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A mixed bag:- albeit a varied one!,
This review is from: Falling Into Infinity (Audio CD)
A DT album I revisit-to quite frequently, and is perhaps both Dream Theater's most varied and uneven album. A few factors however punctuate the background and compellation behind this 4th full length CD and so I think that it's examination is important., This is actually the first and only DT album with the presence of subtle keyboardist:- Derek Serinian:- (the very short replacement for the previously untimely departure of Kevin Moore), it is a factor that I find to be of particular highlight and moment.
The Falling into Infinity period however, was also a slightly troubling and uncertain time for the band; with particular reference to the aim of future musicial success and they're respective record company -peer- pressure. This peer pressure for a more accessible and and semi-distilled sound was likely a compensation measure at an expense of the more traditional and lengthy arrangements. In fact, it was certainly apositive outcome that the album had even surfaced at all since that they were considering a rather dramatic folding of the band's career.
Falling into Infinity was also a product of a shelved double album concept, where over and hour and a half's worth of music was originally intended to be distributed over a 2disc set. This double album never actually materialised and neither did any officially released representation come to many of the truly epic b-sides and a-side rejections of-what could have been a truly audacious and committed album set. The tracks of merit can now be found on many demos, EP's, and the (relatively rarer) D/T's collector's fanclub CD's.
Album space for the new accessible DT sound appears regularly across selections like the fairly sanitised "You not me, the triple ballads of: Hollow years, Take away my pain and Anna lee"; which are, all excellent compositions in they're own right, but still probably lack the traditional DT bite and the strong progressiveness to which are so expected,. A much better effort is probably "Peruvian Skies", where a strong lyrical theme is helmed together by a part ballad and part metal incubus towards it's conclusion.
Other highlights include the dramatic and inspired "New Millenium" which features a range of progressive and tempo intracusies, this actively contrasts the excellent jam of "Hell's kitchen", the vile abomination of "Burning my soul", and the less than spectacular "Just let me breathe". The legendary 12 minute epic of "Lines in the sand" goes hand-in-hand with the real star of the show in the unashamed 13 minute '3-part chapter' of "Trail of tears", which remains to this day as one of my favourite songs ever from the band and the sub-genre with it's both intoxicating, inescapable atmosphere and theatrics.
In summary:- one stinker, in collaboration with a few average to good quality numbers isn't enough to bring this down to a standard effort. The highlights (and there are many!) rise to the high standard required and the trump card is on a real emphasis of excellent lines, innovative progression and a mantra of peak and thorough songwriting. Apart from a slightly lightweight production and tinny sound from (the then' drummer Mike Portnoy,) James Labrie rounds off the piece with quite a commanding vocal performance.
Definately an album worth getting hold of for a sound in the progressive variety, or with the fans with any interest at all in some of the best moments of Dream Theater.