Dream Theater
Awake


5.0
classic

Review

by Xenorazr USER (120 Reviews)
July 22nd, 2014 | 13 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An emotional descent and musical progression, Awake showcases Dream Theater at their pinnacle.

After a subpar debut, Dream Theater struck immediate gold with their sophomore success, Images and Words. Reaching 61 on the Billboard Top 200, the album's key song, "Pull Me Under," remains the band's only song to become a Top 10 U.S. track. Naturally, the pressure was on to surpass such successes, but with the record label wanting both commercial popularity AND a more metal sound, conflicts were only inevitable. The album itself placed even higher on the Billboard Top 200, yet its singles couldn't recapture the draw of "Pull Me Under." Despite this debacle, Awake has since become a respected entry in Dream Theater's discography, with very good reason.

Immediately evident is the darker, heavier transition from Images and Words to this. Opener "6:00" is easy enough on the ears, but it also signals the rough and punctual guitar notes, borderline operatic keys and often angst-driven vocals. What's more is that the follow-up, "Caught in a Web," gives us the real shock treatment with an aggressiveness which recurs throughout the album, most notably in "Lie," the second of a two-part song that begins with "The Mirror." The two work so well together that hearing one without the other is like reading a half-finished book.

Awake specifically emphasizes the metal part of progressive metal, especially when taking song structure into account. Curiously, while the album's sound is less accessible, each track is way more concise than just about anything else the band has put out; Awake is mostly split up by five to seven-minute sections. While this wouldn't be a Dream Theater album without a 10+ minute song (the criminally underrated "Scarred"), even that showcases Dream Theater being self-aware. In other words, the band's characteristically compulsive tendencies are consistently contained. In this respect, Awake is actually more approachable than its siblings.

Now, Awake might be one of the band's heaviest albums, but it isn't without momentary reliefs. "The Silent Man," with its simple yet effective acoustics, and the welcome melodic vocals in "Lifting Shadows Off a Dream" both come up at opportune moments to balance the scale. We're also treated to a bit of both worlds in "Innocence Faded," whose innocence leads us in before gradually escalating during the subsequent solos and outro. The small nod to "Another Day" in "Erotomania" (at 2:50) is also a nice touch. Also of note is Awake's closer, "Space-Dye Vest," a peculiarity that turns into one of the band's most unique tracks. The use of quotes throughout the first half is odd, but the eerie keyboard creates a chilling atmosphere which, combined with LaBrie's surprisingly haunting vocals, leaves quite the impression.

For this listener, choosing standout tracks from Awake is absolutely daunting because the entire album works so well. It truly keeps on giving, whether from song to song, or during repeat listenings. Just as Images and Words was a different creature from When Dream and Day Unite, Awake is another beast from its 1992 predecessor. Dream Theater pulled off their changes wonderfully then and they essentially perfect it here.



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user ratings (2311)
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
July 22nd 2014


1445 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This album has quickly become a personal favorite. If I'd only heard it once or twice, I'd have given it a 4, but every time I hear it I appreciate it even more. I can listen to it from start to finish without wanting to skip to the next track.

Ocean of Noise
July 22nd 2014


10921 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This album is pretty awesome, one of DT's best. Good review too, have a pos

Digging: Antimatter - Black Market Enlightenment

KjSwantko
July 22nd 2014


12004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Very nice review - pos'd. Not that I'd ever have much desire to listen to Dream Theater again but this album is a classic.

tempest--
July 22nd 2014


20634 Comments


Lie is such a "this is so bad, I love it" song

KjSwantko
July 22nd 2014


12004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

James' vocals and weird lyrics primarily. Trying to be a badass in that one.

Tunaboy45
July 22nd 2014


17142 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, glad you're doing this discog. I'm especially looking forward to Metropolis Part 2 and 6 Degrees. Pos.

PsychicChris
July 22nd 2014


339 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Space Dye Vest is still one of my favorite songs of all time. So out of place but so emotional.

Xenorazr
July 22nd 2014


1445 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, I've been on A Dream Theater binge recently, so I figure why not do some reviews while I'm playing the same songs over and over?

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


5093 Comments


great review, man, pos. i really enjoy reading your discography run. these guys are coming this week to Romania but unfortunately, i can't go to see them. oh well, next time..

Digging: Donny Benet - Mr. Experience

BMDrummer
July 22nd 2014


14650 Comments


Good review, this is prob my favorite DT album

NeroCorleone80
July 22nd 2014


34618 Comments


Prefer Scenes and I&W but what a record m/

forkliftjones
July 22nd 2014


758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Love the "darkness" of the album

Artuma
July 22nd 2014


31579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

better than i&w



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