Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory
is all about the story. There is no song here, just to be there. Every song is a part of a scene. Every scene is part of a chapter. And every chapter, part of an act. The story is all about self-remembrance. About rejoining with a past life. In this case, it’s a man named Nicholas. And he is about ready, to discover why he’s been seeing things a little awkward as of recently.
The whole album, as earlier implied is broken up into segments, each segment explained by a song.
Act I: Scene One: Regression
Act I: Scene Two : Overture 1928
Act I: Scene Two : Strange Déjà Vu
Act I: Scene Three : Through My Words
Act I: Scene Three : Fatal Tragedy
Act I: Scene Four: Beyond This Life
Act I: Scene Five: Through Her Eyes
Act II: Scene Six: Home
Act II: Scene Seven : The Dance of Eternity
Act II: Scene Seven : One Last Time
Act II: Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On
Act II: Scene Nine: Finally Free
The story begins with Nicholas listening to a psychotherapist, about ready to put Nicholas into a hypnotic state to begin the memory regression. The background is just a clicking clock while the therapist talks. The therapist ensures Nicholas that if he wants to come back, he simply has to open his eyes. In Nicholas’ current state, he mentions a woman named Victoria, and a life that is very like his own. Some nice guitar to back James LaBrie.
The next track, Overture 1928
is purely instrumental. Some really great beats, and Mike Portnoy with constant double-bass that is really impressive. When the song goes off the melody and into soloing, we are given the treat of listening to some really nice effects, which adds to the effect of Nicholas’ current hypnotic state. Everything else is real rock action. Some nice harmonics are involved with the great combo of Rudess and LaBrie.
When we get to Strange Déjà Vu
, we learn the reason that our good friend Nicholas. Every time he closes his eyes, he gets this recurring dream of another life, that steers barely out of understandability. The dream goes, Nicholas walks up the stairs of an unknown house and looks in a mirror, which has the image of a girl inside. Probably due to the hypnotic trance, everything seems much clearer than before and it all seems very familiar to Nicholas, but logically, it shouldn’t. He asks the girl “Why don’t you tell me why I’m here"”
and she tells Nick that theres something she needs to tell him, why he is there. Something terrible that is ripping her soul apart. Victoria tells Nicholas that she’s been looking for a way to reveal her murder. That’s why shes been haunting him.
When nick awakens from his therapy, the thoughts and events that happened in this other life is affecting him in the life he knows. This is driving him crazy, as he wants to solve the problem with Victoria. He wants to figure out a way to get to this other life, somehow and nothing in his reality matters anymore. It is here that he realizes first that he may have actually lived in the world he’s been dreaming. He now knows that this dream is the key to his peace, and he will stop at nothing to retrieve it.
Through My Words
is one of the shorter songs, at 1:02. It is pretty much a segue into Fatal Tragedy
, which explains more of the story. As short as it is, it still manages to be a beautifully done, crucial part of the album. Consisting of only LaBrie and Rudess, LaBrie explains his connection to Victoria. Rudess doing a fantastic job of making the piano part simple, yet very affective. The emotion in the lyrics of the song relative to the story is what the highlight of the song is here, and Rudess’ keyboarding feeds directly off of that and visa versa.
The song Fatal Tragedy
, coming right off of Through My Words
, Rudess comes right in with the piano works. Nicholas now realizes who Victoria is, but cannot figure out why she is so torn apart inside, or how he has anything to do with it. He visits an older man, who the story refuses to give us any information about. This mysterious old man, however is significant in that Nicholas knows to go to him for advice. When the old man spills, Nicholas understands that a young girl was murdered, and that its still a mystery to this day. There is a breakdown about a third of the way into the song including some completely off-the-wall piano/drum/guitar/bass combo’s that is completely off sound and tempo from the rest of the song. I cannot figure out why they decided to do so, but it is still enjoyable to listen to. This is where Nicholas realizes that he must discover what really happened to Victoria, or else he’ll never be able to live his life peacefully. Some really nice soloing toward the end. Portnoy is doing some really nice double-bass work while LaBrie and Myung go insane for a little over three minutes.
Beyond this Life
explains the newspaper article of Victoria’s death. It begins with a really great guitar intro. When the lyrics first start to go, Portnoy does some damn near impossible work attacking the snare, toms, and rapidly hitting the hi-hat. It goes on to say that a witness, Edward Baynes, heard a horrifying scream. The next verse contains the same drum work, but replace the madness of the hi-hats with the double-bass. When Edward goes to examine, he sees a girl shot dead, on the ground and the murderer standing over her. The murderer then commits suicide, and falls on the dead girl. It goes on with the lyric “a sad close to a broken love affair”
, which implies that the two were ex, or current lovers. The paper continues explaining that Victoria and Julian
recently broke up due to his outrageous lifestyle. When we reach the five minute mark of this ten minute song, it slows down a little bit with some really great vocal expression from LaBrie and a simplistic guitar rhythm.
