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Dream Theater | ‘Dream Theater’

Things have gone surprisingly well for Dream Theater after losing drummer Mike Portnoy in late 2010.

With critical claim at an all time high with 2011s ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’ fans were excited about this new stage in the bands career and the band seemed to be somewhat rejuvenated with the injection of new talent in the form of Mike Mangini on drums.

Now with album number 12, DT have released their self titled record – so how does it fare?

‘False Awakening Suite’, the instrumental opener, slowly builds with layers of orchestration in a manner akin to many Blind Guardian albums, it is a pleasant enough listen without being too overblown.

‘Enemy Inside’ is where DT really start to play themselves. Opening with a focused guitar riff it soon falls into a catchy groove with some nice flourishes from Jordan Rudess on keyboards.

Petrucci’s solos are sublime, simple and to the point, the playing is wonderful.

James LaBrie does a fantastic job singing over the top, lyrically it’s a simple tale of introspective reflection and the song as a whole works great as an opening salvo.

‘The Looking Glass’ first few bars are reminiscent of 80s album oriented rock and has an upbeat feeling that is very unexpected, but it works.

Once again, Petrucci slays in his soloing, beautifully melodic and layered with hooks.

The overlying keyboards keep the radio friendly atmosphere quite prevalent but it’s a very enjoyable track, particularly LaBrie’s softened delivery in the chorus.

The albums second instrumental ‘Enigma Machine’ is an excellent display of DTs playing without descending up their own anus as can too often happen in prog metal, there is a real song here.

The beats and grooves laid down by Myung on bass and Mangini on drums provide an excellent platform for Petrucci and Rudess to sprinkle some fabulous licks and melodies.

The surreal guitar lines around 3.50 minutes in are especially infectious along with Manginis virtuoso fills towards the end of the track.

The grand opening of ‘The Bigger Picture’ flows into a subdued piano and acoustic guitar verse over scored by some excellent vocals from LaBrie.

It’s a little poppy and frankly the wrong kind of cheese but its enjoyable to a point but the track as a whole is a little too limp to avoid being skipped after a few listens.

The song is redeemed slightly by a killer solo by Petrucci just before the 4 minute mark but the is track far too long, the last 2 minutes of the song are superfluous to the point of being a joke, this end section is forcibly attached without adding anything at all to the song.

If you are not actively watching your CD player/ iPod timer you could well be forgiven for thinking that you’ve gone into the next song.

The opening minute of ‘Behind The Veil’ may also be a bit unnecessary but when the opening riffs do come in, they are delivered with real punch.

The chorus is a soaring stream of killer guitar hooks and LaBrie singing in flying form and it makes the song, along with the outstanding guitar soloing, back on track. ‘Surrender To Reason’ is another effective, slow to mid-tempo track (by DT standards at least) and the vocals throughout the song are a highlight of the album.

‘Along For The Ride’ is just too light to be taken seriously, its closer to a popular boy band lyrically and musically than anything resembling rock or metal. That being said, it’s a pleasant radio friendly single, if that’s your thing but its hard not to laugh at some of the cheese on display in the softer sections of the track, in particular the Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of The Worlds’ style keyboard interlude.

The 22 minute epic ‘Illumination Theory’ which closes the album is just too overblown to work effectively, the string section in its mid section is actually excellent but it seems so forced and could’ve served as a separate song on its own, striving for grandiose greatness it falls short.

The album sounds phenomenal from a production perspective and the execution of the vocals and instruments cannot be contested, although some issues can be taken with some of the arrangements.

There is plenty of great stuff on this record to warrant your time though. It loses its way in parts of the second half but, that’s why we have skip buttons. There is a theme of ‘pop’ seeping throughout the album but if you can look past it there is plenty to enjoy.

3.4 / 5 – Bernard Drumm ::: 17/12/13

  1. I haven’t been able to make it all the way through in one listen, yet. They’ve been treading water since Train Of Thought, to these ears.

  2. Pretty good album, they’re a band sticking with what they know best anyway and have never released a stinker.

    PS. I too love James LaBrie.

  3. Boring album again, just like the last one.

    This horseshit that they’ve been rejuvenated since Portnoy left is something I don’t get at all. The last album they did with him (‘Black Clouds…’) is far far better than either of these 2 subsequent albums for me.

  4. DuckyDoodle Says:

    This isn’t a bad spin as such, just a bit “meh”.

    Given the sheer quality of The Winery Dogs’ self titled, Portnoy has my attention held much tighter than his old bandmates.

  5. I have spun it a few times and its way superior to the last one and it is a follow on from maybe Train of Thought – the weight is back and is generally more agressive. The twiddle factor is high and over the top. Quality Dream Theater release to me

  6. Black Shepherd Says:

    The keyboard section in that song, around the 2:20 mark is the only decent part… and it just sounds like it was lifted directly off Dance of Eternity.

    What the fuck is the point of these lyric videos anyway? Of every single one I’ve seen, all they’ve proven is that the band in question is incapable of expressing anything other than the most banal of copy & paste ideas.

    DIS BAND SUXX. Fucking AOM.

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