Review Summary: Progressive vs Complicated
Dream Theater has been a hugely important band during the last 2-3 decades, producing many memorable albums that have offered some of the best music in the genre. Their musicianship is something undeniable, even by people that do not like their compositions and find them too long or too technical for their taste. The above statement is something that I firmly believe, having listened to all of their records, studio albums, demos, live albums etc., having thus a good knowledge of their history as a band.
Despite all their musical prowess, somehow they manage yet again to produce an album which is, according to my opinion, dull and problematic, similarly to most of their previous releases. I am not personally one to accuse them of trading their pathos or their emotional side for technical playing, as I believe emotion to be purely subjective and something that should not be used when writing a critique. For me, their main problem started almost 20 years ago and has since plagued them, driving them in producing mainly subpar albums since their last masterpiece "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence".
This problem is that they stopped being progressive. Being progressive does not mean composing songs with odd-time signatures and immensely difficult and elaborate musicianship, but rather creating new, novel ideas that push forward the boundaries of the contemporary music scene. It is something that they used to do as a band, but currently have entirely forgotten, choosing instead to focus on the creation of complicated compositions, that they try to masquerade as progressive compositions. In my opinion being complicated and technical in terms of composition could only be the byproduct of a truly progressive sound and should never be the first focus of a band.
Dream Theater is not anymore a really progressive band, as they have lost the utmost characteristic of such a music genre: The ability to surprise their audience and produce music which is thought-provoking, instead of blasting complicated riffs, intricate solos and cheesy metal lyrics. This is exactly the case with "Distance over Time", a problem which plagues the entirety of a well performed album. It is (for me) uninspiring, and a repetition of their previous work.
If you want to listen to some solid musicianship, with great solos and heavy metal riffs, then this album is great for you. If you want to listen something thought provoking, that pushes the boundaries of contemporary music, then try something else.