Why is the music industry failing? Contrary to popular opinion, it’s nothing to do with piracy, record labels or the shift from physical to digital media, but instead it’s because of the silly papery labels on CD cases that don’t peel off, instead leaving behind their gungy residue on both the case and then your finger nails as you labouriously try to rectify the problem, yet inevitably make it worse.
I mention this as I struggle with the stubborn sticker present on Dream Theater’s new eponymous album. Although put in a bad mood, I soldiered on, and I am very pleased that I did.
Dream Theater’s twelfth album begins with the introductory ‘False Awakening Suite’, a grand orchestral instrumental split into three sections, throwing the listener straight into the album. The heavier Dream Theater sound (akin to the direction taken on ‘Train of Thought’ and ‘Systematic Chaos’) continues with ‘The Enemy Inside’, making use of Gothic keyboards and chugging riffs, combined with James LaBrie trying his best to channel his inner Dave Mustaine in the verses.
Although the album begins off heavy, that’s where it stops. Dream Theater have always produced music inspired by Canadian prog band Rush, but for much of the music on this album they have decided to plainly imitate them. ‘The Looking Glass’ is a mid-tempo progressive rocker, mixing keyboards and guitar hooks in equal measure, whilst ‘The Bigger Picture’ and ‘Behind The Veil’ fail to deliver anything unique. For such an accomplished band, these sub-par Rush tracks ultimately indicate a lack of musical creativity and an over-reliance on old ideas.
‘Dream Theater’ features their first instrumental track since 2003’s ‘Stream of Consciousness’ showing off John Petrucci’s brilliant shredding techniques, as well as Jordan Rudess’ keyboard prowess, Mike Mangini’s technical drumming and John Myung’s ever present bass lines. The song is served up in sections which actually flow well together, turning what on paper is just a four-way speed battle into a cleverly presented track.
After the mandatory ballad ‘Along For The Ride’, in which LaBrie is allowed to take centre stage, showing that he is as equally talented as his fellow musicians, the epic twenty minute ‘Illumination Theory’ begins. Dream Theater have never shied away from the fifteen minute plus songs, with ‘Sex Degrees Of Inner Turbulence’, ‘Octavarium’, ‘In The Presence Of Enemies’ and ‘Nightmare To Remember’ totaling a massive 107 minutes between them. ‘Illumination Theory’ sits easily along side the aforementioned classics, twisting through fast paced guitar work, orchestral and piano sections, and an array of hectic solos.
‘Dream Theater’ is the first album in which Mike Mangini has contributed to the writing stage (as opposed to playing ex-drummer Mike Portnoy’s parts on ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’), allowing him to fully integrate with the band and rejuvenate their sound, offering new ideas and directions to explore. The album does just that; the band noticeably expands their sound to encompass everything from classic rock to metal on one album, whereas before they were content with the progressive metal tag.
Whilst not every track worked, tracks like ‘The Enemy Inside’, ‘Enigma Machine’ and ‘Illumination Theory’ are some of the best cuts Dream Theater have produced within the last decade. Overall, the album has to be seen as a success, and the first in a long time which could actually introduce new fans to the band (especially if their also Rush fans).
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