Dream Theater
Awake


5.0
classic

Review

by Nick Mongiardo CONTRIBUTOR (104 Reviews)
March 17th, 2015 | 63 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Boasting a strong regard for song writing, atmosphere and heaviness, Awake exists as one of the band's most compelling albums to date.

There’s no denying that Dream Theater proves to be one of the most well regarded names in progressive metal. The band has managed to display immense levels of talented technicality that many bands only try to duplicate. It is for this reason these musicians are highly esteemed in the progressive metal community. The genre as a whole often showcases endless levels of efficiency, while at the same time not ignoring the other sides of music like masterful lyrics and added levels of atmosphere. Opeth and Tool accomplish this aspect of progressive metal extremely well, with the former often slowing things down a bit for acoustic sections and the latter placing an emphasis on spiritual lyrics. However, when it comes to Dream Theater, they happen to be a band that could easily be appreciated simply for their seminal contributions to the genre. Unfortunately, their music certainly isn't for everyone due to the fact that they more often than not sacrifice plenty of emotional soul in their music for intimidating levels of meandering flash. This abundant moments of flash are masterfully delivered, but as a result, atmosphere and songwriting often gets eliminated nearly altogether. It’s for this reason that Awake shines a hell of a lot brighter than their other technical masterpieces like Images and Words and Metropolis Part Two.

However, what makes Awake so different from the rest is because of the blatant regard for song writing, heaviness and atmosphere on here. Though it may not be their heaviest, it’s certainly much heavier and nowhere near as accessible as their influential sophomore outing. For this album, the band nearly altogether strips away their signature instrumental veering in favor of writing structured, meaningful songs that make stunning use of their technicality, keyboards and overall bleak atmosphere. It’s this refreshing change of pace that really brings to light how many recent bands that are influenced by this album and some of those include Riverside, Arcane, Karnivool, Haken and Animals As Leaders respectively. While the band’s exceptional skills at the helm of all their instruments may still be evident, make no mistake that the band also chooses to not neglect all other sides of heavy music to great effect as well as remaining true to themselves in the process.

Strong evidence of their focus on songwriting this time around happens to be “The Mirror” and “Lifting Shadows off a Dream.” Both songs feature stunning keyboard melodies that provide pleasing textures to increase the emotional weight of the album. “The Mirror” showcases an incredible chorus driven by James LaBrie’s solid vocals, memorable guitar riffs and a refreshingly contained vibe in terms of instrumentation. Plus, the last 30 seconds of the song proves to be one of the most memorable moments of the album due to the powerfully heavy guitar riffs leading into “Lie,” which is an equally masterful song featuring some of the same qualities of “The Mirror.” However, “Lifting Shadows off a Dream” is without a doubt one of the most powerful songs of the album. The introduction boasts gentle guitar work and awe inspiring keyboard melodies that really heighten the brooding atmosphere of the album. These songs alone deliver in the aspect of improved songwriting, but the balance between their typical style and atmospheric style is another quality that makes this album so stunning.

Album opener “6:00” reveals this balance to immense effect because not only does the overall song have a darker, more emotional delivery, but the band’s technical detour works so well because it’s not overdone and gives the listener time to truly appreciate their talent rather than wanting the band to get to the point. “Voices” also functions in the same light. The introduction is as gritty as ever and it paves the way for James powerful vocals aiding his other band members that seemingly take on a life of their own with their unreal instrumentation. Even “Erotomania” soars high as an instrumental jam due to the band’s signature chemistry, as well as “Scarred,” which is the lone 11 minute epic of the album that never drags at any point.

Surprisingly, some of the other stars of the record includes the ballads of the record, which happens to be a rare occurrence for this band. “The Silent Man” is a short yet sweet acoustically driven ballad with beautiful vocals and lovely piano work. However, it’s “Space Dye Vest” that proves to be the monumental stunner of the two ballads on Awake. Driven by strategically placed samples, James’ awesome delivery and an extremely memorable piano melody, the song’s emotionally charged mood makes it the power ballad to end them all. Completely free of any cheesiness and corny lyrics, this one happens to be completely different as opposed to some of their other ballads. Essentially, there doesn't exist a better way to end a seminal album like this.

