Dream Theater

Doing a review of the new Dream Theater album. Now here's something many reporters like […]
By Michael Dalakos
June 7, 2005
Dream Theater - Octavarium album cover

Doing a review of the new Dream Theater album. Now here's something many reporters like to avoid. Yeah, I know it sounds funny, but there are many bands out there carrying a DANGER tag above their name. A good warning for anyone who wishes to speak his mind about them: be careful, you can easily make a fool out of yourself. Dream Theater is one of those acts. Doing a review about them is a delicate matter since their albums carry a chameleon disguise: no mater how many times you listen to a song, there will always be something new to discover and probably make you change your mind about the things you've said.
I decided to follow the same pattern I used with the latest Shadow Gallery album in order to review this one. I've listened to the album roughly 4-5 times and then I started writing my thoughts on each song while listening at it at the same time. So, here we go!
The Root Of All Evil: brings in mind the opener of Train Of Thought. Kicks in with a small intro (less than a minute) and bombastic drums. The guitars are very heavy, low tuned I dare to say. Quite simple in structure gets more Dream Theater around the fifth minute. The keyboard solo sadly sounds of the wall, while the guitar solo is very good. The piano behind the refrain might bring in mind the Scenes From A Memory period of the band. I like the atmospheric conclusion. Definitely not one of the greatest songs Dream Theater ever wrote.
The Answer Lies Within: the second song is a ballad! Starts with a nice combination of piano and vocals (great performance by LaBrie on this one). It keeps a low profile throughout its duration. Definitely a single if you ask me since it can be considered a quite mainstream ballad. The strings doing the short solo in the middle give extra breath to the composition. No matter how you look at it, it's really a wonderful moment in this album.
These Walls: an atmospheric and quite modern song. Sounds like it is based on the scales LaBrie usually delivers. WOW! This song has a driving silent force with an amazing climax. The keyboards play a very important role in here. The song is slower than The Root Of All Evil. There seems to be a very detailed work upon the drums in this one. It has a nice brake around the fourth minute. I liked the guitar solo a lot, it's short and basically follows the melody of the bridge. I don't really understand the symphonic closing of the song, sounds useless over there. This is another song aiming at a broader range of audience.
I Walk Beside You: now this one sounds like it jumped right out of the Falling Into Infinity sessions. Based on a very simple guitar riff. Not too metallic, might bring in mind the positive vibes of Surrounded. Labrie brings forth his days with Winter Rose in a performance closer to Rock. I think this is a more Rock-ish song generally.
Panic Attack: oh, a fast one! OK, it starts in a really furious way but falls close to the tempo of The Root Of All Evil, up to the fourth minute where it gets faster again for the solos to kick in. A quite bizarre song. Based on an abstract riff, dark and quite proggy. Once again it brings in mind the Scenes From A Memory era of the band.
Never Enough: Finally a really heavy song from start to finish. Fast, with a relentless drumming. It could have had a better refrain. There is a smart electronic theme on the keys behind the pounding duo of guitar / drums. Modern keys reemerge just before the guitar solo. Once again the guitar solo sounds more like an exercise on scales rather than a real solo, at least just before its end it carries a nice harmonized melody.
Sacrificed Sons: the second in length song in the album runs almost around eight minutes and it is bridged with Never Enough by some incomprehensive spoken words and parts from speeches (referring to global terrorism... I think?). The chilling opening brought in mind at first a fragment of Voices from Awake. This is a dark and kind of hallucinating vibrated song. It has a climax and a GREAT bridge / refrain. It brakes down around the fourth minute to carry out some nice scaling on guitars / drums and an extensive keyboard solo. From there on follows a very lengthy instrumental part that leaves a two minute brake for the vocals to kick in again.
Octavarium: Well, here it is. The album's title song runs for almost twenty four minutes! OK, this is not the first time Dream Theater offer us such a treat. It has a down-tuned intro, actually kicks in around the fourth minute. The acoustic guitar / flute combo set my mood for all the great things to come. The song gets a bit faster around the eighth minute but keeps its acoustic profile. Around the tenth minute the song gets electrified. Cool! OK, the keyboards on 13:00 sound a bit goofy but really manage to turn the tide in the song. From there on it becomes a Dream Theater ride, like those of the old days. Progressive and complicated, baby! It's one of these songs that make you wonder how on earth these guys remember what they play and perform it live. At times it reminded me of Learning To Live with all these changes in the guitar / keyboards style. In case some of you are wondering why Dream Theater are so highly praised among the ranks of progressive people, here's proof for you.
If I had to compare Octavarium to Train Of Thought I would say that: a) it carries much more varied compositions and b) with no doubt the keyboards' role has been upgraded. Though it will take me some time to accept in a 100% rate the low tuned guitars, I can't blame a pioneering band that simply tries to keep up with the progress in Metal music. Yes, Octavarium does not include the acrobatics of Images And Words or Awake but the band's decision to leave (at least for a period of time?) all these out of their music was obvious from their previous album.
Lets face it: Dream Theater have nothing to prove to anyone. They have done it all. Octavarium and Train Of Thought sound mostly like albums the band crafted to amuse themselves.

8 / 10


"Octavarium" Track-listing:

The Root Of All Evil
The Answer Lies Within
These Walls
I Walk Beside You
Panic Attack
Never Enough
Sacrificed Sons

Dream Theater Lineup:

James LaBrie - Vocals
Mike Portnoy - Drums
Jordan Rudess - Keyboards
John Myung - Bass
John Petrucci - Guitar

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