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THE ASTONISHING

Dream Theater

Progressive Metal


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Dream Theater The Astonishing album cover
3.46 | 566 ratings | 40 reviews | 31% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential


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Studio Album, released in 2016

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 - ACT I (79:49)
1. Descent Of The Nomacs (1:11)
2. Dystopian Overture (4:51)
3. The Gift Of Music (4:00)
4. The Answer (1:53)
5. A Better Life (4:39)
6. Lord Nafaryus (3:28)
7. A Savior In The Square (4:14)
8. When Your Time Has Come (4:19)
9. Act Of Faythe (5:01)
10. Three Days (3:44)
11. The Hovering Sojourn (0:28)
12. Brother, Can You Hear Me? (5:11)
13. A Life Left Behind (5:49)
14. Ravenskill (6:01)
15. Chosen (4:32)
16. A Tempting Offer (4:20)
17. Digital Discord (0:48)
18. The X Aspect (4:13)
19. A New Beginning (7:41)
20. The Road To Revolution (3:35)

CD 2 - ACT II (50:34)
21. 2285 Entr'acte (2:20)
22. Moment Of Betrayal (6:12)
23. Heaven's Cove (4:20)
24. Begin Again (3:54)
25. The Path That Divides (5:10)
26. Machine Chatter (1:03)
27. The Walking Shadow (2:58)
28. My Last Farewell (3:44)
29. Losing Faythe (4:13)
30. Whispers On The Wind (1:37)
31. Hymn Of A Thousand Voices (3:39)
32. Our New World (4:25)
33. Power Down (1:25)
34. Astonishing (5:51)

Total time 130:23

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- James LaBrie / lead vocals
- John Petrucci / guitars, story & concept, producer
- Jordan Rudess / keyboards, creative director
- John Myung / bass
- Michael Mangini / drums, percussion

With:
- Eric Rigler / bagpipes (18)
- City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
- David Campbell / choral & orchestral arrangements
- Richard Chycki / spoken voice of Nafaryus, mixing & recording

Releases information

Artwork: Jiema

4xLP Roadrunner Records ‎- RR7493-1 (2016, Europe)

2xCD Roadrunner Records ‎- 1686-174932 (2016, US)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Roadrunner Records 2016
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$9.57 (used)
The Astonishing by Dream Theater (2016-08-03)The Astonishing by Dream Theater (2016-08-03)
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Warner Japan
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DREAM THEATER The Astonishing ratings distribution


3.46
(566 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(31%)
31%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(22%)
22%
Good, but non-essential (22%)
22%
Collectors/fans only (12%)
12%
Poor. Only for completionists (14%)
14%

DREAM THEATER The Astonishing reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I never imagined it would come to this, but I finally had to start justifying my liking Dream Theater.

No, not to others. I think no one should ever feel the need to justify musical tastes to other people, whether one likes Bach or Coltrane, or Justin Bieber or Nickelback. There is no such a thing as "guilty pleasures" (a case could be made against reggaeton, but anyway...)

The problem is, I have finally felt the need to justify my liking Dream Theater to myself. As I was listening to "The Astonishing", I had to constantly ask myself if this was the same rock band I used to regard as my absolute favorite (they probably still are), the one I have seen the most times live, the one I used to carry around mentioning it to everyone, as a banner representing a large part of my musical taste.

But as the question surfaced, I kept reminding myself that, yes, this is the same band that gave me "Images and Words", "Awake", "Scenes from a Memory", and many other great albums that made them dear to me. So, what happened?

To be fair, I have to disclose that my musical tastes as of late have shifted, in one way, back to the beginning, back to the music I enjoyed the most as a child and a young adolescent (classical music), but they have also moved to the raw and the dark, as the styles of rock I currently listen to the most are the most extreme forms of metal (black and death). While this development has not only musical but also emotional reasons behind it, the fact is, even as this has occurred, when I put "Pull me Under" or "Metropolis" in a CD player, when I press play in "Scarred" or "Home" in my phone, I still feel exactly the same sensation of awe at the great rock music these guys were capable of making. They were capable of playing rings around other bands, but they were also able to create great songs.

And that is what has disappeared from "The Astonishing", the song. The song has been the great victim in this difficult-to-understand exercise in ostentation that Dream Theater has recorded and just released to the market. There are NO SONGS. There's almost not one single track that one could take and could stand on its own and be enjoyed on its own. It's no wonder they chose "The Gift of Music" as their first "single" (so to speak), as it's the closest the album ever gets to a memorable 5 minutes (another strong candidate would be the Scenes-from-a-Memory-sound-alike "Moment of Betrayal"), even if the taste of Rush-iness is impossible to ignore.

Don't get me wrong, this release has tons of great moments, but please take that term in its most literal way: extracts, sections, bits that sound brilliant, that show 5 guys who can play whatever they want in any way they want, and who could still make decent songs...if they wanted to. But they never allow these moments to persist, to create a memory in the listener's mind, for they will immediately obliterate any hope of permanence by switching gears and going to either the most outrageous display of instrumentalist pyrotechnics they can put out, or the most incongruous slow-piano-led section that, while nice-sounding, makes absolutely no structural sense if the purpose of it all was to create a long, extended concept piece.

I always imagined that, at their current age, the guys in Dream Theater would be releasing something simpler, more song-oriented. They have already proven they can play really well. I would've imagined "Falling into Infinity 2" as their midlife album. But I was wrong by a mile. These 5 have regressed back into their 20's, trying to convince everybody that there is absolutely nothing they can't play, no solo that is beyond them, no idea that can't be stopped in its tracks and completely put aside in favor of another one in a blink of an eye. In a word: they are still showing off.