The physical evidence on the scene were a switchblade, carried by Victoria, which implies that she knew she needed to defend herself, because young girls don’t normally carry switchblades. On Julian, there is a written note that clearly states that he would “rather kill himself than live without Victoria”
, but mentions nothing of hurting her.
Nick awakens again, and understands that Victoria was brutally murdered in 1928. He feels the need to visit her grave. The sorrow of how it happened, how innocent and young she was begins to get to him. Also, since he realizes that they do share the same soul, he is learning about his own life by looking through her eyes
. Since he understands that this happened to him as well, the unfairness of the situation begins to bug him. He then goes on to lay in his bed, “weeping like a baby” because he knows what its like to lose someone you really love.
The really fantastic ambience effects really set the scene for this song. Rudess really shines here. His rhythms and melodies on the piano in this song in-particular is what really makes this song fantastic. Even over LaBrie’s vocals, which are by all means, phenomenal. Portnoy giving some backing rhythm. The duo of Rudess and LaBrie is almost unmatchable. With the beautiful vocals of James LaBrie, the track closes to a face, and act one ends.
The first track of act two is “Home”
. A really interesting change of pace from the rest of the album, is that either Petrucci can play a sitar, he tuned his guitar to a sitar, or they got somebody to play a sitar, because that is the sound that they managed. As far as the story, Julian speaks of his obsession with decadence, which ultimately leads to Victoria breaking up with him. Next we hear Ed, with Victoria crying on his shoulder over the break up. He then begins feeling himself to fall for her. At first, he feels guilt, because she is young and she has just broken up with his son
Julian. But his lust grows stronger than his guilt, and he then seduces her in her very vulnerable state.
Nicholas, awake and in present day, knows that there must be more to the story. All he knows so far is what the old man told him, what the newspaper articles stated, and the info he unlocked from his therapy sessions. Nicholas cannot wait to go to his next therapy session to get the rest of the information he yearns for. The song is by far the most intense song on the album, and does a great job of showcasing everybody’s work.
“The Dance of Eternity”
is another instrumental. Almost exactly double the length of the first instrumental song on the album, Overture 1928
. This song starts hard, goes into a little bridge of piano, then goes into the main melody. Throughout the song, there is a vast range of song styles. There is all the way from the metal that Dream Theater knows best, to folk-ish guitars, and then even circus music, with fast paced piano and drumming and quick upstrokes on the guitar. The end of the song meshes perfectly into the beginning of the next song…
“One Last Time”
goes a little deeper into the situation. Beginning with some fantastic pianos, Nick, unsatisfied with the lack of knowledge in the situation, and doubting the integrity of the newspaper article, goes to what he believes will solve many mysteries. Then we hear Victoria saying “One last time, we’ll lay down today”
, spoken with LaBrie’s amazing harmonics. The guitar and bass right behind him. Nick visits Ed’s house, where the affair took place. Even though he is conscious, he enters the house and begins to feel cold, as if he has reached a dual reality. A reality between the dream world, and the real world. It is in this split reality that he hears a woman screaming and a man pleading for forgiveness. It is possible that this is Ed and Victoria yelling over their affair.
Nicholas, in “The Spirit Carries On”
, goes under hypnosis one last time. He believes that his spirit was once the young girl Victoria, and since he believes that the spirit carries on, he does not fear death. He now believes that Ed was involved in Victoria’s murder. Victoria, in the future speaks to Nicholas and tell him to move on with his life. She has revealed the truth to him, but he should never forget her.
It is a very soft-spoken song. Probably featuring some of LaBrie’s best vocals. Also Rudess steps in for some fantastic backing percussion. The main part of this song, is really James LaBrie and his perfectly developed vocal chords. The song could do without the soloing, although the solo’s featured are fantastic. And there is no significantly heavy guitar riffs.
He is happy once again, now that he has appeased Victoria, and cured his own demons. He now believes that the reason this all happened, was to teach him a message. That even after death, the spirit will not dissipate, but transcend.
, the last part to this story tells us some information we didn’t know before. The hypnotist reawakens Nicholas. Nick, then gets in his car and drives away. Then the story continues.
