1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2013
Variety is the spice of life they say and dream theater (both band and album) is as spicy as it gets. It moves from full on, in your face hard rock with full on machine gun fire percussion. To beautiful melodic numbers with wonderful arrangements. It starts brilliantly and ends sublimely. It wouldn't surprise me if this isn't every dream theater fans second favourite album. This is one album every discerning rock fan should have
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2013
If you read my other reviews of DT stuff you will see I respect and love the band a lot, but have become dissillusioned by recent output - too much navel gazing widdly-diddly virtuousity and not enough emphasis on melody, hooks or great songs. It was almost that either a) DT had hit upon a winning sales formula and wanted to repeat it over and over to get the cash registers singing b) or had lost some of the spark that made the older albums so great, and had padded out the songs with the aforementioned keyboard, guitar and drum gymnastics.
So it was with a little trepidation and nervousness when I first played this new album. First few listens and I was left a bit cold. The sound is more akin to older material, and just like that the melodies and greatness of the songs need to bed in for a while.
We start off with False Awakening Suite that sounds to these ears like a movie Soundtrack. Short and 'nice' but not great and into The Enemy Inside. Just like the last few albums, a song aimed at radio (if they ever get played on it) with more hooks and a general stab in the direction of becoming more radio 'friendly'
Once we are over the first two we then see a marked change to an older more vibrant side of DT. They have thankfully found some of the old attack and vibe and recover some of the ground they had lost with me on the last few releases. Melodies are fresher, stronger, more driven with less showmanship and more focus. Of course it wouldnt be DT without some passages that allow each musician to flex his muscles and show what advanced players they are. The big difference, at least for me, is these passages are within context and *compliment* the song structure unlike the last few releases where it seemed to me to be an exercise in showing off and-to-hell with the song.
Illumination Theory is the closest the band get to discovering the genius of albums such as IAW, TOT, SFAM, and 6D - an epic in the literal meaning of the word, mixing, classical, prog, driving heavy rock, uplifting refrains and crashing melodies that at first engage, and then rivet attention. Fabulous stuff.
Now here's the problem, at least for me, the aforementioned albums showed this kind of consistency pretty much all the way through, quality control was high, attention to the song structure, form was paramount, the virtuosity there, but not drowning the songs. Recent albums did not meet these standards. Sure some bits were good, even great, but this is DT we are talking about and the bar is set high. From anyone else you would be happy, but recent releases seemed to rehash old structures, you could predict the tempo change, the widdly-diddly solo, before it happened. It was becoming DT by numbers and that I do not want, I want the unpredictability of 6D, the emotion of SFAM, the power and tautness of Train of Thought, the majesty of Octivarium (the song not ALL of the album) I want to be surprised, amazed, in awe, lost for words.I want the feelings I had watching them blaze through SFAM at Nottingham Rock City, or the wonderment as they powered through Number of the Beast or Dark Side of the Moon in London.
So does this album regain all that? No, but its getting there, its getting better, and for the first time in ages I will look FORWARD to the next release.
on 30 November 2014
I stopped listening to Dream Theater right when Octavarium was published. They were my favourite band, but I really couldn't bear with their music and the trend they were following any longer. Portnoy abandoning the band was the final blow. This album, though, brought my passion back to the point of buying one of their cds after I don't know how many years. This is one of their finest album, in my opinion, A must-have for their fans!
on 7 February 2014
I was ceptical on the last album, something just wasnt there, did losing MP really matter that much? After listening to this album I feel that my intial trepidation has been dispelled. MP cannot be replaced but a new sound can evolve and its beginning to happen. Its a return to what DT do best full on rock N roll, great songs very well played. Long Live DT - the new version.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2013
This album reminded me of the name of the second album of British band Frost*. That one was called "Experiments in Mass Appeal". Dream Theater is trying to appeal to masses. Simple. From that point of view, it's as melodic as Images and Words and as accessible as Falling into Infinity.
