Dream Theater
Awake


4.5
superb

Review

by Austin USER (41 Reviews)
April 26th, 2010 | 945 replies | 42,070 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Less accessible, darker, and heavier than Images and Words, Awake is an album that favors songwriting over instrumental wandering, and the result is excellence.

22 of 22 thought this review was well written

The Journey Through Dream Theater, Part 3

After a lackluster debut that went by unnoticed, Dream Theater quickly recovered by releasing Images and Words, an album that is often considered one of the definitive prog metal releases, and for good reason: The strong songwriting and consistently excellent musicianship made the album an incredible listening experience that left many wondering what Dream Theater would do next. Following up Images and Words, they took a different direction with Awake. It’s one of their least accessible albums, and certainly a departure from Images and Words. It’s darker, heavier, and low on long and flashy instrumental sections. It’s an album that requires more attention to realize its excellence.

James LaBrie has fittingly adjusted his vocals from the constant high-pitched stylings of Images to an edgier, rougher vocal style here for a large part of the album, and while it definitely takes adjusting to after Images, his performance is outstanding, and actually stronger overall than the previous outing. Awake contains some of the heaviest material Dream Theater had written at the time, and they pull it off with relative ease. The album opener, 6:00, is a rocker that makes prominent use of keyboards that keep the song moving along with Petrucci’s heavy riffs. The Mirror is the rare heavy Dream Theater track that never veers off into flashy instrumental displays, maintaining mid-tempo chugging riffs alongside keyboards throughout its 6 minute duration. It’s the first of several songs Dream Theater would write about Portnoy’s addiction, and the darker tone of the song fits the theme well. The strongest of the straight out heavy tracks, however, is Lie. Driven by catchy metal riffing and a powerful vocal performance from LaBrie, and complimented with two excellent guitar solos from Petrucci, this track is easy to enjoy and a major highlight of the album.

As a compliment to the heavier material, the diverse ballad material is some of Dream Theater’s best, in fact this is the strongest collection of softer material that the band has ever written, lacking any of the cheese that is often prevalent in their ballads. The Silent Man is a simple acoustic number with fantastic emotion-filled vocals from LaBrie. Portnoy’s assisting vocals in the chorus make for a very pleasant melody. Lifting Shadows off a Dream is a darker piece that thrives off of Myung’s slow-moving bass line and builds to a soaring chorus from LaBrie. Space-Dye Vest is a powerful closing track, driven by a hypnotic piano line and an effective, understated performance by LaBrie.

Petrucci still has his solos on most tracks, but they’re not nearly as flashy or long as most other Dream Theater releases. He still busts loose occasionally, like in the wild instrumental piece Erotomania, which goes through numerous tempo changes and gives Petrucci plenty of room to display his virtuosic talent. Overall, however, he refrains from getting overly technical most of the time. This doesn’t hold the album back at all, in fact it only makes the times where he does solo all the more enjoyable. The two epics, Voices and Scarred, both benefit from this. Led by LaBrie’s commanding vocals, both tracks begin softly and gradually build in intensity, only to climax with Petrucci’s solo. Both clock in at over 9 minutes but never lose focus, a true demonstration of Dream Theater’s songwriting abilities.

Awake is an album that takes time to appreciate. It’s one of Dream Theater’s heavier albums, but not in the same vein as the flashy, metal riff-assault that they would later create with Train of Thought. It relies on a darker, moodier atmosphere. The album is benefited by good lyrics, Myung’s simple but effective bass lines, and Moore’s effective keyboard use that doesn’t go over the top like his replacement Jordan Rudess would later do, but rather contributes to the atmosphere of each song. Even Portnoy is more restrained on this one, refraining from going too crazy on his drums when it’s not needed. Each band member contributes; no one is thrown away or pushed aside on this release.

As a starting album for Dream Theater, Images and Words is more fitting, as it’s much more accessible. However, Awake is still a very worthwhile listen that is very rewarding in the long run once one allows the subtleties to sink in. Proof that Dream Theater can write great songs and avoid instrumental wankery, Awake should not be overlooked.

Top Tracks: Lie, Voices, Lifting Shadows Off a Dream, Space-Dye Vest

For Awake, Dream Theater was:

• John Myung – Bass guitar
• John Petrucci – Lead guitar
• Mike Portnoy – Drums, Percussion
• Kevin Moore – Keyboards
• James LaBrie – Vocals

To Be Continued…



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Comments:Add a Comment 
tiesthatbind
April 26th 2010



7360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The DT discography continues. I'm really glad I devoted more time to this album, it didn't impress me at first.

Enjoy.

Parallels
April 26th 2010



6640 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Excellent review. I'm really loving them, keep up the good work. Pos'd. This is the Dream Theater album that never gets old no matter how many times you listen to it.

Nagrarok
April 26th 2010



7966 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I hardly listen any DT anymore, but I find this their best unlike many others. Nice review also, pos.

tiesthatbind
April 26th 2010



7360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks, guys.

These reviews are fun to do, and a good challenge for my writing abilities. I'm not looking forward to doing Falling Into Infinity, though.

SowingSeason
Emeritus
April 26th 2010



14513 Comments


awesome review. i never liked this album as much as their others but it is still good

JWT155
April 26th 2010



9184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fuck it, never been that into Dream Theater but I'm gonna get some of their stuff now that I don't have (including this).

iwrestledabigmaconce
April 26th 2010



251 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is really different. Its my favorite album of theirs. The only one that is deserving of 5.

mutatedfreek
April 26th 2010



7351 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review man have a pos. Awake is a pretty great album but will always pale in comparison to Images and Words and Scenes From a Memory for me.

mutatedfreek
April 26th 2010



7351 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Also checking out I&W review now.

BigHans
April 26th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Another good job. Its a decent album, but I find this to be a snooze fest compared to Images and Words.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2010



30320 Comments


Great read Ties

I'm not looking forward to doing Falling Into Infinity, though.

There's some really good tracks on that album, and then some shit ones to boot. I never thought it was as bad as people made it out to be though

Digging: L'Orange - The Orchid Days

NeutralThunder12
April 26th 2010



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Fantastic record, dark and heavy as hell. Great review also, looking forward to your next. Wait, are you going to do A Change of Seasons and then go to Falling Into Infinity?

Thor
April 26th 2010



10158 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

One of the two DT albums that matter in full

Digging: Cult Leader - Nothing For Us Here

NeutralThunder12
April 26th 2010



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

"One of the two DT albums that matter in full"

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Don't disagree, you will lose. Just deal with the fact that you are wrong. Wrong. Wrong. WRONG.

Thor
April 26th 2010



10158 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nope sorry

NeutralThunder12
April 26th 2010



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thor bro, you know I love you man, but it's too bad you can't appreciate the band that influenced one of your favorite genres. There is no Colors without Dream Theater.

Thor
April 26th 2010



10158 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just because they influenced a band I like doesn't mean I have to like everything they do

qwe3
April 26th 2010



21154 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

agree with thor. neutralthunder youre a dumbass

NeutralThunder12
April 26th 2010



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

understood, but I never said you have to LIKE it. Just understand that Dream Theater is a great band, and that you are wrong. The only reissurance I need for the fact that you are wrong is looking at your 5 for an Arsis album.

qwe3
April 26th 2010



21154 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

dream theater influenced bands to become shitty like btbam did.

had btbam just stuck with the cool proggy hardcore/metalcore they'd been doing it would have been cool but no they had to go suck DT's dick
not gonna reply to you i said my bit



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