about every prog-metal act has taken influence from since), nor does it do much that various parts of their discography haven't done before, but its focus on strong and compact tunes without sacrificing the expected technical display is welcome. All the exceptional musicians still get constant standout soloing moments, but they're delivered in more mature and tighter bursts so as to the avoid the...well, musically masturbatory excess that DT can often give in to! `Distance Over Time' is more a refining of everything that makes Dream Theater still stand out in the crowded prog-metal genre, and longtime fans will likely find this one an endlessly replayable and highly satisfying effort from the fellas.

Four stars.

Report this review (#2165515)
Posted Thursday, March 14, 2019 | Review Permalink
2 stars After being excited for months waiting for the new Dream Theater album, I was bitterly disappointed when I gave the full album a listen, as although there are some areas of strength it is largely crippled by its lack of originality, imagination and most importantly a sense of uniqueness.

I have been a strong fan of Dream Theater throughout my late teens with many of their past albums being memorable even after a first listen such as 'Scenes from a Memory' and 'Black Clouds and Silver Linings'. Yet 'Distance Over Time' went right over my head; there was hardly anything memorable about it and little that stood out; 'Paralyzed', for example, is quite boring to listen to probably due to its simple verse/chorus structure, therefore merely resembling a generic metal song. The album is made further tedious by the similarity of some of the songs such as with the introductions of 'Paralyzed' and 'Barstool Warrior', where both songs begin with John Petrucci's guitar followed by some stabs on the bass drum ? it shows a complete lack of imagination and creativity. The opening riff of the song 'Viper King' is strong and quite funky which makes a nice change yet when the rest of the band suddenly enter, the riff seems less defined and slightly lost in the distortion of the song which is a real shame as a cleaner guitar tone could have really benefitted here. The song is also quite monotonous in my opinion, not enough contrast of lighter and darker tones as it is texturally dense pretty much throughout and therefore, I lose interest quickly.

However, I do not completely hate this album as it would be unfair to say that this is a complete failure ? it certainly isn't. While it is not the most memorable album, I was blown away by the strength of the section beginning at 3:10 in the song 'Fall into the Light'. I love how the song suddenly goes from being texturally busy to then being sparse of anything apart from a gentle guitar, at which point you know something special is going to occur. What makes this section the most memorable for me is the descending guitar line played continuously throughout the solo, it is so majestic and gives me shivers every time I hear it. This is the type of soloing I prefer from Petrucci: emotional and atmospheric rather than the mindless shredding that occurs for the most part of the album. After this majestic and uplifting section, the song returns into chaos which displays an imaginative contrast of sections that the rest of the album desperately needs. The only other bit of the album I like is the song 'Out of Reach' as it is a nice break from the heaviness of the other songs. The whole song, in my opinion, is glorious as it feels like one big build to the climax at 2:48; during this build, Rudess' gorgeous piano tone along with Petrucci's soulful soloing over the top creates a peaceful melancholy. It would have been nice for more songs like this to appear on the album in order to add more of a variety of tones and textures and to be honest I thought the song could have lasted more than 4 minutes.

So yes, the album is not entirely awful, but the bits that make it strong are not present enough and so it suffers in terms of being unique. Dream Theater could learn some valuable lessons from an artist such as Steven Wilson, who has been able to give each of his Porcupine Tree and solo albums their own unique sound, exploring genres such as krautrock and jazz. Perhaps Dream Theater needs to try something radically different because in my opinion they seem to be running out of original ideas; instead they're copying material from their previous albums. 'The Astonishing' was an attempt at doing something different but they could probably be even more radical. I would rather hear them try something completely experimental rather than listen to the band repeatedly display their technical accuracy in an overblown manner. We know they are exceptional players and we know they are one of the best in terms of prog metal bands ? so instead of communicating this to us in the same tedious ways, they should possibly attempt something bolder and only then will I begin to praise them the way I used to.

Report this review (#2184747)
Posted Monday, April 22, 2019 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Distance Over Time" is the 14th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Dream Theater. The album was released through InsideOut Music in February 2019. It´s the successor to "The Astonishing" from 2016. A double concept album release which divided the waters. Some felt it was pompous and overblown, while others lauded it´s epic scale concept and praised the boldness of the band.

