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4.0 out of 5 stars Melo-dramatic?, 4 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Dream Theater (MP3 Download)
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.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Mar 2014 02:35:26 GMT
Hi Agma....there was a time when I used to look forward to a new Dream Theater release as they are a pioneering band who set the benchmark by making this genre what it's today. Sadly the last three albums including this S/T album just didn't capture my imagination and I feel they have been in "autopilot" mode for too long. To me, there are more exciting bands' out there who are coming out with some good music and are not sinking into the hole of mediocrity by resurfacing old ideas/riffs, which Dream Theater are currently doing. Saying that, I did receive Dream Theater's "Live at Luna Park" on blu-ray as a present last year and enjoyed it immensely. Visually they are a stunning band to watch as there are many subtle nuances to the music, but on CD I find the keyboard and guitar wankery over pompous and too self indulgent. Interesting to see some fresh blood in the form of Mike Mangini behind the kit instead of Portnoy - two exceptional drummers, but two very different styles of playing though.

Recommendation: did you ever get to hear the trilogy that came out years ago by original Dream Theater vocalist Charlie Dominci? The first album (released under his full name) was very minimalistic - just him, an acoustic guitar, basic drums and songs that had been written from a personal perspective with thought provoking lyrics. The following two albums were Progressive Metal and his backing band were various members from an Italian/ Swiss band, whose name currently evades me. These two albums were released under the Dominci name (on the InsideOut label - my fave prog label once upon a time) and were exceptional, flooring anything anyone else was doing at the time. If I recall, I did write two reviews (when I had the time and creative energy) for these above mentioned albums here on Amazon. Check them out if you haven't already - great band. Happy Days!!

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Mar 2014 09:35:07 GMT
Agma says:
Ah! TD. For once, I think I may have a slightly different perspective to you on this one. The album songwriting is still a little sub-par compared to the old stuff, and I think that is a major stumbling block in "gettin' into it" so to speak. The atmosphere, peaks & troughs, and spine-tingling moments are not present anymore are they?. I did think that there was still lots of good-to-excellent songs in here. But uh, no they aren't doin' much progressing for the genre anymore, no; too much technical excellence isn't transmitting into legendary pieces they were accomplishing before- perhaps this one is a step in the right direction?. DT need to dump Rudess, his keyboarding is atrocious and has not once ever transpired into the mystical blueprint that kevin Moore possessed. His noodling is just spat over the top of the music and it just sucks when he does it as a real solo that goes somewhere would have been far more fitting. Mangini was one of the best parts of this CD and that proves that Portnoy wasn't the one bringing the house down before he went.

Dominici has been lost to my musical radar when he left Dream Theater -I will, of-course take a look at his back catalogue from the start. You're recommendations are always rock-solid, and I appreciate them and you're time to respond to me as always.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Mar 2014 10:55:08 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Mar 2014 12:34:55 GMT
Hi Agma....I personally think I've run my course with Dream Theater and have outgrown the band in many ways. Wow....Kevin Moore, and hardy a mention of this man anymore as he's so long gone from the ranks of Dream Theater - 20 years I estimate with his last album being 1994's "Awake". He was in a league of his own and used the keyboard in a subtle way compared to the likes of Rudess (I agree wholeheartedly with your comment about him) who is full-on as far as keyboardists go. One of the standout Dream Theater albums was the epic "Images and Words", which left an indelible impression upon hearing it for the first time and still does. Moore's keyboards on this album were mesmerizing, having an ethereal aura about them - "Pull Me Under" springs to mind immediately.

One band certainly moving mountains for me is the mighty Redemption. Sadly, they aren't as frenetic when recording albums compared to other bands', as we usually have to wait a few years before any new material is released. When this does happen, you just know you're in for one mother of a ride as they throw their heart and soul into their brand of Progressive Metal.

Recommendation: Heard of the British (Derby) band called HELL? Course you have, as they are pretty massive in the U.K. at the moment as well as being home to esteemed metal producer Andy Sneap, who is playing guitar for them nowadays. Both albums, the debut, "Human Remains" and the latest offering "Curse and Chapter" are just ingeniously written and the musicianship is totally incomprehensible. Check them out as they come well recommended from my side. Happy Days!

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Mar 2014 13:44:41 GMT
Agma says:
Yes I've heard of Hell, only got "Human Remains" in my 2079 CD catalogue. Rarely gets a spin to be honest. I'll have a revisit now, I don't know why I haven't listened to it since I got it, as it has just been sat on my shelf- I guess my collection is full of such "great music :)" it has eclipsed me!. You're right about Redemption TD, I've got all 5 of their studio albums and I think they're terrific too- most listened to prog metal band alongside Fates Warning. The standard in prog metal is very high these days and satisfactory work isn't gonna cut it.

I was so pleased with the new Vanden Plas CD. Continues a mesmerizing string of great prog metal albums over the last few months: Long may it continue!.

Posted on 12 Mar 2014 13:15:46 GMT
spiderboy says:
Agma, Transcendence - interesting conversation! I'm a long term DT fan and am absolutely certain that this album is their worst. By a massive margin. They miss Mike Portnoy on all levels though A Dramatic Turn Of Events is an excellent CD I believe. Reason for commenting is I notice no mention of Symphony X yet you must both know of them? Another bunch of absolutely top-notch musicians of course. TesseracT? Again amazing music.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Mar 2014 15:41:47 GMT
Agma says:
Hi there Spiderboy, welcome!.., I awarded the album barely 4 stars on musical merit but in terms of comparison with previous albums it is simply far, far behind them. With the possible exception of the two most boring excursions of prog:- in "Black Clouds and Systematic Chaos" I think D/T is more of the same. Dream Theater are apparently on autopilot and have been since Octavarium. Symphony X are, on the other hand - another great band who've recently found themselves in a similar foot of so in stagnation. The symphony in they're music has devolved into a more linear and straight forward path. The last album by them, Iconoclast in 2011 I thought equally paled in comparison with times of old. But it's all music and opinions huh?,
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