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Dream Theater - Awake CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.12 | 2061 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Awake, Dream Theater, 1994

Extremely energetic third album from one of the (like it or not) leading lights of modern prog rock and their only album I've yet heard deserving all the accolades the band gets. Aside from a slightly deeper and significantly better-delivered set of lyrics, this album has melody, contrast, structure and ideas to go with the complexity and technicality that DT's previous and later offerings provide. Start to finish, it's one hell of a trip; no bad songs, and only a couple of slips in its 75 minute duration. Two criticisms only: 1) the album ends twice - this is confusing and perhaps indicative of the confusion we see in the lyrics which waver endlessly between two opposites. 2) Caught In A Web and Innocence Faded are very strong, but at times not a match for the rest of the record.

6.00 has all the reasons I love this album... killer metal vocals, a couple of great riffs, scything organ with a delicious metallic tang from Moore, one hell of a guitar solo substantiated by the rest of music, breaks that relate to the main music, entertaining use of the (slightly trite, we confess) sound effects.

Caught In A Web is somewhat clunkier and heavier with one rather odd vocal delivery ('does this voice the wounds of your soul') but still basically solid; Portnoy's drumming in the extremely cool instrumental bit in the middle shows an appreciation of punctuation (and Myung's bass tone is superbly dark).

Innocence Faded is, strangely enough, rather brighter than either of the above. Sounds great, with some intimate vocals from Labrie and killer classic rock guitar riff from Petrucci; explodes appropriately at the right moments and the vocal harmonies are just fine. For some reason, Labrie's precocious high bit comes off very well.

The 20-minute A Mind Beside Itself suite is where the album really takes off. We're first treated to a rare effective prog metal instrumental with a consistent sense of direction and mood, killer soloing and a dirty organ. The guitar/drums duel around 4.30 is inspired. I take the conclusion/segue as rare evidence that the band are capable of delicate emotive interplay. Voices has powerful dynamic contrasts everywhere, more of Labrie being both powerfully metallic and sensitive but not sappy, complete with a surprisingly passable set of lyrics. Trite film quote included with some coolness, moving shred solo, number of superb melodies. Damn fine work. The Silent Man is a simple-yet-effective ballad-based contrasting closer with a little more in the background. More fine vibrato singing from Labrie and some subtle self-harmonies. Well-arranged, accomplished, emotional 'epic', featuring a seminal instrumental.

The Mirror is very heavy indeed, with a sort of claustrophobic Gothic symph-metal vibe to the overture followed by some visceral vocal parts and nicely stabbing bass. Moore's hybrid keyboard tone is great at times but a bit too wimpy at others. Quality metal, in this reviewer's humble opinion; the segue at the end is particularly powerful and crunchy. Lie has Labrie sounding more casually unlike himself, which is interesting for all involved, and more of the solid, heavy metal with great riffs that characterised the previous piece. Some of Moore's lyrics are terrible, but at least so bad they're hilarious, and the overall idea is fine. Petrucci on incredible form here (as is everyone else, actually), and more of the contrasts of dynamic and intensity, vocal and instrumental turn this into a sort of mini-epic within its suite. Lifting Shadows restores some of the symphonic feel to this suite with Myung's imagery-based lyrics and Moore's keyboard choices. The drumming is great, Labrie's vocal is great and the cool contrast of the pessimistic verse and the uplifting chorus is one of the simple-yet-effective choices that can make a decent album into a great one.

Concluding this series of linked songs is Scarred, a more rock-based piece with a neat bass riff from Myung and some rock-solid work from Portnoy. Labrie's vocal is immensely musical, and often has an emotional grip and the lyrics... well, they actually resonate with me (a one-off from Dream Theater).

And how come you don't understand me? And how come I don't understand you?

Not complex stuff, but it works. Myung pulls out some fantastic bass parts for those of us who listen closely, and despite one slightly misplaced guitar solo, it's a musical triumph from a band that have never sounded better.

I could've stopped it on the fade there, but the piano-based (and the part here sounds so much richer than any Rudess has pulled out) closer Space Dye Vest is all but tacked on at the end. Aside from the slight lapse in ordering here (the album basically ends twice), I've no complaints about Moore's writing or lyrics (well, the quotes... are they really necessary?) and the atmosphere is deliciously dark.

Stunning contemporary album with a couple of ordering issues and the very occasional small mishit over an enormous running time, which I'm giving the same sort of mild indulgence I'd give the occasional mneh moment on Third or The White Album. My personal favourite prog metal album. Even if you're not a fan of the rest of Dream Theater's discography (I'm not), don't miss this one. A (very slightly) forgiving five stars here.

Rating: Five Stars, 13/15 Favourite Track: 6:00 or Voices,

Edit: I cut to a four after feeling slightly uncomfortable about a five for an album with a weaker bit and a few minor slips. In the context that I'm still waiting to hear a clear-cut five star Prog Metal album, that's not a bad rating at all.

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |


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