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Dream Theater - Octavarium CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.66 | 1995 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Before Octavarium's release, members of the Dream Theater claimed that this was their favorite album and that it was their crowning achievement so far. I should have been wary right there, since it's one thing for a band to look back 20 years later and pick the album they felt was best, but it's quite another when they say it at the time. I got into Dream Theater a little over a year ago and was blown away by their virtuosity. I give Scenes From a Memory and Images and Words regular spins. Octavarium was the last album I got. I bought it along with the recently released live opus Score. Score impressed me to no end. This, however, is the worst studio album in DT's otherwise illustrious career.

Fans of the album claim that this disc is a return to their prog roots. I don't know what they were listening to, but it certainly wasn't this album. In fact, only two of the songs on this eight track album are remotely proggish. The band envisioned the album as a summary of their career, conjuring sounds reminiscent of past albums. In that respect, I can overlook the lack of originality in some aspects, but not all.

"The Root of All Evil" opens the albums with the outro of In the Name of God, the final track from DT's controversial predecessor Train of Thought. It is a continuation of Mike Portnoy's Alcoholics Anonymous suite, so it borrows from Glass Prison and This Dying Soul, which is fine. This is a more straightforward metal track, and I like it.

"The Answer Lies Within" is a ballad that attempts to recall the brilliance of Another Day from Images and Words or Hollow Years from Falling Into Infinity. Unfortunately, it comes off as a poor AOR track with inane lyrics.

"These Walls" is a stab at bringing back the excellent Scarred from the superb Awake album. The song is decent, but pales in comparison to to its inspiration. Its redeeming quality is James' vocals, which are usually never mentioned in a positive light. He's an underrated singer, and its a shame his moment to shine was on this album.

"I Walk Beside You" is another AOR ballad trying to recall more FII straightforward rock. This is the worst track on the album with insipid lyrics and pop instrumentation.

"Panic Attack" is the answer to Train of Thought heaviness, with it sopening bassline to its pummelling guitar and drums. Somewhat decent, though not nearly as astounding as the material of the fantastic ToT.

"Never Enough" has the synth and keyboard dominant sound of the debut and FII. The song is on the cusp of goodness, but it never quite reaches a higher level

"Sacrificed Sons" opens with audio clips in the manner of The Great Debate from 6 Degrees. The songs centers around the September 11 attacks, and it is the first truly prog song on the album. This even begins to make up for the tracks between the first song and this.

"Octavarium" is the greatest epic the band has crafted so far. Even 6 Degrees can't match it. The song opens with Jordan fiddling with his new toy, the uber-cool continuum. He then hits the lap steel and the orchestra comes in to truly set off the first movement (Someone Like Him). James' voice comes in at barely above whisper over Petrucci's spare acoustic strumming. John Myung's bass (It's audible!!) leads into the second movement (Medicate Me) which keeps the soft tone of the first movement.

Suddenly the band hits the third movement (Full Circle). The lyrics name check the band influences via song titles (Lucy in the Sky, Supper's Ready, Cinema Show, etc) and even band mottoes (Gabba Gabba Hey [Ramones]). Jordan leads the band into an instrumental break which constitutes the first half of the fourth movement (Intervals). This is a superb bit of musicianship where the band, for maybe the first time, acts as a cohesive unit as opposed to out-soloing one another. Petruuci, Rudess, and Myung weave their instrument in and out of the other two's, and Portnoy is rather subdued and gives his notes time to breathe. Petrucci's solo is great and fits the break well.

The second half of Intervals is James' time to shine as his voice gets increasingly aggressive until he explodes "trapped inside this ocatavarium!" The orchestra slows things down and paves the way into the final movement (Razor's Edge), which sums up the epic quite nicely.

In conclusion, 2 out of 8 songs are essential DT (title and Sacrificed Sons), another 2 (Root of All Evil and Panic Attack) are resonably good, These Walls is decent, and the other three are monumental let downs. I recommend buying the excellent Score CD before you get this. The orchestra improves Octavarium's, Sacrificed Sons', and even The Answer Lies Within's studio arrangements (it makes TALW enjoyable). The band only versions of Root of All Evil and I Walk Beside You are improved as well (though IWBY is still mediocre at best). Plus the revamped versions of 6 Degrees and Metropolis are insanely good.

I give this album two stars because it is for fans and collectors only. It isn't atrocious and it's pretty good for a band's worst album, but it should be one of the last DT albums you buy.

Grade: D+

1800iareyay | 2/5 |


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