Rock music is simple by nature. What these same guys and others in the past (and current) waves of prog (and other rock styles) have managed to do is to make the genre go beyond its traditional boundaries, instrumentally, structurally, harmonically, or in other ways. But in the end, it still needs to have a simple core, a center that can hold an edifice that, by itself, doesn't lend itself too well to 2-hour exercises in non-stop music. Dream Theater in "The Astonishing" have decided that no center is necessary: section after section after section can come and go without any consequence (that's what they seem to think), and this album thus becomes basically a series of snippets of great musicianship buried under a big pile of egomania. To elaborate on the common expression, in "The Astonishing", one can't see the forest for the trees, and on top of that, each tree individually belongs to a different family and therefore should go in a different forest.

I'm sure one can still be impressed by the talent these 5 guys have in their fingers. They can still play scales and fills faster and more smoothly than nobody else in the rock world....

... What they have forgotten is how to write a damn song.

Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Avant, Crossover & Neo Teams
4 stars Can this album get to be "A New Beginning" in the Progressive Metal scene?

This "The Astonishing" has been released in January 2016 as the 13th one of DREAM THEATER. Sorry I've listened to this stuff without any knowledge of the background but it's no good to have only half a pure impression for this album ... it's not amazing, not astonishing.. Through the whole album, a definite homage to some Symphonic Progressive Rock combos can be heard ... I know enough that a massive expectation when the newest album of theirs is released always calls various opinions, namely pros and cons, and my humble opinion for this album is "they play lots of melodious appearances fully with metallic essence, and launch some slush- core moments or acoustic passions here and there as well ... exactly precariously mysterious weirdness is weaved into musical / atmospheric stability.

Regardless to mention how splendid their play technique is, extreme dangerous movement filled with digital, inorganic sound elements just from the beginning arouses our appetite aka curiosity. Guess it might be DT's speciality and one of their newer phases to blend tight, hard-edged metallic vibrations with melodious heartwarming phrases, where symphonic texture can be apparently heard, with magnificent synthesizer play or female harmonies sometimes merged in the sound basis effectively. James' voices, which never get blurred as usual, are so smooth and relaxed for us enough to enjoy safe and sound in a sense. More dramatic and theatrical development seasoned with their soundtrack-ish interpretation upon this whole album is squeezed into our ears.

Orchestration featuring violins or other strings should be effective indeed, but it's not their potential for Symphonic Progressive Rock but one of their original strategies already furnished. Always appreciated to find their courage that they have featured unpredictable instruments (especially in Progressive Metal scene) e.g. bagpipes or trumpets. Very impressive and amazing for me is "Three Days", featuring violently depressive view in the main stream and swing-jazzy, lazy points in the flank ... each of them scatters or pops out of a jewel box and suddenly settle down with others into the box. This phenomenon can be felt they have done all they wanted to do. And another pleasure is "A Life Left Behind", an excessively superb catchy pop song (a sudden alteration be heard at the last stage though).

If I'm permitted, please let me say boldly this first material reminds me of such a rock opera giant "Bohemian Rhapsody" by QUEEN.

Anyway, the second one can be thought as a stuff for the outfit to press or urge progressive pop freaks to accept. Metallic colour, namely the core, has got so attenuated and exactly fantastic "easy-to-listen" music pole has been built so rigidly. Indeed each of the tracks sounds not bad, but at least for me, it might not so easy to understand their obvious strategy or music method, to appeal what they want to shoot in this album. Yes, eventually cannot clarify their foci to their important fans. We should appreciate they have constructed another "road to revolution" against Progressive Rock World, that's true. However, I cannot help feeling they have over- participated such a popularity or commercialism for infiltrating their creation through much more music intellectual strata, sad to say.

By the way, finally let me say as follows; if somebody asks me whether it be good or not to purchase this album, I'll say YES, of course. ;)

Review by rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars It took me a while to get into this long concept album about the possible future of the human race in this technology era where the most tragic consequence, would be that the music could be done by machines! At first, i had trouble to feel the flow of the songs with many moods ant rhythm changes from one song to the other. This is a opera rock of another kind of what the band has done recently. The addition of the orchestra, a choir, classical arrangements, with violin and a lot of piano from Jordan make this album less heavy but that doesn't mean that we don't have any heavy parts in this 2 hours music. We can hear some influences from SODTI and SFAM in various passages and of the band Circle of Illusion that made a opera kind of album of that nature few years ago. I really enjoy to hear the band switching in a different territory for a brief moment touching folk, exotic and circus music. The short interludes with special sound effects of robotic machines, military march etc, bring a soundtrack dimension to this music. There is still the big sound of John in the lead guitar, the more direct rock approach and those melancholic parts with Jordan playing the piano or James singing a power ballad. It seems clear that the contribution of Jordan and John have been very important here to create this ambitious album. Mike Mangini's drums don't have enough punch to fit in this rather well produced music. There is no long epic song here, unless you see the whole album as a big piece. In conclusion, this could be the Tales From Topographic Oceans album of Dream Theater, a work that reveals itself after a certain amount of listening.
Review by Tony R
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
1 stars Descent Of The Nomarks

I need to put my cards on the table and that is that I am not really a Dream Theater fan. I am familiar with all their albums though and they have all the ingredients that would, should, ought to make them one of my favourite bands. However I've always felt that the virtuosity displayed by the band seems to come at a price and that price is taste. They do not engage me emotionally at all most of the time. That and the immature, tasteless and frenetic fretwork of Mr Petrucci.

So, a double album, a concept album no less. Imagine Paradise Theater-era Styx teaming up with Rush and Pink Floyd to create 2112 part II and you have it right there. Now imagine Dream Theater performing this beast with their immense propensity for grand Guignol and you have the astonishingly over-ambitious mess that is The Astonishing. I went watching Cats The Musical in Manchester last week and half expected Dream Theater to walk on stage.

