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Old 10-03-2013, 10:17 AM
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hokiealumnus hokiealumnus is offline
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Default Dream Theater - Dream Theater Review

I wrote this for the heck of it and wanted to share it here too for people that might be fans. If you are fans already, what do you think about the album? Agree/disagree with me? Things to add? If you're not fans, does this help...and do you agree?

First, my initial thoughts after a couple hours with the album were:

As usual, it will take several listens to come to a full conclusion, but here are my first impressions of the new DT album:

* It was obviously mixed by a guitarist-oriented producer. The drums aren't too quiet so much as poorly balanced.
* Cymbals in parts are way too overbearing.
* Toms are quite often too low.
* This last one isn't the producer's fault, but the sound of Mangini's snare Sucks with a capital S. It's horrible. It's too low and doesn't pop like a snare should. I'm not asking for a 311 style piccolo snare, but it shouldn't be as dull as this one. Yes, I'm questioning one of the greatest drummers on the planet...and yes, I'm right.
* On that note, Mangini is absolutely amazing and his writing is leaps and bounds above ADToE's pre-written-by-Petrucci parts. He doesn't miss a beat at all. It's not him, he's wonderful. It's just how he is presented.
* If it weren't for the snare, I could overlook everything else.

Aside from complaining about the drum mixing and that horrid snare, it's a good album on first listen. I'll reserve further judgement until after the fourth or fifth time through, but so far it's quite pleasing, my whining about the poor drum presentation notwithstanding.
...and the conclusion:

Dream Theater - Dream Theater Review (Continued & Concluded)

After listening to the album through a time or ten, I'm happy to report this is an extremely solid offering from Dream Theater.

I stand by my complaint about the snare drum; it's just plain awful. The rest of the mixing has grown on me after listening it through properly equalized (to my tastes), better headphones/stereos. The snare, however, is still just as bad. It's dull, for lack of a better word, and lacks 'pop'. The rest of Mangini's kit sounds awesome. Now that he has actually contributed to the writing process, you can tell he's the perfect fit for Dream Theater. His technical, mathematical precision approach and execution are second to none, which is the most ideal type of drummer you can have with this band.

Now, track-by-track.

False Awakening Suite

This is a hard-hitting, excellent introduction to what you just know from listening to the first 2:42 is going to be an epic album.

The Enemy Inside

I've posted links to this one on multiple occasions, both the original and the excellent split-screen cover by "VRA VRA VRA". Its epic metallic tendency is perfect and the whole song is wrapped in a tightly knit package. From the first hit to the last note, they grab you and don't let go. It probably has the best guitar solo on the album.

The Looking Glass

Chock full of major cords, this is the most RUSH-like song on the album, and in a very good way. I love the juxtaposition of the harder verses and softer, melodic chorus. It's not the only time on this album they did that either. The solo sounds a lot like some on Falling Into Infinity, also in a good way. Many people didn't like Falling Into Infinity because it was their 'sell-out-to-try-and-get-hits' album. This is definitely NOT like that. In several places it does sound like Falling Into Infinity, but all for good reasons. This one is my current favorite on the album.

Enigma Machine

This is the only instrumental on the album, and the first for quite a long time. It seems like their opportunity to show off. If you like Rudess vs. Petrucci trade-off solo battles, you'll like this one. Mangini and Myung also get their chances to shine here. I like it, but in some points I have problems with Rudess' keys. It sounds like he broke out the keytar and it's as awful as it is every time he does that. That should be banned with prejudice. Otherwise it's a hard, metal showing off of every prowess.

The Bigger Picture

This song starts off loud and clean, then drops off to a quiet, melodic first verse with piano & LaBrie only (with small guitar & cymbal accents). Once back into the chorus and through the rest of the song the band jumps in and takes you on a journey in song. There is even a cool bridge that leads back into the chorus and subsequently a slow, skillful solo that really rounds out the song. At the end there is a not-really-the-end that's great. During the writing process it feels like they thought "wait, that wasn't epic enough, we need a better ending", then they blow you away. Similar to The Looking Glass, it's light-ish with the right amount of heavier accents and makes you feel uplifted.

Through The Veil

The introduction to this is quiet and it takes them a while, letting Rudess play with his keyboard effects for about a minute and a half. Afterward the rest of the band comes in hard, grabs you and keeps you throughout the rest. This song sounds rush-ish as well, especially the main hook that comes in around 2:00. Through The Veil is harder than TBP/TLG (yep, being lazy) but after heavy power chord verses, they move back to major-ish chorus to give you a break before pounding on you again. This one is a close second for my favorite on the album.

Surrender to Reason

Continuing the strong dynamic changes, Surrender to Reason takes you on a roller coaster ride, continuing the pattern of harder verses & solo section with soaring, melodic chorus. There are a couple places this one also seems to have benefited from a RUSH influence, but it's in passing and not as heavily influenced as the others.

Along for the Ride

The song itself is ok. This is LaBrie's once-per-album 'hey, look at me, I'm here and singing!' ballad-like song. Who can blame him really? He's stuck in a band with some of the most experienced, perfectly executing titans on their instruments in the world. Let's face it, many people - me included - are fans of DT more because of the music and the band's amazing talent than they are the vocals. He's good though and this is his chance to prove it. Overall the song is nice, but not the best one on the album. There is one issue though - Rudess' choice of sounds. I hate, hate, hate the voice he uses on the keys in his solo in this song and it, along with the stupid keytar solos, should be banned from any further use. Ever. If it weren't for that, this would be a solid song. I dread that part of it though and celebrate its completion. The notes are fine, but the choice of voice is horrid.

Illumination Theory

Their first Epic with a capital E in a long time, they have formed another twenty minute masterpiece. It's broken up into five sub-sections that are all equally important. Start to finish, this is precisely what you'd expect for a twenty minute epic song. Similar to A Change of Seasons, there are twists and turns you have to hear to believe. Well worth multiple listens, it's every bit as strong as their epics of albums past. Mangini (and the rest of them) have some crazy parts in here. Rudess brings an orchestra and piano parts that overwhelmingly redeem him for his trespass in Along for the Ride. LaBrie even brings back some of the insanely skyward-reaching vocals from before he ruptured his vocal cords (due to illness) a long time ago. At the end there is a cool, melancholy piano outro that reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I've missed crazy long DT songs and this hits the spot like the ones in the past did.

Overall, Dream Theater is worthy of its self-titled name. Every album is different and this one has influences from many past, older albums that die hard fans will notice and appreciate. In Dream Theater, not only are they influenced by their past, they are also influenced by another epic band - RUSH. I don't even own nor know much RUSH material, but I can usually tell 'hey that sounds like RUSH' and they do that several times throughout, to great effect. On it's own, Dream Theater is a story that grabs you in the beginning and doesn't let you go until it's over. While the songs aren't necessarily a cohesive storytelling block from start to finish and can stand on their own, they aren't disjointed either. Non-die-hard fans will find this more accessible than some of their past work and it would be a good jumping off point that may just lead them to get the rest of DT's music.

My conclusion - Epic awesomeness. Dream Theater is a must-buy for both Dream Theater fans and those that are wanting to dive into the progressive metal genre to see what it's all about. There's no better way to get into it than with the original prog metal masters themselves.
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