Review Summary: Simplified and streamlined.
Bands releasing self-titled albums well into their careers has become increasingly commonplace. It’s essentially the new musical trend. Frequently listed reasons include going “back to their roots” or “finding themselves” by “starting over.” For Dream Theater, the choice comes twenty-five years in for their twelfth studio album, featuring 2013’s least interesting cover art, all while running a few minutes short by the band’s standards. With that information, it’s easy to predict the direction Dream Theater
will take, something listeners will either embrace or call foul at.
Only one track passes the eight-minute mark, which almost implies that Dream Theater
would contain cues from Awake
. But if anything, this is more Images and Words
meets Falling Into Infinity
. Dream Theater
is full of accessible material; even the relatively heavy “The Enemy Inside” has a distinctly metal-radio vibe. Both “Surrender to Reason” and “Along for the Ride” are completely guilty of approachability, the latter of which is so relaxing, it’ll make any day feel like Sunday.
When the album does start escalating, it never goes too far. The forced metal sound Dream Theater have often frequented in is MIA here. Set the lyrical enigma that is “The Bigger Picture” and the effectively solemn “Behind the Veil” aside and we have an album practically devoid of brooding moments. In a way, this means Dream Theater have lost a bit of their edge, especially since they’re going for a simpler sound. Yet it also means that, in addition to some tonal variety, we get a fluent, natural sounding album.
Dream Theater haven’t felt this at-ease in years, which might have to do with age gradually catching up to them. Nevertheless, the band are willing to treat us to another epic in the form of “Illumination Theory,” which comes off structurally similar to “The Count of Tuscany,” thanks to a tranquilizing mid-section. The difference here is that the ante is upped thanks to a moving string ensemble. As is routine with lengthier Dream Theater tracks, this piece can be argued as out of place, but when the music ultimately sounds this good, who’s going to complain?
At this point in Dream Theater’s career, it’d be unrealistic to expect the unexpected. Dream Theater
isn’t a way to get fans excited for the future, but rather an attempt for the band to have some fun. Picky listeners won’t find much staying power in this eponymous piece, but those wanting an enjoyable album that works well, both in and out of context, should be content with the results.