So, there's snatches of good stuff here and there and it is instantly recognisable as a Dream Theater album but I couldn't put my finger on one track from this over-theatrical monstrosity that I liked. If enough media outlets were to play this album to the general public I am reasonably certain that a second wave of Punk Rock would emerge to sweep it all away. This album is surely the longest suicide note in musical history.

Dreadful, dreadful stuff.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars (Warning: this review contains a synopsis of the plot of this album, gleaned only through repeated attempts at trying to pay attention for over 2 hours at a time to sometimes garbled, and more often painfully cheesy lyrics, sung too often over unmemorable music. It is this authors attempt to piece what can be discerned from this album solely from what can be heard, and assemble them into a cohesive, if not humorously entertaining plot. If you dare to read the actual meaning intended by the composers, their version is located at the band's web site. YMMV. Lord Nefaryous indeed.)

When Dream Theater, who's musicianship and technical abilities have always been first rate, create a rock opera that spans 2 full CDs, over 2 hours of music, and call the set "The Astonishing", the results should be, most certainly... well... astonishing.

Whiskey! Tango! Foxtrot!

It's difficult to put into words just how many things are wrong with this album.

Let's start with the story. "Far in the future", a world exists without music. An original concept, huh? Let's ignore the fact that this concept has been done before, most notably by a certain Canadian trio, that Dream Theater must have been familiar with, as they have covered some of their songs in concerts. So, in the synopsis that's given to us very early in the lyrics, we are told why there is no music. Is it some sort of "Footloose"-like society that has banned music? Did something occur to somehow obliterate music from the world? No! Apparently people in this enlightened land "have no time for music". I guess all of the iPods and such were obliterated by a electro-magnetic pulse, or a bad firmware update or something.

We then meet our hero, Gabriel, who recently lost his wife, Evangeline, to some sort of illness. It seems that this event has driven Gabriel over the edge into madness (or perhaps the cause was Gabriel realizing just what Collins, Banks and Rutherford did to his once majestic band --- but I digress), so he decides, justifying his actions as being for the sake of his son, that he would take matters into his own hands and incite the people away from their productive lives and into a revolution so they can listen to Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and of course, the Bieber. These people must deserve what they get, because by the end of the track, they are calling Gabriel "The Chosen One".

It's at this point in the album that I get so fed up with the story, and the embarrassingly ham-handed lyrics, that I turn to the music instead of the words. So let's get into that.

The album opens well. The overture is what I had hoped for in this album. It's an overblown symphonic rock blast, with Petrucci and Rudess riffing over strong orchestration. The next track, with the story I outlined above is not bad musically either. But then, the musical continuity goes out the window.

For most of the rest of the album (2 hours, remember?) it appears that words were given to James La Brie, and he would make up a melody for them, and Petrucci and Rudess would get the band to fill in behind him. There is no musical continuity bringing the individual tracks together. Think about the great rock operas out there. All of them have memorable themes that wind through many different disparate songs. But here, all we get are unmemorable little ditties, some with decent prog metal breaks (but mostly not). A woman listening with me at one point said it sounded like bad Journey songs (I couldn't disagree).

There are a few good songs scattered about the album, but not enough to keep the entire work from being tedious.

And the "uplifting" finale? "Astonishing" it's not.

Review by Angelo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Do you know that feeling of magic, that you felt when you first looked into the eyes of the love of your life? The sparkle you saw there and felt in your heart? That's what I felt when I heard Dream Theater's When Dream and Day Unite, way back in 1989. TheAstonishing

That feeling started disappearing after Falling into Infinity, with Metropolis Pt.2. After that, their albums started feeling like showing off (certainly on Petrucci's end) instead of making music for the fans. With Octavarium, I thought they were on the way back, but they lost me again after that.

Now, with all the fuzz around The Astonishing, I was hoping the fire had once again rekindled. Listening to the album this week, having ordered it last week only after weeks of doubt, I am once again disappointed. The album is too much, too long, and too uninventive to win me back. I listened, and only found things that have been done before, and probably better, by the likes of e.g. Ayreon. The music may not be bad, but it's not worthy of the Dream Theater I once knew. First it was the shredding that turned me off, now they're trying to create a musical and failing.... A pity really. The genuine energy and enthousiasm of the first four albums are what made Dream Theater for me, and it's all gone.

Try before you buy, at best.

Also published on my blog www.angelosrockorphanage.com

Review by jampa17
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Amazing if you are a fan, average if you are a hater

Well, is either way with Dream Theater, to love them or hate them. Even for older fans who now they claim "they are not fun anymore". Well, I have to tell you, after the somewhat disapoiting Self titled album, this one is particularly interesting, fresh and strong for DT standards.

I mean, the story is good, is solid and the dialogs are quite cool. James Labrie did a strong effort to bring character to each of the parts and rolls and the musicianship is as always, overwhelming and powerful. This is Petrucci's baby all along, he wrote all the lyrics and he shared credits of the music only with Jordan Rudess, who is usually the perfect assistant to what is up in the mind of the guitar player. And still, even without the creative input from James and John Myung, the album ended up well rounded and cool.

The first disc is more powerful, setting the tone, with a lot of music going on, short songs and making it quite interesting in some parts. If you are already a fan, you will be in safe and already known waters. Some tricks here and there that will catch your attention, but is the same strong DT that we love. It's simple.

The second disc is a lot more slow and mellow, just like the second disc of SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE. Of course, you will need a lot of time to appreciate it as a whole since it lasts more than two hours. But, I think it's great to have bands that demand more from the audience, they don't care about the digital tendencies from nowadays of hearing singles and ignoring the complete disc. In this case, you need to go on and listen an pay attention to the story, to the plot and of course, the music.

