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DREAM THEATER

Progressive Metal • United States


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Dream Theater picture
Dream Theater biography
I. Introduction

II. History
    A. Formation and Early Years (1985-1990)
    B. A New Singer and Success (1990-1993)
    C. The Middle Period and Band Turbulence (1994-1998)
    D. Jordan Rudess and the New Millennium (1999-2006)
    E. The Roadrunner Years and the Departure of Mike Portnoy (2007- )

III. Style, Live reputation, Bootleg Culture, and Conclusion



DREAM THEATER is a progressive metal band formed in 1985 in Boston, Massachusetts by guitarist John PETRUCCI, bassist John MYUNG, and drummer Mike PORTNOY. Since the band's conception, they have become one of the most influential post-1970s progressive rock bands as well as ranking as one of the early progenitors of the entire progressive metal genre.



II. History

A. Formation and Early Years (1985-1990)

Based in a love of the sophistication of YES, the virtuosity of RUSH, and the heaviness of IRON MAIDEN, DREAM THEATER had a desire to create complex, heavy, and progressive from the very beginning. Guitarist and bassist PETRUCCI and MYUNG grew up together on Long Island, New York. After high school, both received scholarships to the esteemed Berklee University of Music, where they met drummer PORTNOY, who, incidentally, grew up in a nearby area. The trio soon became friends and began making music together and settled upon the name MAJESTY. This name came about when PORTNOY described RUSH's song "Bastille Day" as "majestic" as they were waiting outside a Rush concert to open. As the band became more "serious," they went out looking for a keyboardist and vocalist. Eventually the band found PORTNOY's high schoolmate Kevin MOORE to play keys as well as schoolmate Chris COLLINS to sing in 1986. The new 5-piece recorded a 6 song demo titled simply "The Majesty Demos" in 1986 on PORTONY's analog 4-track cassette recorder, making an initial run of 1,000 tapes. The tapes, to the band's surprise sold out relatively quickly, which was aided also by the band's distribution of the tapes to friends, family, local rock and metal magazines.

Only a few months after the release...
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The Astonishing (2CD)The Astonishing (2CD)
Roadrunner Records 2016
Audio CD$3.92
$2.72 (used)
Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a MemoryMetropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory
Elektra 1999
Audio CD$2.80
$0.54 (used)
OctavariumOctavarium
Atlantic 2005
Audio CD$2.85
$0.35 (used)
The Studio Albums 1992-2011The Studio Albums 1992-2011
Box set
Roadrunner 2014
Audio CD$38.70
$39.07 (used)
Images and WordsImages and Words
Atco Records 1992
Audio CD$3.15
$1.69 (used)
Six Degrees of Inner TurbulenceSix Degrees of Inner Turbulence
Wea/Elektra Entertainment 2002
Audio CD$4.92
$1.73 (used)
AwakeAwake
Atlantic 1994
Audio CD$3.15
$1.28 (used)
Dream Theater - Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live with the Octavarium OrchestraDream Theater - Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live with the Octavarium Orchestra
Multiple Formats
Rhino 2006
DVD$9.86
$0.99 (used)
Train Of ThoughtTrain Of Thought
Elektra 2003
Audio CD$3.15
$0.36 (used)
Systematic ChaosSystematic Chaos
Roadrunner Records 2007
Audio CD$3.15
$1.94 (used)
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DREAM THEATER discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

DREAM THEATER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.20 | 1152 ratings
When Dream And Day Unite
1989
4.29 | 2588 ratings
Images And Words
1992
4.11 | 1888 ratings
Awake
1994
3.33 | 1397 ratings
Falling Into Infinity
1997
4.29 | 2649 ratings
Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes From A Memory
1999
4.14 | 1775 ratings
Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence
2002
3.58 | 1652 ratings
Train Of Thought
2003
3.66 | 1847 ratings
Octavarium
2005
3.31 | 1589 ratings
Systematic Chaos
2007
3.43 | 1475 ratings
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
2009
3.85 | 1486 ratings
A Dramatic Turn Of Events
2011
3.31 | 810 ratings
Dream Theater
2013
3.51 | 521 ratings
The Astonishing
2016

