Dream Theater
Dream Theater


3.0
good

Review

by Ben Kuettel STAFF
September 21st, 2013 | 137 replies


Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Streamlined and better focused, but at a cost.

Dream Theater has slowly been gaining more and more mainstream recognition throughout their amazingly long career. In 2010, the departure of founding member Mike Portnoy caused huge media attention, and called into question if the band was finally over. After a rigorous search, they found Berklee College of Music graduate Mike Mangini, and released A Dramatic Turn of Events a year later. While selling well, it was a sporadic, uneven listen, filled with too many ballads, and a few progressive metal epics as usual. The drumming wasn’t as creative as Portnoy’s, but Mangini held his own nonetheless. It was a refreshing listen and a welcome change in musical direction, which this latest release solidifies by continuing in the same vein.

Dream Theater is perhaps the group's most surprisingly cohesive release. The progressive wankery shoved into all their previous records has been restrained in favor of improved and more consistent songwriting. The average song length is around the six minute mark, a first for this band, with the only track exceeding eight minutes being the epic twenty-two minute Illumination Theory, bringing 2005’s Octavarium to mind. While these epic finales have remained motifs for a decade now, it is the most familiar element of DT that remains. The point is that they finally did away with this jarring and amateurish songwriting approach to instead focus on just making a consistent prog record, while still encompassing their musical influences and overall identity.

The instrumentation is top notch as always, as these are former Berklee students having been universally regarded as virtuoso musicians ever since the release of Images & Words over twenty years ago. However, the musical masturbation of previous albums has been toned down in favor of more tightly focused songwriting, which means more conventional song structures. This serves as a blessing and a curse. Yes, these function to sound like real songs as opposed to over-the-top wankery, but something is lost in the process. It makes the band sound like they're out of ideas, and makes for a streamlined, yet bland result. Along for the Ride acts as one of their safest and most uneventful ballads yet, and opener instrumental False Awakening Suite seems slightly unnecessary and really goes nowhere. James LaBrie sounds the same as he always does, his voice soaring through the songs, and just like every other DT album, never quite fitting in with the music.

Mike Mangini drums more creatively than on the previous album, now “fully integrated in the writing process” (Guitarist John Petrucci). While he ends up being a band highlight on Dream Theater, he can't save the bland sound when the lead instruments just sound like they're going through the motions. Various elements sound familiar, and almost come across as being recycled from previous releases. The Looking Glass serves as an obvious tribute to Limelight by Rush, and ends up taking the influenced sound a bit too far. The album’s lead single, The Enemy Inside, is a straightforward metal song with some of the band's worst lyrics yet, shown in this gem, "The pain is real like a cut that bleeds." The band has struggled to write half-way decent lyrics for a while now, but Dream Theater really sees them scraping the bottom of the barrel.

The middle tracks are the album highlights, high on the cheese factor but also on enjoyment. Elements of Dream Theater's ballads and progressive rock throwbacks are meshed together, and for the most part are successful. While not among the best DT has put out in recent years, they act as the most refreshing sounding Dream Theater songs in a long time. I like to think they represent the direction of where the band will go on from here. DT has released twelve albums in their impressive career, so we don’t really expect them to reinvent progressive metal every couple years the way they did in the 1990’s. Nonetheless, Dream Theater will stand as a flawed but enjoyable entry into DT's more modern, accessible phase of their career.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
TheNexus100
September 21st 2013


2696 Comments


the genius, musically life-changing levels of previous epics Octavarium

rmasi
September 21st 2013


1 Comments


"Even after 30+ years writing and playing music, this band still can’t seem to write lyrics that don’t make most people want to smash their heads on a wall."

: )

dante1991
September 21st 2013


604 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Good review. A few things: Portnoy left in 2010 not 2011 and, just to nikpick:



"The most interesting songs on Dream Theater are tracks four, five, and six, The Bigger Picture, Behind The Veil, and Surrender To Reason" - the songs named are tracks 5, 6 and 7.



Otherwise nice to see a more positive review of this. It's a shame you didn't appreciate Illumination Theory's ambient/string section - that's definitely the highlight of this album for me.

Digging: Earthside - A Dream In Static

Hoppoman
September 21st 2013


717 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

dante loves this and knows his DT.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2013


15192 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Thanks Dante all fixed!



And I like the soundscapes in count of tuscany and illumination theory, I just thought they go on a little too long



I also realized I didn't say anything about the keyboard so I added that too

dante1991
September 21st 2013


604 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yup, I think this is their best in a decade. Pretty much every member steps it up here, and parts of the album could have easily been on Images and Words or Awake.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2013


15192 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Awake is such an underrated album everyone lumps it in with falling into infinity as the two albums the record company made

them do, but it had some great stuff in it.

sonictheplumber
September 21st 2013


7425 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

who lumps in awake with falling into infinity?

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2013


15192 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

After the success of the masterpiece images & words, the record company wanted another hit so they told dream theater to

make a more "metal" album, resulting in awake. It didn't sell that great, so then they told dream theater to make a softer

album to market it to softer rock fans, so they made falling into infinity. That undersold also, so they told dream theater to

make whatever they want, so they made one of the greatest albums of all time, scenes from a memory metropolis pt. 2, and it

sold great. And the rest is history.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2013


15192 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

So some people consider awake and falling into infinity to not be real "dream theater" albums cause they were made with

mainstream audiences in mind.

Parallels
September 21st 2013


8741 Comments


what are you talking about Awake was not made with mainstream audiences in mind, it's dark as hell and the band was even upset about it when it came out.

Many (myself included) consider it to be their best too, so I don't see how they'd not consider it not to be a DT album.

Digging: Crystal Castles - Amnesty (I)

Hoppoman
September 21st 2013


717 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awake was so awesome Kevin Moore left the band so their next album didn't destroy the universe.



But serious, Awake is joint first with IAW and Metropolis pt 2.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2013


15192 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Look on Wikipedia and you'll see I'm completely right about awake. Not to say it isn't good, it's definitely one of their most interesting and different sounding albums.

sonictheplumber
September 21st 2013


7425 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

i like awake 2nd best

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2013


15192 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah I debated what rating to give this, most people seemed to think it was a 3/3.5, but I thought it was better than that

JS19
September 22nd 2013


5566 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

'How do you all have thumbnail pictures next to your comments except for me'



Well i think that sums up *this* review

Digging: Converge - You Fail Me (Redux)

SitarHero
September 22nd 2013


5520 Comments


This is the best DT album in a while.

DoctorVelvet
September 23rd 2013


128 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Reads more like a 3 or 3.5.

SgtShock
September 24th 2013


451 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I really don't see how Mike Portnoy's drumming is "more creative" than Mangini's. Especially considering the latter can

perform segments Portnoy can't play.

manosg
Contributing Reviewer
September 24th 2013


9501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Mangini is not the problem in this album. He's actually really good.

Digging: Fates Warning - Theories of Flight



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