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Dream Theater - Awake CD (album) cover

AWAKE

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

4.12 | 2060 ratings

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baz91
Prog Reviewer
4 stars When I think of this album, I think about Kevin Moore leaving directly afterwards. To me, this relatively dark album reflects Moore's dark period before abandoning Dream Theater to pursue his own interests, which can be seen in documentaries about the Awake album. I think Dream Theater lost something truly special with Kevin Moore, with one important aspect being his lyrics. While Jordan Rudess is rightly lauded as a wizard on the keyboards, and is far more technically capable than Moore, he hasn't written any lyrics for the group to date, and I can't help feeling like Rudess is just an addition to the group rather than an integral member. The number of classic songs have been few and further between as well since Moore left, leading to my love of Moore-era Dream Theater.

'Images And Words' was a relatively light album, especially for a metal band. 'Awake' is a lot heavier, which is reflected by the darker colours used in the album cover. It's significantly more difficult to get into this album, but there are many treats here to be discovered.

Treat #1 appears at the very beginning of the album. 6:00 sports phenomenal drumming, and fantastic lyrics. This track isn't particularly memorable, but it's still an interesting item indeed.

Caught In A Web isn't instantly likeable, but it has grown on me. It's quite easy to describe this song as 'ugly', and that's how I see it, with the heavy guitar sound, and crunchy drumming. However, the instrumental here really captivates me. The unison part between keys and guitar is brilliant, and there are some odd time signatures thrown in for good measure. What really gets me is the drumming at around 3:33; while not technically brilliant, it just sounds really cool.

Innocence Faded.is very out of place on this album. With a much lighter feel than the songs surrounding it, this track loses you very quickly. Some of LaBrie's weirdest singing is here, and probably sports the most 'misheard lyrics' of any Dream Theater track. Also peculiar, is the 1:26 outro instrumental, which repeats itself in a really confusing way until the end. A very bizarre song, with only a few good moments.

The next three tracks make up Petrucci's 20-minute epic A Mind Beside Itself, the subject matter of which is still in debate. When listened to as an epic, this track does not in any way rival other great prog epics, but each part is interesting in its own right. Erotomania is a fine instrumental with many gorgeous passages, including one that was deleted from Pull Me Under. Voices is a strange, cold track with haunting lyrics. The guitar solo definitely makes this track very worthwhile! The epic ends on a light note with The Silent Man, an acoustic track which was subsequently released as a single, which reuses a theme from Erotomania. Many people don't see these tracks as one epic, but since they are listed that way in the liner notes, I tend to listen to all three at once.

The Mirror is a great heavy track, with lyrics describing Portnoy's struggle with alcoholism, and is often seen as a prelude to the Twelve-Step Suite. Starting with the instrumental Puppies on Acid, which had already been played in concerts by that point, this track continues to be heavy for the entire duration. The highlight is definitely the 90-second outro, which includes a theme from Space-Dye Vest, and has a very heavy but laid-back sound.

This segues straight into Lie which I have never been able to enjoy. This track was released in an edited form as a single, and it's too simplistic for my tastes. The only part of this song I enjoy is the outro, which is actually a continuation of the outro to The Mirror. It feels like Lie has just interrupted the song! The guitar solo in this outro is one of Petrucci's best in my opinion.

Lifting Shadows Off A Dream is another lighter song, but this one doesn't stand out as much as Innocence Faded, and so fits better into the album. This is a very beautiful track, with a great dynamic range that varies as the song progresses. Mike Portnoy uses a drum pattern in the second verse that he used in both Another Day and Eve. The instrumental is sufficiently complicated to be interesting, and this track is surprisingly memorable, and I particularly like this track.

The epic Scarred is the highlight of the album though. This song starts with a very laid-back, almost jazzy entrance, which soon turns to the heavy metal Dream Theater sound we are all used to. This song is quite long, but it is mostly dominated by vocals, and the first chorus only appears at 4:35! Throughout the vocal part there are different moods, from angry to desperate, and there is a sense of urgency to this piece. The instrumental is one of Dream Theater's finest (though not coming close to the Metropolis instrumental). There is a heavy complex section followed by my favourite Moore keyboard solo, and my second favourite Dream Theater guitar solo (with first place being reserved for Take The Time). A time signature heavy outro concludes this epic piece.

Closing the album, however, is Moore's emotional piece Space-Dye Vest. This, of course, was his way of saying goodbye to the band, and indeed to progressive metal as a whole. Composed solely by Moore, this track sounds very different to anything Dream Theater have done before or since. The music is lead mainly by Moore on the piano, but the rest of the band come in towards the end to play the outro. The lyrics are cryptic, but LaBrie delivers them brilliantly and with emotion. Interestingly his pitch seems lower than on most of the other tracks from this period, as if he is talking and being more serious than with other tracks. Some of the effects, like little fizzes and pops throughout, tend to detract from this moving piece, but the sound clips from TV are fascinating, and I have spent a lot of time trying to find their meaning. It's a shame Moore had to leave Dream Theater, but by leaving us this track, we at least get some reward. Dream Theater have yet to play this song live, as it would be wrong to play it without him.

'Awake' is not the follow-up to 'Images And Words' you may have expected. While 'Images And Words' is a cleaned, polished and bright gem of an album, 'Awake' is rather gritty and dark. There is a lot more emotion and slightly less virtuosity on this album. It's a harder album to get into, and there are some weak points, but there are some songs on this record that you really should hear.

baz91 | 4/5 |

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