DREAM THEATER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.66 | 373 ratings
Live At The Marquee
1993
3.30 | 358 ratings
Once In A Livetime
1998
4.57 | 500 ratings
Live Scenes From New York
2001
4.24 | 444 ratings
Live At Budokan
2004
4.47 | 503 ratings
Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live with the Octavarium Orchestra
2006
3.61 | 76 ratings
Happy Holidays
2013

DREAM THEATER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.19 | 182 ratings
Images And Words - Live In Tokyo
1993
4.36 | 393 ratings
Metropolis 2000: Scenes From New York
2001
3.81 | 186 ratings
Live in Tokyo/5 Years in a Livetime
2004
4.03 | 112 ratings
When Dream And Day Reunite [Official Bootleg]
2004
4.29 | 384 ratings
Live at Budokan
2004
3.55 | 51 ratings
A Walk Beside The Band
2005
4.40 | 407 ratings
Dream Theater - Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live with the Octavarium Orchestra
2006
3.90 | 141 ratings
Dark Side Of The Moon
2006
4.00 | 77 ratings
Bucharest, Romania 7/4/02
2007
3.43 | 218 ratings
Chaos In Motion 2007/2008
2008
2.39 | 75 ratings
Greatest Hit (...and 5 Other Pretty Cool Videos)
2008
3.58 | 48 ratings
Live at Tokyo Sun Plaza
2009
4.10 | 129 ratings
Live at Luna Park
2013
4.44 | 105 ratings
Breaking The Fourth Wall (Live From The Boston Opera House)
2014

DREAM THEATER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.14 | 175 ratings
Greatest Hit (...and 21 other pretty cool songs)
2008
3.96 | 42 ratings
Original Album Series
2011

DREAM THEATER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.96 | 34 ratings
Afterlife
1989
3.27 | 33 ratings
Status Seeker
1989
2.86 | 25 ratings
The ATCO Demos
1991
2.89 | 58 ratings
Another Day
1992
3.62 | 52 ratings
Pull Me Under
1992
2.89 | 43 ratings
Caught In A Web
1994
3.75 | 54 ratings
The Silent Man
1994
3.04 | 54 ratings
Lie
1994
3.67 | 619 ratings
A Change Of Seasons
1995
3.16 | 59 ratings
Hollow Years
1997
3.83 | 34 ratings
Once In A LIVEtime Outtakes (International Fan Club CD 1998)
1998
3.08 | 58 ratings
Cleaning Out The Closet
1999
3.19 | 65 ratings
Through Her Eyes
2000
2.07 | 33 ratings
Christmas 2000 Fan Club CD
2000
1.92 | 33 ratings
4 degrees of Radio edits
2002
3.29 | 21 ratings
When Demos and Singles Unite
2002
3.02 | 40 ratings
Taste The Memories
2003
2.94 | 32 ratings
Graspop Festival 2002 (International Fanclub CD 2003)
2003
3.19 | 44 ratings
The Making Of Scenes From A Memory
2003
2.81 | 99 ratings
The Number Of The Beast
2003
1.93 | 107 ratings
Master Of Puppets
2003
2.68 | 33 ratings
Los Angeles, California 5/18/98
2003
3.28 | 36 ratings
Tokyo, Japan 10/28/95
2003
3.04 | 46 ratings
The Majesty Demos 1985 - 1986 [Official bootleg]
2003
3.71 | 30 ratings
A Sort Of Homecoming
2004
3.31 | 36 ratings
Images and Words: Demos 1989 - 1991 [Official Bootleg]
2004
3.78 | 65 ratings
When Dream And Day Reunite
2004
2.86 | 28 ratings
When Dream And Day Unite Demos 1987-1989
2004
3.34 | 123 ratings
Dark Side Of The Moon
2006
2.50 | 36 ratings
Awake Demos
2006
3.12 | 32 ratings
Old Bridge, New JERSEY - 12/14/96
2006
3.36 | 64 ratings
Made in Japan [Official Bootleg]
2006
3.43 | 37 ratings
Images and Words - 15th Anniversary Performance (Fan Club CD 2007)
2007
4.13 | 71 ratings
Falling Into Infinity: Demos 1996-1997 [Official Bootleg]
2007
3.13 | 41 ratings
Constant Motion
2007
3.62 | 40 ratings
New York City 3/4/93
2007
3.65 | 17 ratings
Progressive Nation 2008 - The International Fan Clubs CD 2008
2008
2.49 | 58 ratings
Forsaken
2008
2.59 | 72 ratings
A Rite of Passage
2009
3.10 | 76 ratings
Stargazer
2009
3.38 | 71 ratings
Tenement Funster/Flick Of The Wrist/Lily Of The Valley
2009
3.67 | 56 ratings
Odyssey
2009
3.51 | 52 ratings
Take Your Fingers From My Hair
2009
3.23 | 70 ratings
Larks Tongues In Aspic, Pt. 2
2009
3.22 | 79 ratings
Wither
2009
3.10 | 44 ratings
Uncovered 2003-2005
2009
2.54 | 28 ratings
The Making of Falling Into Infinity
2009
2.84 | 28 ratings
Train of Thought Instrumental Demos 2003
2009
3.56 | 116 ratings
On the Backs of Angels
2011
3.16 | 74 ratings
The Enemy Inside
2013
4.11 | 27 ratings
Illumination Theory
2014

