Review Summary: "Scenes From A Memory" is Dream Theater's triumphant return to the throne of the prog kingdom, laden with profound themes and aurally titillating sounds.
Dream Theater was essentially in limbo after the release of their monumental failure "Falling Into Infinity;" having alienated a huge portion of their fanbase, and facing the uncertain future ahead, they had a decision to make: to stay within the confines of their newfound comfortable, pseudo pop style that defined "Falling Into Infinity," or to break new ground. As such, the release of "Scenes From A Memory" was to be a pivotal one. What was the outcome? Dream Theater did not disappoint; they made a radical paradigm shift which unequivocally proved themselves to be some of the most revolutionary pioneers of music in today's industry.
Scene I: Initial Impressions
As I tentatively press the "play" button on my Bose surround-sound stereo system, I apprehensively think back to "Falling Into Infinity" and pray for change, much like the oppressed souls of the civil war era did. No doubt an omen from the Gods above, the first track is "Regression." Almost hysterical, convinced that "Scenes" will be just as regressive and sonically masticated by the record industry's mad drive for profits as "Falling Into Infinity," I listen the track. But rather than reaffirming my preconceptions of the what the album was surely to be, the sound shocked me; simpering acoustic chords are strummed by guitarist virtuoso John Petrucci, who displays remarkable restraint and taste for a band known for their technical prowess. With the end of this short introduction comes the beginning of what "Scenes" is all about
: "Overture 1928" expertly samples various melodies and themes that are present throughout the entire album. The lush textures caress the ears, the sensual sensation akin to sleeping in a well-crafted water bed. Beautifully constructed, Rachmaninov-inspired chords are softly plodded by legendary keyboardist Jordan Rudess, a much needed new addition to the band's staling lineup. I was in awe; the seamless blend of classical influences and heavy metal madness not only worked, it seemed absolutely natural.
Scene II: Analysis
Dream Theater rocked the progressive scene's world with the release of "Scenes." A staple of the genre, they took various influences and musical styles and fused them in a way that was so seemingly pure and natural; it was not so much an amalgamation of diverse musics but rather its own sound. Not only was the sound a primordial appeal to the senses that absolutely titillated body, but its concept was one that stimulated the intellect. Featuring an expertly woven, novella-like tale of reincarnation and humanity's ageless themes of love, envy, and betrayal, "Scenes" brings to our consciousness a message, made accessible by the format of its arrival. That message is epitomized by protagonist Nicholas, who still feels the pain of his past life Victoria's brutal murder. It's not the literal interpretation of the story that the band intends, but rather the symbolic: our petty sins have consequences reaching far beyond us.