Dream Theater
The Astonishing


3.5
great

Review

by Kars Landman USER (8 Reviews)
January 29th, 2016 | 480 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A change of pace

Dream Theater, a band known for their enormous songs with technical, over-the-top solos and a drummer that’s never holding back. On this record though, The band takes a different path. This time, they focus on songwriting and hold back on the instrumental wankery. The Astonishing is a concept-album about a future fairy-tale, featuring some rebels fighting the empire with music. Yes, it’s as cheesy as it looks. But despite the cheese dripping all over the album’s storyline, it’s actually not as bad as it seems.

The band is backed up by an orchestra this time around. One would think that this is bound to totally ruin the record, since Dream Theater has always been such a bombastic band. But that’s not the case here, because every member of the band is holding back on his instrument. This is a great thing, but it also has its drawbacks. The songs become quite boring, since there are no sweet riffs or technical drumbeats. The absence of cool drumparts isn’t that wierd though, because the entire record was written by Petrucci and Rudess. I feel like the record could have been a lot better if this wasn’t the case. While listening to The Astonishing the first time, I actually forgot that Myung was in the band, because the bass is basically inaudible. The drumparts on this record are also really lame, with Mangini just plainly following the music without adding anything even remotely exciting.

Of course not everything about this record is bad, the great thing about the members holding back on their instruments is that the melodies and orchestra have all the space they need. The vocal lines really amazed me in some places, like the chorus in ‘A Life Left Behind’ . LaBrie is perfect for these kind of songs. He sounds a lot better when not trying to be a heavy metal vocalist, these softer songs really make him shine. And because you aren’t distracted by sweep picking or out of place circus-music, the songs are exactly what they need to be.

But that’s where another weakness of the album comes in: Its length. Two hours and ten minutes is way too long for a record with 34 tracks, when more than half of them are ballads. The ballads aren’t the biggest issue on this record though, because the orchestra gives the songs some great new layers. Adding various instruments and a choir makes the most boring songs like ‘Act of Faythe’ and ‘Astonishing’ atleast listenable. It’s just the fact that there is way too much material. There are some amazing songs that really add something to Dream Theater’s discography, like ‘Three Days’, that has some great instrumental passages, with jazzy trumpets and blastbeats. ‘A New Beginning’ has an amazing chorus with an upbeat happiness that no one would have ever expected the band to write. It’s moments like these that make you feel like Dream Theater is back on track. Sadly enough, that feeling is completely absent when you are 2 hours in and challenged with yet another ballad, that is so much worse than ones like ‘A Life Left Behind’. Why they added the most boring songs at the end of such a long record is something I’ll never understand.

All things combined, this record isn’t as bad as you’d think it would be. I actually enjoyed it, since it’s different from anything Dream Theater has ever done before. It reminds me most of a mix between last record and the song ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’. Ofcourse it isn’t as good as a straight mash-up the two, but it’s not that far off. The songwriting and symphonics are a big plus, but it would have been a lot better if some content was left out, and Myung and Mangini contributed more to the songs.



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user ratings (795)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Beardog
January 29th 2016


5275 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

This record is a lot better than I thought it would be

Piglet
January 29th 2016


8501 Comments


oh no not another spleen theater album i have to dislike

Mythodea
January 29th 2016


7457 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

I still am not sure what to think of this album.

InFlamesWeThrash666
January 29th 2016


10568 Comments


The Ashtonishing is a concept-album about a future fairy-tale, featuring some rebels fighting the empire with music.

Sounds like Star Wars gone musical

Underflow
January 29th 2016


5297 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

That's essentially what it is, but instead of lightsabers it's a guitar.

Rastapunk
January 29th 2016


1561 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lord Nafaryus sounds like Dream Theatre gone Disney... I still need to finish this album and listen to it a few more times before I make my mind, it's definitely different.

altertide0
January 29th 2016


3026 Comments


Dream Theater have gone Disney a long time ago

BigPleb
January 29th 2016


65799 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Mangini is such a boring drummer holy shit.

Underflow
January 29th 2016


5297 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

I'm exhausted, and I'm only on track 16.

Tunaboy45
January 29th 2016


18472 Comments


Mangini has zero personality

BeyondCosby
January 29th 2016


2781 Comments


I'll give it a spin but I'm not expecting much. It sucks that a band that had such an impact on my musical journey have aged poorly into a group of geezers who recycle ideas and don't progress.

Tunaboy45
January 29th 2016


18472 Comments


These are the same people who made Scenes From A Memory and Awke, apparently.

IwoJima22
January 29th 2016


12 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Seems like you only gave the album one listen through. You can't even fully appreciate and digest a typical 40 minute album, let alone a near 2 and half hour one. Seems not fair, ham fisted.

Underflow
January 29th 2016


5297 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

"Seems like you only gave the album one listen through." Yeah nobody has time to sit at their desk for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

BigPleb
January 29th 2016


65799 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Gift of Music is still good and I'm digging A Better Life pretty hard.

Tunaboy45
January 29th 2016


18472 Comments


Seriously that's just fucking ridiculous, 2 and a half hours is about as long as/longer than most films.

Underflow
January 29th 2016


5297 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

To put it into perspective this is marginally shorter than The Lord of The Rings movies.

Nazzadan
January 29th 2016


2372 Comments


This is a half hour longer than The Avengers 2.
I kinda want to listen to it today at work, so I can be one of those dank ironic 5's. Everything I've heard about this has ranged from terrible to decent at best.

Beardog
January 29th 2016


5275 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I've listened to it 2 times now and listened to some songs individually. Mangini is such a shit drummer because he didn't write anything here, but yeah I don't think it would've been much better if he did write the drum parts himself... He really dissapointed me here

smaugman
January 29th 2016


5458 Comments


I agree, it becomes tedious after a while if you're listening to sn album surpassing 1,5 hours



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