DREAM THEATER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes From A Memory by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.29 | 2649 ratings

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Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes From A Memory
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars THE concept album of the 90's

4.5 stars

After the commercial failure of "Falling into Infinity", DREAM THEATER had to to pull off a major coup to keep their progressive metal crown. Furthermore, the band was lacking a genuine concept album to their discography to enter the prog hall of fame. Finally, fans were requesting a sequel to "Metropolis Part 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper", the most ambitious title from "Images and Words".

All these goals will fully be reached with the sublime "Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes from a memory". This fifth studio opus also marks the arrival of keyboardist Jordan Rudess from LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT. Based on an instrumental demo recorded in 1996, the musicians extended the lyrics of "Metropolis Part 1" to narrate the story of a man though his anterior life, in two acts.

Influenced by the greatest concept records of all time, such as RUSH's, ZAPPA's, YES', GENESIS' "The Lamb...", and especially QUEENSR?CHE's "Operation Mindcrime" and PINK FLOYD's "The Wall", "Metropolis Part 2" literally redefines modern progressive metal and simply stands as THE major concept album of the 90's. The quintet's musical elements such as multiple time signatures, raging riffs, breathtaking soli and typical gimmicks are of course present, however this time with more harmony, balance, richer instrumentation and better flow. Gorgeous!

Act 1 is nearly perfect. The hypnotic countdown of "Regression" and its "The Wall-esque" acoustic guitar introduces "Overture 1928", an instrumental patchwork of the disc's main themes. The nightmarish and aggressive "Strange Deja Vu" is freaking good. Its rhythm changes are energetic and even a little groovy at times. The sad piano interlude "Through My Words" unveils another impressive composition, the powerful and beautiful "Fatal Tragedy". Its horrific atmosphere and multiple instruments create a tragic and thrilling sensation, carried away by magnificent soli. Wow! Great! Also featuring various musicians' interventions, "Beyond This Life" alternates raging darker, floating and funky sections. Unfortunately, the act finishes with the black sheep of the album, which is... a soapy ballad, "Through Her Eyes", the only weak track. Guess we cannot avoid this type of cheesy song in a DREAM THEATER release... At least, its "The Final Cut"-esque introduction is pretty charming.

