For many familiar with progressive music, Dream Theater is a band that needs little introduction. With the virtuosic skills of their members, they have from the beginning of their career helped pioneer and develop the progressive metal genre. While criticized for a great many things, mostly for their inability to write properly structured songs, showcasing their instrumental abilities instead, as well as their often banal and annoying lyrics. While there is much truth to these claims, the band has shown to have slightly moved away at times from their earlier ‘wank’-era which was at its highest with their second album Images and Words
. With later releases such as Awake
and Scenes From A Memory
, they have focused more on writing actual songs, and after the disappointment that was 07’s Systematic Chaos
, they picked up their good habit once again, creating the not at all shabby Black Clouds and Silver Linings
last year. An single EP, Wither
, followed a month or so after, and has been the band’s first areal EP since ‘95’s A Change of Seasons
. What it consists of is no less than three different versions of the song it is titled after. The regular album version, a softer piano version, and a version with guitarist John Petrucci on vocals. The fourth track is another alternate take on another track from their latest work; The Best of Times
with drummer Mike Portnoy handling vocal duties.
was a quite a good song on its own, the shortest and calmest track on Black Clouds
, and an adequate break from the usual Dream Theater epics crawling over the rest of the space. It could have easily fit into the Images and Words
-era, being reminiscent of Another Day
, but then one with more punch. Like far too many of the band’s ballads, it is on the cheesy side lyrically, and for that, it tends to get annoying. While nicely fitting in with the rest of Black Clouds
, it did not seem like the best move to bring out an EP displaying a whole three showings of the song. And indeed, it wasn’t.
To be blunt, the only interesting feature about the EP is the piano version of the song, which is a fitting approach to take with a ballad of such kind. Paired with LaBrie’s less-expressive-than-usual vocals, the piano arrangement does much good to the track. It may not carry as much power behind it, but much of the cheese has been omitted in the process. The Petrucci vocal version, however, is nothing special. The guitarist lacks a voice convincing enough to carry the song, and even though LaBrie has proved to be often annoying, Petrucci’s take adds little special. The same goes for Portnoy, who’s vocal expression is equally unimpressive to Petrucci’s. Redoing The Best of Times
, which didn’t have all that much vocal work in it in the first place, feels like another unnecessary moment.
After four songs, Wither
has never really left an impression of some kind. The material, except for the piano version, has all been heard before or adds nothing new to what we know Dream Theater can do. Rather than 4 songs we have already heard, they could at least taken an effort to squeeze in some interesting b-sides, or something of the kind. Wither feels like a cheap EP with a cheap purpose: filling the wallet.