It’s safe to say that Awake exists as one of the safe havens for lovers of progressive music that doesn't ignore the emotional aspect of music. It’s a colossal, emotional album that is just about as controlled as it is technical. The band balances both of the styles immensely well and they even manage to make it significantly darker and heavier than a lot of their other albums. Everything that includes tight drumming, talented bass work and memorable guitar riffs remains completely intact here. Make no mistake that this is still a Dream Theater album, but it’s not just them being Dream Theater like their most recent albums; it’s the band being a better version of themselves that could win over anyone who dislikes the often pointless meandering in their music. As stated before, it’s undeniably easy to appreciate this band, but it’s this album that makes them tough to resist. Awake is also an staggeringly appropriate title for this album because they were more Awake than ever when they record this one.



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user ratings (1785)
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4.1
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2015


13215 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I had a lot to say about this one. Really hope you guys enjoy the read, this album really is fucking awesome

R6Rider
March 17th 2015


4833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This was my first DT album.



Not a weak song on it imo.

Digging: Thou / The Body - You, Whom I Have Always Hated

TheCrocodile
March 17th 2015


474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kevin Moore >



Fantastic read, really captures what I dig about this album. Last three tracks are one hell of a way to end an album.

Tunaboy45
March 17th 2015


6106 Comments


Great review Mr Mongi

Digging: Bjork - Vulnicura

TalonsOfFire
March 17th 2015


11738 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review Mongi, but Images and Scenes>

Digging: Death Cab for Cutie - Kintsugi

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2015


13215 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks guys. I like IAW and A Change Of Seasons a lot but this is honestly all in need from this band

Davil667
March 17th 2015


756 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

A worthy review for this fantastic album. Hard pos.

jmnewcomer18
March 17th 2015


3474 Comments


Great review man.Still need to jam this one.

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2015


13215 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks and do it bro you won't regret it.

Artuma
March 17th 2015


18013 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

AND I'LL NEEEVER BE OOOPEN AGAAAAAAAAIN

Digging: The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up - It's Winter Here

Xenorazr
March 17th 2015


459 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Fantastic review and completely agreed. I've always liked this album, but it always seems to grow on me in some way, especially Space-Dye Vest, which I didn't know what to think of for the longest time. It's since become a song that gets better every time I hear it and might be my new favorite by the band.

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2015


22362 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

my favorite DT. nice job mongi

Digging: Celldweller - End of an Empire - Chapter 01: Time

Toondude10
March 17th 2015


5085 Comments


Still need to check this, but I'm too busy jamming to Foo Fighters right now

good review btw.

Digging: Celldweller - End of an Empire - Chapter 01: Time

beefshoes
March 17th 2015


4880 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Great review man, and I completely agree with your thesis.

The later albums have their moments of course, but none of them come close to achieving the atmosphere that was reached on this album. ACOS is the same way imo.

Digging: Death Grips - The Powers That B

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2015


13215 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yea so far none have either. None of their later stuff is bad that I've heard in any way, but nothing I could invest in. Though Metropolis is really solid and IAW rules even more.

trackbytrackreviews
March 17th 2015


2162 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well regarded is a weird way to say cheesy

ComeToDaddy
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2015


799 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

DT were my gateway into all things music so I'll always have a soft spot for the band. Absolutely killer album and review to boot

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Mythodea
March 17th 2015


2053 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Scarred, man what a song.

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2015


13215 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks man! I can't believe how much this album grew on me. The more I listened the more I noticed the differences.

rockandmetaljunkie
March 17th 2015


4552 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Excellent review, as for the album itself, what more is there to be said, it's one of the milestones of Prog Metal.



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