Review Summary: Falling Into Mediocrity.The Journey Through Dream Theater, Part 5
Commonly considered to be one of their weakest efforts, Falling Into Infinity
is not looked upon too kindly in the Dream Theater discography, although its negative stigma is understandable. It falls between Dream Theater’s most acclaimed works: Images and Words
, Scenes From A Memory
, and to a lesser extent, Awake
. It was an attempt at a more mainstream-accessible album (although this was largely a move by the record company), and it is largely considered to be a commercial and critical failure. While there are moments of excellence, ultimately Falling Into Infinity
is Dream Theater’s weakest album since the debut.
A major problem with Falling Into Infinity
is James LaBrie’s vocals. After a commanding operatic performance in Images
and an improved performance in Awake
that showed him handling heavier material, here he digresses due to him rupturing his vocal cords. When he attempts to hit high notes here, most of the time it doesn’t work out very well, so he’s forced to deliver a very dry performance most of the time. The other issue is that the progressive elements of Dream Theater’s music have been scaled back to allow for more radio-friendly tracks.
starts things off, and it’s not very captivating. The guitar/keyboard line that runs through the song is pretty good, and LaBrie’s vocals are tolerable, but the band’s insistence of showing practically no technicality throughout the song makes it drag. You Not Me
continues the trend, with a simple riff and an overly poppy chorus of “It’s all about you, not me” that shows the lyrical digression on the album as well. From the beginning it appears that Dream Theater had lost their spark.
Luckily there are a few bright spots in the middle of the album. Peruvian Skies
is excellent, having the feel of an 80’s Metallica ballad, switching from soft to heavy in the last 3 minutes. This leaves Petrucci a chance to shine, with a strong solo, something that is unfortunately missed on the majority of the album. It’s followed by Hollow Years
, the only strong ballad here, with simple but effective acoustic guitar and pleasant vocal melodies due to one of LaBrie’s few strong performances on this album. Hell’s Kitchen
is a simple but well-executed instrumental that leads right into Lines In The Sand
, one of two epics on the album. LaBrie’s vocals aren’t a highlight, but Lines In The Sand
is well executed enough musically that it doesn’t hinder the song too much. The instrumental passages are very well done, and Petrucci provides a great solo in the middle section.
Aside from Hollow Years
, the slower material is very weak. Take Away My Pain
is a cheesy ballad, something that Dream Theater can get away with from time to time, but it simply lacks the power of other ballads the band has performed, passing by in what is ultimately a boring 6 minutes, with LaBrie’s attempt at dramatic vocals leaving no mark whatsoever. Anna Lee
is a little better, with slightly improved vocals, but it’s still mostly unmemorable. It’s a shame, because Dream Theater had already proved before this album that they could write effective ballad material with cuts like The Silent Man
and Space-Dye Vest
. The heavier material isn’t up to par either. Burning My Soul
wants to be a fist-pumping hard rocker, but LaBrie’s poor vocals and groan-inducing lines like “I say it's green and then you tell me it's red” ruin it. Just Let Me Breathe
fails in the same vein, a poor attempt at an angst-ridden rocker. The final track, Trial of Tears
, is one of the worst epics the band has made, dragging on and lacking any sense of epicness, fully uninteresting save for Petrucci’s wankery in the middle of the song.
While critics of the band would say that their overuse of technicality is their downfall, here on Falling Into Infinity
it is exactly the opposite. The band fails to do much interesting most of the time, and LaBrie’s typically poor performance on the album can’t carry most of the songs. While there are a few highlights, ultimately Falling Into Infinity
earns its reputation as one of Dream Theater’s weakest albums.
Top Tracks: Peruvian Skies, Hollow Years, Hell’s Kitchen, Lines In The Sand
For Falling Into Infinity
, Dream Theater was:
• John Myung – Bass guitar
• John Petrucci – Lead guitar
• Mike Portnoy – Drums, Percussion
• Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
• James LaBrie – Vocals
To Be Continued…