Dream Theater is the best band that I've ever heard in terms of technical skill. Unfortunately, they see the need to prove this whenever they get in the recording booth. Their songs are less musical pieces than exhibitions of skill. They switch time signatures very often, but that only makes their songs confusing and hard to listen to. Petrucci's solos are machine-like and emotionless. Throughout their career, it seems like they have been squandering their wealth of talent.
Luckily for everyone, Octavarium has Dream Theater showing at least a little bit of emotion. The instrumentals are a little bit less cold and distant, more connected to human emotion. Labrie's vocals are... well... not much different. His vocal delivery does not fit this band at all, and the lyrics are even worse. But this band does have two things going for them, and those are Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci. Petrucci is nothing short of a monster on the guitar, his riffs are incredibly complicated and are executed with a near inhuman precision. Portnoy is at least as good. He switches drumming techniques throughout the album, and every style he tries he performs flawlessly. Dream Theater also boasts an excellent bassist, John Myung. Portnoy and Petrucci often shove Myung to the background, but when you can hear him, he does excellently. One of the best points on this album is his opening riff on Panic Attack.
On Octavarium, Dream Theater took their metal sound from Train of Thought and softened it up considerably. The Answer Lies Within is an extremely soft, piano driven number with only minimal acoustic strumming from Petrucci. Very unlike Dream Theater, but it is done pretty well. I Walk Beside You is another very soft song. That song opens with a very cool palm-muted riff from Petrucci. The only problem with this is that the actual song is next. Which brings me to the main problem on this album: despite all of their technical skill, Dream Theater can't seem to make good songs consistently. Truthfully put, only two songs on this album I can say that I like, and those are Panic Attack and the title track. Fortunately, those two songs are uncommonly great.
Panic Attack is much easier to listen to. To me, that opening bass riff sounds like some small creature trying to escape quietly and unnoticed from something much larger. It makes it for about seven seconds, and then it gets caught. For the first time on the album, you see Dream Theater go berserk. Nothing but great heavy riffing for about thirty seconds, and you can hear Portnoy with the double bass, something he does a lot throughout the album. Then comes the main part of the song. Panic Attack is comparatively heavy on this album, but it shouldn't be too heavy for anybody. Labrie switches from his usual whiny voice to an eerie, staccato tone. His vocals and lyrics on this song are actually pretty cool. Petrucci is a monster as usual, his riffs are ridiculously complicated. This song has everything you could want from Dream Theater. Incredible technical skill, adequate heaviness, and Labrie performing rather well. But even this pales in comparison to the title track, Octavarium.
Octavarium is an absolute beast, clocking in at nearly 24 minutes. Basically, this song contains everything you love about music, every single musical style that influences Dream Theater is thrown into this song. Sometimes that turns out to be a convoluted mess, but in this song it all fits together. You have flute melodies included throughout the song, including a really cool one at about 4:40. Petrucci adds in acoustic and electric guitar melodies. Unfortunately, Labrie's screaming ability is nonexistent. He wasn't meant to scream, ever. That isn't enough to detract too much from the overall song though. This song comes into an epic climax at about 20:00, and then gradually fades out into the first track, The Root Of All Evil. This song has everything anyone could want, and is my favorite Dream Theater track that I've heard so far. Absolutely incredible.
The other songs on this album aren't necessarily bad, but none of them really stand out. Petrucci's soloing is notably toned down, giving Rudess a little more of the spotlight. Whether that is good or bad, I'm not too sure. This album is a little bit too soft in some spots also, namely The Answer Lies Within. The best of the rest is probably The Root of All Evil, but again, nothing great. The two gaping holes in this album are Never Enough and I Walk Beside You. To me, those songs sound nothing like Dream Theater, I Walk Beside You in particular sounds like it was custom made for radio play.
So overall, what's up with this album? It has two incredible songs and six average to bad ones. Octavarium and Panic Attack lift the whole album up from a poor or an average to a good. If you're a fan of Dream Theater, by all means, buy this. But if you're looking for some good progressive rock, there are many other places you should look before this.
2. Panic Attack
3. The Root of All Evil
1. Never Enough
2. I Walk Beside You
3. The Answer Lies Within
Apparently if you say "emotionless solos" you have not been in the presence of Portnoy, Myung, Portnoy, and Rudess. These are the most emotion-ful solos in all albums I have ever heard.
I also disagree about myung, if you can't hear him, you must not be listening hard, I can determine all 4 instruments individualy without a problem.
I also don't get what's so hard about time signature changes, I love changing my time signature. It's better then all of this pop crap that dare not leave 4/4, unlike dream theater with their crazy 8/1 7/4 5/4 9/4 for them having fun ^_^
"Apparently if you say "emotionless solos" you have not been in the presence of Portnoy, Myung, Portnoy, and Rudess. These are the most emotion-ful solos in all albums I have ever heard."
Apparently, you are living in a make-believe world.
If you think that I am the only person saying that, then you've never talked to anyone besides DT fan boys.
"I also disagree about myung, if you can't hear him, you must not be listening hard, I can determine all 4 instruments individualy without a problem."
Please point me to where I said I can't hear Myung. I said he didn't have much time in the spotlight, which you cannot deny.
"I also don't get what's so hard about time signature changes, I love changing my time signature. It's better then all of this pop crap that dare not leave 4/4, unlike dream theater with their crazy 8/1 7/4 5/4 9/4 for them having fun ^_^"
It's just Dream Theater showing off. What does you loving to change time signatures have to do with Dream Theater? Thier songs are confusing because they repeatedly switch time signatures midsong. Again, this is another common complaint about Dream Theater.
I don't know why you picked my review to neg when at least ten others on this site say the same thing. Do you really think my review was poorly written, or do you just disagree with me?
Now, I'm a DT fanboy, but I could NOT get into this album. The only song I really liked was The Root of All Evil. I loved ToT and liked the anger in it. I just wish they continued with it. I was hoping for a IaW mixed with ToT.
I disagree about the emotionless solos, I think Pertucci puts emotion in solos...sometimes. I can see both sides. Lyrics though, are pourous on this album. But I think they aren't as bad as everyone thinks. But, I am speaking for past albums, not this one. I was just dissapointed in this album
yo bodominflames... I highly recommend you check out DT's other stuff... Scenes from a Memory and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence are my favorites. Oh yeah, Train of Thought... check those out
Oh and for the review... gernerally very good, but I feel obliged to defend my point that "Never Enough" is an excellent track, it grew on me a lot. The Answer Lies Within is kinda pathetic, the one weak point of the album imo.This Message Edited On 02.25.07
Good review but i disagree with you about LaBrie, he can sound awkward and strained on some higher notes, but for the most part he sounds good on this release. Oh and LaBrie only wrote the lyrics for Sacrificed Sons for this album.
I agree that every album or decade of their music has some amazing songs, but they make a lot of songs that I find terrible, full of pseudo-intelligent ideas and lacking in aesthetics. This Message Edited On 03.24.08