Review Summary: Progressive metal along with all cliche's and stereotypes of the genre.
Are you a progressive metal fanatic? If so, you probably enjoy the frequent lightning fast extended solo sections, the exotic song structures and time signatures, and perhaps the dense and occasionally cheesy lyrics that reek of the genre. If you are not a fan of the genre, perhaps those very things are what turn you off, what make you laugh at the pompous bombacity of it all. Maybe you've never even heard of the genre, or of Dream Theater, or God forbid-Mike Portnoy. Maybe you're wondering why an underground album that you've never heard of has received such positive reviews, and why this Dream Theater group has such a large, loyal fanbase. Maybe you're wondering why I rated this album so high, or if I'm just some loyal fanboy raving on about one of his favorite groups. Well I am a fanboy, but I would like to tell you why I am such, and why I believe this album is worthy of a perfect rating.
Metropolis Pt. 2, Scenes From a Memory, is a sequel of sorts to a song off Dream Theater's 1992 breakthrough album, Images and Words. Metropolis Pt. 1 became a fan favorite song due to the extreme viruoso demonstrations throughout the song, and incredable vocal performance by James LaBrie. The song was initially a joke to the fans, a part one without a part two, however after the positive reaction to the song, and after the financial, critical, and comercial failure of their 1997 release Falling Into Infinity, Dream Theater decided to take a shot at part two.
Scenes From a Memory tells the tale of a modern young man who is haunted by dreams. These dreams so disturb this young man that he decides to see a hypnotherapist. While receiving hypnotherapy, this young man, Nicholas by name, learns of a past lifetime and of a love story turned tragedy. While the story may lack in depth and meaning, it helps keep a sense of continuity and oneness throughout the rather lengthy album.
But enough of the concept, the music on this album is where this album really shines. Each and every member of Dream Theater is a master of his instrument, and each and every member delivers a performance any musician would be envious of. Diversity is the name of the game here and there is a little bit of everything. Heartfelt acoustic pieces, sweeping musical overtures, heavy progressive epics, and even a gospel song all make a showing on the album. Dream Theater really put their all into this record and it shows.
There are multiple songs that break the ten minute mark on the album as well as two instrumental tracks. The first of the instrumentals, Overture 1928 is an epic, sweeping piece of music that features themes from the rest of the album. Overture really shows how an instrumental track should be done; with the focus on the melody, and it really makes the track more enjoyable. The second of these, The Dance of Eternity is a complex demonstration of musical genious. There is a keyboard solo that sounds like ragtime, and an extremely fast bass solo that resembles the one on Metropolis Pt. 1. Despite the strength of these tracks however, they are nothing compared to the three highlight tracks of the album.
The first of these tracks and perhaps the weakest of the three is Beyond This Life. It is an eleven minute track filled to the brim with crunchy (although not overly heavy) riffs, keyboard and guitar solos, and great vocals. This track really shows you what progressive metal is all about. Musical complexity and great solos all worked around fantastic vocals and a wacky song structure. The second of highlights is Home. Home is a very middle eastern sounding track with a dense soundscape, and a great opening riff by Petrucci. These two tracks will overwhelm the average listener with all the musical insanity happening, however once you take the time to give them a careful listen, you will find them very enjoyable. The best of the three however is not a progressive epic. It does not defy the ten minute mark, nor does it break the record for time signature changes throughout a song. Rather, it is a slow moving power ballad called The Spirit Carries On. The track starts off with James singing, then one at a time, the keys, bass, guitar, and drums join in. It goes into an uplifting bridge and then breaks down into a phenominal guitar solo. Seriously, this solo rivals anything Page or Gilmous has done and I am a fan of both Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. It shoots the song straight to heaven and if you don't believe me, listen to it yourself. The song climaxes with LaBrie singing a reprise of the first song on the album, and then singing the chorus with a choir in the background. A very un-Dream Theater song to be sure, but probably the best song they have done.
Now if I haven't convinced you to buy the album or at least give it a listen, I doubt that I will ever be able to. If you are a fan of progressive groups like Yes, or Rush, I would recommend trying this album. If you are a musician or can appreciate complex music in a world seemingly devoid of such I would recommend you check out this album. If you are a fan of punk, rap, pop, or other to the point types of music, I would recommend that you run for your life. You will probably hate this album. But who knows? Perhaps your views on music could be changed and you too will end up giving this album, this group, and even this genre a listen.