It's a strong 4 stars album. It has everything DT is known for: great and interesting riffs and instrumental parts, great vocal performances, a strong plot and a fresh sound. If you are a hater (of course here are many), this is not your album. I love how DT doesn't care anymore about convince people about anything. They just do what they like, and for the time being, they remain as the most influential prog metal band of the Century. 4/5.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars New Dream Theater releases always elicit two very conflicting reactions amongst the wide range of prog-rock and heavy metal listeners. To the long-time loyal worshipping faithful, Dream Theater are the most technically skilled, flawless and thrilling leaders of the prog-metal genre that exist beyond criticism, and to the unconverted many they're the most grandiose, cheesy and embarrassing example of progressive musical masturbation imaginable - there's very little medium ground! Well, it's very likely that both the uninterested and proper DT fans had no idea what was in store from the heavy prog group this time around, and modern progressive releases don't come any more lavish, stylish, self-indulgent and excessive than this!

Delivering what is easily the most ambitious studio work of their 31 year, 13 studio album career to date, `The Astonishing' is no less than a full-blown grandiose heavy rock opera, the likes of which Dream Theater or endless lesser progressive rock bands have never even come close to attempting before. A two and a half hour extravaganza based around a futuristic concept about the future of music (although there's much more to it than that), guitarist John Petrucci drew inspiration from his obsession with `Game of Thrones' and similar epic sagas, and sure enough the album is made up of a wordy, complex narrative detailing a rich variety of characters, all given voice by lead vocalist Jamie Labrie (no slumming it with multiple guest vocalists like those Ayreon discs, thank you very much!), which is initially intimidating and confusing, so keep the CD booklet handy!

The continuous suites of music that feature on the double CD set are generously swamped in pompous orchestra and choir, with soaring over-the-top symphonic themes, plentiful regal fanfares, drippy ballads and break-neck heavy metal instrumental runs woven in and around them. Although the combination doesn't always deliver the goods, the undeniable ambition, confidence and sheer ego on display is hugely impressive, and there's not many bands that would have the pull and status in the progressive rock community to be allowed such a challenging undertaking. Much of the credit here must go the keyboard talents of Jordan Ruddess who frequently dominates the direction of the music, essentially (for better or worse) going `Full Wakeman' (and you should NEVER go `Full Wakeman'!) and delivering lavish endless spiralling piano runs and dazzling keyboard workouts full of symphonic flair. This means it's definitely Dream Theater's least obviously metal work (something some die-hard metalheads will likely find impossible to get past), but perseverance is the key, and the harder heavy moments show up with more frequency on the second disc.

Early observations that the album is almost completely devoid of proper songs proves to often be inaccurate, as repeated listens (and that is an absolute must that simply has to be committed to if you ever hope to begin to appreciate the effort on display here) reveals plenty of self-contained grand themes with sweeping harmonies and clever reprises of earlier moments. Instead of bombarding the listener with endless lengthy instrumental runs, they're instead skilfully implemented in constant short bursts around the vocal passages. As the album can prove to be somewhat overwhelming, it might be best for listeners to divide the two discs into chunks of several tracks in a row and stick to playing them over and over, then moving on to another few, as it may be the only way to get your head around the bulk of the album.

Despite that assumption that a two-plus hour Dream Theater album would likely be jammed full of endless lengthy instrumental runs, it's actually vocalist James Labrie that drives the majority of the discs. He remains as ever a hugely divisive singer, but to his credit he has never attempted such a challenging range of styles as he does here. On `The Astonishing' he certainly sounds stronger, more varied and much more convincing than, for instance, the desperate `Dark Master' embarrassments of the earlier `Systematic Chaos' album that attempted a similar `fantasy-lyric' style. Unfortunately the dreaded `breathy oh-so-emotional' drippy ballad moments that Labrie often attempts are out in full-force throughout this set (some have labelled the album `Disney Theater' in a very snarky way!), and there's a definite overreliance on chest-beating call-to-arms moments (although they probably make more sense in the context of the story), but thankfully the melodies are strong that they often lift even the sappiest moments. Labrie comes across as very determined to impress here, and whether you really love his approach or not, it really is a showcase for the singer and he deserves a lot of praise.

There's several highlights scattered throughout the entire collection. Where it was once a throwaway `single' on its first release, `The Gift of Music' is perfectly placed right after an instrumental teasing overture of themes to come that opens the first disc, delivering as a punchy and catchy melodic rocker to get the blood flowing right from her start. `A Better Life' delivers a winning chorus that soars on repeated plays and a tightly executed guitar solo, `Lord Nafaryus' is almost Queen-like, `A Saviour in the Square' is heavy E.L.P blustery fanfare and `When Your Time Has Come' has a romantic reassuring lyric for it's warm chorus. `Three Days' has moments of cartoonish theatrical pantomime pomp, the opening of `A Life Left Behind' shamelessly and affectionately apes Yes' `Tempus Fugit' off their `Drama' album, `Chosen' is an epic power ballad, and the intricate `A New Beginning' holds the longest instrumental stretches of the first disc where all the players are given lengthy soloing moments to shine, with drummer Mike Mangini especially powering up a storm.

The second disc opens with another overture `2285 Entr'Acte' that hints of the better fusion of heavy metal with orchestra, choir and intricate instrumental elements to come. `Moment of Betrayal' delivers heavy riffing and a terrific chorus lifted by effective group harmonies, plus the instrumental soloing spot in the middle brings to mind traces of Dream Theater's earlier epic `Scenes from a Memory'. Delicate piano, Opeth-like acoustic guitar and a gothic eeriness permeates between heavier bursts in `Heaven's Cove', and in a few moments `Begin Again' swoons with Focus-like flair behind a triumphant symphonic choir and orchestral chorus (but man, the `Frozen/Tangled' Disney qualities really fly on this one!). There's a creeping dramatic tension to `The Path that Divides' with galloping riffing, the heavy riffs take on a battering quality behind loopy synth runs on `The Walking Shadow' (with a touch of King Crimson metallic edge), and `Hymn of a Thousand Voices' is a warm Yes-like ballad with strong vocal harmonies and lovely violin before becoming consumed my pompous choir. `Our New World' is a confident and effortlessly melodic AOR rocker, and `Astonishing' sweeps with orchestral reprises of previous themes and a final run of absurd blustery fanfares to make for a fittingly big finale.

