Dream Theater
A View From The Top Of The World


4.0
excellent

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (189 Reviews)
October 24th, 2021 | 131 replies


Release Date: 10/22/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A View from the Top of the World is an incredibly solid album that brings out the best qualities in Dream Theater’s current incarnation. Predictable, sure, but incredibly solid.

Dream Theater in 2021. What exactly would you expect at this point from a new release by the progressive metal veterans? With the exception of the odd experiment here and there (such as the ill-advised The Astonishing), the band’s tried-and-true formula doesn’t really get shaken up these days. In fact, their previous album Distance Over Time was one of the safest releases they’d put out in quite a long time; perhaps the more conservative approach was meant to balance out the ambitiousness of a two-hour-long rock opera, but that didn’t really change how predictable its songwriting was. So with that in mind, it was hard to have any serious expectations for A View from the Top of the World, even with the prospect of a 20-minute epic to cap it off. But while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any major way, it does happen to be the band’s best record in a decade.

Really, the album title and cover art say it all. Dream Theater don’t have anything else to prove from the vantage point of being one of progressive metal’s foremost legacy acts, so A View from the Top of the World comes off more as a band writing and playing for the sake of enjoying their craft. Songs like the highly technical barnburner “The Alien” or the off-time chugging of “Answering the Call” aren’t doing anything new per se, but the quality lies in how these old ideas are being presented here. Despite the song lengths being pretty long as usual, the more wank-driven bits are surprisingly lean and controlled - solos generally don’t last over two minutes, and while they’re still pretty masturbatory as one would expect, they’re also pretty tasteful compared to a lot of Dream Theater’s modern output. “Invisible Monster” is a perfect representation of this, with John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess’ guitar and keyboard parts interlocking with each other to form some really neat harmonies.

Of course, the band do get more adventurous and crazy during the two epic pieces, “Sleeping Giant” and the mammoth title track. The former features some excellent symphonic bits from Rudess’ keyboard parts, as well as some SHOCKINGLY strong singing from James LaBrie. In fact, this album is the best he’s sounded in a long time; he doesn’t try to stretch himself too much vocally on the record, and I think that’s to his benefit. In short, he simply sounds more comfortable here than he has on previous albums. As always, the rest of the band show off their technical acumen very nicely on “Sleeping Giant” with shred solos and off-time licks, with the honky tonk piano of Rudess’ solo being a particularly fun highlight. The title track, meanwhile, goes through about as many twists and turns as you’d imagine from a modern Dream Theater epic. It mostly relies on a flurry of technical riffs and solos, but I have to give a nod to the beautiful midsection; the drums drop out, and all that can be heard is Petrucci’s clean guitar ringing out before the rest of the band eventually enters back in. Great stuff, and it plays like a leaner version of the symphonic break in “Illumination Theory” from the band’s self-titled effort.

The only drawback to all of this is what I’ve already mentioned: a lot of what’s found on A View from the Top of the World is what you would expect from Dream Theater, even if it’s executed very well. The only true surprise on the record is the fantastic power-ballad “Transcending Time”, which sounds like it could have been pulled straight out of one of the band’s 90s albums. It’s incredibly emotional and uplifting, giving off similar vibes to “The Looking Glass” but not wearing its influences on its sleeve like that song did. But could there have been more songs like that on the record? Sure, and it would have been nice to hear, but maybe that’d be asking too much of the band. A View from the Top of the World is an incredibly solid album that brings out the best qualities in Dream Theater’s current incarnation; it’s predictable, yes, but you’ll most likely still enjoy it if you keep that caveat in mind. This is the best the band have sounded in a long time, and certainly the best this lineup has sounded; let’s just hope they can keep this trajectory going for future records.



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user ratings (190)
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
PsychicChris (3)
Yep, this sure is a Dream Theater record, all right...

m/ Ian m/ (4)
They might be having fun and progressing toward something better....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Contributing Reviewer
October 24th 2021


12395 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just realized I didn't mention Mike Mangini's drumming at all... oh well, I'll edit him in at some point.



Also, as I said before, I'm kinda shocked that this is my first Dream Theater review after being a fan of them for so long

Toondude10
October 24th 2021


14718 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Distance Over Time was a breath of fresh air and this is a nice return to form for them, very much enjoyed this one.

Digging: Silent Planet - Iridescent

goonmob
October 24th 2021


128 Comments


Great review man, listening to this knowing its predictable has made it much more enjoyable imo. Production is also mint, the drums sound fantastic.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
October 24th 2021


3045 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Very nice review, man! I quite enjoyed this on first listen, kinda surprised. We'll see how it holds up.

Storm In A Teacup
October 25th 2021


36571 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review. Cool to see we agree on a lot. 🥳💝

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2021


12395 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks guys. I was definitely not expecting to enjoy this one as much as I did, but yeah, really good stuff

TheDudeShreds
October 25th 2021


14 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really great album, i just wish there was more 8 string guitar on it so it could stick out more from the rest of their discography.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2021


12395 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"i just wish there was more 8 string guitar on it so it could stick out more from the rest of their discography."



I definitely agree with this, especially with how much hype there was around this album being the first DT record to utilize 8-string guitars

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2021


15684 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

I found that this is glittered covered bloat. Dunno. Not feeling it.

Digging: Obscura - A Valediction

Storm In A Teacup
October 25th 2021


36571 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i ate a good amount of edibles and listened to this twice. was fun.

Mythodea
October 25th 2021


6891 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album is the most decent thing they've put out in a decade. DoT was... something, and I gave it some spins because it wasn't ''the Astonishing'', but that was it



Neoclassical solo on Invisible Monster is indeed very sweet, also Sleeping Giant's piano part is also juicy, and of course a great, great production where everything is audible and warm.

Digging: Circuit Des Yeux - -io

MrSirLordGentleman
October 25th 2021


14679 Comments


the shoes on the cover annoy me more than they should

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2021


12395 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, the shoes have a bit of an uncanny valley effect

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2021


16990 Comments


Nice summary, I hope it translates into music. Gotta check this

Digging: Der Weg Einer Freiheit - Noktvrn

dante1991
October 25th 2021


759 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is really great, but it takes several listens to "unlock" - unlike their more recent efforts such as DOT, TA, s/t.



Teetering on a 4.5 for me, honestly. DT are still a favourite of mine and honestly I couldn't ask for much more from a band on their 15th album. This is just so much fun to listen to as a DT fan.

Sure, it's no I&W/Awake/Scenes etc, but honestly at this stage it's not really realistic to expect albums to live up to that level.



Best since ADTOE easily, possibly further back than that.

Hoppoman
October 25th 2021


721 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I liked it.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2021


12395 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@NoTrap: not gonna lie, I just couldn't come up with a decent summary at the time so that was all I could manage, lol



@dante: definitely their best since ADTOE at least



Beardog
October 25th 2021


4143 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Very hyped about this great production returning to Dream Theater, but I found the record rather boring. Also really disliked the vocals. Some cool parts though, as per usual. Reminds me of the records from 2005 to 2009, but a bit worse

Djang0
October 25th 2021


681 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed this is a welcomed revisit to 05-‘10 DT. The solos and some vocal melodies are painfully uncreative but the band as a whole is clearly having fun and there is some great energy here. Potentially their best in a decade ye, extra impressive for their 15th album too

bloc
October 25th 2021


67076 Comments


Every time I see this album I think of their Paralyzed song and the lyrics "I'm paralyzed" are replaced with "I'm scared of heights" and it fits so perfectly

Digging: PinkPantheress - To Hell With It



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