Fireworks

Dream Theater - 'Dream Theater' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     December 22, 2013    
 
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Several songs here will become staples of the live set for many years to come.

The undisputed leaders of the progressive metal movement successfully circumnavigated the potentially devastating loss of drummer and band leader Mike Portnoy by recruiting the phenomenal Mike Mangini and recording the melodic and well-received 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' in 2011. Two years and a couple of hundred shows later, Mangini is fully integrated alongside his bandmates, and the mood in the camp is such that they had no hesitation in using the band's name as the title of their twelfth studio album. Having spoken to singer James LaBrie and guitarist John Petrucci in the last few weeks, 'Dream Theater' is an album they're obviously very proud of, and rightly so.

Under the watchful eye of producer Petrucci and engineer Rich Chycki (Rush, Aerosmith), the performances of all band members are as good as expected, with LaBrie continuing the more melodic vocal melodies of the last album, keyboardist Jordan Rudess sharing equal billing with Petrucci's expressive guitar work and spider-fingered bassist John Myung enjoying an untypically lofty place in the mix, but with Mangini coming up with his own drum parts for the first time, suffice to say that he isn't outshone by anyone else.

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Stylistically this is a varied collection of tunes, from the orchestral arrangement of instrumental opener 'False Awakenings', which sees the band revisiting several familiar themes, to the complex multi-part epic 'Illumination Theory', which includes some surprisingly normal 'rock' sections, cinematic instrumental moments and a stirring ending reminiscent of 'Finally Free'. The speed/prog of 'Enemy Within' is built upon a Megadeth-style riff, whilst the massive hooks of 'The Looking Glass' and 'Along For The Ride' are augmented by an infectious riff and changes of pace in the former, an accessible chorus and killer synth solo in the latter, and the kind of harmony vocals in both that haven't been heard on a Dream Theater album in quite some time. Other highlights include the emotional and beautifully arranged 'The Bigger Picture', the dazzling instrumental 'Enigma Machine' and the schizophrenic styles and breathtaking guitar and keyboard solos of 'Behind The Veil', whilst 'Surrender To Reason' has some distinctly atypical moments among the superb vocals and alternate heavy and neo-prog sections.

Dream Theater haven't tried to re-invent themselves here, they've concentrated on what they do best and have delivered an album of familiar themes with a new-found enthusiasm and a fine attention to detail. With confidence exuding from every pore, 'Dream Theater' is a consistent statement and several songs here will become staples of the live set for many years to come.

Phil Ashcroft

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