Review Summary: Change? Nothing new here, just DT doing what they do best. Which is changing their style constantly;)
Review: Dream Theater , A Change of Seasons (EP, released in 1995)
Dream Theater, if, surprisingly, you haven't at least heard of them by now, are a Progressive rock/metal band, formed in 1985 under the name Majesty, which probably gives off the same impression as their current band name. With John Myung (Bass), Mike Portnoy(Drums) and John Petrucci(Guitars) already amongst Dream Theater's Ranks, they would later add two more members(Jordan Rudess on Keyboards and James LaBrie on Vocals) to an already talented trio, and consequently record three albums, two being extremely successful, before recording A Change of Seasons, their first EP. (Note:Playing Keyboards on this EP is actually Derek Sherinian).
Let's face it, by the time A Change of Seasons was released, DT didn't even need to make the pinnacle of their career. No, Images and Words had already been done, and Awake continued that progressive style.
The first thing you'll probably notice about A Change of Seasons is the mammoth of a title track, making up one third of an album that already clocks in at over sixty minutes. And perhaps, that is why I don't regard A Change of Seasons as an EP, but rather as an actual album. A Change of Seasons begins predictably enough with an acoustic melody, with Petrucci interrupting this melody with the heaviness of his guitar. That is the exact point where we know this is a DT album and nothing else. You'll notice I used the word 'Predictably' to describe the beginning of this song. However, this couldn't possibly be used for the rest of the twenty-plus minutes remaining. Three minutes in and Sherinian shows off his talent as an epic keyboardist, and that's when the whole thing clicks into place. Every member then shows off their abilities,combining them to make one hell of an epic title track: Constant rhythm changes, a good balance of melody and power, and every instrument used to the full extent. Unfortunately, this is the only actual piece of new material on A Change of Seasons, as the remaining four tracks are all made up of cover versions, that,in my opinion, don't quite match the quality previously found on the title track.
First cover up, is DT's version of an Elton John Classic, Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding. Once again, Sherinian shows his talent,emphasising the keyboards throughout. LaBrie's vocals aren't that impressive, perhaps due to the fact that he wanted to emulate Elton John's soaring voice, but amongst a background of well done keyboard melodies, it seems to fit the overall impression of the album well. A guitar solo ensues, adding more to the melody already represented here. It seems to me that there is more emphasis on the keyboards here than on anything else, which helps to keep a melodic atmosphere even more.
The next cover is of Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers, once again introducing Sherinian's brilliant talent to open up an already excellent song. Although, once again, LaBrie's vocals aren't on par with the original Deep Purple version, this time singing in a slightly higher tone than the previous cover. Everything else, fortunately, is carried out really well, Petrucci taking care of the epic solo towards the end, before Portnoy ends it all with a nice drum solo.
The third cover, my personal favourite on A Change of Seasons, is a medley of three different Led Zeppelin songs: The Rover, Achilles' Last Stand, and The Song remains the Same. The Rhythm of the three songs here are basically the same, with Achilles' Last Stand having a slightly faster tempo, courtesy of Portnoy's well handled drum rhythm. Guitar and bass duties here are carried out remarkably well too, LaBrie's vocals yet again proving a little disappointing, compared to the quality of the rest of the band.
Last but certainly not least, is The Big Medley, comprising songs by Pink Floyd, Kansas, Queen, Journey, Dixie Dregs and Genesis, most of which, are also known to be amongst DT's prime influences. I particularly prefer the original Pink Floyd version of In The Flesh DT's, naturally, but here they do an impressive job of giving off the same atmosphere originally created by Pink Floyd in 1980. The rest of the covers generally do flow together, every member of the band doing their best to keep up a very melodic and progressive tone throughout the rest of this medley.
A Change of Seasons is definitely something a devoted DT fan would own, but for those with an open mind musically, you would do better to purchase Images and Words or Awake, perhaps even Metropolis Part 2:Scenes from a Memory, before heading into DT's other releases not mentioned as studio albums. The title track is definitely the pinnacle of this album, but for those seeking a nice sense of melody(There's that word again, that I use so frequently to describe early Dream Theater), buy away. Just don't expect to be flattered by James LaBrie's vocals on the cover versions....