on 2 December 2013
Musically brilliant, fabulous riffs and melodies all delivered with power and drama in a musically theatrical style with each member of the band pushing the boundaries of their formidable talents..... my only gripe would be that it doesn't go over 70mins. I'm sure there was room for one more song, but maybe I am just too greedy for more.
I love it though, as I have done with any Dream Theater release, but even if this had been my first experience of the great quintet it would inspire me to start buying the rest....... Enjoy and crank it up.....
I'll cut to the chase,i've got all the albums but i wouldnt class myself as an 'uber 'fan,i dont spend hours analysing one album against another ,to see where they've repeated themselves etc,if i like it then great if not tough.
Its not a classic but its a decent release,in my humble opinion,the most immmediately likeable release since 'Awake' (1994) and 'Scenes from a Memory' (1999),to these ears its a vibrant upbeat release and it's a pleasurable aural experience from the first listen.
Both Portnoy and Mangini are excellent drummers so its business as usual on the drumming front,with Portnoy's lyrical input missing,i felt this and ,indeed ,the previous album were less 'dark',i like both experiences,so again no worries.
Star of the show definitely Petrucci,superb soloing,here there and everywhere,it would be fair to say ,occasionally La Brie's vocals ,waver and he does sound ever so slightly less than convincing,it happens.
Star moments,for me,plenty, the opening trio perfect,'False Awakening Suite' is big bold and cinematic,"The Enemy Inside" is an excellent rocker with stun guitar, whilst 'The Looking Glass' has a perfect commercial sheen,harking back to the early days.
Follow that if you will,well they do,with a superb instrumental 'Enigma Machine', its round about now that a couple of tracks dont quite hit the spot,namely
'The Bigger Picture' and 'Behind The Veil',thankfully they have another modern day classic in 'Surrender to Reason",next up another decent if not outstanding track 'Along for the Ride'.
So that just leaves the 'epic', well for the first 18 mins or so 'Illumination Theory' is excellent,possibly one of the best epic's they've done,then its just stops,the last couple of minutes at odds with the rest,it may grow on me,i'm not sure.
All in all its a pretty good release,far more immedate than the previous album 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events',although i suspect in the long run the former will be held in higher esteem,me? i like both. 4 stars
on 4 February 2014
This is an excellent album from the Dream Theater jugger-naught and a more than welcome addition to their discography. It's been three years since the "volcanic departure" of Mike Portnoy in 2010. The last transitional album "A dramatic turn of events" boasted a great centre piece of revitalization in the band, and this latest "Dream Theater" S/T CD largely follows a similar line close behind it. Whilst here on D/T there are noticeably much fewer big epic-suites as a-comparison to previous albums, for the most part, the strength of the songwriting and dynamism of the musical components seem to be all there, so no complaints from me here in that respect.
The album starts strongly with a quality atmospheric theme in "False Awakening Suite" and the successive rocker "The enemy inside" which is a good enough one. "The looking glass" is definitely one of the best highlights on the album with a good sound, depth and dynamism surrounding it's many preludes and musical angles. The following "Enigma machine" perhaps falls a little short of the standard of the rest as the music abruptly switches quite wildly in places and perhaps slightly un-cohesively. "The bigger picture" (as of late) is another decent and OK part/ballad/metal song in-which overwhelmingly reaches a high mark, and "Behind the veil" is another fluid and organic contribution with a solid line and chorus; while "Surrender to reason" is another pleasing, unpredictable and enjoyable inter-ester. Finally, "Along for the ride" arrives and is perhaps a slightly un-spectacular, forced, and forgettable ballad, but it would probably pass the mark as it isn't a bad song.
"Illumination Theory" is the epic-suite mantle-piece of "Dream Theater" and is the last song present on the album. The start is anticipatory, smooth and inspired. Going further in, there are plenty of interesting ideas thrown about the place and are unified with strong transitional links and cohesion as we enter the middle part of the song. There are some touching atmospheric and tuneful passages to go through once we get to this stage. A heavier and compelling riff sub-section further-in is convincing and enjoyable with lots of extreme and unpredictable time-changes. Excellent lines, melodic corridors and solos punctuate the next few minutes of the omnibus. The grand sounding final minutes lead us into the closing stages of the CD where things evidently quieten down with a nice and beautifully touching piano prelude; though ending a throughly intoxicating and commanding affair.