Act 2 starts with the longest and most progressive title of the record, "Home". Let's go straight to the point: this is simply one of the best prog Middle-Eastern-ish metal piece of its kind, bombastic and epic! This composition represents the style and quality of music you would expect by looking at the cover art of, say, you-know-who's "Powerslave". The theme from "Metroplis Part 1" makes a short incursion. The instrumental "The Dance Of Eternity" possesses a terrifying and haunting overture, as well as surprising moments, such as rag-time, while borrowing some parts from "Metroplis Part 1". We even got a bass solo from John Myung! Yes! After its beautiful piano opening, the enchanting "One Last Time" reuses the theme from "Strange Deja Vu", whereas "The Spirit Carries On" is quite "The Wall"-esque with its Roger Waters-ian whispered vocals and female choirs. "Finally Free" concludes the disc by alternating peaceful and tragic passages. Enjoyable but a bit too long.

Anyway, this was a genuine mesmerizing journey, both nightmarish and dreamy. "Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes from a memory" is DREAM THEATER's magnum opus, transporting you into another - inner - world. Mindblowing, breathtaking, magic, epic, borrowing from numerous influences and various musical genres, this fifth studio album is simply a milestone in the prog metal genre. In the 90's, there are hardly no concept albums that could compete with such musicality, aggressiveness and virtuosity.

The success will be comparable to "Images And Words"'s and will launch the musicians for a massive tour. The quintet's reign can safely continue... Unfortunately their further albums won't be able to recreate a mixture of such balance and quality...

Simply one of DREAM THEATER's and progressive metal in general's best offerings! An ESSENTIAL listen...

 Live At The Marquee by DREAM THEATER album cover Live, 1993
3.66 | 373 ratings

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Live At The Marquee
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Short but good

This album represents for me the first time I heard of DREAM THEATER. Recorded at the Marquee Club in London in 1993, the concert was part of a huge tour following the unexpected success of "Images and Words". (Almost) cleverly thought, the set-list simply consists in 2 emblematic progressive metal titles from their first and second albums, 1 new improvisation and... unfortunately 1 soapy song, "Another Day" or "Surrounded", depending on your version... Choose your sleeping pill. Nevertheless, despite the 45 minutes duration, the quality is present.

The live renditions of "Pull Me Under" and "Metropolis" touch perfection. If you want me to nitpick, I will just mention the very low volume of John Myung's bass solo. A problem of microphone? "Bombay Vindaloo" is an instrumental jam led by John Petrucci, where he displays his virtuosity. This improvisation offers a nice Middle-Eastern-ish mysterious ambiance, although a bit too long. Only appearing on this disc, there exist no other studio or live versions of this track.

However, for the fan, the main interest of this record are undoubtedly "A Fortune In Lies" and "The Killing Hand". Finally, two songs from "When Dream and Day Unite" where James LaBrie replaces Charles Dominici! LaBrie's high- pitched and raging vocals does the justice that these great compositions deserve, making them more aggressive than the originals. His performance, especially on these tracks, is incredible! There is also an alternate opening for "The Killing Hand". Entitled "Another Hand", this enjoyable neo-proggy instrumental was written during the tour to bring a smoother transition to the end of "Another Day".

"Live at the Marquee" is simply THE old-school DREAM THEATER live album to own, as well as a good introduction to the band's first era. After the listen, a hopeless and futile idea germinates in your mind: maybe one day the band will re-record "When Dream and Day Unite" with James LaBrie...

 Awake by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.11 | 1888 ratings

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Awake
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

2 stars When Dream and Technique disunite

After the unexpected success of the enchanting "Images and Words", and especially the hit-single "Pull Me Under", DREAM THEATER were urged by their music label to release a new album, more aggressive, certainly because of the recent grunge explosion. And that's exactly the main issue with "Awake": under pressure, the musicians didn't have the required latitude to fully imagine and develop their compositions. So the tracks are cold, darker, complex, maybe more modern, but without a proper soul. Those expecting the magic and fantasy of their two first albums may be disappointed. No problem with that, every band can - and must - evolve, but this time the virtuosity nearly fails at serving a real cause or crafting a captivating atmosphere. As you understand, I was mostly deceived by this third studio album.