With the release of "Distance Over Time" it would seem Dream Theater have gotten their epic scale album wet dream out of their system, and that they have also listened to those who felt that their experiment was a bit too much, because "Distance Over Time" is very much back to basics Dream Theater progressive metal. Sure there´s the epic moment here and there, but that´s not unusual for Dream Theater, but most tracks on the 9 track, 56:51 minutes long album are relatively short and to the point. Don´t expect "regular" vers/chorus structured tracks though, as Dream Theater as always toy with song structures, and incorporate complex instrumental sections, but the music is generally more immediate and hard rocking/heavy than the case was with much of the material on "The Astonishing (2016)".

It´s almost pointless at this time in their career to talk about how skilled and virtuosic the guys in Dream Theater are, because that´s been the focus of many reviews and interviews over the years, but I´ll get it over with as fast as possible, and just quickly mention that Dream Theater are still at the top of their game performing their music. James LaBrie still hits the high notes with ease, and although the riff style, the solo style, the keyboard sounds, the bass playing, and the drumming aren´t exactly surprising anymore, it´s all delivered in an extremely high quality. "Distance Over Time" also features a powerful, detailed, and overall very well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. So check mark on that too.

So it´s of course the songwriting which should be the main focus when writing about the details of "Distance Over Time", and to my ears Dream Theater hit spot on what they do best on "Distance Over Time". Powerful riffs, melodic guitar solos, intricate keyboard work, and a rhythm section capable of playing very complex beats/bass lines. The melody lines are catchy and although the tracks are fairly complex, they are still pretty easy to sing along to, which has almost always been one of the great strengths of Dream Theater. A good balance between technical playing and catchy melodies.

I´m not gonna mention specific tracks, because "Distance Over Time" is a varied high quality progressive metal album through and through, and there´s not a weak moment on the album. It´s not the most standout album in the band´s by now large discography, but it´s definitely not among their less remarkable ones either. To my ears it´s their strongest release since Mike Mangini replaced Mike Portnoy. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Report this review (#2235971)
Posted Sunday, July 7, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars 'Alas poor [humanity] I knew [thee] well.'

During the course of this, our twenty-first century, Dream Theatre could have erred on the side of a fewer releases. Perhaps Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds & Silver Linings could have been redacted into one truly stellar work? No matter. By contrast, if only Stanley Kubrick had erred a little on the side of excess, we would have his thirteen existing films and a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte and a possible 'Aryan Papers.'

In addition to A Dramatic Turn of Events (especially 'Bridges in the Sky,' 'Outcry,' and 'Breaking All Illusions'), Distance Over Time marks a new apex for Dream Theatre, mature and elegiac. In 1977-78, Yes and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer 'hit' a creative 'wall' from which they were never the same. Albeit subject to debate, Dream Theatre has avoided such a 'wall.' Notwithstanding a few personnel changes, Dream Theatre's work has remained consistent. What The Yes Album signifies in the history of Yes, one might draw a parallel with Dream Theatre and Images and Words; Fragile and Awake; Close to the Edge and Scenes from a Nightmare, Pt.2. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and, well, the comparisons aren't exact, but the general progression is. Conversely, in the Dream Theatre catalogue, one will not find a Union or Love Beach. Back in the 'Dark Ages' of the 70's, I studied the guitar without gaining any meaningful proficiency. However, the 'masters' were apparent: Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Steve Howe, and, yes, Jimmy Page. We all know a fuller list must include Les Paul, George Harrison, Larry Carlton, Elliot Randall, Steve Hackett, and, you know, Trevor Rabin is no 'slouch' . . . . To this fuller list, one must add John Petrucci. 2/3's of the way through 'Fall Into the Light,' Petrucci delivers an ethereal and lyrical passage that is sublime. Speed alone does not equal quality, but Petrucci's prowess includes speed that is appropriately called for or perhaps, in the instance of the remaining third of 'Fall Into the Light, not.

Beginning with John Petrucci, John Myung, Mike Portnoy, Kevin Moore, Derek Sherinian, later, Jordan Rudess and Mike Mangini , the members of Dream Theatre have carried on the instrumental virtuosity that dates back to King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Of course, in actuality, the representative progressive rock players are the inheritors of a much larger tradition: classical, jazz, choral / sacred, and global. Since Images and Words (practically the beginning), Kevin James La Brie has been the voice of the band. To ask Dream Theatre not to display their prowess is disingenuous.

