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Dream Theater's 2013 self-titled opus is a masterpiece of ambition, adventure and redefined purpose. Dream Theater heralds an exceptionally energized and profoundly dynamic emergent chapter for the melodic, progressive and consistently heavy masters of hard rock invention. Dream Theater is a name synonymous with the penultimate synthesis of studied expertise and relentless creative passion. It is an album that at once recalls the brilliant hallmarks that have made the band icons to fellow musicians and hard rock fans alike, while simultaneously a bold declaration of a future yet to come.
Dream Theater serves as both entry-point for curious newcomers and shining beacon to longtime devotees. It is a landmark statement befitting of not only the band's multiple milestones, but of their increasing prowess, perseverance and overall fulfillment from creating diverse, nuanced and atmospheric compositions. Evocative, transcendent, genre-defining and as hungry as ever, Dream Theater's music is as timeless as the dozen-album strong discography and more than 25 years of performing would suggest, while alternately ever-advancing toward new horizons.
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The self-titled release finds the band in full stride once again with Mike Mangini now settling into the drummer's seat with conviction, and it is fair to say that from a musical standpoint this is more or less a return to excellence for Dream Theater. Everything is in place once again - the songs are melodic and accessible, LaBrie sounds great, the lyrics are positive and inspiring, the chops are evident yet not excessive. It's pretty much everything fans love without all the excess. In fact, this is a great collection of songs that really harkens back to the Images and Words/Awake era at times, yet has the epic feel of Scenes From A Memory at other times. And there are a few heavy metal moments here as well, along with a few nods to the venerable prog legends Rush. From a drummer's perspective, compared to the last release where Mangini was catering to the Portnoy style of drumming, his contributions this time around seem more sincere. And while he doesn't exude Portnoy's flare and passion, his own mathematical gyrations are praiseworthy. The magic here, though, is in the catchiness and melody driven nature of the songwriting - something that has been missing for some time. And LaBrie sounds as good here as ever, much more comparable to the kind of singing we've heard on his last two solo efforts. Petrucci is the consummate guitarist and producer, so everything he delivers here is top notch - solos, leads, heavy riffs, etc. Rudess has toned down some of the circus-sounding noodling a bit for this release which again reminds me more of his work on the seminal Scenes From a Memory. His orchestrated middle-part to "Illumination Theory" is breathtaking.
The limited edition comes with a second disc with the 5.1 mix of the entire album, all packaged in a simple, yet elegant digi with fixed-in-place lyric booklet. My only complaint about the 5.1 mix is that the screen in black during playback, otherwise the sound is phenomenal. Overall, not sure what else Dream Theater could have done to make music that is more artistic, powerful and melodic than they've done here, music that can be appreciated by musician and fan alike.
Haken may very well be the best act out there now. But after giving DT's self-titled album many listens in the last few weeks, I'm convinced it's their most solid outing since Scenes from a Memory. Not to say that it's as good, but it's their most creative effort in the last 15 years for sure.
First of all, the bad. What turned me off right away 2 years ago was the mixing. The sound just isn't as clear as it can be. Labrie's voice sounds over-washed for most of the album.
Now for the positives. The creativity on this album is off the charts. The instrumentals are fun. The songs aren't drawn out, even though their length would suggest it. I'd say if it were like any album in DT's past, it's like Images and Words w/ a 20-minute (instead of a 12-minute) epic closer. It's just a well-written, fun album.
Mangini really stands out, especially the instrumentals. His subtle drum-fills are what impress me most. Myung's elevated presence after Portnoy's departure is most welcome, as I believe him to be the band's best songwriter. Petrucci's lyrics though are greatly improved. The songs on Dream Theater are ABOUT things. The last track, clocking in at 20 minutes with a Transatlantic-like symphonic interlude in the middle, has soul. But they don't oversell it. "Subdued brilliance" is how I describe prog at its best to my friends who have never heard of prog.
On a Dream Theater scale, this gets a 4. It's not Awake. It's not Scenes from a Memory. But it is among their top 5 albums in my opinion. And that makes it better than 97% of what's on the radio.
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