3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Proper progressive metal,
This review is from: Awake (Audio CD)
As you probably already know if you're reading this, Dream Theater are perhaps the biggest and most influential progressive metal band on the planet. I'll say right away that this is a great album, one of the band's best (which is really saying something). It is slightly heavier and darker than it's preceeding album Images and Words (Amazing album). However, it's still the same old Dream Theater sound, merging 70s progressive rock with heavy metal, containing lots of complex song structures and incredible musicianship. If you're new to the band, this is as good a starting point as any, especially for a metal fan.
Dream Theater are amazingly skillful musicians. John Petrucci, one of the most impressive shredders of the 90s, is at his best here. Just listen to his soaring, mind-blowing solo on Voices and you'll see what I mean. Mike Portnoy drives the songs with his excellent, complex drumming. One cool thing about his drums is that he removed the triggers for his drums on this album, which allows his to show more dynamics on his instrument. Kevin Moore's keyboards are woven throughout the songs, adding a great deal of atmosphere and often trading solos with John Petrucci. Mike Myung's complex basslines underly each track, even though he is often not very audible. Finally, there's singer James LaBrie. His powerful voice has a truly incredible range. On this album, his vocals are sometimes quite snarly, to fit with the heavier music. His powerful delivery makes the album's dark lyrics even more convincing.
This album is incredibly varied. There's the heavy, stomping metal of Caught in a Web, Lie and the especially heavy The Mirror. There's gentler songs including Lifting Shadows Off a Dream, Innocence Faded (this song has an amazing ending) and even a full acoustic ballad, The Silent Man. There's a great instrumental entitled Erotomania which features incredible band interplay and highly unusual time signatures. However, the album's centerpiece tracks are the two epics, Voices and Scarred. Voices is a brilliantly structured, emotional epic with one of the most powerful choruses I've heard. Scarred, builds from its bluesy beginning to an intricate epic with heavy riffs, atmospheric keyboards and amazing trade-off solos between Petrucci and Moore. This was Kevin Moore's last album with the band, and he left his greatest composition on this album, Space Dye Vest. Its a very beautiful, personal piano-driven epic that sounds unlike anything else ever recorded bny the band. It has to be heard.
Overall, this album is a very powerful album of great prog metal. It has everyhing: amazing playing, excellent and varied songs, complex song structures, great vocals and lyrics far better than most metal bands. So, where does it stand? I can never decide which DT album is best. I think its either this or Images and words. Although no song quite matches Pull Me Under or Learning To Live from Images, several come very close. Besides, this is actually an even more consistent album, every song is as important to the album as the next and none are bad or even average. If you're a fan of prog, metal or both, this album is essential. It's truly magnificent.