Some have commented about Petrucci's membership in the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever the denominational allegiance, the view is global. Through Petrucci's lyrics, the band displays the particular respect for angels as demonstrated in Islam: 'On the Backs of Angels,'' Outcry,' and 'Untethered Angel.' Knowing human history, Petrucci's question in 'Pale Blue Dot,' 'Who's out there to save us from ourselves' is apt. Whatever one's world view, it is impossible to ignore humanity's ostensible predilection towards the 'darker angels of our nature' rather than 'our better angels' as President Lincoln mentioned in his first inaugural address.

And, with Myung and Petrucci's 'S2N,' we have a contemporary version of William Wordsworth's, 'The World is Too Much with Us.' Our supposed age of information is often a labyrinth devoid of any real meaning. Could all those eyes transfixed by smart phones simply be our age's version of 'navel-gazing?' Those individuals responsible for the paintings in the Caves of Altamira and Lascaux in our deep, European pre-history possessed the same Imagination we possess. Fortunately for their descendants, they did not 'navel-gaze.'

Perhaps, combined with Dream Theatre's customary instrumental prowess, Distance Over Time takes us on a cosmological, anthropological set of reflections on human potential and human limitation that often leaves us 'At Wit's End.' In listening to 'Pale Blue Dot,' I have to think of one of the 13 films I mentioned earlier from Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove: or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb. Let's hope that the reflection of a mushroom cloud does not become the final image any of us sees on the screens of our smart phones.

Let's hope that the title of Michael Shaara's prodigious work of historical fiction concerning the Battle of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels, doesn't encapsulate what our descendants attribute to us.

Report this review (#2242367)
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars For long-time Dream Theater fans, the 2010's have been a frustrating decade. In the years following the departure of legendary drummer and founding member Mike Portnoy, the band released several albums to, shall we say, "mixed" reactions by fans and critics alike. While the albums 'A Dramatic Turn of Events' and 'Dream Theater' arguably had their moments of brilliance, 2016's two-hour rock opera 'The Astonishing' was a hard swallow, even for the most dedicated of fans. With this year's 'Distance Over Time,' the band seems to finally feel comfortable again in their own skin. The riffs are some of the band's heaviest in over a decade. The choruses are colorful and harmonically interesting. Gone are the long robotically constructed prog epics. Tight and balanced songs have taken their place.
Report this review (#2248649)
Posted Thursday, September 5, 2019 | Review Permalink
JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A solid, though unspectacular, album. Possibly the best they've made in 16 years.

If this seems like an odd, or snarky, headline it's a reflection of DT's output for the past decade and a half. Dream Theater has been putting out inconsistent or mediocre albums since Train of Thought. They seem to have put this maddening trend to bed at least for this album. "Distance Over Time" is a fairly consistent album, and one that is largely solid to good. There is no track that really stands out or hits me with a "wow" but none are real clunkers either. Unlike some other albums that fit this mold (Systematic Chaos, ADTOE) that come off as uninspired or trying too hard, Distance Over Time does not. I suppose I wouldn't say this album feels inspired, it really doesn't, but the band certainly seems to have dropped their purposefully over the top mentality. Shorter songs, (not one over 10 minutes and 6 of the 9 clocking in at under 7 minutes!) less technical wankery, shorter solos, it could be called "Dream Theater abridged"

Some may lament this. Those very things are what make Dream Theater, often prog itself, and I am 100% A OK with all of it. Give me 10+ minute epics with all the showing off, every instrument getting a solo, and complex songcraft you can! That said, in the case of DT, (a talented band that I feel has been wheel spinning for a long time and suffered from "cant get out of their own way" even earlier on) I think this is a welcomed change.

It's undeniably Dream Theater. It's got absolutely everything you would expect, nothing is skipped. Unfortunately this includes passages of simple chords, with airy uplifting keys and soaring vocals that LaBrie struggles to nail... you know the song(s) that are contractually obligated to be on every DT album, (or that's what I wish was true, as it's frustrating they are unable/unwilling to break free). As for LaBrie there's nothing to say about his voice that hasn't been beaten to death, all I will say is I dislike them especially on this album. I find them particularly bad, shame because I found them quite fine on "Dream Theater" so not quite sure if some different recording/editing technique was done differently this time. That said there are of course some nasty riffs, solos, epic passages and progressions, and the best drumming I have yet heard from Mike Mangini. Since his entrance to this band his talent was clear but it never really stood out or impressed me in any real way. Seemed a good but generic drummer. This is not the case here, Mangini's drumming is quite human, passionate, and well...lively. The best output he's had yet with this band.

