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Dream Theater - Dream Theater CD (album) cover

DREAM THEATER

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.29 | 865 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
2 stars If Dream Theater released a self-titled album 10 years ago, it would be synonymous with excellence in the prog-metal genre. It would erupt with creative instrumental virtuosity; explode with equal parts hooks, riffs, and brain-melting awesomeness.

But it's not 10 years ago. And it seems like it's becoming a tradition of mine to basically just whine about how mediocre one of the best prog-metal acts of all time has become. These days, a self-titled Dream Theater album means three things: generally cookie-cutter song writing, outstanding musicianship made boring by lack of enthusiasm, and vocals and lyrics that fall flat on their face.

"Dream Theater" (the album) is exactly what you expect at this stage in their game. It plays it safe, which isn't always a bad thing, but it certainly isn't going to pull the group out of a nearly decade-long slump of mediocrity.

After listening to this album a few times consecutively, I decided to perform an experiment. I listened to one of my favorite DT songs, "Glass Prison," and counted the number of times I was genuinely stimulated - emotionally, creatively, whatever. I counted 22 times. Then, I listened to this album's opener "Enemy Inside". The count: 4.

Reviews are much more honest when they take an album at its own merits, rather than comparing it directly against something else - but this should give you an idea of the overall feeling of "blah" that "Dream Theater" offers up.

OK, so what do we actually get with "Dream Theater"? The opener is a disjointed and silly instrumental that comes and goes without direction. It's not connected to any of the themes of the album, and is filled with Rudess' now cartoonish sounding keyboards. Off to a bad start.

"Enemy Inside" isn't a bad track; it's bottom-heavy, has nice soloing, hooks, and shows off some energy. Alright!

"The Looking Glass" is the band's now formulaic second-track single. Sort of middle of the road metal that would impress someone unfamiliar with the prog-metal genre. Pretty banal for people reading this review. I much preferred "I Walk Beside You" from Octavarium, which at least let LaBrie sing his heart out.

"Enigma Machine" is fast and heavy instrumental, and probably the best short track on the album, even though it reprises moments from "A Nightmare to Remember." Since we're talking instrumentals, I'll say a few words about Mangini's drumming. Overall, I'm not impressed. He certainly keeps up with the group and delivers a very precise performance, but doesn't have a faction as much personality to his playing as Portnoy. Portnoy, whom I've described as having George Lucas levels of creative douche-bagery, is at least exciting to hear play. Mangini could be a very realistic drum-machine for all I can tell by his lack of character.

"Bigger Picture," a power ballad, is pretty awful. It's trite and poorly written, giving us lyrics like:

Like a moth burned by the fire and driven to the flame (Prophecies' a blessing and a curse) I must bare this cross alone There's no one else to blame

Petrucci lyrics at their most contrived and uncreative. These are typical throughout the album, which by the way, are sung quite blandly by LaBrie.

"Behind the Veil" is basically the point of no return. It, and the following three songs pass by with a wimper of creativity and excitement. The three observations I raised earlier stick with you for about 25 minutes that basically just made me sigh and look at the clock.

The grand finale, "Illumination Theory," is the only reason any one will remember this album. It's sort of a sweeping epic that (surprise!) deals with issues of self-discovery and cartharsis... just like every other extended Dream Theater song (except that one about gay European vampires). It's actually pretty good; there is a lot of variety and compositional complexity. LaBrie actually sings like he still cares about being in the band, and the song's momentum gives us a lot to enjoy.

So a very mixed bag from Dream Theater's 12th album. In looking at my review history of the group, they have a 63% average... a poor score for a band with their impact on the genre. But, an appropriate average considering that's about exactly how I'd rate this group's self-titled release. Not terrible, but definitely not going to impress anyone new to the party.

Now excuse me, I'm going to go back listening to 6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Prog Leviathan | 2/5 |

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