Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Dream Theater - The Astonishing CD (album) cover


Dream Theater

Progressive Metal

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
4 stars I think an album like this takes time to fully understand. At first glance it seems to be al over the place, much like lost concept albums), once you listen to a couple of times it starts making more and more sense. Its kind of cheesy here and there, but really, aside from The Wall and The Lamb, which isn't? For much of the first CD the only thing I could think of is how much it resembles The Final Cut from Pink Floyd and The Wall. It takes a lot of the way those albums work, even some of the sounds. One of the highlight in the first CD is Jordan Ruddess brilliant piano playing. The sound of the Steinway piano he used is amazing. The bad thing is that its a little bit overused, I would like more synths considering the theme. 20 songs in and there are several highlights: Dystopian Overture, The Gift of Music, A Better Life, Act of Faythe, A Life Left Behind and Ravenskill. The bad: too much use of the piano, too many ballads, some cheesy lyrics here and there and simply way too many songs. Feels all over the place at first but once you start understanding the lyrics you also start "getting it". On to the second disc...

The first two tracks of the second CD are rock solid, a little more of what I expected from a modern DT album, musicianship is up there. Moment of Betrayal is a very good DT song that fits in any album they've made. Heaven's Cove is a delightful piece, love the Genesis type chord progression and Steven Wilson like intro, very good and solid song, very fresh for DT. Hymn of a Thousand World ds is a very good song that feels kind of weird, it doesn't quite fit in; still good though. The violin and choir really stand out, I also like the Peter Gabrielish percussion. Final couple of songs are pretty good and sum up to finish the story on a high note.

After several listens and understanding the characters and lyrics I'm beggining to LOVE this album. Man they really outdid themselves with this. Even if the lyrics and story aren't that original, there is a message there and I like how the characters deliver it. Faythe, Gabriel, Arhys, Nafaryus, Arabelle, Evangeline, Daryus and Xander all collaborate to make this simple story a special one. If you read reviews that talk about a ROBOT REVOLUTION they clearly didn't read and understand the lyrics, there is nothing in the story that indicates this. Those reviews aren't complete! Beware. Story here is about the meaning of music in people's life, what new pop music is doing to people and how real inspiring music changes people in the right way. Nafaryus is the perfect example of this. Listen and understand the lyrics before concluding that its a bad story. Yes; its sometimes cheesy, but it does have a very special meaning in the end.

I think Dream Theater tried to do something really big here, they reached out and barely made it. It's by far their most ambicious album to date, now, that doesn't mean its great. The Astonishing turns out to be a great album. A little long, but I can now understand why it was made this way. They definitely thought of this as a live performance, can't wait!.

Much like The Lamb, there are a lot of small songs that their only reason for existence is to advance the story , also they use a lot of sounds and instruments that dont sound futuristic, but maybe thats the whole point of the stoey. Finally, Dream Theater have been known to take a little bit too much from their influences (Tool, Rush, Metallica, Muse). This time I think they listned to Pink Floyd's The Final Cut way too much. In the end though we get an enjoyable album with several highlights that tries to do way too much and is too cheesy for its own good. Its still DT though, and I do love cheese.

I'll give it an 9.0 out of 10.0.

Report this review (#1520924)
Posted Wednesday, January 27, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Whoa. I'm looking for an angle to start this review, so I'm just going to tackle the first impressions and perhaps harsh realizations I had, 130 minutes into this massive album. The first one is: "whew. I didn't make a mistake three months ago when I bought tickets to this opera without even a glimpse into what it would look like. My DT fan instincts didn't fail me this time, it's going to be massive". Then, "It's exactly as I had expected it to go" whether or not it's a good sign, I'm going to describe that feeling later. And finally, I'm still not decided if any song will make it into my Top 30 Dream Theater Playlist. Which definitely is a bad sign. I do hope some will grow on me, though.

Yep, if that's what you were looking for: nothing comes close to the epicness you could find in any album other album. To give you an idea, even the recent 'Illumination Theory' and 'The Enemy Inside' made it into that playlist, yet no song, at least on my first two listens stood out that much. On the other hand, I found out that the double album is much more, and perhaps too much, leveled. And in that respect, more pleasing to hear as a whole (bar the 5 transition tracks that I erased because 'hey, those are fine on stage, but don't waste CD time on robot noises') than Dream Theater or A Dramatic Turn of Events. Come to think of it, it's way more creative than these two, and I loved the prog vibes that went back to "The Dance of Eternity". Perhaps this album's biggest flaw lies in its length, since all the awesome chill-giving riffs, mind- bending solos are there, are diluted in a way that could have probably been mixed into the best 60-minute disc out there, but lose too much to recycled material. The good songs I'm going to mention are simply there because I found them consistent and 'new' enough to deserve repeated listens.

Let's bounce into the specifics: Petrucci has given us a wide array of sounds in this album, and although his solos are as good as ever, I couldn't find any novelty out there. Rudess, on the other hand has a much more important role, and broaches through the entire palette of sounds that his keyboard could offer ? maybe too much, 'Losing Faythe' sounds as if it were played on a child's keyboard. Some might criticize both of them for using old sounds, but I thought that they immediately linked back to the atmosphere in older songs, so that I could follow the theatrical direction without paying too much attention to the lyrics.

Lyrics, which I'm sorry, but are way too explicit and 1st degree not to be cringe worthy. No deep, profound meaning to be found (or maybe I'm not ready for such a level of abstraction yet). And no genuinely cool/interesting story à la 'Count of Tuscany' either -despite a similar tune at times, this one is way too intricate and filled with characters that no one cares about (American Idiot, anyone?). I just hope some visual clues will guide us through this pretentious "Jupiter Ascending"-like quest, but fortunately the music is good enough not to be a deal-breaker. Still, it's a shame, because the vocals are better than ever, LaBrie has traded his very wide range for a more controlled Bb2-Bb4 which has a pleasant timber. That's more or less playing it safe, but it does lack a bit of impact that uncontrolled screams sometimes have. It also results in some rehashed samples being too recognizable because the tonality does not change very often.

The great two missing from this album are Myung and Mangini: The former definitely lacks a decent bass line. Hell, give the guy some solos, he's a technical machine! The latter suffers from a similar problem: his technical skills are beyond reproach (and some tracks do give him justice in that aspect). But in the same way that Rudess managed to put some jazzy vibes inside this album, some bluesy/jazzy fillers that gave us something more than a mechanical drum track would have had me regret Portnoy's departure a little less.

On the positive side, the five-men band gains a lot of momentum thanks to the full-size orchestra that backs it. I do hope (even though it's unlikely) that the chorus and orchestra follow DT on tour. I also hoped that the opera side would blend a little more than it did on 'Illumination Theory' and I wasn't disappointed. All it lacks is some metal-classical fusion: the album is a little softer than the previous ones to my demur, and some epic classical music can be blended into metal, as sometimes is hinted throughout the album.

All in all, this is as good as I expected when I learned what project Dream Theater had gotten themselves involved with. Nothing amazing as Scenes From a Memory, as punchy as Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence or as gut-wrenching as Octavarium, but great nonetheless. Even though I still have trouble distinguishing songs which I liked more or less among those 34, here's my pick: 'Moment of Betrayal', 'The Path That Divides' and 'A Better Life' all are original in some way, gave me chills upon first listening to them and are the main reasons for my good grade to this album. Those three aside, the 'Overture' is nice to hear (but doesn't count since it merely summarizes most melodies to be heard further in the disc), 'The Gift of Music' is more varied in theme and aptly mixes a lot of DT signature bits into one great song. 'Ravenskill' and 'Three Days' are those progressive tracks that made Dream Theater famous. 'A New Beginning' is one of the harder songs, in which Petrucci delivers a great solo (maybe the best in the album? I don't know for sure yet). And finally, 'Our New World' is a great end track, and quite radio-friendly to be honest. Don't mistake my words, there is one last song after that, 'Astonishing' (and one quickly-deleted filler noise track) which is fantastically underwhelming and certainly not nearly grand enough to wrap up 2 hours of material, but I don't think it comes close to the nine previously mentioned.

I still hope that in the future they give us a more compact album with the same level of production, but until then, I am more than content with this great disc. The Astonishing may not be as revolutionary as DT may have been in the past, but as a whole is the best since Black Clouds and Silver Linings, which is a pretty good feat considering they've almost been around three decades.

Report this review (#1520946)
Posted Wednesday, January 27, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Astonishing. Astonishing? Damn right it is. Love every moment of it. I am one who likes the new direction of Dream Theater. Love their more melodic side. MP2 and 6D disc two have always been my favorites. Every song here is a 5 star effort, except the few robotic sounding ones. The care and perfection put into the production is "astonishing". J. L's. vocals are amazing. He has always has been one of my favorite singers. J. P's. guitar work, as always, is top notch. I really appreciate J.R's. expanded role since Portnoy's departure. His keyboards now play an equal role and he is fantastic. M.M in a word. Superb! J.M. sure did disappear though, better luck next time. This truly epic album is priceless. I appreciate and repect DT more than ever.
Report this review (#1521906)
Posted Friday, January 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Astonishing is a really interesting album. You see, when we talk about Dream Theater, we always mention Petrucci's skills and faster-than-light solos as the main attraction. Here, Petrucci is almost a secondary character. The driving forces behind this album are Jordan Rudess and Mike Mangini. The former delivers beautiful sonic landscapes, the latter strengthens them. Some Dream Theater fans, specially metalheads, might cast this one aside unfairly, mainly because most of the songs are not that catchy and their beauty is not readily apparent. You need to hear this one many times in order to appreciate its true power. The lyrics and theme might be cheesy, yes, but the whole package makes for one of the band's best offerings, if not the best. This is an amazing record. Bravo, DT, Bravo.
Report this review (#1521978)
Posted Friday, January 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars This one grows on you, it's pretty much every style that DT ever covered in his carrer. it's prog, it's métal , it's even acoustic. Bringing memories of Awake, Six Degress, Octavarium, and Images.

To be honest it's a more a Petrucci Rudess album then a group effort creatively speaking that's why the rythm section is a bit more in the background this time. But doń't get me wrong the musicianship is top notch from all members. DT is in fine form like they haven't been in a long time.

So just sit back relax and let the story be told. A nice two plus hour.

A good epic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Report this review (#1522167)
Posted Friday, January 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars As a long-time Dream Theater fan, I have to admit I fell out of love with the band after the last two lackluster albums, so I went into this one with pretty low expectations. Would they do something new? Something fresh? Something I would want to listen through more than once before unchecking it all off my itunes? Would those cheesy preview promos of the story concept ruin it for me? Would they ever find their creative groove again, after losing it once Portnoy left?

After just the first few songs, I knew that this was probably their best release in a decade. It was not only incredibly ambitious for them, but they also actually somehow pulled it off.

I'm already reading a lot of criticism fly every which way on the internet, so I'll get this out of the way now - the metalhead bedroom guitarists and the technical proggers might be saddened to find that there's not a lot of metal to be found, or any of their expected 20+ or even 10+ minute epics, or much Dance of Eternity-esque odd time signatures, or many crazy pyrotechnic exercise runs that people always make fun of the band for engaging in. There's no Glass Prison type extravaganza type track, with chunky seven string riffs and typical trade-off solos.

Instead, the album is defined by 4-5 minute vocal-led, major-key, lush symphonic rock songs, many piano pop ballads, and a few heavy tracks and sections all mixed in between. Even the heavy songs usually have 1 or 2 piano ballad verses included in them. Think of a longer version of the Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence suite, which was largely symphonic and pop/rock/ballad oriented. Being a listener who really prefers that side of the band, this album was a big treat.

Like with most concept albums for me, I honestly don't really understand the exact intricacies of the story very well. I can best describe it as some kind of 2112 meets Romeo & Juliet fantasy tale with rebellions and betrayals and swordfights and character drama. But even just listening to it blindly, it hit some strong emotional highs with me due to the album's great pacing, the surprisingly well-integrated use of orchestra and variety of outside instruments (including bagpipes), and especially LaBrie's incredible voice and delivery. It's his absolute best recorded work, no doubt. The lyrics he's singing are very simplistic and pretty cheesy, but sometimes that works best. To be honest, the whole album is dominated by Rudess's piano and LaBrie's voice more than anyone, the rest of the band tend to play a supporting role. Including Petrucci, who even when playing the heavy metal riffs, doesn't really dominate the scene like he usually does. When he does have a role, it's also usually with Rudess piano as well, which reminds me a lot of An Evening With (especially State Of Grace).

A lot of people will compare this to Scenes From a Memory, but this one really goes all the way as a "soundtrack" or Broadway play. And while SFAM is derided as being cheesy to some, The Astonishing is even more so - far FAR more, so you should be prepared for that coming into it. You also have to prepare for listening to over 2 hours of music (there's only a few minutes worth of non-song interludes with the machine noise). Something I have to point out that I really appreciate though, is that it's clear they wrote the story first, and wrote the music afterwards to match the story, like proper soundtrack music should. It's only heavy or soft or symphonic when appropriate, and just makes the album work very well as a cohesive whole.

I think this release will end up being very divisive for the fans, very "love it or hate it", but that's nothing new for this band. For me, after too many years of being fairly disappointed with them, I'm happy to say that it's definitely a "love it."

Standout tracks: A New Beginning, A Life Led Behind, Brother Can You Hear Me, Saviour in the Square

To be honest, I don't actually dislike any of the songs, since they all work so well with each other and all have something to offer. It's hard to take them apart from each other.