Whether you like it or not, Dream Theater have delivered a big progressive work that may prove, in its own way, to be one of those genre-changing double works such as `Tales from Topographic Oceans', `The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' and `The Wall' (and to a lesser extent `Subterranea' and `Snow' by I.Q and Spock's Beard), forever to be argued about, discussed, misunderstood, equally praised and derided, declared a self-indulgent incoherent mess by some, the crowning achievement of their discography by others. `The Astonishing' literally harkens back to a time when the greatest crime of bands like Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd delivering these hugely challenging double length works was simply being endlessly ambitious, experimental and inventive, full of creativity and inspiration at just the right time, determined to test both their listeners and themselves. The fact that the band are really pushing the whole album format as a proper artistic musical statement that demands to be played over and over here in an era of nonsense pick-and- mix single downloads is also hugely admirable. Love Dream Theater or hate them, this is everything progressive rock should and can be, and as such, whether loathed or worshipped, it deserves immense respect and recognition. Big moments in progressive rock don't happen too often anymore, and fans of the style should be thankful events like this can still happen in the genre.

Five stars.

PS ' Sorry for `The Astonishing'-length review!

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "The Astonishing" is the 13th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Dream Theater. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in January 2016. Itīs the successor to the self-titled album from 2013. "The Astonishing" is a double album release, featuring no less than 34 tracks and a full playing time of 2 hours and 20 minutes of music. Itīs a concept album telling a dystopian sci-fi tale. Bearing that information in mind, "The Astonishing" is arguably Dream Theaterīs most ambitious release up until now, and we are dealing with an artist who has already released the 57:33 minutes long EP "A Change of Seasons (1995)" (featuring the 23:09 minutes long title track), and of course the double album release "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2002)" (featuring the 42:02 minutes long title track) among other ambitious projects. In that respect Dream Theater is today what an artist like Yes was in the 70s. Always pushing progressive rock/metal forward. There is a risk that in doing so you sometimes slip and fall or maybe become a bit overblown (which is what many fans and critics felt when Yes released "Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973)", without further comparisons to this project), and Iīm afraid thatīs the trap Dream Theater step into on "The Astonishing".

Stylistically the music on "The Astonishing" is unmistakably the sound of Dream Theater. Itīs progressive rock/metal with challenging rhythmic playing, adventurous keyboards, virtuoso guitar playing, and James LaBrieīs distinct sounding voice in front. The album is generally a bit more song oriented and not quite as technical as weīre used to from the band, although there are still some very complex sections to be found on the album. The overall feeling after listening to the album is that of a musical or a rock opera though, which is something new in their discography. "Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999)" was a concept album too, but it never felt like a rock opera/musical style album. Any minute while listening to "The Astonishing" Iīm expecting other singers to join in and play/sing the supporting roles of the concept, but itīs only LaBrie singing, which is a bit of a shame when they opted to go down the rock opera/musical road, but LaBrie of course still does a great and professional job.

As far as concepts go, the story is overall rather predictable and the lyric lines are often cliché filled and quite frankly not very sophisticated or intriguing. The music is relatively dynamic with both heavy parts, epic parts, and more ballad type mellow parts. The more mellow part of the bandīs sound is more prevailent here than ever before, and it becomes a bit tiresome after a while, because most of the more mellow tracks are very simple and not that memorable. In fact that īs an issue throughout the album. The melodies either sound like a rehash of ideas from previous releases or they are forgettable and with such a long release the least you could ask is catchy melodies. You donīt really get that here.

Itīs not all bad of course, and weīre as usual exposed to brilliant musicianship (as usual though itīs almost impossible to hear John Myungīs bass in the mix), a professional sound production, and professional songwriting too (although itīs not that interesting, itīs still obviously written by professionals). Thatīs why I donīt label "The Astonishing" a complete disaster, because obviously itīs a very bold attempt at doing something different, and I greatly respect that. Iīm just pretty sure that if they had collected all the good ideas featured on the album and made a 45 minutes long album out of those ideas, instead of diluting them with filler material to push the playing time a good way past the 2 hour mark, this could have been a better quality release. I wonīt rule out the possibility that others could enjoy this far more than I do, but to my ears itīs their least interesting release to date. Still, because of the professionalism on display, I think a 3 star (60%) rating isnīt all wrong. Thatīs as objective a rating as youīll get.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
3 stars Dream Theater breaks their two year per album cycle to deliver us some high concept art. Too bad it's not nearly as good as the band seems to think that it is...

After the breakup with Mike Portnoy the band have so far released one great album with A Dramatic Turn Of Events, one bad album with their 2013 self-titled release and one average album - The Astonishing. I do respect Dream Theater for going all in with their their concept and thus giving their fans more than just another DT-release, but The Astonishing exposes one of the band's biggest weaknesses; they simply can't write lyrical content. This becomes even more obvious when they have to write a concept album and the story makes more damage to the album than good.

Before going it to the lyrical content, let me be clear that I do enjoy this album's music. The album would probably be a great single disc release if the band removed some of the unnecessary narrative moments, backed up only by a piano, and made more of the tracks instrumental. But since this album is meant to be experienced as a concept album with an accompanying story that the listener can indulge in, there's just no way for me to overlook the lyrics.

