The ever-popular progressive metal machine that is Dream Theater has done it again. Their twelfth album, entitled “Dream Theater,” was released early last week via Roadrunner records. These musical magicians don’t have a bad record in their catalog and this album suggests that they do not intend to stop anytime soon.
This new record is a breath of fresh air in my opinion. I was not a fan of the band’s previous two records, “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” and “A Dramatic Turn of Events.” I felt that on “Black Clouds” the band disappeared in themselves musically, creating some songs that seemed to drag on with little or no direction. I thought that “A Dramatic Turn of Events” was a long jam with their new drummer, Mike Mangini, with no songs– as if that record was a vehicle to test the waters with a new drummer. The band has been with original drummer Mike Portnoy since 1985, and I can imagine them needing a lot of time to adjust as a band to a new rhythm section.
Listening to this record, however, it sounds like the band is quite content without Portnoy. In fact, this record reminds me of their records from ten years ago. Yet, there are many new elements that help keep the band’s sound fresh. For example, the opening track (“False Awakening”) is an instrumental, orchestral track with huge, heavy arrangements. Dream Theater is no stranger to strings, but they haven’t been utilized on a record quite like this. I think I’m right in saying that every track on this record has some sort of orchestral backdrop on top of their already orchestral sound.
The album then transitions into their first major single, “The Enemy Inside.” Laced with that classic keyboard tone and full of intricate riffs and an extremely catchy chorus, this song is sure to be a fan favorite. The song after that, “The Looking Glass,” could just as easily be a chart-topping single, with Petrucci’s guitar tone sounding like Alex Lifeson’s of Rush during the “Moving Pictures” era. In fact, there is a lot about the production on this record that reminds me of Rush.
It’s no surprise that the band members are all fans of Rush, and I know they have had Rush-like production in the past, but it really comes out on this record. Especially on “Enigma Machine,” a six minute instrumental of non-stop shredding, insane drum features, and absolutely ridiculous bass playing.
The other sure-fire fan favorite will most likely be “Along for the Ride.” This epic ballad is reminiscent of “The Spirit Carries On” from “Scenes from a Memory Pt. 2.” It is extremely immense for a ballad and holds the listener’s attention every second. I also enjoyed the tracks “Behind the Veil” and “Illumination Theory,” a twenty-two minute musical journey and the album’s closing track.
My only complaint overall is that the band released this album as a self-titled album. Releasing self-titled albums that aren’t your first is a big pet peeve of mine, and a band with a reputation like Dream Theater should be able to come up with something better than that. However, I can see why they would want to self-title it. I believe it is because they feel that they are now used to having Mangini behind the kit, and have released a classic Dream Theater record, only with a different band playing the songs. It can be considered a type of rebirth for this band musically; especially for me, considering my prior comments toward their last two records. Overall, I think the record captures the heaviness of “Train of Thought” (and may even be heavier) and the classic sonic sound of the band that you hear on early records like “Scenes from a Memory Pt. 2.” I really enjoyed this album and I think anyone else who listens to it will too.