It appears that Victoria and Julian met by chance and they decide later, to meet in private so they can talk. This excites Victoria, because she has always loved Julian, and she is going to break it off with Ed. But she knows that Julian would kill Ed if he ever found out about their affair. So they meet up in private, or so they believe. Ed shows up and begins fighting with Julian. Julian pulls out a knife, and Ed shoots Julian. Victoria screams and Ed says “Open your eyes, Victoria”
. Ed, then shoots Victoria. Julian, injured, crawls over to Victoria and mutters his last words “One last time…”
Ed then plants the letter on Julian and calls for help and plays the witness.
We go back to Nicholas. In his car, he celebrates the freedom that he has now, and is proud of the realization that life continues after death. This is always a reassuring though to have. Nicholas reaches his house and begins to relax. Then we hear another car pull up. The therapist that nick has been seeing enters the room and says “Open your eyes Nicholas”
, just as Ed said to Victoria right before he shot her. The song closes to Nicholas being startled, bumps something, then static noise. This leaves us with the ideas that the therapist was the reincarnation of Ed, and has killed Nicholas, like the same soul has 70 years earlier.
The song, especially the way it ends, is done so well that it actually stuck with me. When I got done with the album, I was scared I was going to have nightmares due to its intriguing story and magnificent musical storytelling, plus the ending just freaks the hell out of me. The album ends in a real fantastic way, as you follow Nicholas from watching the news, all the way to the cryptic static.
James LaBrie - Vocals
James’ vocals really added to this album. He has a very unique sound, where it is light, yet heavy at the same time, and you can always understand where he tries to go with it. He really shines on the song “Home”
, where he fluctuates his voice to really reach the emotional level of what it going on at that part of the story. Of the Dream Theater albums I own, this definitely does the best job of showing where his voice can go. Nothing less than impressive.
John Myung - Bass
The one thing I dislike, or at least have room to nag, about Dream Theater, is that Petrucci’s guitar is so overwhelming, that the bass is really hard to distinguish. The stuff you can hear, on the interludes and other slower parts, especially in the spoken storytelling, is superb. It is really difficult to get really creative with the bass, and it helps that Myung has fast fingers to fit with the speedy guitars of Petrucci and lightning quick work of Portnoy.
John Petrucci - Guitar
There is not enough good words in the world to say about this incredible talent. His use of distortion and other effects on his songs really go toward the feel and flow that the story tries to capture. His uniqueness in riffs and ability to stay interesting in Dream Theater’s infamous five-minute plus solo’s is really impressive. Although not the best in the world, there is hardly better. Without any arguments, he does a flawless job.
Mike Portnoy - Drums
Anybody who has heard this man drum will have no problem telling you how fantastic he is. He is really known for being lightning quick in his tom fills and his unbelievable ability to pull off melodies using all the aspects of his 30+ piece drum equipment. On the album especially, he does a great job of contributing to the pacing of the story being told. On the slower parts, he uses the smaller cymbals and hi-hat work in such a way that you consider it less a drum part, and more of an ambience effect. For the faster pacing of the action and revealing scenes, his tom work and incredible fills set the scene. He might be the most talented member of the band, and he really puts his abilities to the test here.
Jordan Rudess - Keyboards
There is some really great keyboard effects in this album that may be overlooked. Though the keyboards may not be the most obvious part of the album, they could be the most effective, after LaBrie’s vocals. Really fantastic showcasing on “Through Her Eyes”
. It all came together really beautifully with the addition of Rudess’ keyboarding. Also this is his first album with Dream Theater. And I can honestly say, he has proven his worth.
-The Album as a Whole-
It is obvious that the main part of this concept album is the story. But excluding the lyrics, there is still so much more to love. The fact that there is a story really helped with the pacing of the album. The harder songs and softer songs are really nicely spaced out, and added where needed. LaBrie’s vocals really go great when comparing with the sound of the instruments, speed of the verses, and emotion that the ambiance brings. The length of the album is a whopping seventy-seven minutes packed with really great drumming, guitars, and massive solos. The chemistry between all five of the band members, especially Portnoy, LaBrie, and Perucci, really shows here.
-The Goods & The Bads-
--Possibly a little too much soloing.
--Could be more keyboards
--Not enough of LaBrie.
--Metropolis, Pt. 1
was actually a song on Dream Theater’s second album, Images and Words
. They did the part one as a joke, never intending to continue. But due to the fans request, they decided to make a concept album with advanced storytelling which was intriguing, and fun to listen to. They released Metropolis, Pt. 2
in 1999 and did a live DVD entitled Metropolis, 2000: Scenes in New York
, in 2001.