Report this review (#1522193)
Posted Friday, January 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Broadway meets Disney meets Dream Theater = Epic!!! Well, almost. First things first unlike many other people I wasn't skeptical at all that Dream Theater could pull off such a bold undertaking such as 'The Astonishing.' The scale and scope of this album is simply mind blowing and that cannot be disputed. This is the most organic and melodic album the band has ever produced, yet it still maintains that progressive nature that fans have grown accustomed to. Another word that can describe this album, aside from epic is....overwhelming. 34 tracks could've easily been broken down into 25 had they just segmented certain individual tracks making them longer. This would've created a nicer fluidity to the album which seems disjointed at times due to the fact that just as you're rocking out to a track it simply just ends, too abruptly for my taste. DT fans love the fact that Dream Theater is known for writing lengthy tracks so why they didn't stick to their formula and make the album more seamless bugs me a bit. Another gripe I have is poor John Myung gets hidden in the mix that he's hardly even noticeable on the album unless you're fine tuning your hearing specifically for him. This man is a prodigy on bass and was severely underutilized on this album. Now it sounds like I'm completely bashing this album, however that couldn't be farther from the truth. This album, while flawed is easily Dream Theater's most grandiose and beautifully rendered work of all time. My ears were ringing with joy throughout the 2+ hours of eargasmic experience.. And that is e actor what this album is, an epic experience. It's essentially Star Wars meets Les Miserables....but for your ears. The story is loosely recycled from Rush's 2112 yet has an original and fresh take on the concept that in the year 2285 human beings no longer created heir own original music but are dealt with artificial renderings of so called music from machines called NOMACS (Noise Machines). The music on this album will leave you humming along, clapping and possibly crying as well. The more I've listened the more I've enjoyed the experience. It's definitely an album that grows with each listen. This was a daring statement by Dream Theater in the sense that just because they've been around for 30+ years doesn't mean they can't create something 'Astonishing.' Well, they most certainly have. 9/10
Report this review (#1522420)
Posted Saturday, January 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm not a Dream Theater fanboy by any means, but this one truly surprised me. After seeing the ridiculous trailer an knowing that it was over two hours long, I expected the worst. Needless to say, I changed my mind... though not completely. Musically, The Astonishing is probably Dream Theater's finest work. LaBrie's performance was what surprised me the most about this album. He was great. I never liked his vocals beforehand, but he absolutely nailed it here. Having to do different voices for different characters and events, he displayed tremendous versatility that I never expected of him. Petrucci is as good as he's ever been; same for Rudess. Myung is a little underused in this album, but it doesn't take away from the experience as a whole. My one complaint about this album is definitely the lyrics. I'm fine with the 'robot music rebellion' concept, but the lyrics are filled with so much cheese that it sometimes distracts me from the excellent music in the background. The concept, the music, and the lyrics are all extremely ambitious, but the lyrics definitely didn't do it for me. Don't expect Roger Waters level lyrics here, but if you're up for an amazing musical experience, I highly recommend this album. Again, I'm not the biggest DT fan, but based on what I've heard, this is one of the strongest albums they've written in the last decade, and perhaps their entire career.

Best songs: Dystopian Overture (definitely my favorite track), A Life Left Behind, A New Beginning, Astonishing.

Report this review (#1522477)
Posted Saturday, January 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an epic rock opera. It is not a formula for all future Dream Theater albums, and it should be applauded that they had the guts to create something bigger and more challenging. I give them a lot credit since the risk is much higher in 2016 than it was in the 70s because the internet is a platform for people to destroy a band at lightning speed. With all that being said, you can expect excellent musicianship and vocals in a long concept album wrapper. While some may state it is cheesy, I have no issues with the content. Each listen is more and more exciting as it grows on me further. Any Dream Theater fan, Progressive Rock or metal fan, should add it to their collection. It is nothing like the classic Dream Theater albums, so your expectation is what can control your appreciation for The Astonishing. The main complaints that I hear is that it is not metal enough and it is too long. To address both of those issues, they are true to an extent. This is not a heavy Dream Theater release, but there are some passages that flat out rock. However, as a rock opera, it does have a Dream Theater signature sound that oozes the quality that made them into the premiere Progressive Metal group. People will be disappointed if they are not in the mood for a dramatic rock opera. If they want classic Dream Theater, it is still available in their massive catalog. What I can say about the length is that this will not likely ever be something to listen to in one sitting. It is too long if that is a desired expectation. I rarely listened to The Wall in one sitting, because a double album has so much music in it. Should the Astonishing have been closer in length to The Wall? Most likely! It is the length of a triple CD and lacks the variety of multiple guest singers playing parts like an Ayreon album. Only time will tell how it is received by the fans.
Report this review (#1522551)
Posted Saturday, January 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I never imagined it would come to this, but I finally had to start justifying my liking Dream Theater.

No, not to others. I think no one should ever feel the need to justify musical tastes to other people, whether one likes Bach or Coltrane, or Justin Bieber or Nickelback. There is no such a thing as "guilty pleasures" (a case could be made against reggaeton, but anyway...)

The problem is, I have finally felt the need to justify my liking Dream Theater to myself. As I was listening to "The Astonishing", I had to constantly ask myself if this was the same rock band I used to regard as my absolute favorite (they probably still are), the one I have seen the most times live, the one I used to carry around mentioning it to everyone, as a banner representing a large part of my musical taste.

But as the question surfaced, I kept reminding myself that, yes, this is the same band that gave me "Images and Words", "Awake", "Scenes from a Memory", and many other great albums that made them dear to me. So, what happened?

To be fair, I have to disclose that my musical tastes as of late have shifted, in one way, back to the beginning, back to the music I enjoyed the most as a child and a young adolescent (classical music), but they have also moved to the raw and the dark, as the styles of rock I currently listen to the most are the most extreme forms of metal (black and death). While this development has not only musical but also emotional reasons behind it, the fact is, even as this has occurred, when I put "Pull me Under" or "Metropolis" in a CD player, when I press play in "Scarred" or "Home" in my phone, I still feel exactly the same sensation of awe at the great rock music these guys were capable of making. They were capable of playing rings around other bands, but they were also able to create great songs.

And that is what has disappeared from "The Astonishing", the song. The song has been the great victim in this difficult-to-understand exercise in ostentation that Dream Theater has recorded and just released to the market. There are NO SONGS. There's almost not one single track that one could take and could stand on its own and be enjoyed on its own. It's no wonder they chose "The Gift of Music" as their first "single" (so to speak), as it's the closest the album ever gets to a memorable 5 minutes (another strong candidate would be the Scenes-from-a-Memory-sound-alike "Moment of Betrayal"), even if the taste of Rush-iness is impossible to ignore.

Don't get me wrong, this release has tons of great moments, but please take that term in its most literal way: extracts, sections, bits that sound brilliant, that show 5 guys who can play whatever they want in any way they want, and who could still make decent songs...if they wanted to. But they never allow these moments to persist, to create a memory in the listener's mind, for they will immediately obliterate any hope of permanence by switching gears and going to either the most outrageous display of instrumentalist pyrotechnics they can put out, or the most incongruous slow-piano-led section that, while nice-sounding, makes absolutely no structural sense if the purpose of it all was to create a long, extended concept piece.

I always imagined that, at their current age, the guys in Dream Theater would be releasing something simpler, more song-oriented. They have already proven they can play really well. I would've imagined "Falling into Infinity 2" as their midlife album. But I was wrong by a mile. These 5 have regressed back into their 20's, trying to convince everybody that there is absolutely nothing they can't play, no solo that is beyond them, no idea that can't be stopped in its tracks and completely put aside in favor of another one in a blink of an eye. In a word: they are still showing off.

Rock music is simple by nature. What these same guys and others in the past (and current) waves of prog (and other rock styles) have managed to do is to make the genre go beyond its traditional boundaries, instrumentally, structurally, harmonically, or in other ways. But in the end, it still needs to have a simple core, a center that can hold an edifice that, by itself, doesn't lend itself too well to 2-hour exercises in non-stop music. Dream Theater in "The Astonishing" have decided that no center is necessary: section after section after section can come and go without any consequence (that's what they seem to think), and this album thus becomes basically a series of snippets of great musicianship buried under a big pile of egomania. To elaborate on the common expression, in "The Astonishing", one can't see the forest for the trees, and on top of that, each tree individually belongs to a different family and therefore should go in a different forest.

I'm sure one can still be impressed by the talent these 5 guys have in their fingers. They can still play scales and fills faster and more smoothly than nobody else in the rock world....

... What they have forgotten is how to write a damn song.

Report this review (#1522649)
Posted Saturday, January 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars I never anticipated something like this from Dream Theater. I was wary of their endless, overwrought instrumental sections; soulless vocals and fruitless struggle to grant us the pleasure of music.

Now it's all different. With 'The Astonishing' Dream Theater has set yet another brilliant milestone in their long, illustrious career.

The first thing that came to my mind upon my first and second listens was, 'Oh, the vocal melodies are their best since 6DoIT or perhaps SFaM.' And indeed the vocals are the astonishing aspect of this album.

In this album you can grasp anything: soft acoustic and piano parts to heavy riffs and mind-blowing solos.

The drums on this album are minimal. They don't interfere with the beauty and flow of the orchestration (and vocal- oriented theme) of the album.

'The Astonishing' proves that ideas never end and that change is inevitable. John Petrucci understood that Dream Theater must stop their previous path and experiment something different. He has sacrificed his and Jordan Rudess' technical capabilities, bringing them down to a moderate level for something more beautiful and feeling.

I recommend this album to those who long for sweet melodies and perfect arrangements, a worthwhile journey into Dream Theater's best solid struggle in almost 15+ years.

Report this review (#1522810)
Posted Sunday, January 31, 2016 | Review Permalink
Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars Can this album get to be "A New Beginning" in the Progressive Metal scene?

This "The Astonishing" has been released in January 2016 as the 13th one of DREAM THEATER. Sorry I've listened to this stuff without any knowledge of the background but it's no good to have only half a pure impression for this album ... it's not amazing, not astonishing.. Through the whole album, a definite homage to some Symphonic Progressive Rock combos can be heard ... I know enough that a massive expectation when the newest album of theirs is released always calls various opinions, namely pros and cons, and my humble opinion for this album is "they play lots of melodious appearances fully with metallic essence, and launch some slush- core moments or acoustic passions here and there as well ... exactly precariously mysterious weirdness is weaved into musical / atmospheric stability.

Regardless to mention how splendid their play technique is, extreme dangerous movement filled with digital, inorganic sound elements just from the beginning arouses our appetite aka curiosity. Guess it might be DT's speciality and one of their newer phases to blend tight, hard-edged metallic vibrations with melodious heartwarming phrases, where symphonic texture can be apparently heard, with magnificent synthesizer play or female harmonies sometimes merged in the sound basis effectively. James' voices, which never get blurred as usual, are so smooth and relaxed for us enough to enjoy safe and sound in a sense. More dramatic and theatrical development seasoned with their soundtrack-ish interpretation upon this whole album is squeezed into our ears.

Orchestration featuring violins or other strings should be effective indeed, but it's not their potential for Symphonic Progressive Rock but one of their original strategies already furnished. Always appreciated to find their courage that they have featured unpredictable instruments (especially in Progressive Metal scene) e.g. bagpipes or trumpets. Very impressive and amazing for me is "Three Days", featuring violently depressive view in the main stream and swing-jazzy, lazy points in the flank ... each of them scatters or pops out of a jewel box and suddenly settle down with others into the box. This phenomenon can be felt they have done all they wanted to do. And another pleasure is "A Life Left Behind", an excessively superb catchy pop song (a sudden alteration be heard at the last stage though).

If I'm permitted, please let me say boldly this first material reminds me of such a rock opera giant "Bohemian Rhapsody" by QUEEN.

Anyway, the second one can be thought as a stuff for the outfit to press or urge progressive pop freaks to accept. Metallic colour, namely the core, has got so attenuated and exactly fantastic "easy-to-listen" music pole has been built so rigidly. Indeed each of the tracks sounds not bad, but at least for me, it might not so easy to understand their obvious strategy or music method, to appeal what they want to shoot in this album. Yes, eventually cannot clarify their foci to their important fans. We should appreciate they have constructed another "road to revolution" against Progressive Rock World, that's true. However, I cannot help feeling they have over- participated such a popularity or commercialism for infiltrating their creation through much more music intellectual strata, sad to say.

By the way, finally let me say as follows; if somebody asks me whether it be good or not to purchase this album, I'll say YES, of course. ;)

Report this review (#1522812)
Posted Sunday, January 31, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Excellent!! I wasn't enamored with Dream Theater's last self titled release although it was by no means a bad album. With this work Dream Theater fans the flame that I have for them in no uncertain terms. Some may complain that there are no solid single tracks on the album but those that do are missing the point entirely. The whole work is a track, a composition that meanders through various music styles telling a grand story that is not too far removed from Rush's 2112 work. There are sweet melodies, moments of symphonic grandeur, eclectic sounds, harsh heavy moments - and throughout it all the technical wizardry of the different band members (typical of the band) astounds. Some may complain that the work is too long but again a point is then being totally missed - I would rather have more than less - especially when the work is of this quality. If I can't get through it in one sitting then two or more sittings is just fine. The whole of the "Walking Dead" TV series would take hours to work through in one session but personally I love the series and to watch episodes is just fine. James LaBrie has never sounded as good and what he achieves by taking on the various characters of the story and giving them their own vocal identities is brilliant. John Petrucci - well, what can we say? - probably easily the best lead guitarist out there today. Jordan Rudess - keyboard wizard extraordinaire. Mike Mangini - He already holds world records and he is a machine here. John Myung - some complain that he is always missing in the mix but if he weren't there you'd hear it and know - his technical base playing is part of the Dream Theater wall of sound.

This is a theatrical rock / metal / opera and it stands up with the best of them. You can't love Operation Mindcrime and not adore this. I can't wait to take this spectacle in Live as it will be grand.