I would summarize my biggest problem with the lyrics by simple stating that they leave little for the imagination. Everything is watered down and extremely simplified thus leaving me with a feeling of dissatisfaction as if the band could have done so much more with the concept and the characters. Here are some of my spontaneous suggestions for improving the storyline (possible spoilers ahead):

1. Skip the cliché character descriptions and their motivations - You're not making yourself any favors by creating one dimensional characters that are only there to move the plot. Either skip the whole description of the characters and make the listener create their own background stories for them or go all in and indulge into the characters.

2. More focus on the Nomacs storyline - Human characters are obviously in the center because the story is about their feelings and not about the cold machines. But why did the band put so much effort in creating the Nomacs and used them prolifically in the imagery when they have nothing to do with the actual story? If you want to go all in on the fantasy/sci-fi genre then why not create a story where the Nomacs where created by the humans but eventually overtook control of the human minds? Or how about a story where the Nomacs where actually built by an alien race in order to control the humans by removing the feelings (ie Nineteen Eighty-Four)?

3. Skip the whole Romeo & Juliet ending - it's an overused plot that creates tension and tragedy but feels cheap and uncreative.

4. Skip plot details that go nowhere - Usually when a new element is introduced to the story it is done in order to make them significant later on. The Astonishing throws us a bunch of small details that just lead nowhere and are abandoned as soon as they are mentioned.

5. Be more consequential with the magnitude of Gabriel's gift - We learn that Gabriel has the gift of healing but it only seems to work for plot convenience. At least write a line and mention why he manages to heal one character and not the other.

6. Create a closure for the X story arc - the character seems to be completely wasted with no real purpose to his existence in the story. At least write a passage or two about him at the end of the story in order to create some sort of closure.

I don't blame Dream Theater for trying but they should have someone on their camp who could have at least given them some constructive criticism on the written word. Why not try a collaboration with a published fantasy writer where the band collaborates on the lyrics with an outside party or write lyrics for an established fantasy story? The music on the album is pure Dream Theater so it's pretty decent but the lyrics are poor thus if you are able to overlook the latter The Astonishing is a good, but non-essential effort from the band.

***** star songs: Dystopian Overture (4:51) Act Of Faythe (5:01) Brother, Can You Hear Me? (5:11) The Road To Revolution (3:35)

**** star songs: The Answer (1:53) A Better Life (4:39) Lord Nafaryus (3:28) When Your Time Has Come (4:19) Ravenskill (6:01) A New Beginning (7:41) 2285 Entr'acte (2:20) Moment Of Betrayal (6:12) Begin Again (3:54) The Path That Divides (5:10) My Last Farewell (3:44) Losing Faythe (4:13) Whispers On The Wind (1:37) Hymn Of A Thousand Voices (3:39) Our New World (4:25) Astonishing (5:51)

*** star songs: The Gift Of Music (4:00) A Savior In The Square (4:14) Three Days (3:44) A Life Left Behind (5:49) Chosen (4:32) A Tempting Offer (4:20) The X Aspect (4:13) Heaven's Cove (4:20) The Walking Shadow (2:58)

** star songs: Descent Of The Nomacs (1:11) The Hovering Sojourn (0:28) Digital Discord (0:48) Machine Chatter (1:03) Power Down (1:25)

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 'The Astonishing' - Dream Theater (59/100)

My relationship with Dream Theater reminds me a lot of the saddest scenes from the Toy Story movies. I still remember the day, over half a lifetime ago (!!!) that my first copy of Scenes from a Memory came in the mail. The package hadn't come a moment too soon, arriving on the day of my elementary school's graduation ceremony, a triviality I happily skipped in order to free up precious hours I could spend with the album. Even as a child I quickly developed strong opinions towards each of Dream Theater's other albums as I heard them. Images & Words and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence stirred me almost as much as SFAM, while I was left hanging dry by Awake and Train of Thought. Even if I wasn't always sold all the time by Dream Theater, alongside Led Zeppelin and Yngwie Malmsteen they were arguably the biggest musical influences on me before turning 12.

Like Toy Story however, the enthusiasm wasn't permanent. It's never that I bought into the popular opinion that Dream Theater are "wankers", nor did the heavyhanded cheese wear on me. I wouldn't even say I necessarily grew out of them; rather, it was just a case of gradually opening myself to more extreme and fascinating sounds. Like childhood toys, they quietly faded into memory. However, even as bands like Opeth and later Deathspell Omega and Blut aus Nord expanded my vision of what progressive metal could be, I never lost a love for them. Whenever I heard of a new album coming out, I would light up with excitement. I would feel like a kid again. I defended Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds & Silver Linings from less enthusiastic fans, and shared the joy when they returned to roots on A Dramatic Turn of Events.

It wasn't until 2013 when my opinion finally took a sour turn. Their self-titled album was the first time I felt they had released a piece of dog[&*!#]. Even if a few songs on it shined, it was finally enough to convince me that Dream Theater was finished as a creative act. Slogs like "Illumination Theory" were enough to sap my anticipation for future records. That's a good part of the reason why I'm reviewing The Astonishing in early October, as opposed to January when it was released. Is it possible to feel reinvigorated and simultaneously let down by a band with a single album? In most cases I'd say the answer is no, but when a consummate "has been" band tries to pull out all the stops, supposedly creating the most ambitious work of their career, strange things are bound to happen.

On the one hand, I'm happy that Dream Theater have reclaimed some of their energy they most certainly lacked in 2013. Some of the best prog instrumentation they've put out in years is here. James LaBrie hasn't sounded this powerful as a vocalist arguably since Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Even its mere stance as a concept album implies they're trying to make another Scenes from a Memory. There's some of the liveliest music I've heard from Dream Theater in a long, long time. On the other hand, they've somehow managed to lop off the buzz with a mind-numbing amount of filler and the most clichéd, idiotic and self-absorbed concept I've ever seen set to music. I guess hearing quality Dream Theater material without having to wade in [&*!#] would have been too simple, and not "progressive" enough for them, right?

