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Dream Theater - Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes from a Memory CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.31 | 3110 ratings

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2 stars Given Dream Theater's enormous following, I guess it's high time that I "weighed in" with a review of one of their more popular albums. Before commencing my review proper, however, I feel I should clarify just where I'm "coming from" on this one. Please bear with me.

As a young teen, I was into artists like Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, and Uriah Heep for a couple of years, before being introduced to prog, and bands like Genesis, Yes, ELP, and Tull. After that enlightening musical awakening, I never really looked back, though I still listen to Heep and Purple every now and then. (These days, when I want to really "rock out," I tend to turn to "axe-smiths" such as Jeff Beck, Steve Morse, Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, or Zeppelin.)

Though I have nothing against heavy metal as an art form, most modern metal doesn't do much for me. I don't like screaming vocals, and often find the music of many of the newer acts to be too fast and aggressive for my middle-aged ears. I also tend to have real problems with the typical lyrical subject-matter of newer metal: I simply can't relate to that teen angst/anger and fascination with blood, violence, death and the devil anymore! Just as I soon outgrew horror novels, I now find many metal lyrics to be just plain silly -- dealing as they often do with issues quite beyond my daily concerns, and a supernatural world that I honestly don't believe in.

With that rather lengthy preface out of the way, the reader should understand that I find listening to the overlong SCENES FROM A MEMORY METROPOLIS PART II, in a single session, (and at the volume it demands!) to be a decidedly onerous task. Thankfully, vocalist LaBrie isn't much of a "screamer," though I do find his "average-guy" voice to be distinctly uninspiring. The musicianship, especially the guitar, is also of a doubtlessly high quality, and there is just enough variety in the music to warrant their "progressive metal" categorization. (In my opinion, "progressive metal" has to imply more than just metal with keyboards.)

What really stops me from giving this concept album a higher rating, is, as with Marillion's BRAVE (see my review), the theme of its lyrics. The story centers around a murder-suicide, and the motif is made more "real" with the disturbing sounds of gunshots and the screams of the young female victim. I know that modern American society is very troubled with gun-related violence, and I can turn to American TV news or magazines any time I feel the need to "get my fill" of such depressing, tragic gore. I don't need, or want, to hear this stuff set to music as well! As with BRAVE's suicide theme, I find the concept of "SCENES" to be simply unworthy of my time. I believe that there is a fine line -- perhaps crossed here -- between examining violence, and obsessing upon and/or "celebrating" it.

I believe that confirmed metal/Dream Theater fans would award this disc four or five stars (as it is perhaps "good" for its genre), though for my own middle aged, fatherly tastes, SCENES FROM A MEMORY only merits a two-star rating. Overall, I greatly prefer to be uplifted and/or moved by my music collection, instead of being "brought down" by it. Please don't get me wrong! I realize that some will object to the seeming high-handed, moralistic tone of this review, but I am no prude (quite the opposite!), nor am I a supporter of musical censorship or warning labels. I am merely trying to articulate a personal point of view regarding my preferences in art, which I feel others may share. I don't mind a song that deals with suicide (see my review of Genesis - Nursery Cryme, and "Harold the Barrel" in particular), but when murder forms the entire theme of an album, and is graphically "portrayed" with gunshots and screams, I tend to recoil. Dream Theater, Marillion, and others, have every right to release albums that deal with unsavory subjects. However, as one who tends to focus heavily on words and lyrics, I find listening to this CD to be just a little more enjoyable than viewing images of endless Middle Eastern atrocities, or reading the gruesome details of the latest killings by some gun-toting psychopath. Really not to my taste -- but perhaps to yours.

Peter | 2/5 |


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