Five very easy stars.

Report this review (#1522860)
Posted Sunday, January 31, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Stupid storyline and overlong, this DT album is a failed product. Instead of editing the ordeal down to about 50 minutes, DT chose to build a laughable West-End musical, about too many people in an unreliable future. A society with no music? are you serious, guys? I can't relate to anything in this Spinal Tap rock-opera. If this is "2112" meets "The Matrix" meets "Game of Thrones", I'm really not impressed. I've edited this 2-disc monster into a reasonably short 1-CD format.

Here are the good tracks in their correct, edited order: 1) Dystopian Overture 2) The Gift of Music 3) A Better Life 4) A Life Left Behind 5) A New Beginning 6) Moment of Betrayel 7) The Path That Divides 8) The Walking Shadow 9) My Last Farewell 10) Astonishing

This way you get an effective album - not very innovative, not too bright, but at least - it's listenable. Why should I, the consumer, do the cruel editing work for the band? a professional musical producer would have done the same, easily.

The 2-CD package is awash with "filler" ballads, boring monolgues and a lot of pure kitsch. James Lebrie does a great vocal job, but the lyrics, plot and grand concept are Junior-High level. DT has produced an un-listenable product, which costs about 19 USD at iTunes, a bit too expensive for the actual artistic value.

That's why I rate this audio-mess a fair 3/5 stars.

Report this review (#1523169)
Posted Monday, February 1, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars People can say what they want... But this is a beautifull album. A lot of reviewers are complaining about there not being one or two real STAND OUT tracks on this album, but the reality is, this album should be taken in as two huge and magnificent pieces. Each with their own themes and the waves of energy.

While there is a lack of metal coming from this band, only Dream Theater could make something so wondrous and beautiful. And while sure the drums sound a little compressed and generated, Mike Mangini is still one of the best drummers in the world, and it is clearly evident in The Astonishing.

I do not think the star rating system gives great accuracy to the rating of this work to Dream Theater fans. So, from a rating of Falling To Infinity to Metropolis Part 2, this album is a solid Images and Words.

Report this review (#1523193)
Posted Monday, February 1, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Now Playing: Dream Theater - The Astonishing (2016) A couple of listens in now ( my, it's long ) and overall it's not a bad album, but IMO it's just too disjointed and there's no real flow from start to finish. At first it almost sounds as if DT were attempting to write their own version of "The Wall", but it never quite gets there. Lots of good melodies though, but why, o why does Mangini's kick drum have such an annoying "click, click, click" throughout ? I don't mind a bit of brightness on a bass drum, but for me it's overbearing and distracting on this record. I will listen to it again, but "Scenes From A Memory" this is not. One further note, why use character names like "Emperor Nefaryus" ? This isn't a Disney movie....unless DT are planning to start playing on a cruise ship and open a theme park. You can do better fellows.
Report this review (#1523978)
Posted Tuesday, February 2, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars To limit this review was a daunting task, almost as daunting as listening to it in its entirety. But nonetheless, it felt necessary to give my two cents on the most anticipated and fan-dividing album of the year: progressive metal giants Dream Theater's concept double album 'The Astonishing.' It seems everyone has something to say about this one, at polar opposite ends of appreciation. I've read both harsh contempt and deifying praise for 'The Astonishing,' which has only confused my expectations. But after two listens to this album lasting over two hours, I have finally formed an opinion. And where do I stand, you ask? Somewhere in the middle.

'The Astonishing' is truly remarkable considering its size and scope. I like to think of all of the what I call 'mega-concepts' ever made, being concept albums lasting over a span of multiple albums. Older albums like Genesis' 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway,' Pink Floyd's 'The Wall,' and The Who's 'Quadrophenia' come to mind quickly, cinematic and operatic in nature. This album falls right in line with the others, being less of a metal album and more of a soundtrack instead. Something about these mega-concepts bring out a lighter, dramatic side of the bands performing them, which Dream Theater succumbs to here. There is a noticeable lack of shredding, instrumental duels between different members, or keyboard-driven wankery of the Wizard, but they're not altogether absent. Instead, this album relies heavily on two members: singer James LaBrie and pianist (not keyboardist) Jordan Rudess.

Singer LaBrie gives the performance of his career in 'The Astonishing,' probably one of his better showings in their long discography. Being coached by lyricist/guitarist (and creator of the concept) John Petrucci, LaBrie provides different vocal deliveries for each character in the concept, approaching each set of lyrics as the character would. I admit sometimes it's hard to tell which character is talking, but in some cases the deliveries are quite noticeable. The ponderings of Lord Nafaryus in 'Nafaryus' and the conversation between its two main characters in the following song 'A Savior In The Square' are spot- on, with the antagonist's snarl and protagonist's hopeful voice. There are other instances throughout 'The Astonishing' that LaBrie's vocals shines, particular in notable piano arrangements by Rudess. Something I particularly enjoyed about this album is the increased piano presence compared to the over-the-top keyboard effects. The piano is something that isn't particularly focused on in prior work, so it becomes a breath of fresh air after listening to older albums like 'Train of Thought' and 'Black Clouds and Silver Linings.'

As for the remaining instruments, they are basically left in the background. There are moments when guitar chords and soloing are brought to light, but not nearly as focused as in other albums. In fact, I was surprised by the lack of bass guitar and drums on 'The Astonishing.' John Myung's bass rhythms are always complementing Petrucci's ridiculously fast guitar solos, but are not given the opportunity in the more piano-centric album. In addition, drummer Mike Mangini feels left out on every album he's played on, instead used as a pendulum for the others. I would never think in my years of listening to Dream Theater that one of its members would be used in a way that didn't accurately portray their talents, but Mangini's contributions to 'The Astonishing' (and to a lesser extent their previous self-titled album) leave much to be desired. If only Mangini was used to strengthen dramatic moments in the album's concept, it would provide another needed dimension.

As for the album's concept, it's a longwinded tale about a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future, kingdoms and rebels, saviors and the importance of music. Cheesy indeed, following the current trend of young adult, sci-fi movies. Honestly, I haven't been able to tackle this beast in my two listens through, so I will have to leave this for you all to figure out. Ten bonus points to those that can comment below and summarize the album's concept. What I have noticed is that much of the album's lyrics are quite predictable, following similes and metaphors written by infinite others bands (like a phoenix rising from ashes, David versus Goliath, etc.). In this case, though, it serves as a positive in tackling the album's concept, making it much more approachable and relatable.

An album with 34 songs, it was hard to pick which songs rise above the others. Since a majority of them follow the same flavor of orchestral, cinematic vocals and piano arrangements, I had a hard time deciphering which song was which. Much of the album uses repetitious arrangements to string the songs together, which doesn't help matters. With that said, I can think of two that stand out: the single 'The Gift of Music' and 'The Path That Divides.' I feel these two stand out to me the most because they remind me so much of the culmination of their sound. Reading so many arguments about what influenced the album's sound, I can definitely hear moments of albums like 'Awake' and 'Falling Into Infinity,' while at the same time hearing newer albums like 'A Dramatic Turn of Events' and 'Dream Theater.'

Despite the positives and negatives, praise and scorn, there is one pressing matter about 'The Astonishing,' the elephant in the room: Who has time to listen to a two hour, eleven minute album nowadays? Since its release on Thursday evening/Friday morning, I've listened to 'The Astonishing' a total of two times over several interrupted listens. With a wife, a child, a job, and a time-consuming hobby, I have little left in my day to devote to anything, let alone listening to an album longer than most movies. Don't get me wrong, I love long albums, especially long concept albums. 'Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise' by The Dear Hunter is a notable 74 minute album, while 'Good Apollo Volume I' by Coheed and Cambria is a breathtaking 71 minutes of your day. But devoting 130 minutes to anything is absolutely insane. The worst part is despite the cries of filler material in this album, nothing could be taken away without sacrificing its quality. As much as I'd love for this album to elapse over one album instead of two, every song is essential. This format might work perfectly in a live setting, but I simply don't have enough time to listen to 'The Astonishing' in its entirety. This album will be one of those that one act will be listened to more than another.

To summarize my thoughts of this album, I'll answer these three important questions:

Is it better than their last self-titled album? Absolutely, since I considered it one of their worst they've ever released.

Is it their best album? Absolutely not. Nothing can (and will ever) touch 'Metropolis Part II.'

Is it worth listening to? If you have the time and patience, of course!

So do give the ol' college try on 'The Astonishing.' I won't be clich' and say it's astonishing, but I will say that Dream Theater left everything on the table with this album. With its positives and negatives, they weren't afraid to pour their soul and push the boundaries of progressive metal.

Taken from

Report this review (#1524499)
Posted Tuesday, February 2, 2016 | Review Permalink
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
4 stars It took me a while to get into this long concept album about the possible future of the human race in this technology era where the most tragic consequence, would be that the music could be done by machines! At first, i had trouble to feel the flow of the songs with many moods ant rhythm changes from one song to the other. This is a opera rock of another kind of what the band has done recently. The addition of the orchestra, a choir, classical arrangements, with violin and a lot of piano from Jordan make this album less heavy but that doesn't mean that we don't have any heavy parts in this 2 hours music. We can hear some influences from SODTI and SFAM in various passages and of the band Circle of Illusion that made a opera kind of album of that nature few years ago. I really enjoy to hear the band switching in a different territory for a brief moment touching folk, exotic and circus music. The short interludes with special sound effects of robotic machines, military march etc, bring a soundtrack dimension to this music. There is still the big sound of John in the lead guitar, the more direct rock approach and those melancholic parts with Jordan playing the piano or James singing a power ballad. It seems clear that the contribution of Jordan and John have been very important here to create this ambitious album. Mike Mangini's drums don't have enough punch to fit in this rather well produced music. There is no long epic song here, unless you see the whole album as a big piece. In conclusion, this could be the Tales From Topographic Oceans album of Dream Theater, a work that reveals itself after a certain amount of listening.
Report this review (#1524571)
Posted Wednesday, February 3, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars I can't understand why some are down on this album. Perhaps because it is more symphonic and less mechanical than some of DTs creations, but its melodic characteristics are what make this such a fine composition. I guess it depends what you're into - melody or rhythm. It is definitely a vast improvement over the last two outings.

Unlike other reviewers, I don't find this album disjointed at all. The story carries well and is punctuated smoothly by the music. Nor do I find it too long as some have suggested. It is a pleasant way to spend two hours IMO.

Not quite a masterpiece, I give it 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#1526060)
Posted Saturday, February 6, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you're looking for a traditional Dream Theater album, it's not The Astonishing. No, this album is much, much more than that. In fact, I'd suggest that people not even view this album as an "album," per se. It's a musical. And fans who approach the two-disc conceptual rock opera expecting the band's usual formula of long songs and blistering instrumentals will likely be disappointed. Luckily, I'm not one of those fans. I truly adore everything about this unique dystopian masterpiece.

Now, before we go any further, I should disclose that I'm one of the band's biggest fanboys. For example, I've got a Dream Theater decal on my car and I attended the band's induction into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010, to give you an idea of how hardcore I am. Despite my "fanboyness," I was still skeptical when I saw details about the album start to emerge in late 2015. Everything seemed lavish and over the top about The Astonishing -- from the elaborate map of a fictional kingdom to the flying noise machines that resembled something out of the 2013 science-fiction movie, "Oblivion." But I trust in the judgment of guitarist John Petrucci. The band has released a dozen studio albums since the late '80s, with Petrucci steadily guiding the band lyrically and musically. He always comes through. And in the case of The Astonishing, he's come through once again -- and with flying colors.

If you've seen any of the band's recent promotional interviews for The Astonishing, Petrucci has made it clear that he didn't set out to write typical Dream Theater songs for the album. Rather, he and keyboardist Jordan Rudess were writing music to accompany the futuristic story Petrucci had written -- a story about an oppressive world void of human music that is rescued by a "chosen one" named Gabriel, who has the "gift of music." There's some love mixed in too, I should note. For a band known for its instrumental prowess, this was a big risk and departure from their standard recipe. But let's be realistic. The band has given us three decades of great music and if they want to experiment for an album cycle I'm all for it. It's one of the reasons I respect this band so much. They're willing to challenge themselves.

I'll admit, my first reaction was that the album might be too Rudess-heavy and slow in spots. But then, I followed along with the booklet's character dialogue as well as the track-by-track descriptions of the plot and scene posted on the band's website and I found myself enjoying and appreciating it a whole lot more. The tunes are tailored to the tale's tone and chatter to the point where it created a "theater" in my mind. Fitting for a group named Dream Theater, I'd say. The illustrations posted in the booklet and on the website helped the visualizations as well. Overall, the song flow and music choices were more understandable in the story's context and it was a fun experience. I even felt my heart racing at the climactic moments.

Musically, there's a little bit of everything on The Astonishing. There are some conventional-sounding Dream Theater songs like "The Gift of Music" and "Moment of Betrayal," there are beautiful ballads like "When Your Time Has Come" and "Chosen," and there are others that jump all over the map like "A Tempting Offer" and "My Last Farewell." There are also some sound effects to bring the story to life as well as a full orchestra and choir. Oh, and vocalist James LaBrie plays the role of eight characters. In total, there are over two hours of music. And I must say that every time I listen to the album I find a new part that mesmerizes me.

My only criticism is Roadrunner Record's poor handling of the album's pre-order distribution. I didn't receive my copy in the mail by release day, so I had to spend my Friday night trying to find a store that still had it in stock. I totally refuse to listen to a new album on YouTube. I wanted the complete package in my hands to experience the album the way it was meant to be experienced. Oddly enough, I ended up enjoying it so much that I kept both copies -- one for home, and one for my car. It's safe to say I'll be listening to lots of The Astonishing.

