Scenes From A Memory is Dream Theater's first studio album in two years and the epic masterpiece fans have been waiting for. This album features a special, tantalizing focus that die-hard fans have been demanding for years. Scenes From A Memory shows the band to be in top form, wrapping their superb musicianship around a set of smart, accessible, solidly crafted rock.
Progressive rock has long been the most devalued currency in popular music, perhaps due to the culture's dumbing down, too many conceptually knotted triple-albums, or merely a Greek chorus of critics parroting the emperor from Amadeus: "Too many notes!" Maybe that's what makes Dream Theater's Scenes such an audacious rush (no pun intended). Here we have a two-act murder mystery examined from a hypnotic dream state and parlayed by "The Orchestra," as the band refers to itself here. Andrew Lloyd Webber hasn't written anything as focused--or musically audacious--in decades. And if the band attacks feverish shift meters and plows through enough structural modes and, yes, notes, to make the aforementioned emperor's head spin, they manage to keep things concise, focused, and largely effective. The addition of keyboardist Jordan Rudess has freshened the band's tack, infused now with the odd, playful ragtime piano quote and sitar sample. Vocalist James Labrie, meanwhile, amply proves that Queensryche's Geoff Tate isn't the only drama queen in prog metal. --Jerry McCulley