I won't go into song particulars except that it ends on a high note. "Pale Blue Dot" is the best song on the album by far. Though a close second is the bonus track "Viper King". I get why this is not on the official album, it's a far cry from a normal DT song: a 4 minute Deep Purple/Van Halen laden romp about the Dodge Viper. It's awesome. It's the most energetic, fun and human song on the album, and frankly more than most DT songs. Even LaBrie sounds really good! Sorry DT loyalists/"prog or it's not even music" believers. I would LOVE for the band to do a whole album in the vein of Viper King.

THREE AND A HALF STARS

Report this review (#2284893)
Posted Sunday, December 1, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars An amazing return to form from Legendary Prog Metal band Dream Theater.

I think I've been following Dream Theater for 17+ Years now. I know every single song by them, and each of them have grown enough for me to like them all (maybe except for some in The Astonishing). And I can safely say two things:

Number One: This is their best album with Mangini

Number Two: This is the most confident they've sound since Octavarium.

I'm gonna do a review track by track now.

1. Untethered Angel (8/10): Although I really can't say this is in my favorites, I definitely think this is an amazing opener. It sets up a very strong start for the album, and the song is, in itself, strong in many aspects such as vocals, instrumentation and good song structure that flows very well.

2. Paralyzed (7/10): The accesible, pop-ish track that you find in every single Dream Theater album. Didn't like it at first, but it has grown in me and it has a wonderful chorus and guitar solo. Probably the second worst from the album, but still pretty good.

3. Fall Into The Light (9/10): Bringing the big guns! One of my favorites, and a top ~20 track by them. Very dynamic, entertaining, beautiful and balanced. It features amazing drum work from Mangini and Petrucci's guitar solo in this track is very heart-warming. The best single.

4. Barstool Warrior (10/10): Ok this track is wonderful. Beautiful is the best way to describe it, as it features wonderful melodies and a cute message behind it. Amazing drum work (once again), great piano work from Jordan around the middle of the song, where the song shifts into a more redemption-ish feel. Very dynamic as well!

5. Room 137 (6/10): Probably the worst track from the album, but it's still enjoyable. One notable fact about it is that it's the first Dream Theater song with lyrics by Mangini. Main riff sounds a lot like the one in "The Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson.

6. S2N (8/10): Stands for Signal To Noise. No idea what that means though! The track features prominent bass from Myung, as well as a very fast paced feel. The song features Owen Wilson saying "wow!" for no reason at all. Finally the song ends with a "repeated riff & keyboard solo" type of structure that can be found in The Dark Eternal Night as well. Good song.

7. At Wit's End (9/10): Longest track from the album, clocking at ~9:30 minutes (Although I personally think it's an 8-Minute track since its end is some sort of "Secret Track"). Just like the rest of the album: Dynamic, Heavy, Soulful and Beautiful. It's meant to be the epic from the album, so expect cheesy lyrics near the end of the song. The song fades out with yet another great solo from Petrucci.

8. Out Of Reach (8/10): The ballad-type song of the album. However this one has an interesting structure: Despite being just four minutes long, the entire song is a build up for the climax near minute 3:00. This is my biggest problem with this album: It ends way too quickly! If the song ended around 5~6 minutes I think it would be one of their best ballads. Still a great break from all the heavy tracks experienced before, nonetheless.

9. Pale Blue Dot (11/10): Godly. Maybe I like this song as much as I do because of its eerie feel... aaaand because I absolutely love to hear Dream Theater members wank with their instruments. The most complex track of the album (mostly because of its instrumental section), Pale Blue Dot is a track that definitely uses its eight minutes of run-time well (unlike At Wit's End, which kinda dragged on for a bit too much). Love this track a lot, and I would dare to say it's their best song with Mangini (yep, even better than Breaking All Illusions and Illumination Theory!).

10. Viper King (8/10): Since this is a bonus track, you're not meant to listen it when doing full listens. It has a Van Halen type of groove, and it's very fun to listen to. Fun chorus. Fun keyboard solo. Fun guitar solo. And all this shows that they really were having a lot of fun recording this album.

I can safely say it's their best with Mangini, and definitely in the better half of their discography. I hope they keep sounding this confident in future releases.

4.5 stars, rounded to 5.

Report this review (#2491554)
Posted Friday, January 8, 2021 | Review Permalink

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