Production, sound and musicianship is demonstratively good quality on "Dream Theater" and the band proves it, by a well gelled collection of very solid compositions, organic sound, and a nicely distributed input from all the band members:- which is pleasing. Occasionally, Jordan Rudess gets a-bit to self-indulgent with himself, (again) as he tends to from time to time, with the keyboard solos, and this could definitely do with a reign-in from time-to-time. (The unnecessary noodling however, has been considerably reduced so that's a great improvement!); but again good marks here in these areas too.
Overall, I have a positive feel about "Dream Theater", and likewise to it's predecessor, it is probably the most consistent album since "Six degrees of turbulence". The flab and excess twiddling has been largely (albeit not entirely), brought under control in "Dream Theater" and I believe a newly found focus-of-return to the songwriting is definitely something to be hailed. However, there are still a few patches of poor quality control and clunky musical transitions on the CD, which-in some areas for me works against it as one of the few set-backs on the entire album., The songwriting impression however, while still a-way off from their 90's stuff, is still quite a marked improvement on "Dream Theater" and I thoroughly commend it.
D/T ultimately sounds like DT, It feels like DT and, (in my opinion) works as a DT album could be expected to; and for it, suitably merits the self-titled name, even if it isn't truly good enough to challenge some of their other widely-acknowledged masterpieces.
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 16 February 2014
I have known about dt for many a year and have some of their earlier albums but this is an exceptional listen. it starts off in a usual kind of way, dramatic and strong. but its when the third track kicks in, through the looking glass that things really kick off. But from that point it just gets exceptional. really, the next 6 tracks are simp, y brilliant, and I dont say that about many pieces of music. believe me, this is a great album, I have not stopped listening to it, I have even placed this above my fav band within temptation at the moment. thats how good it is!
As far as Dream Theater go, I'm somewhere in between a layman and an aficionado. I have plenty of their albums, have enjoyed their output over the years to differing degrees and often put one on when I'm in the mood for some excellent symphonic, progressive metal. I didn't enjoy their last album ("A Dramatic Turn Of Events") as much I had some of their previous releases with their former drummer Mike Portnoy and was therefore interested to see if they could recapture their magic this time around, now new drummer Mike Mangini has had time to settle in and provide his own creative input. I have to say that I've thoroughly enjoyed their eponymous album and have produced a piece of work that compares favourably with some of their best music, whilst falling a little short of actual greatness. The best tracks on the album, to me, are "Behind The Veil", with its winding, twisting guitar solo over crunching power chords providing the pinnacle of the song, "Surrender To Reason", which quickly goes from strummed guitar-driven dramatic ballad to emotionally charged prog-rocker and the superb "Illumination Theory" (all twenty plus minutes of it) which starts with an almost E.L.O.-like orchestral theme and develops into a suite of songs which is easily the best thing on offer here, utilising several different time signatures, tempos, riffs and several excellent keyboard and guitar solos as well as a rather beautiful symphonic piece written for strings, revisiting and expanding the opening theme.
I think some fans had written off the band after Portnoy's departure, but when you have a replacement as talented as Mangini and a virtuoso band including the incredible Petrucci on guitar, you would have to be a bit foolish to do so. Whilst admitting wholeheartedly that I've heard better from Dream Theater, this is still a rather great piece of work and manages to occasionally thrill and always entertains for the duration of the record. It demonstrates that the band is far from finished, creatively, and are merely entering another chapter of their history. I think that long-term fans will be looking for a little more ambition, arrangement-wise (if everything here was like the final track, that wouldn't be an issue), and perhaps a quickening of the tempo next time as this album sometimes settles into a low gear a little too easily and both drummer and vocalist seem a little content to cruise than to push themselves. Other than those minor criticisms, it's a rather good listen and a welcome addition to my Dream Theater collection.
on 26 November 2013
Since the end of the meta album, the last of which being Octavarium, there's been something missing in their musical construction. In my opinion this release is a better album than their last (A Dramatic Turn Of Events) but it's still not quite up to the standard they were at during the beginning of the millennium. Mike Mangini seems to be a good fit as a replacement for Mike Portnoy, the drums are still funky, syncopated and deeply technical. Overall the group still perform as we've come to expect but there still lacks that secret ingredient, that inspiration and magnificence that was present earlier on.
If you're a DT fan and haven't yet bought this album then go ahead and add it to your collection. It may not be one of their best but it's still a brilliant album and deserves a lot of praise.
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.
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.
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.