Review Summary: A true masperpiece. Perfect, if perfection exists.
“Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory” is the fifth studio album of Dream Theater and was released in 1999. The line up on the album is James LaBrie, John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, John Myung and Mike Portnoy. The album has also the participation of Theresa Thomason, Mary Canty, Sheila Slappy, Mary Smith, Jeanette Smith, Clarence Burke Jr., Carol Cyrus and Dale Scott.
“Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory” was recorded at Bear Track Studios in New York, the same place where the band had previously recorded their second studio album “Images And Words” in 1992 and their EP “A Change Of Seasons” in 1995. It was the first album to feature their new keyboardist Jordan Rudess. After participating in Liquid Tension Experiment project with Rudess, Petrucci and Portnoy found themselves writing music and working together actually quite easily. So, it was easy to convince LaBrie and Myung to offer Rudess the position of full time keyboardist on band’s next studio album. As they accepted, the current keyboardist of the band at time, Derek Sherinian, was fired.
“Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory” is a sequel to “Metropolis Part I: The Miracle And The Sleeper”, a song previously featured on the band’s album “Images And Words”. Fans had previously requested the band to make a sequel of the first part of the song. With the recording sessions for “Falling Into Infinity”, their fourth studio album released in 1997, the band recorded a twenty-one minute instrumental demo of “Metropolis Part 2”, but they didn’t make it into that album. The demo, which included several citations from “Metropolis Part I” and many motifs that would later appear on “Metropolis Part 2”, was however significantly different from the finished album version in the most part of it.
“Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory” is a conceptual album with twelve songs divided into two acts, and which are each also divided in five and four scenes respectively. Shortening, the story is about a man, Nicholas, which begins to have visions about the life of a girl Victoria. Determined to understand those visions, he eventually discovers that the young girl was murdered in 1928 trapped in a love trio. Thanks to his search, he finds his own self and thinks that someone else will live his life in the future, in the same way he has lived that of the poor Victoria now resting in heaven.
This is the best they have ever done. It’s true that the band had already proved to be composed by a group of tremendous musicians, but with this album the band plays in loud and heavy songs. On this album they have found the perfect balance between heavy metal parts, with top speed keyboards and guitar solos, and the quieter parts like the two ballads “Trough The Eyes” and “The Spirit Carries On”. All over the album the music follows the rules of a true classic conceptual album, with numerous sound effects and recurring themes. “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory” does have its heavier and more metallic moments, involving very fast double-bass drumming, courtesy of Portnoy, and some good heavy, but still very catchy guitar riffs delivered by Petrucci. The tempo is generally mid-to-slow paced and airs more on the prog rock side, as opposed to metal. The writing here is superb in every area, with elements of classical, jazz, blues, psychedelic rock, “Home”, ragtime “The Dance Of Eternity” and gospel “Through Her Eyes” and “The Spirit Carries On” all being used and used brilliantly. Since this is Dream Theater, no real explanation is needed on the proficiency of the actual playing. Every member here is a virtuoso, as usual. LaBrie is brilliant here as well, hitting some absolutely terrific high notes and putting a tremendous amount of feeling and soul into his singing.
Curiously and according to the “Making Of Scenes From A Memory” video, Portnoy explains that some of the influences for “Metropolis Part 2” are conceptual albums such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” of The Beatles, “Tommy” of The Who, “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” of Genesis, “The Wall” and “The Final Cut” of Pink Floyd, “Amused To Death” of Roger Waters, “Misplaced Childhood” of Marillion and “OK, Computer” of Radiohead.
Conclusion: “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory” is an exceptional album. It’s my favourite Dream Theater’s album and one of my favourite albums ever. This is truly a classic progressive rock album that fits perfectly well among the greatest progressive masterpieces ever. The concept is a little bit hard to explain but I personally like it. The music is just amazing, beautiful, difficult to play, moving and perfect. The thing I like better on this album is the perfect fusion sounds. Every instrument can always be heard perfectly clear but, if you hear all them together, you can perfectly understand what I call perfection. “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory” belongs to the very rare classic prog albums that we can classify as one of the masterpieces of the masterpieces. If we had the possibility of rate an album with a 6.0, it would belong certainly clearly to those rare albums. Everyone interested in prog rock music must check it.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)