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Octavarium
Octavarium
Price: $10.05
90 used & new from $1.68

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Dream Theater album., September 24, 2005
This review is from: Octavarium (Audio CD)
I honestly don't understand where all the flak on this album is coming from. In my opinion, this is a highly solid album that carries on the Dream Theater that I have come to love. It is definitely less heavy than 2003's Train of Thought, but I appreciate their willingness to take more of a diverse approach after their relentlessly angst-filled previous outing.

In my opinion, Octavarium has two of Dream Theater's best songs: Panic Attack and Sacrificed Sons. Panic Attack can only be described as a sort of metal Liquid Tension Experiment song with vocals. The riff is relentlessly heavy and very fast, with a great driving bassline and the awe-inspiring solos from Petrucci and Rudess we've come to expect. The lyrics get a bit contrived at points, but it's a minor quibble, because Panic Attack is in my opinion tied with The Glass Prison as the best song to come out of a Dream Theater album since Metropolis Part II. Sacrificed Sons is also a fantastic song, and is without question the best song ever written about 9/11. It starts off in a very ballad-like fashion, but don't let that fool you. After the first chorus, the band really starts rocking. Petrucci's guitar work really takes center stage here, with his powerful riffs driving the tempo, especially during the final verses. Just a fantastic all around song.

Octavarium is rounded out with 3 songs that are still great, but not quite the classics that Panic Attack and Sacrificed Sons are. These Walls is a more proggy song than most on here, with Rudess's keyboards doing most of the flashy work. But Petrucci shows that sometimes a little can go along way, and the slow but thumping guitar work on These Walls is just as easy to rock out to as any of his most complex solos. These Walls ends on a great note, the last minute or so is just so polished and dramatic it really reflects on the track as a whole. This is Scenes From a Memory style Dream Theater, walking the line between prog rock and metal.

The Root of All Evil is the continuation of Portnoy's saga of alcoholism, picking up where The Glass Prison and This Dying Soul left off. Like the previous two parts, The Root of All Evil is an unapologetic, in-your-face rocker. It reprises several lyrical themes from the previous two parts, but that's only natural considering they all share the same subject. This song will be sure to please those who liked the metal direction Dream Theater took on Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and especially Train of Thought.

Finally, we come to the sprawling, 24 minute title track. Octavarium is Dream Theater's giant shoutout to all their influences. There are pieces here that sound like progressive pioneers Pink Floyd, Rush, and Yes, and even some metal bands like Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden. Octavarium does drag in parts, but that's only natural when you're writing a song that long. Octavarium really picks up at Full Circle (which I believe is Part 4 of the song, but I'm not sure). Here we see Dream Theater driving up the tempo, building tension for the conclusion of the piece. The lyrics here are fascinating, with James LaBrie intertwining countless musical references. Among them are the Doors' Light My Fire, the Who's My Generation, and in what was the most surprising for me, Pink Floyd's Careful With That Axe, Eugene, which while a live staple during the early years of their careers was only released in their B-side collection Relics and is therefore highly obscure to modern fans. Eventually, Octavarium breaks into the full symphony backing up the band, with some breathtaking solos before the final part, which starts off with a soft riff and spoken verse and builds to thunderous proportions. Octavarium has its flaws, but the overall experience is highly satisfying.

Octavarium has two tracks which, while not my favorites, I can appreciate. The Answer Lies Within is a short ballad track. While not a bad song by any means, I've never been a big fan of their ballad tracks. I Walk Beside You is the song that has generated the most criticism from the fan base, which I think is unfair. While yes, it is very much a commercial song, both stylistically and lyrically, that doesn't make it any worse from a musical standpoint. While Petrucci definitely provides a different style of guitar playing and is much more mellow on this track, all the musicians are still alive and kicking here, and LaBrie puts together one of his best vocal performances in recent works. Dream Theater is simply broadening their style. Before this album gets drowned in the cries of 'Sellout!', remember that it's only one song. If it does succeed in getting them wider radio play, so much the better, because then Dream Theater will finally get the attention they deserve.

As much as I would like to say that I love every track on this CD, I really cannot get into Never Enough. I'm not sure why, I guess it just seems a little whiny to me. I tend to just skip this song when I listen to this CD. Still, nearly all albums have at least one weak song, and Octavarium's strong tracks more than make up for it in this regard.

In short, Octavarium is yet another solid release by Dream Theater. If Amazon permitted half stars, I would give it 4.5, but because it's Dream Theater, which puts it ahead of basically everyone still making music, I'm rounding it up to a 5.

If you're a Dream Theater fan, you will not be disappointed. If you're looking for a place to start getting into this band, I would not suggest this as a place to start. Instead, go for Images and Words and work down their discography from there.


Surfing With The Alien
Surfing With The Alien
Offered by CDSource
Price: $31.35
84 used & new from $0.24

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind boggling., September 17, 2005
This review is from: Surfing With The Alien (Audio CD)
Joe Satriani, quite simply, is one of the most talented guitarists in the history of rock and roll. As a benchmark of just how great this album is, it's one of the only completely instrumental (possibly the only, as Satriani's next album, though it charted even better than 'Surfing', had four tracks with vocals) albums to break the top 40 album charts, peaking at #26, and gained gold certification. That may not seem like much, but to put it in perspective, try and think of an entirely instrumental album to sell over a million copies. Stumped? That's because due to the nature of pop music, it's difficult if not impossible to do unless you're really, really good. Satriani happens to be that good. Are you a Metallica fan? Have you ever wondered how Kirk Hammett learned to play guitar that well? Satriani taught him.

If you're still not convinced, I'll go into a bit more detail about the album itself. 'Surfing with the Alien' is a nonstop barrage of complex riffs, catchy melodies, and of course, unbelievable solos. There is literally not a weak track on this album, though some admittedly stand out more than others. Which isn't to say that this is a pretentious display of guitar wankery, on par with that of Yngwie Malmsteen, for instance. Satriani shows remarkable range in his songwriting, with straightforward, slightly jazzy rockers like 'Satch Boogie' and the title track, to introspective ballads (if you could refer to instrumentals as ballads) like 'Always with Me, Always with You', and 'Midnight'. 'Circles' is essentially a minute-and-a-half guitar solo with a minute of acoustic work tacked on either end, but the solo itself is so amazing that it doesn't feel like filler.

Satriani employs guitar synthesizers a LOT on this album, to give it a very spacey sound that fits well with the theme. Which isn't to say that this album doesn't rock, because Lord, does it ever.

In short, if you like classic rock virtuoso guitarists such as Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Eddie Van Halen, and are searching for a new shredder to idolize, look no further than Satriani. I recommend this album and his other masterpiece 'Crystal Planet' in the strongest terms possible, but his entire discography has very few missteps if you're willing to take the time to explore it.


The Number Of The Beast [Enhanced]
The Number Of The Beast [Enhanced]
Price: $11.99
87 used & new from $5.49

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beginning of the legend., September 17, 2005
The Number of The Beast is the first of Iron Maiden's 4 consecutive classic releases, and an absolutely essential piece in any metal fan's collection. For those not familiar with the metal genre, this is an excellent place to start, especially if they are familiar with the heavier bands of 70s rock, such as Led Zeppelin, Rush, and the Who.

This album marks long-time singer Bruce Dickinson's debut with the band, and he makes his mark quickly as Maiden pulls away from the punk influence of former vocalist Paul Di'Anno (who was kicked out of the band for his descent into alcoholism), and adopts the style that will make them pioneers in the genre. Steve Harris really steps into his own as a songwriter on this album, as both the lyrics and music become increasingly complex and showcase the instrumental talent of the band on a level that Maiden's two previous albums, while strong in their own right, just never reached.

Of the 9 songs on Number of the Beast, I would say that the only two that would even qualify as mediocre are '22 Acacia Avenue' and 'Gangland'. 'The Prisoner' is based on the TV show of the same name, and features a great chorus by Dickinson and some nice guitar work by both Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. 'Invaders' is in my opinion an underrated gem, featuring a fast, catchy guitar riff that carries the song and goes great with Dickinson's 'air raid siren' vocals. 'Children of the Damned' and 'Total Eclipse' are both worth a listen as well, though I had to listen both several times before I appreciated them.

There are three tracks on Number of the Beast (which, to put it in perspective, is a third of the album) that are considered absolute classics by just about all Maiden fans. The first is the title track. 'The Number of the Beast' is a great piece of music with some classic riffing augmented by Steve Harris's powerful basslines and not one, but two great guitar solos. 'The Number of the Beast' is not, as many believe, a Satanist song. In fact, the song is based on a recurring nightmare had by lead guitarist Adrian Smith of being tortured by the devil. So in a way, the song has the exact opposite message many abscribe to it. Besides, the Rolling Stones had a song about Satan, and it was one of their biggest hits. You don't hear many people calling Mick Jagger a Satanist, do you? Most of the people who accuse Iron Maiden of Satanism or promoting violence get these ideas from their morbid cover art and the total inability to understand satire (for instance, '2 Minutes to Midnight' is not a song about going on killing rampages, but rather an anti-war song).

But I digress. The second classic metal song on this album is 'Run to the Hills', which is about the genocide of the Native Americans during the years of American colonization by the British. This is the first song to use the 'galloping' guitar riff style that is used again in 'The Trooper', from their next album. Bruce's vocals are in full force this time around, with his singing sounding near operatic in its intensity, and Smith and Murray once again put together fantastic dual guitar solos.

The final song on this album, 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' is not only the best song on the album, but in my opinion Iron Maiden's best song altogether, and quite possibly the best rock song ever written. 'Hallowed', a 7-minute epic, features what are easily some of Harris's most cerebral lyrics, about a jailed man waiting to be hanged reflecting on the nature of his life and reality in general. 'Hallowed' features a dazzlingly complex song structure, with Harris's chugging bass once again providing the foundation for an assortment of terrific riffs by Smith and Murray and another exemplary vocal performance by Bruce. Toss in an absolutely jaw-dropping guitar solo by Smith (who truly was born to shred), and you have a song, and an album, that no real, or even casual, metal fan should be without.

For those who liked this album, further recommendations include:

Piece of Mind - Iron Maiden

Powerslave - Iron Maiden

Holy Diver - Dio

Heaven and Hell - Black Sabbath
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