However, there are some titles that caught my attention. "Erotomania" is easily one of DT's most breathtaking instrumentals. The musicianship is unbelievable, and this track features an incalculable number changes and ambiances! Great! My favorite song of the record is the multi-faces "Voices", alternating calm, floating and raging passages with cool sound effects. The middle part is an iced beauty... Concerning the average titles, "Caught in a Web" and "Scarred" reminds me, at times, the vanished magic of the former discs. "Space-Dye Vest" has also touching moments.

The rest of the disc fails at catching my attention and at really transporting me to another world. Furthermore, the somber and modern musical direction of "Awake" does unfortunately not spare us a few moments of soapiness: "Innocence Faded", "The Silent Man", "Lifting Shadows Off A Dream"...

"Awake" is definitely not my DREAM THEATER favorite, but will allow the band to confirm its leadership in the progressive metal sphere. Too long, too complex, too cold, lacking memorable melodies, this opus is an example where the means - the virtuosity of the musicians - is used as an end, and not to an end. Nonetheless, the band members shouldn't be blamed, they were pressurized by their record label, which is in complete opposition to their style of music, requiring to "Take The Time" to give birth to. As a result, internal dissensions will appear within the group, and keyboardist Kevin Moore will left the ship. Therefore, "Awake" marks the end of the first era of DREAM THEATER.

"Awake" still remains a technical demonstration and a mandatory listen for fans. The newcomers won't find it very accessible, although there are a few interesting tracks that shouldn't be missed. Not the DT album to start with.

 Train of Thought Instrumental Demos 2003 by DREAM THEATER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2009
2.84 | 28 ratings

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Train of Thought Instrumental Demos 2003
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by martindavey87

2 stars What we have here is the perfect example of why the official bootlegs line was created in the first place. Average demos of an amazing album. Mike Portnoy's OCD of recording and documenting everything and hey, people will pay money for it, why not release it?!

It's easy to tell that drummer Mike Portnoy and guitarist John Petrucci were producing this, as they're most certainly louder than everything else. In particular, poor Jordan Rudess' keyboards are barely audible. Still, I guess I'd be clutching at straws if I said it's an interesting look at the development of a Dream Theater album.

Different arrangements, sloppy guitar solos (blasphemy!), a few mistakes from Jordan Rudess (impossible!)... It's not that this is a bad release, it's just that you really shouldn't own something like this unless you're a die-hard Dream Theater fan. Otherwise, just get the actual 'Train of Thought' release... duh!

And 'Train of Thought' is a damn brilliant album! So yeah... get that instead!

 When Dream And Day Unite by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.20 | 1152 ratings

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When Dream And Day Unite
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by martindavey87

4 stars Quietly unleashed upon the world in 1989 to approximately no fanfare, radio airplay or any kind of recognition, 'When Dream and Day Unite', the debut album of progressive metal band Dream Theater, was the birth of a legend that approximately nobody saw coming.

It's a debut that has garnered mixed reactions since its release, despite the bands later successes. Personally, I think this is an incredible effort with some fantastic compositions, especially for such a young band. The band clearly know who their influences are, and hold no gripes against showing it, as there are definitely similarities here to bands such as Iron Maiden, Queensryche and most notably, Rush.

Vocalist Charlie Dominici, making his only appearance on a studio album, has always been a common complaint of fans. His pop-inspired singing grating to some, I think his voice has a very majestic tone to it that perfectly fits the raw sound of this album, especially when accompanied by Kevin Moore's 80's sounding keyboards. As for the others, guitarist John Petrucci, drummer Mike Portnoy and John Myung are all serious musicians (having met at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston), who are only just starting their incredible journeys to becoming some of the most revered and respected musicians in the world.

Another strong point of this album of "young" musicians is the lyrics, which contain some of the most random and yet, well thought-out passages I've ever heard. Especially on the track 'Only a Matter of Time'. Other gems worth checking out are 'A Fortune in Lies', 'The Killing Hand' and 'Light Fuse and Get Away'.

An incredible debut. Not as polished as 'Images and Words' and lacking the production values of 'Scenes from a Memory', but strip away any faults and there are some truly great songs here.

