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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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Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars What turned me off from progressive metal for such a long time is the fact that I'm a guitarist, and while I certainly don't mind playing fast if the context of a given piece warrants it, normally I don't care for shred or constant musical aggressiveness. This, and the fact that I once shared a house with someone who worshipped John Petrucci, practicing all day the same speedy passages, and while I certainly respect that dedication, it drove another housemate and me insane. For the longest, what is labeled as progressive metal irritated me. But this album in no way falls into that category. Metropolis II: Scenes from a Memory is a powerful piece of work, with beautifully revisited themes and passages, excellent vocals, and impressively tight musicianship. There's enough variety to make this more of a progressive metal album, including elements of symphonic rock and even country music. Even though the low end of the sound spectrum is mixed almost too loudly (Mike Portnoy's foot unable to stop tapping on the bass pedals, apparently), John Myung's bass work is nearly inaudible. Another minor flaw is that the long jams can become a tad boring after a while. I love Jordan Rudess's lead tone throughout the album, and sometimes it's difficult to distinguish it from Petrucci's guitar. I'll restrain myself from commenting on the story itself, because the story is compelling enough to belong on the silver screen. This is one of the greatest concept albums ever made.

"Regression" Not merely an introduction in which a hypnotist gives instructions and counts backward from ten, there is a short acoustic prelude. Once the song is over, however, the dark synthesizer cues the next one, as though the lights surrounding the speaker have suddenly gone out.

"Overture 1928" Whenever I'd reluctantly put this album on, and "Overture 1928" begins, I immediately remember everything I love about this album. I am reminded that the composition is strong throughout the album, and I love the motifs that creep in at various places. There are also riffs from "Metropolis Both Petrucci and Rudess get an opportunity to include some exquisite solos.

"Strange Déjà Vu" Coming quite naturally from the previous track, James LaBrie delivers one of his best vocal performances ever. The section just over two and a half minutes in reminds me in a way of Rush, particularly the song "One Little Victory," even though musically they are different. Together with "Overture 1928," this is my favorite Dream Theater moment.

"Through My Words" Flowing directly from the previous track, there is quiet piano and LaBrie singing soothingly.

"Fatal Tragedy" The track marker almost seems like it was deliberately misplaced since the first thirty seconds or so sound like part of the last track, and then the band is rocking out again as LaBrie continues his first-person narrating. I love the dark and heavy atmosphere of this track as the murder scene is mentioned, juxtaposed as it is with one of the lyrical and musical cornerstones of the album ("Without love, without truth, there can be no turning back"), which changes from a straight rhythm to a shuffle so effortlessly. The jamming at the end is excellent, and gives way to the psychiatrist's voice.

"Beyond This Life" This is one of three lengthy tracks. It begins with the singing of the headlines and further narration over mind-boggling music. Much of the alleged story is revealed in the first part of this piece. The gentle acoustic section halfway in is always a surprise to me every time I hear this album, even though I've heard it many times, and even though it flows quite naturally. The last segment is a tightly constructed jam with some stranger sounds from Rudess.

"Through Her Eyes" Unbelievably, this country-like song sounds precisely like an Eagles tune, and LaBrie even sounds like Glenn Frey. The melody is terribly derivative of "The Boys are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy. While not a bad song, it's rather unoriginal, and at least adds variety to the album.

"Home" The longest track on the album begins with dark acoustic instrumentation and a sitar. It soon gets heavy, and the verses sound just like a great Alice in Chains song. Soon enough, LaBrie is back to his glorious self, singing so clearly against a backdrop of a tightly cooperative band. The Near Eastern flavors return in various places. Rudess cuts loose with another blazing synthesizer solo. Then it's Petrucci's turn, who demonstrates his more creative side when it comes to the electric guitar. Myung's bass can be heard loud and clear in this track.

"The Dance of Eternity" Beginning with a sample of "Metropolis part 1" played backwards, this is a fantastic instrumental with a bewildering groove. One of the few places I never cared for was Rudess's honky-tonk piano bit, but given the erratic nature of the piece, I find it more and more fitting each time I hear it. Also, Myung gets in a frenzied bass solo. The piece jumps right into the next one.

"One Last Time" Rudess does a fine job embellishing on a creative melody, and LaBrie's vocals are far mellower here, even when hitting the high notes. Petrucci reprises a main theme on his electric guitar, giving way to even more dramatic singing from LaBrie. The best part about this song is what attracted me to it the first time I heard it (it was one of the first Dream Theater works I had ever heard): Even though the song is a relatively short one, there are several distinct sections that are not repeated, but manage to flow together seamlessly. Rudess ends the song with some eerier piano work.

"The Spirit Carries On" My opinion here is that the piano and vocal melody are not unlike something Pink Floyd would have done circa The Wall or The Final Cut. Those two aspects of the song are characteristic enough of Roger Waters to make this one a trifle banal, but once again, I appreciate the contextual variety and the ties to the acoustic bit on the first track, and in it's own way, it's perfect for an "epiphany" track. Petrucci's solo is out of place, though, because he fills nearly every measure not with the soulful fret work the song was calling out for, but again gives in to his trademark tendency to play hundreds of notes a minute. That said, it's excellently executed.

"Finally Free" Again, the psychiatrist speaks, this time over soft acoustic guitar chords. Dark strings perform over various sounds related to the story, including a car driving off and a thunderstorm. This song contains the final revelations of the story. The main lyrics of "One Last Time" are repeated, as is one of the musical motifs. The last few moments conclude the story in a rather unsettling way.

Epignosis | 5/5 |


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