All in all, The Astonishing is an incredibly ballsy album that shows us the progressive metal giant's creative spirit and innovative side continue to expand, evolve and explore new places -- even a whopping 30 years into their career. And I can't wait to see where they take us next.

- Michael R. Ebert (

Report this review (#1526189)
Posted Saturday, February 6, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars Long gone are the days when people marvel listening DT. More by design, arrangements and the approach than the accomplishment itself (and technical virtuosity). Gone is the time of "Learning to live", "Scarred" or "Beyond this life" not to mention "Change of Seasons" where each segment of each piece was a gem in itself. Since the departure of MP and even more today, this architecture / creativity gave way to the exhibition rather than writing. The arrival of Mangini only amplified even more this new direction! It is true that the man is a technical monster, so huge that his perfect control makes it completely mechanical play and as if it was out of a simulation via a soft kind EZ Drummer or Superior Drummer. His contribution is more in the mimic (to perfection) JP and JR madness than to give body and depth to music and sometimes play the role of bridge or lead (as did MP) between the different sections and even during the evolutions thereof. On the other hand, we dont hear Myung, who spawned "Learning to Live" "a trial of tears" and "Strange Deja vu". Disappeared, both in the presence and in the contribution. I'll avoid commenting LaBrie performance (overall and since long ago), freed from the oppression of the boss and that drove him to do anything other than sing cheesy ballads. Ultimately, and even apart from the above, the latter Opus has no interest except the format. In fact, the form has taken over the content, apart 2-3 titles here and there, that I can't describe as progressive music. The frenzied duets or hyper technical playing itself are not enough so that I may consider this album as progressive. The technical achievements are expected to intensify a complex writing, not cover it up.
Report this review (#1527254)
Posted Tuesday, February 9, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars I commend Dream Theater for getting outside their comfort zone and trying something truly new. I felt they had been retreading well trod ground since Scenes From A Memory and things had grown very stale. I'd prefer they try something new like this, and perhaps fail, than just keep regrugitating stuff they've already done.

And major, major props to James LaBrie. He does indeed give the performance of a lifetime; his vocals are easily the highlight of the entire work. Unfortunatley, the material he's given to work with is lacking in many ways. What ways? Well, let's count them:

1. Lyrics: simply they are embarrassing. Petrucci has no sense of subtlety, with wholly literal lyrics that render the storey-telling dull. I find myself cringing at the junior-high level lyrics frequently throughout the album. This, more than anything, makes significant portions borderline unlistenable. (Honestly, I think if they had hired an outside, maybe someone from the theater world, they would have been better served).

2. Structure: concept albums are problematical because the artist's are telling a story and that often means standard song structures don't apply. Instead you often get bits and pieces of music that, on their own, don't really stand up very well. Great concept albums, however, make this a strength by stitching the bits and pieces together in creative, pleasing ways. DT's own Scenes album does this; The Wall and Operation Mindcrime are other good examples. Both use spoken-word or media snippets to not only transition from one piece to the next effectively but also supplement the story-telling. Songs are often designed to flow naturally from one to the next. We find very little of that in The Astonishing. Instead we get dozens of musical snippets that often sound randomly organized; transitions are clunky, jarring. The whole of a great concept album is greater than the sum of its pieces whereas with The Astonishing the sum of the pieces is less.

3. No songs. Another key to most concept albums is while there are musical bits here and there there's also some great stand-alone songs. Comfortably Numb and Eyes of a Stranger for example. I'm not sure ANY of the songs here are anything better than meh on their own. Which means you need to listen to a 2 hour plus piece to hear it in its most pleasant setting...and who can do that?

4. Where's the climax? I've listened six times....and while Act one makes sense to me I have no idea what's going on in Act Two. There is no climactic song or moment. EVERY great concept album has this. Suite Sister Mary, The Trial, the "perimeter walk" section of Blind Curve from Misplaced Childhood...I could go on and on. It's just not here in the Astonishing, and it leaves me wanting and bewildered as a listener.

5. Finally,...this is largely a 2.5 person album. I feel like it's a Petrucci / Rudess album and LaBrie is featured. Myung and Mangini, as great as they are, have nothing more than a hired hand role and that is sad considering DT's roots.

All in all....again, I give credit for trying. But in the end a failure. I can't imagine after digesting this a few more times really ever listening to the Astonishing or even individual songs from it.

Report this review (#1527870)
Posted Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Review Permalink
1 stars Well, if your introduction to DT was this latest CD, just released in2016. You would probably be impressed by some of the virtuosity and composition shown throughout. You may also be impressed by a band's audacity to make a CD with over two hours of concept linked music. However, if, like me, you have their entire back catalogue and are very familiar with each and every past release, you will realise that this CD is a mere shadow of what the band has produced prior to the loss of Mike Portnoy! There is NO doubt that, DT have 'Jumped the Shark' with this release ' no amount of slick packaging (could have been a concept album of the mid 70's in terms of sleeve and booklet design) can disguise a band that has simply run out of ideas. This album should have been named ' 'Dream Theater Overture' since it is just a pastiche of all their previous music bashed into shape with poor lyrical content and a risibly weak conceptual story ' it's sickly-sweet quasi-Christian bilge really makes this CD for the completionists only I'm afraid. Yeah there are some nice guitar solo's and a few interesting musical passages, but these are hidden amongst loads and loads of filler. No interesting keyboard solo's! ' what a waste of talent Rudess has shown here! Is this the end?
Report this review (#1528703)
Posted Saturday, February 13, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dream Theater has pulled out all the stops when it comes to the production on 'The Astonishing'. The sound is perfect right from the guitar squeals to the splashes. John Petrucci oozes feeling into every note he plays, and you can clearly hear it in his solos. His guitar tone is much meatier than that of the last album, kicking you in the gut in the more aggressive sections. John Myung on bass along with Jordan Rudess on the keyboards expand the sound-scape of the album to create this rich, creamy, textured sound that lingers just long enough before fading away. Rudess' keyboard work is apt as he lends an important sense of emotional depth to the songs, which only James LaBrie's vocals can match. Mike Mangini on the drums never misses a beat, and his critics from the tail-end of DT's Portnoy-era may well be silenced by his performance on this album. But the real prize goes to LaBrie; portraying 8 characters is not an easy task, but he somehow manages it without compromising on quality or emotion.

With 'The Astonishing', Dream Theater has brought to fruition what they have said is their most ambitious project. 'The Astonishing' tells us a story about the importance of music through music, and what better story-tellers are suited to this task than Dream Theater? The band has given fans, old and new, an album which they will cherish for a long time. This is the kind of album that people will look back on with fond memories; I know I will. I'll be looking forward to seeing this album performed live in some form or the other, for that is how this album was meant to be heard and seen. (

Report this review (#1529328)
Posted Monday, February 15, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Astonishing - could quite easily have been called 'The evolving', 'the expansive', 'the excellent', 'the epic', 'the rollercoaster' - you get the idea.... Dream Theater fans seem to fall into two categories. In camp A they like the symphonic, catchy and memorable songs such as Pull me under and those found on the likes of Scenes from a Memory and to the extreme end of the scale - Octavarium. In camp B we have those that like Six Degrees, Train of thought and Systematic chaos for their complexity and heaviness. I guess I fall into camp A, with some of those last 3 mentioned albums being just a touch too complex for my sanity!

The Astonishing is an epic album, with two full disks sending you only a loooooong trip. Overall more akin to the aforementioned from camp A, but with a healthy dose of complexity in the mix. This is Dream Theater's 'The Wall'. This is truly prog, and easily their most prog release to date. Orchestras, bagpipes (eeeugh) and everything inbetween.

I can't understand the negativity from some, but there is no fun in everyone sharing the same opinion. Maybe those people sit firmly in camp B?

Lastly, I just wanted to commend Mike Mangini's playing. The poor guy was doomed from the start with the die-hards after trying to step in for Portnoy, but after listening to the 3 albums with him, I truly believe they are no worse. For me, 'Dream Theater' is like 'Train of Thought' but better. A dramatic turn of events is excellent, and The astonishing is awe inspiring. The boy done good.

Update: Ok so I don't make a habit of editing my posts, but after many listens to this album I find myself switching it off about a third of the way through cd2. From that point I am waiting for some more peaks and troughs, followed by a grand finale. What I get instead is dissapointment and boredom with no reward at the end. It's like walking through a bleak tunnel toward an amazing light and finding a tramp holding a torch. (Put the wine down Kevin.....) I can't possibly give the same 5/5 rating when I only find about 65% of the album satisfying. Sorry chaps, down to 4.

Report this review (#1529737)
Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2016 | Review Permalink
Tony R
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
1 stars Descent Of The Nomarks

I need to put my cards on the table and that is that I am not really a Dream Theater fan. I am familiar with all their albums though and they have all the ingredients that would, should, ought to make them one of my favourite bands. However I've always felt that the virtuosity displayed by the band seems to come at a price and that price is taste. They do not engage me emotionally at all most of the time. That and the immature, tasteless and frenetic fretwork of Mr Petrucci.

So, a double album, a concept album no less. Imagine Paradise Theater-era Styx teaming up with Rush and Pink Floyd to create 2112 part II and you have it right there. Now imagine Dream Theater performing this beast with their immense propensity for grand Guignol and you have the astonishingly over-ambitious mess that is The Astonishing. I went watching Cats The Musical in Manchester last week and half expected Dream Theater to walk on stage.

So, there's snatches of good stuff here and there and it is instantly recognisable as a Dream Theater album but I couldn't put my finger on one track from this over-theatrical monstrosity that I liked. If enough media outlets were to play this album to the general public I am reasonably certain that a second wave of Punk Rock would emerge to sweep it all away. This album is surely the longest suicide note in musical history.

Dreadful, dreadful stuff.

Report this review (#1529892)
Posted Wednesday, February 17, 2016 | Review Permalink
1 stars I have listened to this album quite a few times to try and understand where some people are getting these "masterpiece" ideas from, and unfortunately, all I can say is quite the opposite. I have never been a huge fan of this band, but some of their earlier work is quite good. A lot of it is more fun and less self-important, but it appears with the departure of Portnoy, the fun has gone down and the self-importance has increased significantly. Unfortunately, this doesn't quite correlate with the quality of music. The music itself is fairly bland, standard Dream Theater fare, except with less interplay between the band. The album is all vocals/guitar/keyboards, with no drum or bass parts really sticking out of the mix and piquing the interest. These songs could have benefited from more diverse use of the instruments, for the whole thing ends up being very samey, sonically and texturally. Theoretically, the instrumentation and ballad heavy tracklist could have worked, but the writing itself isn't particularly new or invigorating for the band. Utter snooze fest. Not recommended for anyone, unless you are a die-hard-to-a-fault fan of the band.
Report this review (#1530301)
Posted Thursday, February 18, 2016 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars (Warning: this review contains a synopsis of the plot of this album, gleaned only through repeated attempts at trying to pay attention for over 2 hours at a time to sometimes garbled, and more often painfully cheesy lyrics, sung too often over unmemorable music. It is this authors attempt to piece what can be discerned from this album solely from what can be heard, and assemble them into a cohesive, if not humorously entertaining plot. If you dare to read the actual meaning intended by the composers, their version is located at the band's web site. YMMV. Lord Nefaryous indeed.)

When Dream Theater, who's musicianship and technical abilities have always been first rate, create a rock opera that spans 2 full CDs, over 2 hours of music, and call the set "The Astonishing", the results should be, most certainly... well... astonishing.

Whiskey! Tango! Foxtrot!

It's difficult to put into words just how many things are wrong with this album.

Let's start with the story. "Far in the future", a world exists without music. An original concept, huh? Let's ignore the fact that this concept has been done before, most notably by a certain Canadian trio, that Dream Theater must have been familiar with, as they have covered some of their songs in concerts. So, in the synopsis that's given to us very early in the lyrics, we are told why there is no music. Is it some sort of "Footloose"-like society that has banned music? Did something occur to somehow obliterate music from the world? No! Apparently people in this enlightened land "have no time for music". I guess all of the iPods and such were obliterated by a electro-magnetic pulse, or a bad firmware update or something.

We then meet our hero, Gabriel, who recently lost his wife, Evangeline, to some sort of illness. It seems that this event has driven Gabriel over the edge into madness (or perhaps the cause was Gabriel realizing just what Collins, Banks and Rutherford did to his once majestic band --- but I digress), so he decides, justifying his actions as being for the sake of his son, that he would take matters into his own hands and incite the people away from their productive lives and into a revolution so they can listen to Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and of course, the Bieber. These people must deserve what they get, because by the end of the track, they are calling Gabriel "The Chosen One".

It's at this point in the album that I get so fed up with the story, and the embarrassingly ham-handed lyrics, that I turn to the music instead of the words. So let's get into that.

The album opens well. The overture is what I had hoped for in this album. It's an overblown symphonic rock blast, with Petrucci and Rudess riffing over strong orchestration. The next track, with the story I outlined above is not bad musically either. But then, the musical continuity goes out the window.

For most of the rest of the album (2 hours, remember?) it appears that words were given to James La Brie, and he would make up a melody for them, and Petrucci and Rudess would get the band to fill in behind him. There is no musical continuity bringing the individual tracks together. Think about the great rock operas out there. All of them have memorable themes that wind through many different disparate songs. But here, all we get are unmemorable little ditties, some with decent prog metal breaks (but mostly not). A woman listening with me at one point said it sounded like bad Journey songs (I couldn't disagree).

There are a few good songs scattered about the album, but not enough to keep the entire work from being tedious.

And the "uplifting" finale? "Astonishing" it's not.

