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Dream Theater - Dream Theater CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.28 | 955 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Call me insane, but I really feel like it's pointless to review Dream Theater albums on a prog-rock-themed forum. No other ensemble in the past 30 years has created a gigantic schism of love-em-or-hate-em listeners, and frankly, it's getting to the point in time where it's nigh impossible to change the minds of the "haters" and it'd be more worthwhile for all the people who still do like DT's music just to sit down and enjoy it.

After all, everyone is going to have their biases on why they love or hate DT. My personal reason is the fact that their music relates so much to classical compositions (which I both perform and compose, BTW). They're not songs you can really jam to (although there are quite a few where you can), they're songs you have to sit down and enjoy, absorb the melodies, embrace the disonance, sit and watch in awe and amazement as these guys weave an unexplainable, unimaginable web of melodies, harmonies and sound effects into not just songs, but emotions. They tell stories.

That's one thing I've always looked for in progressive music, that unmistakeable art of evoking emotion and telling stories. In the 1800's, the Romantic era of composing revolved around telling stories. Beethoven was the first true master of the art, starting with his "Eroica" symphony written in honor of Napoleon Bonaparte at the time, and ending with his epic 9th. Schubert's lieder pieces evoked a sense of reality when you listened to the singer weep her sad, sad tune. It was such a provocative way of making music, it only caught on to even bigger, more elaborate productions in the form of Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" and Wagner's operas.

So when you look at it from that perspective, Dream Theater has created many pieces like that, what with "Metropolis", "Six Degrees", "In The Presence Of Enemies", etc. Sure, have they lost their way a bit from a compositional aspect with the departure of Portnoy? Absolutely. No one can replace Portnoy in my mind. Sorry, Mangini.

If it's any consolation, Mangini's sophomore effort with the band is a MILLION times better than on "Dramatic Turn Of Events". I did say a while ago that I thought DToE was the best Dream Theater album ever made, and while I'm not really sure it is anymore, it's still one of their best efforts to date. The only blemishes I did knock it for was Mangini's drumming, which is vastly improved on this disc. It sound more refined, less copycat and more original. I felt like Mangini was trying too hard to fill Portnoy's shoes. After all, as one of the most beloved, if not THE most beloved member of the band, it would be impossible to replace him.

In fact, in any circumstance, it's impossible to truly replace anyone in any circumstance. Steve Young knew there was no way he was going to be able to live up to the hype of Joe Montana in San Francisco after he was traded. How can you replace a quarterback who won 4 Super Bowls? Simple. Forget about him and win another 3 Super Bowls for the franchise. And I feel that's the mentality Mangini went into the studio with when recording tracks for this album. DT with Mangini is like Queen with Adam Lambert: it's a completely different band. Now did we say that when Kevin Moore was replaced with Derek Sherinian, who was then replaced by Rudess? No, because while both were great keyboard players and pianists, Rudess just has a magic touch the other two didn't have. The same kind of magic Portnoy has.

And perhaps due to the identity Mangini is now creating in the drummer of one of the most popular and respected prog metal bands of our time, this self titled album reflects a bit of a change. In what direction? I still can't say. It's definitely not the heaviest album in their repertoire, but it's also not the most memorable. Sure, the heavy single "The Enemy Inside" is going to be catchy, while "The Looking Glass" tries too hard to be mainstream and falls flat on its face. The "False Awakening Suite", while brilliant, is way too short, while "Enigma Machine" is a classic DT instrumental. Again, not entirely memorable, but still distinctly true to that DT sound. "The Bigger Picture" has nothing in it that keeps me hooked or entertained, whereas "Behind The Veil", while brilliant, has an intro that simply takes far too long in proportions to the rest of the track. "Surrender To Reason" has one chord in the middle I like, "Along For The Ride" should be renamed "Falling Into Infinity", and the whole album is wrapped up with a 22-minute epic that should have been made a long time ago.

Is this album perfect? Far from it. I can recognize far more tracks off of DToE then I can this album, so from a critics standpoint, this album is essentially being held up by an epic intro, a standout single, an awesome instrumental and an album closing epic.

And that's OK.

Frankly, this current ensemble is still in a development stage. This a Dream Theater that wants to bring back its staple compositions that shaped their identity ("Enigma Machine", "Illumination Theory") while still trying to remake themselves with this new chemistry than stay anchored to roots which are drying up with nowhere else to go ("Behind The Veil", "Surrender To Reason", "The Bigger Picture").

This is a veteran band caught through a transitional period. A period where they still want to perform, tour and make music, but one where they have to deal with a new hand of cards dealt to them in a music world that has changed a lot since they first made waves back in 1992 with "Images & Words".

In short, this is a band that still has a story that needs to be completed, a story that, hopefully, comes full circle and re invites Portnoy back to the fold eventually. Only then will we, as critics, as judges, be able to truly judge and define this band's legacy, because when you think about it, most people are analyzing their legacy when they're still going strong, and that's not right. One day, all five of these guys will have become too old to tour, too old to keep pounding away in that metallic fashion they've embraced for many years.

Only then, when they all hang up their instruments, will we truly be able to determine their successes and failures over this band's lifetime.

Only then will we truly understand their progress and motivation into their ever-changing, ever-evolving sound. A identity totally unique to this band, yet always evolving to keep up with the times (AND their audience, that's always important). After all, the Beatles succeeded in doing that, and they're one of the most popular and famous bands in history.

It's not easy, but it can be done. And hopefully, Dream Theater will add their names to that rarefied list of artists to forever stand the test of time.

Wicket | 4/5 |


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