I know The Astonishing is hammy and self-involved from start to finish; I can't help but love certain things about it however. At its very best, it comes across as a spry continuation of the bright prog they revived on A Dramatic Turn of Events, blown up considerably with symphonic orchestration and sprawling structure. Ignore the lyrics to "The Gift of Music" and "A New Beginning" for a second, and focus on what they're doing with the music. The busy interplay and effortless finesse is nothing new for them, but it can certainly feel that way in light of their last album. A lot of Dream Theater's detractors brush them off on the charge of wankery, but that polished technicality is easily the most exciting thing about them here. I don't think it's ever been the amount of notes that Dream Theater plays that have set many listeners against them; it's the way they fall short when they opt for other approaches.

Lamentably, The Astonishing is pretty chock-full of these "other approaches". Even if it's easily the most bombastic album these guys have ever put out, it's also probably the softest album note-for-note. The technical prog-outs are as impressive as ever, but their ballads post-Kevin Moore have always been hit-or-miss. Many of the 34 tracks take the shape of piano interludes and lilting vocals. Don't you get it? Dream Theater aren't trying to be badass here, they're trying to make you feel your feelings! Not that I haven't been struck emotionally by DT in the past, but whenever they did so, it was an authentic by-product of the band capitalizing on their strengths. Here, you can tell they set out specifically to tug on your heartstrings. Given the album's faux-dystopian concept revolves around the spiritual power of music I suppose it makes sense, but the dry kind of hammy superemotion expressed here almost serves to work against that thesis.

The biggest standout talent this time around is easily James LaBrie. Surprisingly, a lot of fans seem to agree. I've always loved his voice (despite understanding why others do not) but he sounds particularly passionate and confident as a vocalist. His stepping up to the plate could not have happened on a more fitting album. The Astonishing is a very vocal-driven album. I don't think there's any salvation for the plot or lyrics, but for what it's worth, the melodies and performance almost make the whole thing work. It's all the more impressive to hear James adopt different voices for each of the personae in this story. This ability to characterize his voice is something any fan who has heard their covers knows full well, and it's refreshing to hear this talent put to use on original material.

Although Dream Theater have given their detractors plenty of extra justification to hate them with this album, I'd honestly say a lot of the music is solid. A near-hour of this stuff could have been cut and the album would be no worse for well, but I get that they weren't trying to make a normal album with The Astonishing, and I can respect it as such. The only unforgivable aspect here are the lyrics and general concept. Falling somewhere between a mindless ape of 2112 and terrible Young Adult dystopian fiction, The Astonishing supposedly tells the story of an evil empire and a band of rebels who resist them using, uh, music? I get the basic idea they're digging up here, but I couldn't help but think of a battle where soldiers are popping up from trenches and shooting at other with riffs. Okay, so music enlivens the spirit, and creates e-m-o-t-i-o-n. Evil empires don't like emotion, apparently. I guess Dream Theater wanted to make a soundtrack to the film Equilibrium, instead where they take out all of the cool martial arts gunplay and replace it with [%*!#]ing piano ballads. That's nothing to say about the moronic cast of characters. A rebellious girl named Faythe? An evil leader called Nefaryus? Pour a load of venomous earwigs into my hearing holes and end me now.

There are times where it reads like very bad Star Wars fanfiction, and even then that is giving it too much credit. I have a soft spot for self-absorbed rock opera concepts (see: Ayreon, Rhapsody of Fire) but The Astonishing sounds like a corporate-sponsored amalgamation of all the most predictable tropes coming together into a single, amorphous [&*!#]pile of irrelevance. Insult is added to injury when you consider how great the conceptual angle has worked out for them in the past. Scenes from a Memory is arguably my favourite album concept ever, where clever lyrics unfolded a mindbending concept that still leaves me in awe. So it took them less than two decades to shed that brilliance completely in favour of a microwaved casserole 2112? Lyrics aren't everything, to be sure, but with the weight the album's marketing placed on the hokey concept, it's almost unbelievable they allowed something like this to mar otherwise solid music.

It's incredibly easy to criticize The Astonishing. Dream Theater haters could have a field day with this one like none other in the past. My job of reviewing this album would be a tad simpler if I could simply dislike it. But when you look past the trite concept, the filler interludes and ballad material, the saccharine bombast and ridiculous length (and it is possible to look past all of that, sort of) there's some of Dream Theater's most exciting material in a long time waiting. Of course, all but the band's biggest fans won't have the patience to get to the good stuff. Maybe in a few years they can release a "Greatest Hits from The Astonishing" EP and call it a day?

Latest members reviews

4 stars It took me a long time to review this. As a long time DT fan I had mixed emotions when this album came out. While there are plenty of excellent, standout songs on this double concept album, I also felt like it was too long and had too many filler tracks that took away from the overall quality of ... (read more)

Report this review (#1707659) | Posted by TheMasterMofo | Monday, April 3, 2017 | Review Permanlink

3 stars In the weeks after purchasing this album upon release, I remember reading some very negative reviews from a number of reputable sources. At the time I was surprised because I was enjoying the album so much. After about a year and many listens, I can understand the frustration with this album. It ... (read more)

Report this review (#1668318) | Posted by Corcoranw687 | Friday, December 16, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I have to seriously question the honesty of the potential trolls who have discarded this album with one and two star ratings. Dream Theater has been a progression of music since they came on the scene in the late 80's. Yes, Images and Words was a landmark album for Prog Metal. Yes, Scene ... (read more)

Report this review (#1587516) | Posted by Steven Brodziak | Thursday, July 14, 2016 | Review Permanlink