Report this review (#1532245)
Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars i have come to a conclusion about this album. It is very reminiscent of what is happening in our world today. Everything is so polarized; left vs. right; Good vs. Evil. Christians vs Muslims. Republicans, Democrats. It seems that all is the same coin flipped over again and again. It seems to run so deep that a new Dream Theater album is controversial. I must say that I am in the "this album is great" camp. I realize that the story is kind of campy but the music? I will say that it is the best album of this year. Ok, It's the only music I have gotten this year, but that's not the point. The last great concept albums in MHO were IQ's Subterranea and Saga's 13th Generation. This album has everything to compete with those classics. My biggest complaint would be the mixing of Myung's bass. Petrucci, Rudess and Labrie are at their best. Mangini is a little too clinical, I miss Mike P's versatility. I think this will stand the test of time as the production is incredible. I must say that I am really looking forward to the new Haken album. If any band could produce something better than this, i would think it might be them. As for The Astonishing, 5 stars. It truly is.
Report this review (#1533299)
Posted Friday, February 26, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Do you know that feeling of magic, that you felt when you first looked into the eyes of the love of your life? The sparkle you saw there and felt in your heart? That's what I felt when I heard Dream Theater's When Dream and Day Unite, way back in 1989. TheAstonishing

That feeling started disappearing after Falling into Infinity, with Metropolis Pt.2. After that, their albums started feeling like showing off (certainly on Petrucci's end) instead of making music for the fans. With Octavarium, I thought they were on the way back, but they lost me again after that.

Now, with all the fuzz around The Astonishing, I was hoping the fire had once again rekindled. Listening to the album this week, having ordered it last week only after weeks of doubt, I am once again disappointed. The album is too much, too long, and too uninventive to win me back. I listened, and only found things that have been done before, and probably better, by the likes of e.g. Ayreon. The music may not be bad, but it's not worthy of the Dream Theater I once knew. First it was the shredding that turned me off, now they're trying to create a musical and failing.... A pity really. The genuine energy and enthousiasm of the first four albums are what made Dream Theater for me, and it's all gone.

Try before you buy, at best.

Also published on my blog

Report this review (#1534757)
Posted Thursday, March 3, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Amazing if you are a fan, average if you are a hater

Well, is either way with Dream Theater, to love them or hate them. Even for older fans who now they claim "they are not fun anymore". Well, I have to tell you, after the somewhat disapoiting Self titled album, this one is particularly interesting, fresh and strong for DT standards.

I mean, the story is good, is solid and the dialogs are quite cool. James Labrie did a strong effort to bring character to each of the parts and rolls and the musicianship is as always, overwhelming and powerful. This is Petrucci's baby all along, he wrote all the lyrics and he shared credits of the music only with Jordan Rudess, who is usually the perfect assistant to what is up in the mind of the guitar player. And still, even without the creative input from James and John Myung, the album ended up well rounded and cool.

The first disc is more powerful, setting the tone, with a lot of music going on, short songs and making it quite interesting in some parts. If you are already a fan, you will be in safe and already known waters. Some tricks here and there that will catch your attention, but is the same strong DT that we love. It's simple.

The second disc is a lot more slow and mellow, just like the second disc of SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE. Of course, you will need a lot of time to appreciate it as a whole since it lasts more than two hours. But, I think it's great to have bands that demand more from the audience, they don't care about the digital tendencies from nowadays of hearing singles and ignoring the complete disc. In this case, you need to go on and listen an pay attention to the story, to the plot and of course, the music.

It's a strong 4 stars album. It has everything DT is known for: great and interesting riffs and instrumental parts, great vocal performances, a strong plot and a fresh sound. If you are a hater (of course here are many), this is not your album. I love how DT doesn't care anymore about convince people about anything. They just do what they like, and for the time being, they remain as the most influential prog metal band of the Century. 4/5.

Report this review (#1535676)
Posted Friday, March 4, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars When I heard "The Gift of Music" prior to the album release I was thrilled. What an uplifting, catchy and energetic tune. With high expectations I started looking forward to the release of "The Astonishing". When I finally got the album however disappointment set in quickly. The "Gift of music" stands out as a highlight amongst a huge amount of mediocre unmemorable cheesy ballads (Act of Faythe, Alife left behind, Begin Again, Loosing Faythe, Hymn of a thousand voices) and lots of mid-tempo theatrical pomp rock pieces (e.g. Brother Can You hear me, The Road to Revolution, My last farewell, Astonishing ). This album probably holds the record with the most "skip" candidates in my collection so far.

I have been a big Dream Theatre fan since When Dream and Day Unite hit the shelves and I have bought all albums, bought several DVDs and attend several life performances. And with all those purchases I have always been satisfied, sometimes more than satisfied, truly thrilled (Octavarium, A dramatic turn of events, Dream Theater) and totally blown away (WDaDU, Images and Words). But this is for me the absolute lowest point in a long career of an otherwise brilliant band. The often criticised "Falling into infinity" is a stellar masterpiece compared to this. One and a half stars. You can add a couple of stars if you are a fan of cheesy and cringe worthy musicals.

Report this review (#1535927)
Posted Saturday, March 5, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars ...and The Confusing. That's probably the word that sums up my current relationship with this band. To be honest, I started losing interest in Dream Theater all the way back in Octavarium. The only good thing about that album is the self-titled song, and after that the album releases has been absolutely medi-core. Other than that, DT has meant a lot to me way back as a younger kid getting into prog music, but that was actually when they made good albums. And for each album DT released without Portnoy, I related myself more and more on why Portnoy wanted a break from the band and eventually quit the whole thing as a result. I just can't relate to the music anymore, which is also the same reason Portnoy decided to end the relationship. It's just so sad that the rest of the guys didn't see it the same way.

This review will not go through every song and detail about the story, but more as a overview of the current path that DT has taken the last few years, and their last few albums, especially this one. Sooo, I sat down in the couch and prepared myself for 2 hours of music that I didn't really get a good vibe from either the INCREDIBLY cheesy trailer on YouTube, or the two singles released online, beforehand. And listening to the first few songs, I knew exactly where this train of thought was heading.

It was heading full speed to Petrucci-Land, a place where drum-mixing has a progressive meaning; progressively WORSE for each album they release apparently. And how hard is it, really, to listen to feedback from TWO albums beforehand, that people who liked them even complained about the mixing? As we all know by now, Petrucci have seemed to take complete control over the ship since Portnoy's departure. And that was also my main concern about DT's future when they brought in Mangini, which btw is a amazing drummer (too bad everything is triggered to death and poorly mixed). The feeling I got when I first finished the album, was the same as the two previous albums. It's sounds like they've just run out of ideas and desperately tries to recycle stuff from previous work.

I feel like "The Astonishing" is like a reeeeally long version of the song "A nightmare to remember", from the BCaSL album. This epic, grand scale fantasy, angels and demons themed sound that both Ayreon and Symphony X did a 100 times better already. Petrucci was not afraid of mentioning Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones as influences to this album, and if he grows a little more beard and pump even more iron, he's going to turn into a bear straight out of those books, by this rate. While it sure is brave and admirable to try to make a Rock-Opera, it just turned out very nerdy and cheesy. But I quite like the idea and theme tho, this future utopia where the only music is some kind noise that some flying Matrix-like robots are delivering as the "only acceptable (and propagandic) music" from the government. But to execute this in form of a concept album, was a little too much to expect. The whole setting of this album just felt like such a downgrade from their previous, well respected and very much intellectual concept albums. It's like Petrucci forgot how to create some depth and symbolic meaning in their music, and instead went full on making a kids bedtime story book (Any1 starting to feel Portnoy's absence here???). Because that's literally how I feel like the lyrics and the plot turned out; very cliché and a story so foreseeing that it was almost embarrassing at times.

It's almost hard to think this is the same band that gave us Scenes From a Memory and And Six Degrees. Those where good stories. But somehow a 40+ year old man comes up with Emperor Nafaryus and Crown Prince Daryus, which sounds way to childish to be taken seriously by me, anyway. After a couple more listenings to the whole thing, I still feel somehow the same. I truly think it's hard for a band, already made 12 albums before this (and played probably every scale and technique in existence on those), to come up with something fresh. And it just felt like they made this because it was the only thing they really could do, to not repeat themselves. The album has a few cool parts here and there, and I like the live orchestral approach to things. The playing ability is also present, but it lacks serious dynamic. Generally I feel that their newer work has become more compressed, more studio polished and straight out lazy made at times.

So where does this leave DT now, in the future? They have already done normal, big, small, double, softer, harder and even more mainstream albums. And to me, it all sums up the point Portnoy had (not trying to sound like a Portnoy fanboy here). DT's creativity is running out. They should have done like Porcupine Tree, stop while you are at your best, and do something else for a while. And eventually come back refreshed and with new ideas which is more than just the same old. I think it's a hard time being a DT fan these days, because so many of us long for what once was.

With Portnoy's departure, they didn't just lose a drummer. They lost, maybe the biggest creative force and visionary in the band. And that's been proven and shown, sadly, for the 3rd time now...

Report this review (#1536018)
Posted Saturday, March 5, 2016 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars New Dream Theater releases always elicit two very conflicting reactions amongst the wide range of prog-rock and heavy metal listeners. To the long-time loyal worshipping faithful, Dream Theater are the most technically skilled, flawless and thrilling leaders of the prog-metal genre that exist beyond criticism, and to the unconverted many they're the most grandiose, cheesy and embarrassing example of progressive musical masturbation imaginable - there's very little medium ground! Well, it's very likely that both the uninterested and proper DT fans had no idea what was in store from the heavy prog group this time around, and modern progressive releases don't come any more lavish, stylish, self-indulgent and excessive than this!

Delivering what is easily the most ambitious studio work of their 31 year, 13 studio album career to date, `The Astonishing' is no less than a full-blown grandiose heavy rock opera, the likes of which Dream Theater or endless lesser progressive rock bands have never even come close to attempting before. A two and a half hour extravaganza based around a futuristic concept about the future of music (although there's much more to it than that), guitarist John Petrucci drew inspiration from his obsession with `Game of Thrones' and similar epic sagas, and sure enough the album is made up of a wordy, complex narrative detailing a rich variety of characters, all given voice by lead vocalist Jamie Labrie (no slumming it with multiple guest vocalists like those Ayreon discs, thank you very much!), which is initially intimidating and confusing, so keep the CD booklet handy!

The continuous suites of music that feature on the double CD set are generously swamped in pompous orchestra and choir, with soaring over-the-top symphonic themes, plentiful regal fanfares, drippy ballads and break-neck heavy metal instrumental runs woven in and around them. Although the combination doesn't always deliver the goods, the undeniable ambition, confidence and sheer ego on display is hugely impressive, and there's not many bands that would have the pull and status in the progressive rock community to be allowed such a challenging undertaking. Much of the credit here must go the keyboard talents of Jordan Ruddess who frequently dominates the direction of the music, essentially (for better or worse) going `Full Wakeman' (and you should NEVER go `Full Wakeman'!) and delivering lavish endless spiralling piano runs and dazzling keyboard workouts full of symphonic flair. This means it's definitely Dream Theater's least obviously metal work (something some die-hard metalheads will likely find impossible to get past), but perseverance is the key, and the harder heavy moments show up with more frequency on the second disc.

Early observations that the album is almost completely devoid of proper songs proves to often be inaccurate, as repeated listens (and that is an absolute must that simply has to be committed to if you ever hope to begin to appreciate the effort on display here) reveals plenty of self-contained grand themes with sweeping harmonies and clever reprises of earlier moments. Instead of bombarding the listener with endless lengthy instrumental runs, they're instead skilfully implemented in constant short bursts around the vocal passages. As the album can prove to be somewhat overwhelming, it might be best for listeners to divide the two discs into chunks of several tracks in a row and stick to playing them over and over, then moving on to another few, as it may be the only way to get your head around the bulk of the album.

Despite that assumption that a two-plus hour Dream Theater album would likely be jammed full of endless lengthy instrumental runs, it's actually vocalist James Labrie that drives the majority of the discs. He remains as ever a hugely divisive singer, but to his credit he has never attempted such a challenging range of styles as he does here. On `The Astonishing' he certainly sounds stronger, more varied and much more convincing than, for instance, the desperate `Dark Master' embarrassments of the earlier `Systematic Chaos' album that attempted a similar `fantasy-lyric' style. Unfortunately the dreaded `breathy oh-so-emotional' drippy ballad moments that Labrie often attempts are out in full-force throughout this set (some have labelled the album `Disney Theater' in a very snarky way!), and there's a definite overreliance on chest-beating call-to-arms moments (although they probably make more sense in the context of the story), but thankfully the melodies are strong that they often lift even the sappiest moments. Labrie comes across as very determined to impress here, and whether you really love his approach or not, it really is a showcase for the singer and he deserves a lot of praise.

There's several highlights scattered throughout the entire collection. Where it was once a throwaway `single' on its first release, `The Gift of Music' is perfectly placed right after an instrumental teasing overture of themes to come that opens the first disc, delivering as a punchy and catchy melodic rocker to get the blood flowing right from her start. `A Better Life' delivers a winning chorus that soars on repeated plays and a tightly executed guitar solo, `Lord Nafaryus' is almost Queen-like, `A Saviour in the Square' is heavy E.L.P blustery fanfare and `When Your Time Has Come' has a romantic reassuring lyric for it's warm chorus. `Three Days' has moments of cartoonish theatrical pantomime pomp, the opening of `A Life Left Behind' shamelessly and affectionately apes Yes' `Tempus Fugit' off their `Drama' album, `Chosen' is an epic power ballad, and the intricate `A New Beginning' holds the longest instrumental stretches of the first disc where all the players are given lengthy soloing moments to shine, with drummer Mike Mangini especially powering up a storm.

