Dream Theater
Distance Over Time


3.5
great

Review

by Xenorazr CONTRIBUTOR (120 Reviews)
February 24th, 2019 | 218 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Apology accepted.

The Astonishing was a sobering piece of work. If anything would break the illusions of even the most blindly faithful fans, it was that double-whammy of an album. The best defense one might conjure is that Dream Theater have long been a band defined by their extravagant nature, so the fact they tested the waters with such a release may have been inevitable. Be that as it may, these American prog metal champions did a dizzying job setting expectations low for whatever their next studio composition would be. Enter Distance Over Time, an album with a marginally more tolerable name than its predecessor. Anyone who’s heard the album’s three singles, which comprise the first act, will know that there’s at least some semblance of potential to find, with “Fall Into the Light” being the biggest, most pleasant surprise. The real question, however, is whether the rest of the album can keep its initial momentum going in a positive direction.

One of the most striking elements about Distance Over Time is how it seamlessly blends Dream Theater’s sound from the past 15 years and almost begins to feel like its own beast. Album callbacks are nothing new to the band or their fans, but Distance Over Time seems to take the idea further than before. This isn’t to say the album is bathed in little nudges to previous efforts (though it might be), but more that the album takes these moments and uses them as inspiration for the new material. That may sound simple and obvious, but considering Dream Theater’s recent stumbles, an approach like this isn’t just welcome, but strangely clever. It allows them to reap the benefits of albums past and sound revitalized when they’re basically getting back on their feet. Production-wise, there’s a lot going on. Some moments bring the grit of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence while achieving the same smooth overall mastering of Systematic Chaos. Yet mellower moments like “Barstool Warrior” do ring similarly to tracks on The Astonishing. Part of what makes the track work here, however, is the role it plays against the rest of the album, which sees Dream Theater reawaken much of the spirit they lost after A Dramatic Turn of Events. The aforementioned “Fall Into the Light” is, once again, a fine example, as they stick to a simple song structure and avoid compulsion when choosing to break. Even the guitar/keyboard solos are mostly kept in check, sticking out only when they need to.

In fact, what’s especially surprising about Distance Over Time is how composed the entire affair is. Just about every Dream Theater album from Metropolis Part 2 onward has made a grandiose display of itself in some way, shape or form. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence was a double-album with the second disc comprised of eight tracks forming one great beast; Octavarium and Dream Theater ended on epics crossing the 20-minute mark; The Astonishing was, well, The Astonishing, you get the picture. Yet Distance Over Time doesn’t feel nearly as ambitious (or full of itself, depending on who you ask). No song reaches the double-digit mark, and the album is perfectly digestible with a roughly 57-minute runtime. What’s more is that the somewhat minimalistic approach from Dream Theater finds its way over here, just not quite to the same slumbering degree. The general sense is that nearly every worthwhile road the band could take has probably been taken, so what’s left is a recollection of what made past works work as well as they did, all while tweaking the results.

This means instrumental mastery is back in full display with strong and at times nasty guitar work (in a good way), such as album closer “Pale Blue Dot” and the rather Marilyn Manson-esque riff on “Room 137.” We also get arguably the most interesting performance by Mike Mangini. He still lacks that certain spiciness that Mike Portnoy always brought to the table, but he does seem less prone to being a simple, record-breaking BPM machine this time around. Less interesting is the still-stubbornly flamboyant presence of Jordan Rudess, who only occasionally interjects in a way that feels earned. He still loves to show off and make certain stretches feel unnecessarily cluttered, but he does get pulled back enough to avoid tampering the songs too too much. Then there’s James LaBrie, who’s become something of a magnet for criticism, a designation that may have merit, but is perhaps blown out of proportion. As with other Dream Theater albums, his work is completely serviceable and still suits the music from an acoustic standpoint. His cracks do show, however, most notably on “S2N,” where he seems to lose control of his tone, along with the bizarre and distracting vocal effect done on “Untethered Angel.” Ultimately, these moments aren’t enough to bog their respective tracks down too much, which is a sentiment that can be applied to the album as a whole.

Distance Over Time is the perfect response to fans who were crushed by its predecessor. It also feels like something of a statement to all of the band’s listeners. This album shows that Dream Theater do still have some fuel left in the tank, and while the roads they take us on from here on out may not be new or exciting, they’re still enjoyable paths to take. Newcomers to this venerable American outfit may also find Distance Over Time an intriguing enough album to justify looking through the band’s back catalog. The initial majesty of Dream Theater circa Images and Words and Awake may never be fully rekindled, but that doesn’t mean all subsequent albums have to be seen as disappointments. What it boils down to is that Distance Over Time will likely satisfy most of Dream Theater’s faithful listeners while the less enchanted will remain mostly unconvinced. For the rest of us, however, this is definitely a disc worth spinning.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2019


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Album is solid. DT faithful rejoice!

AgentDeathbat
February 24th 2019


9751 Comments


I'll be getting to this later tonight, I've finally tamed the disappointment beast that was The Astonishing.

Digging: Periphery - Periphery IV: Hail Stan

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2019


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

TA was like having month-old mac and cheese from Disneyland that was never refrigerated. This is like Stouffer's Mac and Cheese baked in the oven and served hot. It's not homemade goodness, but it's still mac and cheese. That's also edible.

AgentDeathbat
February 24th 2019


9751 Comments


Yeah, that makes enough sense.

OmairSh
February 24th 2019


14815 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

First DT album I've enjoyed in a while



You summed the album up nicely Xeno. The album has all of DT's elements, but surprisingly the songs don't feel stale (yet at least)

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2019


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I will say that I'm skeptical about the album's staying power, but for now, it's fairly enjoyable.

Sinternet
February 24th 2019


19087 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

awful shit never been good band

Digging: Marina - LOVE

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2019


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

And yet you care.

Sinternet
February 24th 2019


19087 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

who said I care

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2019


8868 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You did, when you commented on multiple threads.

AgentDeathbat
February 24th 2019


9751 Comments


@Sitar: He does this all the time with bands he doesn't like, I guess he thrives on shitposting and trolling. You seen him on A7X threads? Fucking lol.

DivergentThinking
February 24th 2019


6227 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Especially on prog threads

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2019


8868 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's just a Sputnik thing to do. Every thread has some dude who doesn't even listen to the band stopping by to say "band sux lol".

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2019


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I should've made some popcorn.

Sinternet
February 24th 2019


19087 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

yeah but this band is awful you nerds

AgentDeathbat
February 24th 2019


9751 Comments


Yeah, I've noticed that doing the "if you can't beat them, join them" thing hasn't worked much in my favor either, as people just end up taking me way too seriously and I wind up in pointless ass fights for no reason other than seemingly inflating my comment numbers.

Sinternet
February 24th 2019


19087 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

literally 2019 alchemist

Meridiu5
February 24th 2019


2007 Comments


if dream theater was a league team it would be petrucci hard carrying top lane with all other lanes and jung feeding.

Digging: Sir Lord Baltimore - Kingdom Come

AgentDeathbat
February 24th 2019


9751 Comments


LaBrie sounds terrible on the bonus track, but that one doesn't count towards my average so it's fine.

DivergentThinking
February 24th 2019


6227 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The bonus track sounds hilarious tbh. That swing in the rhythm just sounds really comical



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