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Dream Theater - Awake CD (album) cover

AWAKE

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

4.12 | 2052 ratings

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sbrushfan
4 stars I bought this CD almost a week ago, and have listened to it at least 20 times since then. I did so on the reccomendation of a dear friend of mine who, ironically, I have just gotten into prog. He's since become a fan of bands like Opeth, Nightwish and Queensryche, and based on the reviews he read here on the site, bought AWAKE and fell in love with it. I was skeptical, honestly. I knew they had a different keyboardist at the time (Kevin Moore), and I was concerned as to how he'd fit in with the other four members.

Clearly, my concerns were unfounded. He's a brilliant musician and a class songwriter in his own right, though, like Petrucci, he's best in a group setting. That out of the way, what's great about this record? A lot.

1) PETRUCCI is an absolutely wicked guitarist and plays himself into a lather, whether he's hammering away on a power-chord rhythm part ("CAUGHT IN A WEB") or firing up his tapping fingers or the wah-drenched leads that figure in that song or "LIE " (side note: The tapped intro to his lead track on "LIE" left me gasping for breath.). But he's not all about hammer-ons and heavy distortion. The man's a softie at heart. Need proof? Check out "THE SILENT MAN". Argue all you want, but if you don't become emotional during its near 4-minute running time, you simply have no heart. That, my friends, is the bottom line.

2) I must also note that MOORE pulls his weight as well, whether he's jammin' out on the Hammond, or playing those soaring string synths, as he does on the outro of "CAUGHT IN A WEB". I will make note of a problem here. During the midsection of "INNOCENCE FADED", when LaBrie starts to soar, Moore plays a melody that sounds oddly like "LITTLE LIES" from Fleetwood Mac! Whoa! It was a bit irritating, to be blunt. He is, however, a great writer, nonetheless and "SPACE-DYE VEST" makes that clear. The lyrics are rather deep, but I DO believe it's a love song of some sort (sample lyric: I saw the future dressed as a stranger/Love in a space-dye vest). I AM still, though, trying to figure out what the hell "Falling through pages of Martens on angels" means.

3) PORTNOY doesn't put a foot wrong either, and makes clear his debt to the classic prog drummers of yore (Collins, Peart, Portnoy, Palmer, White, Bruford, etc.) His playing is on the money and full of feeling, even if he's playing those punishing double- kick rolls he's so fond of doing, as at the end of "INNOCENCE FADED". (Note: If you, the reader, are wondering why I'm making such a fuss over "INNOCENCE FADED", it's because it had a heavy emotional impact on me).

LABRIE is AMAZING here, I gotta say. His voice actually has a tear-jerking effect on me, as in "INNOCENCE FADED". I don't mind telling you, the reader, that I actually cried when I heard him sing this one...it's that damn good. At about 1:55 in the song, he starts for the upper reaches of his register, and at 2:11 ("Wearing apathetic displays...Condescending; not intending to end...."), he pulls out ALL the stops. It's at this point that I find myself reaching for the rewing button on my CD player; it's SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good. I've only heard 3 of Dream Theater's releases ("OCTAVARIUM", "TRAIN OF THOUGHT", and this one), but I'm inclined to believe this is a personal vocal high point (literally and figuratively). Is it any wonder that, in the acknowledgement page, he's sings the praises of his opera coach?

5) Myung plays like a madman too, when I can hear him. Quite the affable guy; makes me wonder if he minds being buried in a guitar-and-keyboard heavy mix. He's also quite the lyricist, though seemingly less cerebral than, say, PETRUCCI or MOORE. His lyrics to "LIFTING SHADOWS OFF A DREAM" sound like a paean to love: his wife/girlfriend/significant other, perhaps? Whatever; they're gorgeous. His playing is technically precise but full of feeling. I can hear him in bits and pieces on "INNOCENCE FADED", "EROTOMANIA", "6:00", "LIFTING SHADOWS OFF A DREAM", "SCARRED", and parts of "SPACE-DYE VEST".

Now...the part in which I have to mention the problems I found. Here goes. For one, Myung gets (for the most part) buried in a treble-heavy mix which seems to favor the high end of Petrucci's guitar and Moore's keys. Following that thread, then...Portnoy's kick drums are also muted, to an extent, favoring more of the cymbals and snare. I can barely hear the hi-hat most of the time, which bugs me. Mind you, Duane Baron and John Purdell are wonderful producers (Proof? "DESIRE WALKS ON" from Heart...pick it up and argue at length with me), but they dropped the ball here. There's WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY ytoo much treble here in the mix, and it REALLY bothers me. And I won't mention the irritating vocal samples (the midsection of "VOICES", the intro to "6:00"...pardon my blagging, but who the hell is Mary Jane?) I gotta bring up something else I noticed, and this was right off the bat. Right around 6:22 into "EROTOMANIA", the group pulls a bait-and-switch tactic, going from a brilliant instrumental into another song. Wouldn't be such a problem were it not for the fact that "THE TREES" was already written 16 years hence. I literally had to check my CD player to make sure it was still the same CD. It's an unsubtle trick that actually pissed me off.

Aside from the (IMO) problems, it's still a great disc, and a solid 4-star CD, much like "OCTAVARIUM". And, as I said in my review of "TRAIN OF THOUGHT", I suppose one coudl do worse.

sbrushfan | 4/5 |

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