The second disc opens with another overture `2285 Entr'Acte' that hints of the better fusion of heavy metal with orchestra, choir and intricate instrumental elements to come. `Moment of Betrayal' delivers heavy riffing and a terrific chorus lifted by effective group harmonies, plus the instrumental soloing spot in the middle brings to mind traces of Dream Theater's earlier epic `Scenes from a Memory'. Delicate piano, Opeth-like acoustic guitar and a gothic eeriness permeates between heavier bursts in `Heaven's Cove', and in a few moments `Begin Again' swoons with Focus-like flair behind a triumphant symphonic choir and orchestral chorus (but man, the `Frozen/Tangled' Disney qualities really fly on this one!). There's a creeping dramatic tension to `The Path that Divides' with galloping riffing, the heavy riffs take on a battering quality behind loopy synth runs on `The Walking Shadow' (with a touch of King Crimson metallic edge), and `Hymn of a Thousand Voices' is a warm Yes-like ballad with strong vocal harmonies and lovely violin before becoming consumed my pompous choir. `Our New World' is a confident and effortlessly melodic AOR rocker, and `Astonishing' sweeps with orchestral reprises of previous themes and a final run of absurd blustery fanfares to make for a fittingly big finale.

Whether you like it or not, Dream Theater have delivered a big progressive work that may prove, in its own way, to be one of those genre-changing double works such as `Tales from Topographic Oceans', `The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' and `The Wall' (and to a lesser extent `Subterranea' and `Snow' by I.Q and Spock's Beard), forever to be argued about, discussed, misunderstood, equally praised and derided, declared a self-indulgent incoherent mess by some, the crowning achievement of their discography by others. `The Astonishing' literally harkens back to a time when the greatest crime of bands like Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd delivering these hugely challenging double length works was simply being endlessly ambitious, experimental and inventive, full of creativity and inspiration at just the right time, determined to test both their listeners and themselves. The fact that the band are really pushing the whole album format as a proper artistic musical statement that demands to be played over and over here in an era of nonsense pick-and- mix single downloads is also hugely admirable. Love Dream Theater or hate them, this is everything progressive rock should and can be, and as such, whether loathed or worshipped, it deserves immense respect and recognition. Big moments in progressive rock don't happen too often anymore, and fans of the style should be thankful events like this can still happen in the genre.

Five stars.

PS ' Sorry for `The Astonishing'-length review!

Report this review (#1544135)
Posted Thursday, March 24, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "The Astonishing" is the 13th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Dream Theater. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in January 2016. It´s the successor to the self-titled album from 2013. "The Astonishing" is a double album release, featuring no less than 34 tracks and a full playing time of 2 hours and 20 minutes of music. It´s a concept album telling a dystopian sci-fi tale. Bearing that information in mind, "The Astonishing" is arguably Dream Theater´s most ambitious release up until now, and we are dealing with an artist who has already released the 57:33 minutes long EP "A Change of Seasons (1995)" (featuring the 23:09 minutes long title track), and of course the double album release "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2002)" (featuring the 42:02 minutes long title track) among other ambitious projects. In that respect Dream Theater is today what an artist like Yes was in the 70s. Always pushing progressive rock/metal forward. There is a risk that in doing so you sometimes slip and fall or maybe become a bit overblown (which is what many fans and critics felt when Yes released "Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973)", without further comparisons to this project), and I´m afraid that´s the trap Dream Theater step into on "The Astonishing".

Stylistically the music on "The Astonishing" is unmistakably the sound of Dream Theater. It´s progressive rock/metal with challenging rhythmic playing, adventurous keyboards, virtuoso guitar playing, and James LaBrie´s distinct sounding voice in front. The album is generally a bit more song oriented and not quite as technical as we´re used to from the band, although there are still some very complex sections to be found on the album. The overall feeling after listening to the album is that of a musical or a rock opera though, which is something new in their discography. "Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999)" was a concept album too, but it never felt like a rock opera/musical style album. Any minute while listening to "The Astonishing" I´m expecting other singers to join in and play/sing the supporting roles of the concept, but it´s only LaBrie singing, which is a bit of a shame when they opted to go down the rock opera/musical road, but LaBrie of course still does a great and professional job.

As far as concepts go, the story is overall rather predictable and the lyric lines are often cliché filled and quite frankly not very sophisticated or intriguing. The music is relatively dynamic with both heavy parts, epic parts, and more ballad type mellow parts. The more mellow part of the band´s sound is more prevailent here than ever before, and it becomes a bit tiresome after a while, because most of the more mellow tracks are very simple and not that memorable. In fact that ´s an issue throughout the album. The melodies either sound like a rehash of ideas from previous releases or they are forgettable and with such a long release the least you could ask is catchy melodies. You don´t really get that here.

It´s not all bad of course, and we´re as usual exposed to brilliant musicianship (as usual though it´s almost impossible to hear John Myung´s bass in the mix), a professional sound production, and professional songwriting too (although it´s not that interesting, it´s still obviously written by professionals). That´s why I don´t label "The Astonishing" a complete disaster, because obviously it´s a very bold attempt at doing something different, and I greatly respect that. I´m just pretty sure that if they had collected all the good ideas featured on the album and made a 45 minutes long album out of those ideas, instead of diluting them with filler material to push the playing time a good way past the 2 hour mark, this could have been a better quality release. I won´t rule out the possibility that others could enjoy this far more than I do, but to my ears it´s their least interesting release to date. Still, because of the professionalism on display, I think a 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong. That´s as objective a rating as you´ll get.

Report this review (#1559722)
Posted Saturday, May 7, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have to seriously question the honesty of the potential trolls who have discarded this album with one and two star ratings. Dream Theater has been a progression of music since they came on the scene in the late 80's. Yes, Images and Words was a landmark album for Prog Metal. Yes, Scenes from a Memory established their concept-album bona fides. But are you looking for them to produce the same thing again? Like all talented musicians, the Dream Theater crew has grown and expanded musically. The Astonishing is another step in that progression. We DO LIKE PROGRESSIVE MUSIC, right? I am personally thrilled that James Petrucci could come up with such a bold, ridiculous concept and bring it to fruition. He incorporates a science-fiction story into a Broadway-musical Prog-Metal Opera! WTF! It reminds me of some of the outlandish stretches you can be brought to listening to an Ayreon album. The musicianship is, as always, breathtaking. The orchestrations and interludes are fresh and new-sounding, while still sounding like Dream Theater. There are fewer hard edges to this music, but it is not sissified in any way. If you can't appreciate Theater Music (minus the Dream), then perhaps your appreciation of Prog suffers because of that. I Love Music. Musical Music. Talented Music. It doesn't have to have e electric guitars, it can have cellos. Dream Theater has always excelled at developing a melodic line and carrying it forward, then twisting it around, flipping it over and looking at the underside. They do that here and the melodies feel natural, not forced. Petrucci can often be accused of playing "too many notes". Well, he manages to control himself throughout most of "The Astonishing" for the greater good of the composition. Sure, there are characters and story lines happening that we may or may not want to read into to find out, but the music carries us along so that the importance of those details does not really matter, and does not detract from the enjoyment of the composition. James LaBrie sounds like he is 20 years younger and delivers powerfully without the false n need to sound like different characters when he is singing for them. The themes are timeless: power, oppression, freedom, l love and family. Prog has delivered such beautiful gems to us in the last decade. Bands stretching limits and doing things we haven't heard before. It is god-damned hard to put something new on the airwaves when there is so much out there, but I honestly think t that Dream Theater has done that with this album. "The Astonishing" is like Dream Theater meets Andrew Lloyd Weber. And if you can't appreciate Andrew Lloyd Weber, then you can't be a true Prog-head and you should run back to your Yngwie Malmsteen albums. I have been a DT fan since about 1992 when I bought Images and Words. If you make music for a quarter century, there are going to be high points and low points. The low points, for me, have been "Awake" and "Train of Thought", while each still had some very nice moments. Their musicianship has always held them up. There is not and has not been a week musician in this band. Mike Portnoy leaving certainly changed their feel but not really their musical direction, and Mike Mangini has chops that no one can question . Jordan Rudess on keys is a treat to listen to whether he is wailing on the synth or tickling the ivories like a virtuoso. The plain fact is that these guys produce sounds that sound excellent, period! The orchestrations are excellent, the production is solid as always. DO NOT let the trolls tell you that this album is not worth the listen. IT IS!!!
Report this review (#1587516)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2016 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Dream Theater breaks their two year per album cycle to deliver us some high concept art. Too bad it's not nearly as good as the band seems to think that it is...

After the breakup with Mike Portnoy the band have so far released one great album with A Dramatic Turn Of Events, one bad album with their 2013 self-titled release and one average album - The Astonishing. I do respect Dream Theater for going all in with their their concept and thus giving their fans more than just another DT-release, but The Astonishing exposes one of the band's biggest weaknesses; they simply can't write lyrical content. This becomes even more obvious when they have to write a concept album and the story makes more damage to the album than good.

Before going it to the lyrical content, let me be clear that I do enjoy this album's music. The album would probably be a great single disc release if the band removed some of the unnecessary narrative moments, backed up only by a piano, and made more of the tracks instrumental. But since this album is meant to be experienced as a concept album with an accompanying story that the listener can indulge in, there's just no way for me to overlook the lyrics.

I would summarize my biggest problem with the lyrics by simple stating that they leave little for the imagination. Everything is watered down and extremely simplified thus leaving me with a feeling of dissatisfaction as if the band could have done so much more with the concept and the characters. Here are some of my spontaneous suggestions for improving the storyline (possible spoilers ahead):

1. Skip the cliché character descriptions and their motivations - You're not making yourself any favors by creating one dimensional characters that are only there to move the plot. Either skip the whole description of the characters and make the listener create their own background stories for them or go all in and indulge into the characters.

2. More focus on the Nomacs storyline - Human characters are obviously in the center because the story is about their feelings and not about the cold machines. But why did the band put so much effort in creating the Nomacs and used them prolifically in the imagery when they have nothing to do with the actual story? If you want to go all in on the fantasy/sci-fi genre then why not create a story where the Nomacs where created by the humans but eventually overtook control of the human minds? Or how about a story where the Nomacs where actually built by an alien race in order to control the humans by removing the feelings (ie Nineteen Eighty-Four)?

3. Skip the whole Romeo & Juliet ending - it's an overused plot that creates tension and tragedy but feels cheap and uncreative.

4. Skip plot details that go nowhere - Usually when a new element is introduced to the story it is done in order to make them significant later on. The Astonishing throws us a bunch of small details that just lead nowhere and are abandoned as soon as they are mentioned.

5. Be more consequential with the magnitude of Gabriel's gift - We learn that Gabriel has the gift of healing but it only seems to work for plot convenience. At least write a line and mention why he manages to heal one character and not the other.

6. Create a closure for the X story arc - the character seems to be completely wasted with no real purpose to his existence in the story. At least write a passage or two about him at the end of the story in order to create some sort of closure.

I don't blame Dream Theater for trying but they should have someone on their camp who could have at least given them some constructive criticism on the written word. Why not try a collaboration with a published fantasy writer where the band collaborates on the lyrics with an outside party or write lyrics for an established fantasy story? The music on the album is pure Dream Theater so it's pretty decent but the lyrics are poor thus if you are able to overlook the latter The Astonishing is a good, but non-essential effort from the band.

***** star songs: Dystopian Overture (4:51) Act Of Faythe (5:01) Brother, Can You Hear Me? (5:11) The Road To Revolution (3:35)

**** star songs: The Answer (1:53) A Better Life (4:39) Lord Nafaryus (3:28) When Your Time Has Come (4:19) Ravenskill (6:01) A New Beginning (7:41) 2285 Entr'acte (2:20) Moment Of Betrayal (6:12) Begin Again (3:54) The Path That Divides (5:10) My Last Farewell (3:44) Losing Faythe (4:13) Whispers On The Wind (1:37) Hymn Of A Thousand Voices (3:39) Our New World (4:25) Astonishing (5:51)

*** star songs: The Gift Of Music (4:00) A Savior In The Square (4:14) Three Days (3:44) A Life Left Behind (5:49) Chosen (4:32) A Tempting Offer (4:20) The X Aspect (4:13) Heaven's Cove (4:20) The Walking Shadow (2:58)

** star songs: Descent Of The Nomacs (1:11) The Hovering Sojourn (0:28) Digital Discord (0:48) Machine Chatter (1:03) Power Down (1:25)

Report this review (#1599896)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2016 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'The Astonishing' - Dream Theater (59/100)

My relationship with Dream Theater reminds me a lot of the saddest scenes from the Toy Story movies. I still remember the day, over half a lifetime ago (!!!) that my first copy of Scenes from a Memory came in the mail. The package hadn't come a moment too soon, arriving on the day of my elementary school's graduation ceremony, a triviality I happily skipped in order to free up precious hours I could spend with the album. Even as a child I quickly developed strong opinions towards each of Dream Theater's other albums as I heard them. Images & Words and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence stirred me almost as much as SFAM, while I was left hanging dry by Awake and Train of Thought. Even if I wasn't always sold all the time by Dream Theater, alongside Led Zeppelin and Yngwie Malmsteen they were arguably the biggest musical influences on me before turning 12.

Like Toy Story however, the enthusiasm wasn't permanent. It's never that I bought into the popular opinion that Dream Theater are "wankers", nor did the heavyhanded cheese wear on me. I wouldn't even say I necessarily grew out of them; rather, it was just a case of gradually opening myself to more extreme and fascinating sounds. Like childhood toys, they quietly faded into memory. However, even as bands like Opeth and later Deathspell Omega and Blut aus Nord expanded my vision of what progressive metal could be, I never lost a love for them. Whenever I heard of a new album coming out, I would light up with excitement. I would feel like a kid again. I defended Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds & Silver Linings from less enthusiastic fans, and shared the joy when they returned to roots on A Dramatic Turn of Events.

