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Dream Theater - Awake CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.12 | 2061 ratings

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The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Darker and Heavier than Images & Words

Awake is Dream Theater's third album, and second with James LaBrie on board. His debut with the band, Images & Words, was indeed very promising for metal and future Prog Metal fans, featuring pretty complex passages with a very balanced band, each member giving their maximun rendition and never overshadowing the other; also some some classic metal influences were heard like Metallica, however the heavy riffing was balanced with atmospheric keyboards led by Kevin Moore as well as with some tremendous melodic bass playing. However, I&W also featured some notable cons, like the extremely high pitched vocals from James which are hard to digest, some pretty ''cheap/crappy'' keyboard sounds, and a lot of un-professional double-bass drumming, reminiscent of Power Metal, if you allow me to say.

However, with Awake they seemed to have matured and perfectioned those cons; Mike Portnoy's work on the drums has really improved without featuring the annoyance of the excessive double-bass, James on the other hand while not leaving completely his high-pitched vocals, he balances them pretty well with some in-your-face metal-esque vocals which work fantastic for the 'new' mood this album presents(darker and heavier), while Kevin Moore's keyboard sound selection is back to normal, not that he was bad on I&W, but some stuff really sounded like crap, now he delivers some better atmospheres and nice piano pieces. Myung's and Petrucci's renditions on here are the only ones that seem to be less greater compared to the previous album; Myung while still fairly audible like in Images & Words, he doesn't seem to add much to the band, while Petrucci on here doesn't seem to be very inspired for heavy riffs, yet there are some of his best solos.

Anyways, even if the cons from Images & Words are perfectioned as I stated, I can't say it's a better album from the composition side neither from the ''technical'' side. For example the long pieces, Scarred and Voices, while of course being well composed songs and the musicianship is top-notch, I don't think there's anything really exciting or new or that makes me raise up the volume; the riffs overall, are mediocre metal riffs, despite how technical they may be, the drums like I said before are definitely improved but nothing really to praise of, James vocals are also improved, but there's still something not working as a whole.

So, the long, thought-promising, songs are nowhere near the long songs from I&W, what has the album left to offer? Well, the opener, 6:00, is one of them, with Portnoy shining on the drum-case, while the rest of band is making a really good heavy riff. The chorus is pretty heavy and catchy, so that's a bonus. And well, finally Moore and Petrucci deliver some kick-ass solos. Might not be as elaborated as the two long songs, yet this takes my attention much more than the other two.

Erotomania is the other highly acclaimed tune other than the two longest songs from Awake. The musicianship is top-notch and the composition is excellent too, delving through soft paces and heavy moods and all this mainly being led by Petrucci's outstanding guitar. Probably one of the best pieces Dream Theater has put together as a band.

Finally there's the highly acclaimed piece, the one written by Kevin Moore called Space-Dye Vest. It's a dark evolving creature led by Kevin's piano. However Space-Dye Vest's magic for me is the dark, semi-spacey, atmosphere which goes evolving and evolving, though never reaching a peak where everything explodes and shines as you would have thought it would do. Yet, it's very tranquil and a incredibly well-done piece, worthy of listening even if you're not a Dream Theater fan.

The rest of the songs are a mixed bag of heavy metal tunes with few prog substance, and some soft ones headed more to the AOR side. The heavy ones are The Mirror, Lie and Caught in a Web, the three of them having very in-your-face metal riffs, as well as the new raging vocals from James, which can also produce annoyance to some, despite being the opposite to his high-pitched performance. On the other hand, the non-heavy tunes which are Lifting Shadows Off a Dream, Innocence Faded and The Silent Man, like I said before they are headed more to AOR grounds in general due to the accessibility and catchiness, however despite all that, I prefer them over the heavy ones. They're definitely more bearable, however the fact that I really like songs of that style from Falling Into Infinity like Hollow Years and Anna Lee and Surrounded from Images & Words, is an obvious reason why I enjoy them and the fact that I'm not a metal fan is also an obvious reason why I don't enjoy much of the straight-forward metal material from Awake.

Reaching to the conclusion of this review, I can't seem to add anything else other than re-stating that while Awake is played better than Images & Words, the compositions in here are not exactly in the heights Dream Theater reached with Images & Words, just with few exceptions like the already stated Space-Dye Vest and Erotomania. So 3.5 stars it is, meaning it's a very good and progressive follow-up to Images & Words but doesn't quite manage to surpass it. Nonetheless it's a highly recommended Prog Metal album.

The Quiet One | 4/5 |


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