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Dream Theater - Awake CD (album) cover

AWAKE

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

4.12 | 2060 ratings

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Pafnutij
4 stars In my opinion, "Awake" is easily Dream Theater's best work to date. The album displays the band's remarkable growth in the space of just two years that separate it from the cheesy power-prog of "Images and Words". "Awake" is ambitious, sophisticated and creative, more so than any other effort from DT. The compositions are much more complex and challenging, which does not, however, prevent them from being truly catchy. The album is also among DT's heaviest, courtesy of John Petrucci and his 7-string guitars, but due to the quality of the riffs and a healthy amount of keyboards, it never collapses into meaningless thrash, such as in "Train of Thought". Speaking of Petrucci, the guitar solos featured here are among his strongest: while practically all of them include a generous portion of shredding, he keeps things interesting by employing various scales and key shifts. He also uses plenty of chromaticism in his riffing , which sometimes gives the music an atonal quality. Meanwhile, James LaBrie adjusts to the heaviness by adding a considerable rasp to his normally clean voice, with generally convincing results. The lyrics are quite imaginative as well, something rarely found in their recent works.

The album's highlight is the three-part suite "A Mind Beside Itself", comprised of "Erotomania", "Voices" and "The Silent Man" (tracks 4-6). "Erotomania", an instrumental", kicks off with heavy, dissonant organ, quickly taken over by interesting guitar riffs; the band proceeds to tackle an impressive number of excellent, varied sections in what may well be their finest studio moment ever - along with "Voices", that is. The latter moves between haunting ambience and powerful thrash metal, tied together by a killer chorus. The finale, "The Silent Man", is a gentle, well-crafted ballad that re-enacts themes from "Erotomania".

Among other standouts is the "Mirror", the heaviest and darkest track on the album with jackhammer-like guitar chugging and powerful keyboards; it segues into "Lie", which consists mostly of blues rock riffs and Petrucci's technical demonstrations. "Lifting Shadows off a Dream" is quite different: except for the short instrumental bridge, it's a hook-laden pop song, but quite a haunting one, too. Its true strength lies in the atmospheric synths and guitar harmonics, and I find myself enjoying it a lot - more than "Scarred", in fact, which eventually grows a bit stale with its length of 11 minutes. The first three songs are relatively short, and therefore more effective, "Innocence Faded" being another of the album's strong points. The closing track is an interesting, if somewhat unfitting, addition to the album - that's Kevin Moore's personal composition, "Space-Dye Vest", a simple, emotional tune which could've actually made a hit single. I don't see it as being among the band's strongest creations, but I do enjoy it every now and then.

All in All, Dream Theater's finest hour. I'm not a DT fanboy, but I do recommend "Awake" to anyone with an open mind ;)

Pafnutij | 4/5 |

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