25 September 2013

Dream Theater - Dream Theater

Find me a time when I last felt like a 10 year old with puppy dog enthusiasm anticipating a new album to be released. Probably about two decades ago, when Queen released Innuendo though then as a seventeen year old I was rather naive and oblivious to the upcoming tragedies that were to befall the act. Moving on with tastes a few years down the line and this act, Dream Theater, from the East Coast  is one of my current and latest loves.

In their element Progressive Metal, The 'Theater are simply peerless. I accept it's a bold claim since I've heard only one album Awake, but on first impressions I was bowled over by its multi-layering of keyboard and guitars, both working well as a team. It's proof that the combinations can be greater than the sum of its parts which brings me nicely on to this latest release. Now at this point I should be telling myself to hang fire to avoid bitter disappointment (just in case), so let's delve straight into this record, released a day after the time of writing. That's how much I wanted to review it.

For DT, this is album number twelve and all five members have had a hand in the creative spawning of their self-titled release although most of the instrumentals were written by guitarist/producer John Petrucci, who's widely recognised as one of the finest around along with keyboardist Jordan Rudess. If there's one thing guaranteed from these guys you're going to be offered a cacophony of various string and digital crystal clear loops but don't expect pyrotechnics to fire in all directions right from the beginning. Its entrance to the foray is rather subtle but still evocative with a brief multi-string number in False Awakening Suite that suggests inspiration from Rick Wakeman. Recently appointed drummer Mike Mangini shows tireless dexterity that earned him the coveted call up to replace Mike Portnoy, but it's in the next instrumental Enigma Machine where he really shows why he's been the world's fastest drummer in five different disciplines.

There's a threat that Mangini's skinswork will preside over the album but thankfully there's so much going on with Petrucci and Rudess duelling frequently with their strings and keys respectively that there's almost very little room left for James LaBrie to utter in the vocals or John Myung's accomplished basslines. The bulk of the material here could be described as epic, however the Myung lyricised Surrender To Reason sounds like the most radio friendly track on Dream Theater and dares to be a standout from the remainder of the record with less layers than usual. However the instrumental on it sounds like the axemen has put a violin across his pickups, a-la Led Zeppelin's Dazed And Confused.

In all, the track listing numbers nine, however the final one Illumination Theory runs for 22 minutes and is divided into five sub sections which nowadays is accepted as the norm in any prog or symphonic metal act. Its introduction is grandiose and kaleidoscpoic before the introduction of the now familiar Petrucci/Rudess team effort with LaBrie filling in the blanks in between until a breather sets ten minutes in, then the same order of dexterity returns to the structure. There's hardly time for pause but like the opening track, it affirms itself in the utmost solid vibe then all seems to come to a philharmonic crescendo with three minutes to spare. Another brief total pause and then John and Jordan carry everything in the last few moments into fade with smooth and reflective tones.

The 'Theater have always set themselves high musical standards and as I suggested earlier, they surely are the finest progressive metal act ever to grace terra firma. So with this new album literally hot off the press, it's difficult to see how they are ever going to be upstaged. One of the most entertaining records I've heard in many a long time (not just saying either) and certainly my contender for album of the year. I promise you it is that good, it makes me feel like seventeen again.

10 out of ten. This is proof there is a God.

Listen to Dream Theater here on Deezer
Click on here for the band's Official Website
Buy the new Dream Theater CD here on Amazon

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