It wasn't until 2013 when my opinion finally took a sour turn. Their self-titled album was the first time I felt they had released a piece of dog[&*!#]. Even if a few songs on it shined, it was finally enough to convince me that Dream Theater was finished as a creative act. Slogs like "Illumination Theory" were enough to sap my anticipation for future records. That's a good part of the reason why I'm reviewing The Astonishing in early October, as opposed to January when it was released. Is it possible to feel reinvigorated and simultaneously let down by a band with a single album? In most cases I'd say the answer is no, but when a consummate "has been" band tries to pull out all the stops, supposedly creating the most ambitious work of their career, strange things are bound to happen.

On the one hand, I'm happy that Dream Theater have reclaimed some of their energy they most certainly lacked in 2013. Some of the best prog instrumentation they've put out in years is here. James LaBrie hasn't sounded this powerful as a vocalist arguably since Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Even its mere stance as a concept album implies they're trying to make another Scenes from a Memory. There's some of the liveliest music I've heard from Dream Theater in a long, long time. On the other hand, they've somehow managed to lop off the buzz with a mind-numbing amount of filler and the most clichéd, idiotic and self-absorbed concept I've ever seen set to music. I guess hearing quality Dream Theater material without having to wade in [&*!#] would have been too simple, and not "progressive" enough for them, right?

I know The Astonishing is hammy and self-involved from start to finish; I can't help but love certain things about it however. At its very best, it comes across as a spry continuation of the bright prog they revived on A Dramatic Turn of Events, blown up considerably with symphonic orchestration and sprawling structure. Ignore the lyrics to "The Gift of Music" and "A New Beginning" for a second, and focus on what they're doing with the music. The busy interplay and effortless finesse is nothing new for them, but it can certainly feel that way in light of their last album. A lot of Dream Theater's detractors brush them off on the charge of wankery, but that polished technicality is easily the most exciting thing about them here. I don't think it's ever been the amount of notes that Dream Theater plays that have set many listeners against them; it's the way they fall short when they opt for other approaches.

Lamentably, The Astonishing is pretty chock-full of these "other approaches". Even if it's easily the most bombastic album these guys have ever put out, it's also probably the softest album note-for-note. The technical prog-outs are as impressive as ever, but their ballads post-Kevin Moore have always been hit-or-miss. Many of the 34 tracks take the shape of piano interludes and lilting vocals. Don't you get it? Dream Theater aren't trying to be badass here, they're trying to make you feel your feelings! Not that I haven't been struck emotionally by DT in the past, but whenever they did so, it was an authentic by-product of the band capitalizing on their strengths. Here, you can tell they set out specifically to tug on your heartstrings. Given the album's faux-dystopian concept revolves around the spiritual power of music I suppose it makes sense, but the dry kind of hammy superemotion expressed here almost serves to work against that thesis.

The biggest standout talent this time around is easily James LaBrie. Surprisingly, a lot of fans seem to agree. I've always loved his voice (despite understanding why others do not) but he sounds particularly passionate and confident as a vocalist. His stepping up to the plate could not have happened on a more fitting album. The Astonishing is a very vocal-driven album. I don't think there's any salvation for the plot or lyrics, but for what it's worth, the melodies and performance almost make the whole thing work. It's all the more impressive to hear James adopt different voices for each of the personae in this story. This ability to characterize his voice is something any fan who has heard their covers knows full well, and it's refreshing to hear this talent put to use on original material.

Although Dream Theater have given their detractors plenty of extra justification to hate them with this album, I'd honestly say a lot of the music is solid. A near-hour of this stuff could have been cut and the album would be no worse for well, but I get that they weren't trying to make a normal album with The Astonishing, and I can respect it as such. The only unforgivable aspect here are the lyrics and general concept. Falling somewhere between a mindless ape of 2112 and terrible Young Adult dystopian fiction, The Astonishing supposedly tells the story of an evil empire and a band of rebels who resist them using, uh, music? I get the basic idea they're digging up here, but I couldn't help but think of a battle where soldiers are popping up from trenches and shooting at other with riffs. Okay, so music enlivens the spirit, and creates e-m-o-t-i-o-n. Evil empires don't like emotion, apparently. I guess Dream Theater wanted to make a soundtrack to the film Equilibrium, instead where they take out all of the cool martial arts gunplay and replace it with [%*!#]ing piano ballads. That's nothing to say about the moronic cast of characters. A rebellious girl named Faythe? An evil leader called Nefaryus? Pour a load of venomous earwigs into my hearing holes and end me now.

There are times where it reads like very bad Star Wars fanfiction, and even then that is giving it too much credit. I have a soft spot for self-absorbed rock opera concepts (see: Ayreon, Rhapsody of Fire) but The Astonishing sounds like a corporate-sponsored amalgamation of all the most predictable tropes coming together into a single, amorphous [&*!#]pile of irrelevance. Insult is added to injury when you consider how great the conceptual angle has worked out for them in the past. Scenes from a Memory is arguably my favourite album concept ever, where clever lyrics unfolded a mindbending concept that still leaves me in awe. So it took them less than two decades to shed that brilliance completely in favour of a microwaved casserole 2112? Lyrics aren't everything, to be sure, but with the weight the album's marketing placed on the hokey concept, it's almost unbelievable they allowed something like this to mar otherwise solid music.

It's incredibly easy to criticize The Astonishing. Dream Theater haters could have a field day with this one like none other in the past. My job of reviewing this album would be a tad simpler if I could simply dislike it. But when you look past the trite concept, the filler interludes and ballad material, the saccharine bombast and ridiculous length (and it is possible to look past all of that, sort of) there's some of Dream Theater's most exciting material in a long time waiting. Of course, all but the band's biggest fans won't have the patience to get to the good stuff. Maybe in a few years they can release a "Greatest Hits from The Astonishing" EP and call it a day?

Report this review (#1619494)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars In the weeks after purchasing this album upon release, I remember reading some very negative reviews from a number of reputable sources. At the time I was surprised because I was enjoying the album so much. After about a year and many listens, I can understand the frustration with this album. It's very long, ballad-heavy, relies on a ridiculous concept and has some of the cheesiest lyrics ever from Dream Theater. That said, I played it just last night and enjoyed every minute. You've really got to be in the mood for a long silly epic, but a listen through the whole way is very cool. The best part is the very beginning, "Dystopian Overture" and "The Gift Of Music" are certainly my favorites and probably my favourite start to a Dream Theater album. The playing on the whole album is very strong and Jordan Rudess in particular gets to show enormous range. James LaBrie tries to sing from the perspective of every character, and he does a very good job with it all, but I wish he would have gone along with Petrucci's idea to bring in a female vocalist. It would have added some texture to the vocal performance, as shown in the single for "Our New World" featuring Lizzy Hale.

I still like this album a lot but I get why it received such mixed reviews upon release. This was a bit overboard and I often wonder if the ideas found here had been arranged in a bit more of a traditional Dream Theater style, would people have a different opinion now?

Report this review (#1668318)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars It took me a long time to review this. As a long time DT fan I had mixed emotions when this album came out. While there are plenty of excellent, standout songs on this double concept album, I also felt like it was too long and had too many filler tracks that took away from the overall quality of the album. Still, overall I think this is a worthwhile album to give 5-10 full listens before passing judgment. Most prog fans understand that not all great music jumps out at you right away; sometimes prog music takes a few listens to fully appreciate what you're hearing. When Haken's "The Mountain" came out, I remember actually being disappointed my first listen, finding Aquarius and Visions to be better at the time.... That feeling didn't last very long as it's one of my favorite albums now. So don't be turned off by the negative reviews of this album until you've given it a fair chance. This album doesn't have as much constant heavy metal riffing and mind-blowing shred sessions as the rest of DT's body of work, but those moments are absolutely still present, just in shorter supply. It has plenty of ballads and soft interludes that, while perhaps overdone, are a nice change of pace coming from DT. This is definitely not my favorite DT album by any means, but it's also not my least favorite. Here's my take:

The Excellent:

The Gift of Music Lord Nafaryus Three Days A New Beginning Moment of Betrayal

The Good: Dystopian Overture A Better Life Brother Can You Hear Me? A Life Left Behind Ravenskill The Path That Divides The Walking Shadow My Last Farewell Our New World

The OK: All of the NOMAC tracks (For obvious reasons) A Savior in the Square When Your Time Has Come Act of Faythe Chosen The X Aspect The Road to Revolution Heaven's Cove Begin Again Losing Faythe Whispers On the Wind Hymn of a Thousand Voices Astonishing

As you can see, there are a lot of songs that I consider just OK... Most of those songs aren't bad songs, they're just arranged in a similar manner with similar melodies, tempo, and lightness. If you take away all but three or four of these OK ballads, suddenly the remaining ones sound a lot better because they aren't watered down. One of the things that stood out to me was a conversation I had with my dad after we saw The Astonishing Live tour in Atlanta back in December (Yes, I'm a 28 year old that still goes to metal concerts with my 58 year old dad, and proud of it!) . He was describing a ballad he really liked and when he described it asking me which song it was I responded with, "Dad, that could be like 8 different songs on the album." With all of that being said, I still listen to the Astonishing on a regular basis because it has so many good things to offer, it's worth it.

I'd recommend giving it enough listens to sort out what you enjoy and what you don't and create a playlist with just the songs you enjoy if you feel like there's too much filler. Some of Dream Theater's most unique and exciting songs in a decade can be found on The Astonishing and it'd be a shame for anyone to miss out on them just because this double album is a little lengthy.

As far as the band members go, James Labrie easily steals the show, displaying a ridiculous range of vocal techniques and notes. He delivers an emotional, inspiring performance in line with how amazing he's been live for the last few years. Labrie gets a lot of trash talking for some reason, but every time I've seen Dream Theater live (The first Gigantour with Megadeth, the Score DVD show in NYC, The Dramatic Events Tour, and the Astonishing Tour) he's been absolutely on point.

John Petrucci is obviously toned down a bit on this album overall, but he still delivers some fantastic guitar solos, both in speed and in melody, and he has some very different approaches to his metal riffs on this album compared to everything else he's done in the past. Hearing Petrucci play some lighter chord progressions and acoustic guitar in general is a nice change up.

One of the biggest changes in terms of sound on this album is Jordan Rudess. I've always preferred Rudess' playing when it's a more traditional-sounding piano style rather than a layered keyboard sound with lots of shredding and bends. Rudess truly shines throughout the entire album, providing subtle but very valuable additions to virtually every single song. This is honestly my favorite DT album when it comes to Rudess' keyboards. I hope he goes forward with the same basic approach and style because it suits both him and DT.

John Myung in recent years has become know for providing a steady rhythmic bass that is so low in the mix that it's often hard to hear without turning up the bass on your equalizer. That's not the case on the Astonishing. In fact, as far as the overall mix goes, I can't think of another Dream Theater album where the bass is more perfectly balanced. You can actually hear Myung on just about every song and he sounds great. The bass adds a lot to each song, especially the ballads where Myung is often one of the highlights.

Mike Mangini is a wonderful drummer and he's had the basically impossible task of living up to Mike Portnoy after joining DT. Mangini doesn't really do a whole lot that wows me on the Astonishing but everything he plays seems to fit the music really well and his rhythm is extremely tight. For an album like this, that's what you're looking for in a drummer.

In summary, this is a good album with some amazing songs, a lot of good songs, and a few songs that blend together. At more than two hours long, it's not something you can just jump straight into and make rash decisions about. This isn't an album for the casual listener, though many of the individual songs would appeal to casual listeners. I can't fathom the people I've seen who say the songs aren't tied together... Almost every song has motifs, riffs, melodies, even lyrics from other songs on the album. It's honestly tied together very neatly musically. The extreme metal heads who started listening to DT after Train of Thought might not be big fans of this album, but I feel like most fans of symphonic or classic prog will come away with great enjoyment from The Astonishing.

Report this review (#1707659)
Posted Monday, April 3, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Bands change, right? That could be used to argue Dream Theater's case, but they never actually changed, did they?

"The Astonishing" is in itself a rather terrific concept album, and it explores very interesting territory in both its lyrical and its musical approach.

Even though I can totally say that the lyrics fulfill their job, they don't really do much more for me - probably since I don't really understand the astonishing concept that they do so much to explore. The music, though, seems to have given the word "progressive" an entirely new meaning. The band brilliantly crafts through symphonic passages and short blurbs. Standalone songs, such as "The Gift of Music" and "Our New World" help create checkpoints for listeners first exploring the three hours of snippets of vocals, guitars, and synthesizer solos.

If Mike Petrucci was there, they probably would have never created this album. Even though I prefer John Petrucci to Mike Mangini, it seems a real good thing that Mike Mangini took over on drums.

Many cheers for this great album - may it shine on, and hopefully, pave the road for future Dream Theater albums of the same sort.

Report this review (#1712323)
Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars I get why a lot of people dislike this. Overused keyboards, a second act that mostly feels like a huge interlude, and a guy that interprets seven characters (Arjen Lucassen gets it). However, this album does deserve four stars anyway.

Dream Theater being a ***progressive*** band, they were really slow in their progression. They make a double concept album that clocks well over two hours with a story that, actually, I quite enjoy! Some moments like the music-player-bulls**t could have been better worked, but this is not a five-star album anyway. However, I get with this album something I get with Yes a lot: I need to listen to it numerous times to start to really grasp why the album is great. The problem is Yes' albums don't last more than two hours, so the number of times grows considerably.

Despite interpreting seven different people, LaBrie does an excellent job on that! Despite excessive keyboards, Rudess is brilliant here! Musicianship stays awesome, and that includes Mangini too! He's not Portnoy, get over it.

