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Dream Theater - Octavarium CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.66 | 1996 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars The last album I had heard in full (and in attentive listening) from these guys was the double live album, where they had an interesting 24-min track called a Change Of Season. Since then, after having seen the group twice live, I had cast it aside as simply not my cup of tea. For over a decade, but staying aware of their releases and lending an ear when the occasion arose, I was more than happy to live and let DT live. But this writer could not possibly spend many more years ignoring THE locomotive (commercial, anyway) of modern prog, so I went out of my way and actually rented their latest album, to see where these guys stood nowadays.

The least we can say is that DT have remained true to themselves, no matter how controversial LaBrie's vocals and lyrics are: he writes almost no lyrics, so that settles that side of the debate rather quickly and I have no qualms as to his voice's timbre (sounds like 100 other prog singers), but he is not really surprising or inventive. After a strong and credible opening Root Of All Evil (well at least they have no illusion about themselves (I know too easy, but I had to get that one in ;-), the album seems to sag with the slow Answer Lies Within, where DT fails to convince me and the added string quartet sounds completely superfluous to me. Funny enough that the non-metal progheads wish that the progmetal start doing something different than the usual crunching chords, the very same progheads do not find the group very credible in a softer role. But the following These Walls and Walk Beside You plunge me in the abyss of boredom (LaBrie's vocals are not the most inspired and even mechanic on this track) and glide on the shell of my indifference.

Of course, the following Panic Attack is much more like what we expect from the band with its huge power chords with pompous keyboards. While DT uses all of the progmetal clichés (Spinal Tap-esque), even drawing a mocking smirk on our lips, the least that we can say is that they are very convincing at it, and obviously the group was born for this kind of epics. Yes, DT is impressive during moments like those. However the wrongly- titled Never Enough (oh yeah??? ;-) is actually rather good and fairly unusual from what we are used to and might just be their better track on this album. But the partly correctly-titled follow-up is best Forgotten (that's the correct part ;-). Then we get to the "plat de resistance", the title track, the cornerstone and the piece that will make or break this album. The 24-min 5-part epic Octavarium is starting out like a Gilmour's Floyd-esque piece, before pulling a Howe's Yes-esque (or should I say RudYess-que? ;- ) minute (with a flute, no shut(e) ;-), but as soon as the song finally really gets underway (that's after the sagging vocals of the second movement), Full Circle is actually of a quality that reminds me of their early major epic, A Change Of Seasons, coming at times to ELP or Yes's excellent moments. Yes (!! ;-), Octavarium is an excellent track and from what I've heard from DT (not that much really), it ranks in my top 2 tracks. Does it save the album, though?

Still not my cup of tea, but this early winter (or non-winter should I say), I've had my share of progmetal exposition hours, and of the many groups I heard, DT will not be amongst my fave, but their aura, and certain aptitude at staying on top of their game, still makes them a force to reckon with.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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