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Dream Theater - The Astonishing CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.38 | 709 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

2 stars I commend Dream Theater for getting outside their comfort zone and trying something truly new. I felt they had been retreading well trod ground since Scenes From A Memory and things had grown very stale. I'd prefer they try something new like this, and perhaps fail, than just keep regrugitating stuff they've already done.

And major, major props to James LaBrie. He does indeed give the performance of a lifetime; his vocals are easily the highlight of the entire work. Unfortunatley, the material he's given to work with is lacking in many ways. What ways? Well, let's count them:

1. Lyrics: simply they are embarrassing. Petrucci has no sense of subtlety, with wholly literal lyrics that render the storey-telling dull. I find myself cringing at the junior-high level lyrics frequently throughout the album. This, more than anything, makes significant portions borderline unlistenable. (Honestly, I think if they had hired an outside, maybe someone from the theater world, they would have been better served).

2. Structure: concept albums are problematical because the artist's are telling a story and that often means standard song structures don't apply. Instead you often get bits and pieces of music that, on their own, don't really stand up very well. Great concept albums, however, make this a strength by stitching the bits and pieces together in creative, pleasing ways. DT's own Scenes album does this; The Wall and Operation Mindcrime are other good examples. Both use spoken-word or media snippets to not only transition from one piece to the next effectively but also supplement the story-telling. Songs are often designed to flow naturally from one to the next. We find very little of that in The Astonishing. Instead we get dozens of musical snippets that often sound randomly organized; transitions are clunky, jarring. The whole of a great concept album is greater than the sum of its pieces whereas with The Astonishing the sum of the pieces is less.

3. No songs. Another key to most concept albums is while there are musical bits here and there there's also some great stand-alone songs. Comfortably Numb and Eyes of a Stranger for example. I'm not sure ANY of the songs here are anything better than meh on their own. Which means you need to listen to a 2 hour plus piece to hear it in its most pleasant setting...and who can do that?

4. Where's the climax? I've listened six times....and while Act one makes sense to me I have no idea what's going on in Act Two. There is no climactic song or moment. EVERY great concept album has this. Suite Sister Mary, The Trial, the "perimeter walk" section of Blind Curve from Misplaced Childhood...I could go on and on. It's just not here in the Astonishing, and it leaves me wanting and bewildered as a listener.

5. Finally,...this is largely a 2.5 person album. I feel like it's a Petrucci / Rudess album and LaBrie is featured. Myung and Mangini, as great as they are, have nothing more than a hired hand role and that is sad considering DT's roots.

All in all....again, I give credit for trying. But in the end a failure. I can't imagine after digesting this a few more times really ever listening to the Astonishing or even individual songs from it.

MrMan2000 | 2/5 |


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