Personally, I saw this performed live. And it was one of the best shows of my life! Perhaps that is the reason I can really appreciate the album, for I saw the story being told by those who created it, in the way they wanted me to see it. Whenever I listen to the album, the show comes alive in my memory, and it feels really great!

The reason this doesn't get five stars are the ones I pointed at the beginning (and a couple more maybe), but four stars are definitely reasonable here.

Report this review (#1819033)
Posted Saturday, November 4, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars On repeated listenings, I'm finding at least some things to appreciate on this release. [edited № Stardate 11812.15]

Dream Theater - The Astonishing.

Initially I had some real issues with this album, and repeated listenings didn't seem to help. Today, I tried something new; I played the album disc II first, then disc I. Then, I tried the entire album on random. I feel somewhat differently about The Astonishing after trying this approach. There are some very well written and performed parts of this album. There is also a fair amount of "filleresque" material (which I understand are integral to the "story") to be found here.

When Dream Theater gets it right, they absolutely shine, and there are moments of sheer brilliance to be found here, but the story itself and some of the filler stuff makes me cringe quite a bit...

Overall, I have to give Dream Theater some credit for being so confident, pompous and audacious to release this album. In my opinion, had they let the ideas brew a bit longer, and had John come up with a better, more mature storyline, this could have been a genuine masterpiece.

So, upon further listenings, reflection and review, I have to significantly upgrade my initial rating from zero to Three point 25 Stars (***.25)

A good, but not excellent addition to your collection.

As always, your mileage may vary,

Grace and peace, Cylli Kat (Jim Calistro)

Original review below;

Dream Theater The ASSEATISHING review № Stardate 11810.19...

Wow!!! Everything that Dream Theater could've done wrong they did do wrong on this remarkably horrendous pile of puerile, juvenile dreck.

After being endlessly assaulted on facebook every 28 seconds with some new bit of "blah, blah, blah", about this album (I'm talking about during its initial release days), I unfriended all the band members and unliked/unfollowed the band.

I literally thought: 'Whats next? A video game, a graphic novel, a CGI movie?!?!?' Not knowing I was actually close to the mark on that one...

This is so beyond dreadful. I've tried repeatedly to garner some type of appreciation for this album; but as of this writing the only thing I'm willing to do with the discs are turn them into coasters...

Completely vapid, inane, & banal concept, hyper-overdone virtuostic masturbation done with the inimitable Dream Theater aplomb.

This is what happens when you write an album to appeal to little girls who believe in Unicorns and play with My Little Pony®...

Time for Dream Theater to get back to making good music again...

Or, it's time for them to retire...

Believe me; I wanted to go on a song by song tirade, but I literally don't think I could bear to hear this album ever again, so, I scrapped that idea...

A great big fat ZERO on my personal scale. Forced to give it 1 star due to the PA rating process.

As always, your mileage may vary,

Grace and peace, Cylli (Jim Calistro)

Report this review (#2046031)
Posted Friday, October 19, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars I can understand why the reviews are divided for this because I was originally disappointed when this album was released, but it has really grown on me as of late. I thought a lot of the mellow parts were cheesy and some of the heavy parts were cliche, so after about two full listens I put the album away.

Well, I picked it up this week and honestly I think it might be one of their best works. Now I go all the way back to Images & Words and Awake which are still two of my favorites along with Scenes from a Memory. After taking some time off from DT I gave this album another try and now really appreciate how all the music fits together and I've found many more pieces that I really now like. The Gift of Music and Our New World stood out right away but now some of my personal favorites include Dystopian Overature, A Life Left Behind, Three Days, The X Aspect, A New Beginning, Moment of Betrayal, and The Path That Divides. I think the album may have been too long for me intially to find these highlights, but now I'm glad I went back.

From a performance standpoint I think it could be considered Labrie's and Rudess's best work. There's enough here for any progressive rock fan to appreciate, but this won't win you over if you've never been a fan of DT. Definitely worthy of any prog rock collection as it is a standout album.

Report this review (#2085165)
Posted Monday, December 10, 2018 | Review Permalink
1 stars Dream Theater's final release with Roadrunner records is a bloated uninspired dud. A concept album with a run time of just over one and a half hours, The Astonishing served to reinforce for long time DT fans just how tone deaf the band had become in the 2010's. Dream Theater haters have long criticized the group for mechanical song writing and putting the flash and flair before substance. Although an obvious complete mischaracterization of the band's music, on The Astonishing, the criticism actually holds water. A broken clock is right twice a day I suppose.

The real tragedy of this album is a wasted potentially career defining performance by vocalist James Labrie. Ever the nimble work house, James successfully manages to bring to life through his singing roughly half a dozen characters throughout the record. Its too bad the music just happens to suck.

Report this review (#2248659)
Posted Thursday, September 5, 2019 | Review Permalink
Founding Moderator
5 stars Wait...five stars? Considering how disappointed so many reviewers clearly are? Well, yes. Because I feel that many listeners simply may not have understood what they were listening to. True, it's not Metropolis, or even Six Degrees (or possibly even Systematic Chaos). But its' not supposed to be. Like Metropolis, it is a concept album. But that is where the similarity ends. Metropolis - one of the greatest concept albums in history - was "simply" an album built around an idea, a story, a theme. When Petrucci wrote The Astonishing, he was specifically writing a musical. And since I believe he succeeded in this - quite spectacularly - I am giving this five stars because of the success of his intent - which also assumes brilliant writing for the concept. A musical is a very specific form. Petrucci shows just how brilliant he is beyond being an amazing lyricist and guitarist, by writing the world's first (and highly successful) progressive rock musical. In fact, I cannot wait to see whether he attempts to have this staged AS a musical. Can you imagine? Progressive rock takes over the West End and Broadway? Can you imagine a voice like Idina Menzel's as Faythe? It send goosebumps up my spine. In fact, even if this were not a a successful musical concept, I would give it 4 stars; Act 2 (i.e., Disc 2) is among the best work Petrucci has done. The first three compositions alone are worth the price of admission. Again, it is true that this is not Metropolis, and so maybe I am being a TAD generous in giving it 5 stars. But i am so incredible impressed with the idea of a progressive rock musical, and the clear success that this one presents, that I felt it would be unkind of me to give it less. The lyrics are masterful in the context of a musical, and the music runs from the merely very good to the truly breath-taking. But all of it must be taken in the context of the project,- which is what I think many listeners may have missed. However, taken in context, and measuring the album by the success of which it was written and executed, this is absolutely a five-star effort. Bravo! I can't wait to buy a ticket to the first performance on Broadway. (But where are they going to find musicians who can play the score? LOL) That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Report this review (#2286752)
Posted Wednesday, December 11, 2019 | Review Permalink
1 stars Turns out John Petrucci's passion project known as Dream Theater goes one step further from Prog Metal to bland Rock Opera. Of course what can I say about this album? Its astonishingly bad... ok I really just wanted the pun.

But in all seriousness, this album, as good as... well... one song is, the rest of fairly boring, overblown, and way over the top. I've been a fan of the bands double albums for a while, Metropolis Part 2 and Six Degrees, but this is completely over the top and way too long (and that's coming from a Flower Kings fan). Unlike TFK, this album has barely any good songwriting and just comes off bland and uninspiring. The instrumentation is still good but Mike's drums here just don't sound right. I do like the large concept idea of this album, and there are a few songs on this album that I can say "hey, that wasn't too bad", but for the most part this is just way too much. Petrucci should've listened to Mike Portnoy, they should've went on a hiatus and come back with new ideas. Unfortunately for the band, Petrucci works like a machine (which is a blessing and a curse), he likes to keep pushing out albums whether the albums are not of top quality.

Without Portnoy, this band has gone from great to merely mediocre. This is one example as to why the band should've went on a hiatus, to avoid something like this. If you want hard hitting Dream Theater of the now, go elsewhere, give this album a shot in case you like it though. I wasn't a fan of this album but give it a shot either way, but I would suggest 'Distance Over Time', it is much better than this album, and it has a more retro Dream Theater writing style. Unfortunately, this wasn't my thing, the rock opera elements just don't work for me, if I want to listen to Rock opera I'll listen to Queen.

Either way, my final words are: This could've been better, but overall, this just didn't have anything that intrigued me. The only song I enjoyed was 'A New Beginning', but even that song was a bit of a pill. Anyways, if you want Dream Theater at their best, I'd go elsewhere, because this album is just really long and it can be hard to get through.

Report this review (#2403010)
Posted Monday, May 18, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars The prog folk at Sea of Tranquility did a ranking of the 14 studio albums of Dream Theater, from their worst to best and named this one the worst. It's easy to understand why. Even by Dream Theater standards this is a very long album of over 2 hours of music. And like Metropolis Part 2, Scenes from a Memory, it's a concept album, but moreover it's also a rock musical which marks it differently from the rest of their discography. Based on a fantasy/science fiction story of a dystopian futuristic North American empire where music is banned, replaced by noise machines, as an oppressive means of thought control, a rebel militia from the village of Ravenskill challenges the authority of the empire through the power of music. This is similar in concept to Rush's 2112 album, but whereas the Rush album piece runs for only 20 minutes, this Dream Theater is a marathon journey where the musical themes criss cross and a lush melodic orchestration of strings and choirs from David Campbell combine with the guitars, largely Jordan Rudess's piano and Mangini's drums. To stay the journey you need to be able to visualize the plot, having no reference of a staged production or cinematic film, or at very least have the lyrics in front of you as you listen to the music. If you don't want to do that there's enough to like by concentrating on the guitar tracks like Gift of Music, Savior in the Sphere, Chosen and New Beginning and skipping the largely orchestral tracks. As song writers Dream Theater, in this case John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess, who wrote it together, are more skilled at arranging and building a music score than composing catchy tunes like Andrew Lloyd Weber.

The cover art of The Astonishing sets the scene with the flying spheres of the noise machines suspended over a futuristic city. The lyrics are attached in the lift out inside making it easy to read. The opening instrumental track, Dystopian Overture, introduces the main musical ideas with orchestra, choirs, guitars, drums and piano, then we go into the first vocal track, "the gift of music" with James LaBrie displaying his extraordinary vocal range. "The Answer" is another good acoustic track. "A Savior in the Sphere" is the first time we get to enjoy Petrucci's Gilmour like guitar playing before he's cut short by the orchestra and choir. We need to keep reminding ourselves here that this is a rock musical unlike any other Dream Theater. The songs are very poppy, like in Octavarium. At times they get a little too bland and sappy, as in "When your Time has Come". At times there is too much orchestra, stretching the songs out, as in "Act of Faythe" (that and the next three songs I advise you to avoid). Then at other times you are thinking, do we really need the ubiquitous choirs? The two stand out performers on the album are James LaBrie and Mike Mangini. LaBrie does a magnificent job but maybe the album would have benefited from having other singers playing different characters. Mangini's drums are turned up full on in the mix, unlike on, A Dramatic Turn Of Events, where you can hardly hear him. The title of a Deep Purple song best describes Mike Mangini, "Speed King". He's a better progressive metal drummer than Mike Portnoy who has a more, jazzy style of drumming.

Most of the prog action occurs in the last third of the first CD. The intro of "A Life left Behind" begins with acoustic guitar then goes into a fast piano pattern which is joined on electric guitar before James LaBrie sings the first verse of the best melody on the album, then into a full on chorus where the drums carry the beat and the guitars bring it home. A soulful ballad piece in "Ravenskill" follows and then we come to another great song in "Chosen" which begins slowly on piano, enters another great vocal passage from James LaBrie, before John Petrucci plays one of his best guitar solos. Having come alive on "Chosen" Petrucci unleashes more electric guitar on "A Tempting Offer" before the orchestra finishes off the song. Next, we get a nice little mainly instrumental track in "The X Aspect", where I think Rudess piano playing is inspired by Rick Wakeman, before LaBrie sings the vocals. Then we come to the longest and best track on the first CD, "A New Beginning". Plenty of time changes to keep everybody happy, orchestra, choirs and the rock instrumentation come together in a fast, funky cacophony wall of sound where Dream Theater are in their element. One of the band's best, ever songs.

The second CD is thankfully a bit shorter than the first and has a bit harder edge to the music. If you're not exhausted from the first CD there's a few treasures on the second. "Moment of Betrayal" has a neat piano introduction and being the most metal track on the album. "Heaven's Cove" has a beautiful classical acoustic introduction, something Steve Hackett might have done, then goes into a really heavy groove. A nice little ballad in "Begin Again" follows which is basically a piano piece with acoustic and electric guitar (and orchestra) playing above the piano. After a change in pace with "The Path that Divides" there's a great short heavy piece called "The Walking Shadow" which reprises the main musical theme in the middle. "My Last farewell" has a slow build, then breaks out into fast hammer thrusts of guitar and drums before LaBrie brings it home in hymn like fashion. Ignore the sappiness of "Losing Faythe" and "Whispers in the Wind" there's a nice folksy violin piece in "Hymn of a Thousand Voices" which should have ended the album.

Dream Theater deserve credit for an ambitious project in The Astonishing, unfortunately unlikely ever to achieve a deserved cinematic filmed production of the music which would truly showcase the nature of the work. It maybe fails by being too ambitious, drags in several places by the over orchestration and unnecessary choirs, bit too melodious and sappy in parts, but draws you back in whenever John Petrucci picks up his electric guitar and plays it. Andrew Lloyd Weber, it's not, but when you think about it, Andrew Lloyd Weber constructed his most beautiful musical score in Sunset Boulevard and that was a musical flop, so why should Dream Theater be like Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Report this review (#2448273)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2020 | Review Permalink

DREAM THEATER The Astonishing ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of DREAM THEATER The Astonishing

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives