Pat Cutty, Staff Writer
Legendary Long Island progressive metal outfit Dream Theater’s latest work is aptly named. For those of you who don’t know, Dream Theater’s founding drummer and de facto mouthpiece Mike Portnoy left the band last year. This, of course, resulted in a lot of mudslinging and drama. Dream Theater kept going and recruited speed demon Mike Mangini as their new tub beater.
And now, we have the new album. To my great surprise (considering the usual effect major lineup changes have on a band) this was an amazing work. This is the freshest piece of progtastic goodness Dream Theater has put out in a very long time. This album breaks away from the heavier direction the band had been going with Portnoy, instead opting to sound more like their 90s works, particularly “Images and Words” and “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory” (though breaking some new ground as well). The production is top-notch on the album, as is Dream Theater’s usual technical mastery and use of multiple rock styles. “On the Backs of Angels” and “Outcry” feature political lyrics and prominently feature the band’s trademark use of multimeter and superb solo work. Many of the tracks are catchier than Dream Theater’s usual: for instance, “Build Me Up, Break Me Down” is reminiscent of a buzz ballad and “Bridges in the Sky” is a song that’s pretty easy to sing in the car with your friends. However, Dream Theater makes this sound good. The two ballads on this album, “Far From Heaven” and “Beneath the Surface” are absolutely beautiful and have excellent, dark lyrics. Overall, the album is highly melodic and very energetic, with the usual amazing instrumental work everyone expects from guitar master John Petrucci, bass guru John Myung, and keyboard/synth wizard Jordan Rudess. Mike Mangini proves himself a technical match for his colleagues and his predecessor. The sole weak point in the band is James LaBrie, whose voice is, to put it kindly, going. However, he doesn’t overextend himself too much on this album and he still sounds amazing in the low registers, particularly when singing the ballads.
All in all, this is an excellent album, with something for everyone. You will find the amazing and unique music that Dream Theater has made themselves known for. New listeners will be amazed, and to you old stalwarts who thought the last two albums didn’t cut the mustard, then you’re in for an excellent surprise.