2 stars ...and The Confusing. That's probably the word that sums up my current relationship with this band. To be honest, I started losing interest in Dream Theater all the way back in Octavarium. The only good thing about that album is the self-titled song, and after that the album releases has been ab ... (read more)

Report this review (#1536018) | Posted by Thorkiller | Saturday, March 5, 2016 | Review Permanlink

2 stars When I heard "The Gift of Music" prior to the album release I was thrilled. What an uplifting, catchy and energetic tune. With high expectations I started looking forward to the release of "The Astonishing". When I finally got the album however disappointment set in quickly. The "Gift of music" ... (read more)

Report this review (#1535927) | Posted by King Manuel | Saturday, March 5, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars i have come to a conclusion about this album. It is very reminiscent of what is happening in our world today. Everything is so polarized; left vs. right; Good vs. Evil. Christians vs Muslims. Republicans, Democrats. It seems that all is the same coin flipped over again and again. It seems to ru ... (read more)

Report this review (#1533299) | Posted by 42ndAGE | Friday, February 26, 2016 | Review Permanlink

1 stars I have listened to this album quite a few times to try and understand where some people are getting these "masterpiece" ideas from, and unfortunately, all I can say is quite the opposite. I have never been a huge fan of this band, but some of their earlier work is quite good. A lot of it is more f ... (read more)

Report this review (#1530301) | Posted by jazz2896 | Thursday, February 18, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Astonishing - could quite easily have been called 'The evolving', 'the expansive', 'the excellent', 'the epic', 'the rollercoaster' - you get the idea.... Dream Theater fans seem to fall into two categories. In camp A they like the symphonic, catchy and memorable songs such as Pull me under a ... (read more)

Report this review (#1529737) | Posted by Kevman28 | Tuesday, February 16, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Dream Theater has pulled out all the stops when it comes to the production on 'The Astonishing'. The sound is perfect right from the guitar squeals to the splashes. John Petrucci oozes feeling into every note he plays, and you can clearly hear it in his solos. His guitar tone is much meatier than ... (read more)

Report this review (#1529328) | Posted by Wani | Monday, February 15, 2016 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Well, if your introduction to DT was this latest CD, just released in2016. You would probably be impressed by some of the virtuosity and composition shown throughout. You may also be impressed by a band's audacity to make a CD with over two hours of concept linked music. However, if, like me, yo ... (read more)

Report this review (#1528703) | Posted by M27Barney | Saturday, February 13, 2016 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I commend Dream Theater for getting outside their comfort zone and trying something truly new. I felt they had been retreading well trod ground since Scenes From A Memory and things had grown very stale. I'd prefer they try something new like this, and perhaps fail, than just keep regrugitating st ... (read more)

Report this review (#1527870) | Posted by MrMan2000 | Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Long gone are the days when people marvel listening DT. More by design, arrangements and the approach than the accomplishment itself (and technical virtuosity). Gone is the time of "Learning to live", "Scarred" or "Beyond this life" not to mention "Change of Seasons" where each segment of each p ... (read more)

Report this review (#1527254) | Posted by Zodijakyl | Tuesday, February 9, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars If you're looking for a traditional Dream Theater album, it's not The Astonishing. No, this album is much, much more than that. In fact, I'd suggest that people not even view this album as an "album," per se. It's a musical. And fans who approach the two-disc conceptual rock opera expecting ... (read more)

Report this review (#1526189) | Posted by Mebert78 | Saturday, February 6, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I can't understand why some are down on this album. Perhaps because it is more symphonic and less mechanical than some of DTs creations, but its melodic characteristics are what make this such a fine composition. I guess it depends what you're into - melody or rhythm. It is definitely a vast imp ... (read more)

Report this review (#1526060) | Posted by Arbiter | Saturday, February 6, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars To limit this review was a daunting task, almost as daunting as listening to it in its entirety. But nonetheless, it felt necessary to give my two cents on the most anticipated and fan-dividing album of the year: progressive metal giants Dream Theater's concept double album 'The Astonishing.' It ... (read more)

Report this review (#1524499) | Posted by crashandridemusic | Tuesday, February 2, 2016 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Now Playing: Dream Theater - The Astonishing (2016) A couple of listens in now ( my, it's long ) and overall it's not a bad album, but IMO it's just too disjointed and there's no real flow from start to finish. At first it almost sounds as if DT were attempting to write their own version of "The ... (read more)

Report this review (#1523978) | Posted by Progfan1958 | Tuesday, February 2, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars People can say what they want... But this is a beautifull album. A lot of reviewers are complaining about there not being one or two real STAND OUT tracks on this album, but the reality is, this album should be taken in as two huge and magnificent pieces. Each with their own themes and the waves ... (read more)

Report this review (#1523193) | Posted by Rockstar10908 | Monday, February 1, 2016 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Stupid storyline and overlong, this DT album is a failed product. Instead of editing the ordeal down to about 50 minutes, DT chose to build a laughable West-End musical, about too many people in an unreliable future. A society with no music? are you serious, guys? I can't relate to anything in th ... (read more)

Report this review (#1523169) | Posted by uribreitman | Monday, February 1, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Excellent!! I wasn't enamored with Dream Theater's last self titled release although it was by no means a bad album. With this work Dream Theater fans the flame that I have for them in no uncertain terms. Some may complain that there are no solid single tracks on the album but those that do are m ... (read more)

Report this review (#1522860) | Posted by sukmytoe | Sunday, January 31, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I never anticipated something like this from Dream Theater. I was wary of their endless, overwrought instrumental sections; soulless vocals and fruitless struggle to grant us the pleasure of music. Now it's all different. With 'The Astonishing' Dream Theater has set yet another brilliant milest ... (read more)

Report this review (#1522810) | Posted by amirima | Sunday, January 31, 2016 | Review Permanlink

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