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Dream Theater - Awake CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.12 | 2061 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is Dream Theater's masterpiece, in my opinion, though it took me a long while to come to this conclusion.

First, you have to understand that the vibrant styles and colors of Images and Words have been turned into a dark aggression for this album. Now, me not being as much of a metal fan as I am of good old melody and fun, this initially turned me off. But as I started to actually delve into this less accessible work, I began to notice some things. First off, a lot of the darkness of the album comes from some creepy keys. Kevin Moore didn't seem to be very happy with the band, and his personal gloom somehow seems to show up in the music. The guitars and bass are really heavy here, and won't hit this kind of aggression again until Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Mike Portnoy really finds some places to unleash some of his favorite balls and chunk drumming, which suits the music style well. The only factor left is James LaBrie, who sings like a rottweiler in heat some of the time. At first, I really disliked his growly take on his normal hair metal voice, but after a while, I realized that his voice perfectly suits exactly what the band was going for musically. Angst and anger pour out of him in a very unique way that he will never replicate.

Also, there is an underlying binary nature to this album, I believe. There are two halves to this release, the second one beginning with The Mirror. The first half revolves around the overture of sorts Erotomania. Already known to be a piece with collected music from other songs on the album, I looked into it, and as far as I've figured out, it only corresponds with the first six tracks. The last five tracks all bear connection to the closing track, Space-Dye Vest. So, in essence, there are two halves of this album that are musically linked within themselves, but not as much together. The first half then ends up feeling more aggressive, more short tempered and energetic, while the second half seems to continue to fall back into reflection and a kind of soothing heaviness. Of course, that entire theory may be a load of bull. It's hard to tell from here, but examining the album from that perspective has made it more fun for me, anyways.

As far as individual tracks go, the album openers 6:00 and Caught in a Web are fairly similar, being both metal songs with keyboards running over the top. The drumming in the former and the guitar in the latter make both tracks unique and impressive. Innocence Faded is an often-slighted song with some cheesy high pitched singing and an outro that can make you wet your pants if you aren't watching carefully. Erotomania then jumps in, being seven vocal-less minutes mostly dedicated to John Petrucci's wild guitar. Indeed, some of his fastest and most highly-regarded shredding bits take place here. I'm glad they get the shredding out of their system on this song, where it fits just fine, and don't bother filling the rest of their songs with noodling. Voices continues from Erotomania, opening with a catchy bass riff in 9/something. James really lets fly with his voice in this track (and consequently becomes even harder to understand). The side, if you will, closes with the unfortunately short acoustic number, The Silent Man.

After a brief silence, The Mirror kicks in with shifting rhythms of some really heavy chugging on the 7-string's bass string. This part also is fairly famous, for some reason showing up in a number of WWE and similar sorts of professional wrestling environments. The music stays pretty heavy and unhappy for most of its length, before dissolving into our first taste of the Space-Dye Vest melody. An interesting little ending bit then segues into a double time version for the intro of Lie. This song is even more grouchy, and it also features not one but two tearing guitar solos (okay, yes, so the band breaks out the noodling here, too). Lifting Shadows off a Dream comes next, sounding kind of like a U2 song with heavy instruments. The album's longest track, Scarred, opens with a jazzy bass riff and a building guitar solo, breaking out in heavy moments when appropriate. The instrumental section towards the end is full of tasty solos and unisons, though the noodling does get distracting here, too. Finally, after a catchy fading outro, Space-Dye Vest wanders in, gentle pianos and building structure. It's a different song from most of Dream Theater's catalog, mostly because it was more or less written solely by Moore before he left. The band doesn't like it much, but it's an emotional and well-atmosphered track that offsets the random wildness throughout the album and ends it in a very unexpected way.

So in the end, we have an album that seems a bit more one-sided than its predecessor. However, the music turns darker and more complex. A very good album for Dream Theater fans to consider, and not too bad of a place to start, either, though most seem to have more luck with Images and Words or Scenes from a Memory first, as both are more accessible.

LiquidEternity | 4/5 |


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