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Dream Theater: Distance Over Time

After the semi-tepid reaction to Dream Theater's rambling double concept album The Astonishing back in 2016, the band gets back to basics with their latest release Distance Over Time, also their first for SONY imprint InsideOut Records. Now on their fourth release with drummer Mike Mangini, Dream Theater seem focused on a more song-based approach here, even dialing up the 'metal' so to speak, and have delivered their strongest album in years.

Though not quite on the level of 2003's Train of Thought, there are some pretty heavy tunes here on Distance Over Time, and while the bands penchant for complex, jaw dropping musical gymnastics is still present, it's toned down a bit, allowing for the riffs, rhythms, and vocals to take precedence. "Untethered Angel" kicks things off in fine fashion, a barely over 6-minute rocker with some dark chords courtesy of John Petrucci and menacing vocals from James LaBrie, some brief but dazzling guitar & synth solos, and plenty of hooks. Speaking of hooks, the more atmospheric "Paralyzed" is a pretty catchy but dark number, Jordan Rudess laying down some lush keyboards and allowing for Petrucci's blistering lead work to have some space to roam, with Mangini and John Myung pumping out some heavy grooves. "Fall Into the Light" is the first of the albums heavier tunes, a snarling metal thumper with some pure headbanging moments, Mangini really driving this energetic track, while "Barstool Warrior" is pure prog-rock, engaging synth/guitar lines leading up to some turbulent riffing and bright symphonic textures, a real joy that will remind some of Yes as well as Dream Theater's earliest releases. LaBrie is fantastic on this one.

Grinding metal riffs kick in for the start of "Room 137", a lurid tale of death and the afterlife, another of Distance Over Time's meatier tracks, a real heavy song loaded with groove and some vocal passages that will remind of The Beatles. Those wanting to hear more of Myung will find him high in the mix on this one, and Petrucci once again delivers a stunning solo. The bassist again makes his presence known on "S2N", a tune about the perils of social media and the overload of news, as punishing riffs and acrobatic rhythms collide for a blazing musical party, LaBrie lending all sorts of vocal styles to what is one of the strongest tracks here. The string of absolute stunners continue with "At Wit's End", the longest cut here at 9:20, and this one is melodic & progressive Dream Theater at their best, intricate riffing from Petrucci and Rudess' backdrop of synths floating over rock solid rhythms and LaBrie's soaring vocals, the chorus instantly memorable, something we grew to expect from this band but they haven't always delivered in recent years. "Out of Reach" calms things down a bit, Rudess' gentle piano and James' touching vocal providing for some tranquility within the inferno that is the rest of the album, John eventually dropping in a tasty little solo, making this a memorable little ballad on an album packed with fireworks. A very pleasing song. "Pale Blue Dot" is another mini-epic, though short by Dream Theater's standards, ethereal keys giving way to bombastic riffs and acrobatic, proggy synths, the band almost dialing in a sort of 'metallic ELP' sound which really works. Plenty of musical brilliance here, and the guitar crunch is serious, easily making this another album highlight. The CD digipack contains a bonus track in the form of "Viper King", a heavy metal monster that is almost like Pantera gone prog, lethal Petrucci 7 string riffing, synths, massive grooves, and a wailing LaBrie all collide for a hell of a good ride.

Distance Over Time, for me anyway, ranks high among the Mangini era releases, and might be Dream Theater's best album since Octavarium, though A Dramatic Turn of Events and Dream Theater were also quite strong. James LaBrie is singing better than ever, John Myung is uncovered in the mix, Petrucci magnificent as always, Mangini is blazing, and Rudess is his ever completely capable self. More importantly, after the fairly unmemorable and bloated concept album The Astonishing (the only truly weak album in their catalog in my opinion), the band are back with an album full of shorter, more direct songs that bring the emphasis back on the memorable hooks and melodies. Match that up with their still formidable musical chops and you have a recipe for success.

Track Listing
1) Untethered Angel
2) Paralyzed
3) Fall Into the Light
4) Barstool Warrior
5) Room 137
6) S2N
7) At Wit's End
8) Out of Reach
9) Pale Blue Dot
10) Viper King (bonus track)

Added: March 24th 2019
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1532
Language: english

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Dream Theater: Distance Over Time
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2019-03-24 19:36:21
My Score:

Is there a progressive rock band out there that conjures more scrutiny than Dream Theater? I think not. Their last album The Astonishing was one of the most polarizing efforts that any progressive rock band has been subject to and the online banter that album generated was extensive. Sure it wasn’t Images and Words but I gave kudos to the band for trying something new. Perhaps it was a tad bloated but there was still plenty of quality music to dig into. Regardless, it left the progressive music world wondering where the band would go next. Well, the wait is over as their latest disc Distance Over Time dropped about a month back.

This is really a completely different beast than The Astonishing. For one thing it is much less sprawling but still has a running time of about sixty minutes and the instrumental explosiveness the band is known for has not diminished one iota.

The first track “Untethered Angel” sets the disc in motion with an energetic flair that is classic Dream Theater. A mellow and somber guitar intro leads into heavy staccato riffs that enter with a vengeance. The musicianship is fantastic, as we have come to expect with Rudess kicking up a storm on the keys and Petrucci delivering one of his patented eastern flavoured guitar solos. Labrie also sounds excellent carrying the melody in one the band’s more addictive choruses. With “Paralyzed” the guitar riffs again stand out building with power and supplemented with Rudess’ subtle keyboard washes and piano work. There is a slight effect on the vocals, something which Dream Theater has always done well and the music is dense yet clear as a bell with every instrument coming through with a vibrant clarity which points to the great recording quality this album possesses. Another rocking razor-like guitar riff sets “Fall Into The Light” in motion. Myung's bass is more prominent here with Rudess adding some coloured hues in a more restrained fashion. Fear not though as his dazzling chops during the song’s second half heighten the band’s flair for the dramatic. The band’s songwriting is as strong as its been in a long time. On “Barstool Warrior” more fine band interplay is highlighted, the drumming of Mangini is particularly impressive and on top of that the band set one of the best hooks on the album. Fantastic instrumental flair with heavy and mellow sections led by Rudess’ lovely piano and Myung’s fluid bass. Petrucci and Labrie both sound great as this has to be one of the hookiest tracks Dream Theater has ever committed to tape. The heavier metal of “Room 137” is much more intense with thicker riffs and darker tones. Although only a little over four minutes in length the band still lay down some great instrumental bits without sounding over the top. Another fine guitar solo, fancy rhythms and tasty effect laden vocals with a slight robotic inflection can be heard, especially near the end of the track. The instrumental sections in “S2N” are again stunning with a great groove from Mangini and Myung while Petrucci lays down more fine guitar tones along with some lightning fast fretwork. The incredibly tight rhythm antics in “At Wit’s End” and the catchy chorus makes for a nice melding of instrumental fireworks and accessibility. By the way, Myung’s bass is easily heard. Then it’s a full stop allowing for a somber piano break. The riffs crank out again laid over a moody bed of keyboards. “Pale Blue Dot” begins with ethereal keyboards and NASA-like vocal samples followed by a heavy staccato drum beat with riffs to match. The playing is exemplary once again with an extended instrumental section that is truly superb.

I think Distance Over Time is the Dream Theater album many longtime fans of the band have waited for. A fantastic return to form which will certainly be near my top of the list come year’s end. An Inside Out Music release.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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