I have to say that Dream Theater's last album A Dramatic Turn Of Events which was also the debut with drummer Mike Mangini always leaves me feeling indifferent, it is a case of enjoying parts instead of the whole package. This time around their new self-titled album doesn't have that same effect and I do find myself enjoying this release more.
Once again we Aussies are fortunate to have the album released early and so I waited till I could hear the actual CD instead of listening to the stream of the album, though I did sample the two songs released earlier and have to say the CD versions do sound better. Like others such as Queensryche recently have done it was an interesting move to name the album Dream Theater, and it speaks volumes about how confident Dream Theater are with the quality of the material they have recorded.
Mike Mangini was presented with the opportunity to contribute much more to this album, being no stranger to complex music Mangini's drumming sounds right at home with Dream Theater. He gels so well with the others, and as his bag of tricks so to speak is larger than many drummers allowing him to unleash some exciting playing and that he does. James LaBrie's sounds impressive and the varied material on Dream Theater allows James to display his range as a vocalist after delivering the goods on his excellent new solo album. Though I do have to say that Dream Theater have never been the band you look at for gripping backup vocals. More certainly wouldn't hurt especially when compared to other progressive acts like Spocks Beard or Shadow Gallery that use them to great effect with such fantastic harmonies. So when they were on the hunt for a new drummer it did cross my mind that it would be cool to select someone who was also strong vocally to add another element.
There are nine songs on Dream Theater and guitarist John Petrucci took the production duties into hand once again and the album was engineered and mixed by Richard Chycki (Rush, Aerosmith). No doubt as with prior Dream Theater releases this album's sound will also be heavily analysed by some of the fans.
"False Awakening Suite" is such a fitting introductory track to the new album reminiscent of the vein of excellent dramatic orchestral/metal arrangements the band Rage have presented us with at times. "The Enemy Inside" was our first glimpse at this new album a song with heavy hooks and that customary Dream Theater flashiness, and maybe it's just to my ears but James does remind me of Dave Mustaine in some of the verses. "The Looking Glass" has inspiration from Rush as Dream Theater show a different side on this upbeat tune which is something I was hoping to hear on this new album. It's simply great to finally see another instrumental on a Dream Theater release and "Enigma Machine" is the title of this one. While "Enigma Machine" doesn't surpass their benchmark "The Dance Of Eternity" this song that sure packs a punch, and allows for that technical showmanship one would anticipate from the likes of four dedicated musicians Petrucci, Mangini, Myung and Rudess.
"The Bigger Picture" has a great chorus that implants itself in your head with ease and another strong solo but would you expect anything less? Once "Behind the Veil" gets animated this track is also the complete package. "Surrender to Reason" is another not to be missed song and it is so welcome to be able to hear John Myung's slick bass work.
"Along for the Ride" may not be a metal track but it is still a powerful song in a different way with enticing solos from both John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess, not to mention James LaBries moving vocals as the emotion he shows just tops this one off. The latest Dream Theater epic "Illumination Theory" is a five parter that comes packed with variation at over twenty two minutes and while yes there are vocals the majority of this song features many gripping instrumental passages, there is also an atmospheric element that's a nice touch before Jordan's keys take over to sweep you away. "Illumination Theory" just gets better and better after multiple listens revealing more musical goodness as everything falls into place. All the bases are covered and the lyrics on this song are quite thought provoking a good example being from the section that is referred to as Surrender, Trust & Passion:
To really feel the joy in life
You must suffer through the pain
When you surrender to the light
You can face the darkest days
If you open up your eyes
And you put your trust in love
On those cold and endless nights
You will never be alone
Passion glows within your heart
Like a furnace burning bright
Until you struggle through the dark
You'll never know the you're alive
There is a welcome freshness about Dream Theater while this is still the Dream Theater that have recorded so many memorable songs throughout the years. It can't be easy creating a new album trying to appease the fans of varying ages when the expectations are set so high, and in 2013 this new release shows that Dream Theater are still doing just fine.
1. False Awakening Suite
2. The Enemy Inside
3. The Looking Glass
4. Enigma Machine
5. The Bigger Picture
6. Behind the Veil
7. Surrender to Reason
8. Along for the Ride
9. Illumination Theory
i. Paradoxe de la Lumière Noire
ii. Live, Die, Kill
iii. The Embracing Circle
iv. The Pursuit of Truth
v. Surrender, Trust & Passion