Out of the first 8 songs, one is under 3 minutes, two are under 5 minutes, four are under 7 minutes, one is under 8 minutes. Not really pop or rock, but not really progressive rock / metal either. Especially The Looking Glass and Along For The Ride seem to be tailored for the radio. Last song is Illumination Theory which is over 22 minutes. And it really shows where the shortcomings of this album are.
Dream Theater struggle with the length of the songs on this album. The shorter songs tend to end abruptly, in almost a clumsy way. Enigma Machine has lot of great themes and ideas, alternating fast, too fast to be truly developed. That song should have been 15 minutes long, not 6. False Awakening Suite is a three minute version of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.
I agree that the hype created prior to the release of this album backfired. Extremely high expectations, everybody seemed to hope to find "their perfect version" of Dream Theater. Interviews everywhere, all the time.
Is this album good? It's very good in fact. James LaBrie is in an excellent form (same as on his solo album Impermanent Resonance, which I can highly recommend). John Myung is audible in the mix and his style is just unique, he's brilliant. Jordan Rudess is less experimental than he tends to be yet when he plays a solo, it's a great one. John Petrucci was in danger of being the only contributing member of the band and although he wrote all the lyrics and obviously contributed the most to the music, it's not his album, it's a Dream Theater album and he managed to get the balance just right. Mike Mangini is now clearly in Dream Theater and he brings virtuosity, technically he is exceptional and his playing supports the music, not his ego.
Just a few words on Illumination Theory - it shows the bravery and confidence of the re-born Dream Theater. Great song and I admire them for the middle section with atmospheric synths followed by a string section. It's simply fantastic.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 27 September 2013
I have been a fan of this band for 15 years and have seen them play four times. They never fail to stun me with their musical prowess and efficiency and some of the most spine tingling moments I have experienced with music have come from listening to Dream Theater.
When I received the CD through the door, I felt the excitement of what I was about to discover. Dream Theater are pretty much 'to me' the only band that still have this intrigue and allure about them and I always prepare to have my mind blown when listening to their new material and like to savour it and indulge slowly. There is no shortage of this mind blowing element to the album and the playing in parts is truly staggering (Enigma Machine) but what is missing is an emotional connection and sincerity I have felt with most of their other offerings.
I have now listened to the album six times and have really tried to understand and appreciate all the nuances of the music but to me it still sounds too scripted, robotic and convoluted. I'm a sucker for the melodic themes and climatic crescendos that Dream Theater are so fantastically awesome at creating but there just isn't enough of this here. It all just sounds a bit jostled together (Illumination Theory) over produced and a departure from what the band is capable of.
Rudess seams to struggle to find a new bank of synth sounds and experiment with the enormous potential of the soundscape his instruments can produce and as much as I admire Petrucci and his ferocity, he's starting to go a bit Malmsteen with the shred. His controlled and exotic phrasing is one of his finest characteristics and for me this triggers the 'spine tingling moments' in Dream Theaters music (e.g. Count of Tuscany & Breaking All Illusions) but this is infrequently demonstrated on Dream Theater. Also what does Mike Mangini actually bring to the band in terms of creativity? He's a monster player but to me lacks the heart and personality that Portnoy exuded.
With time I may warm to this album slightly and with all that's been said, I still think it's an enjoyable listen on the whole but also forgettable in equal measure.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 27 September 2013
I love DT, WDADU is the only DT album I don't like - until now. I've listened to this album time and time again so I can get to know it and let go of that "it's not what I wanted" feel that I started with. The main sense I am left with is that the songs are week, the instrumentals (although technically great) are just a day at the office for DT, there is no personality there anymore and it sounds generic easy listening modern metal. The opening track could have come straight out of the last Nightwish album.
In all the other DT records it always felt like great songs with great instrumentals to support it. In this album it felt like the rest of the band were there just to support Petrucci's guitar parts and the song doesn't matter. It seems like Petrucci's ego, or desire for bigger sales, has taken over the band now.
The vocals are ok but they sound the same all the way through - I know James can't help losing his range, but his tone and style and emotion never change like they used to. Like everything else, the personality has gone. The Theater has gone.
The drumming is great though, Mangini is really amazing.