Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dream Theater - S/T (2013)

When a well experienced band is releasing a self titled album, that can only mean one of two things. Either the band has lost all of its inspiration, or it is a mark of a new beginning for the band. And even though Mike Mangini made his debut on the last record, "A Dramatic Turn of Events", he did not contribute in the song writing process and he did not get enough room to show his full potential. So I was very curious of how Dream Theater would approach this album and to see how a big chocolate cake sounds like.

I can instantly say that "Dream Theater" is a bolder piece than its predecessor. "A Dramatic Turn of Events" was a album filled with safe bets so Mangini would feel comfortable in his position. Now that he has some more complex pieces to deal with, he can really show what he is made of, just like the rest of the band. Petrucci's riffs are spot on, Myung's bass lines are groovy, Rudess's keyboard tones are nice and LaBrie sings at his usual level. So the performance is, as usual, superb.

I understand that "Dream Theater" is supposed to be the new starting point for the band, but I cannot help to see that this album could be described as the Dream Theater discography for dummies. We have "The Looking Glass" that reminds me of the band's "worst" album "Falling Into Infinity" (also reminds me of the Canadian trio Rush), the heavy instrumental "Enigma Machine" fits right in "Train of Thought", the epicness of "Surrender To Reason" reminds me of "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory" and the first single, "The Enemy Inside", is a heavier (and better) copy of "On The Backs of Angels" from "A Dramatic Turn of Events". Even with these resemblances, I still see "Dream Theater" as a individual piece in the epic Dream Theater discography, instead of a indirect "best of" album.

One part of the album that I actually think is original is the ballads. Sure, the two songs that are ballads on this album are just like typical Dream Theater ballads, but the quality of them is stepped up a bit. "The Bigger Picture" is actually one of the best ballads the band has ever created. Good lyrics, beautiful melodies and a emotional chorus. Three ingredients that makes a great Dream Theater ballad. The other ballad, "Along For The Ride", is one of the weaker tracks of the album, but I have heard worse ballads made by the band.

Another noticeable thing is that there is only one mastodon song in this album, which is the first time for the band since "Awake". But to compensate the small amount of giant epics, the band made this mastodon over 22 minutes long. The song is called "Illumination Theory" and is the closer of "Dream Theater". It is definitely fitting nicely in the end of the album, but it is pretty uneven on the performance. Some instrumental parts sounds great while others (like the silence in the end) are just weird. I give this mastodon my approval, but it is a proof that just because it is longer, it does not mean that it is better.

"Dream Theater" is far from a masterpiece and with its overall quality, I would put this self titled release somewhere in the middle of the pack against the rest of the discography. Sure, it has some highly enjoyable moments, but it is still a pretty anonymous release without a real clear sense of direction. It is a nice album. No more, no less.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Enemy Inside, The Bigger Picture, Surrender To Reason

Rating: 7,5/10 Illumination Theories

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