 Images And Words by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 1992
4.29 | 2588 ratings

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Images And Words
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Heavy neo-progressive metal at its best

After the embryonic prog-metal of the 70's and 80's, "Images and Words" will definitely establish the genre in the musical landscape, as well as DREAM THEATER as its undisputed leader.. for a certain time. Sincere progress have been made since "When Dream and Day Unite". Singer Charlie Dominici has been replaced by James LaBrie, whose powerful voice is more adapted to heavy titles. In their compositions, the members have sharpened their virtuosity and their rhythm structures science, inspired by RUSH, METALLICA, QUEENSR?CHE, MARILLION, and even ZAPPA, whose Mike Portnoy is big fan of. The production has also improved and the sound is clearer. Everything is not perfect though: DREAM THEATER offers quite soapy moments here, but its fantasy, soli and breaks are greater than before!

This second opus was initially intended as a double album, with the 25 minutes suite "A Change Of Seasons" included. However, the label imposed a single LP, resulting in the removal of various songs, and the re-recording of "ACOS", who will be released in 1995 on the eponymous EP.

The opener instantly became one of the band's great success. The cult and powerful "Pull Me Under" is a heavy title with an haunting introduction, fact-paced and calm passages, as well as an abrupt conclusion that always surprises me. Like I suppose many people, I thought my CD was broken at first listen. In fact, the musicians wanted to show death could arrive at any time... Not the most complex composition from DT, nevertheless very catchy. One of the band's classic! But the listener will have an even greater shock listening to the next track... What's this? The ballad "Another Day" simply features DT at its soapiest! A soundtrack for a cheesy eighties romantic clip, with its FM piano and saxophone. Easily the worst song of the record. "Take The Time" fortunately takes us back to a world of fantasy and dreamy metal with its gorgeous neo-heavy-prog passages, changing into groovy and funky rhythms. A lesser- known but nonetheless perfect title! Then comes the second and last black sheep of the album, "Surrounded". Another boring and out-of-place ballad, however this time more listenable than "Another Day", a bit in the style of MARILLION.

Don't worry, the second half of the disc can be browsed with serenity. In 1992, "Metropolis Part 1" was one of DREAM THEATER's most ambitious composition. An enchanting and epic tale, including numerous rhythm changes, various sonorities, catchy moments and breaks where RUSH and ZAPPA influences can be clearly perceived. It also features very short but incredible bass play from John Myung. Take the time to enjoy it, his solo interventions will unfortunately rarefy in the future... Anyway, a superb track! With "Take Your Time", "Under A Glass Moon" is "Images and Words"'s other forgotten little gem. Its majestic and floating opening unveils raging riffs and a fast- paced tune, but still with a neo-prog touch. Less breathtaking than its predecessor, nonetheless includes a few surprises and cool soli. "Wait For Sleep" is a short fairytale ballad, however this time much pleasant than the two others, introducing the longest and also maybe the heaviest song of the album, "Learning To Live". In the lineage of "Metropolis Part 1", this powerful epic displays assumed RUSH influences, with numerous ambiances and various interventions. The finale is simply heroic! Great!

"Images and words" is definitely one of DREAM THEATER's best opus, as well as an influential milestone in the progressive metal genre. This second effort show a genuine improvement compared to their debut, with better sound quality, more mature writing, more variations and better vocals.

A small remark though: this is no dark, depressive or aggressive prog-metal per se, rather fantasy / dreamy heavy neo-prog metal. The music is full of dated vintage synthesizer sounds, reminding MARILLION and SAGA, but that's what makes its own charm and contributes to the magical ambiance. Why two cheesy romantic titles among these colorful metallic epics full of gorgeous soli? I don't know... My advice: program your hi-fi to skip tracks 2 and 4. The rest is just flawless.

An essential listen for any progressive metal fan, and the one to start with if you're new to this genre or to DREAM THEATER. What are you waiting for?

 The Astonishing by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.51 | 521 ratings

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The Astonishing
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Corcoranw687

3 stars In the weeks after purchasing this album upon release, I remember reading some very negative reviews from a number of reputable sources. At the time I was surprised because I was enjoying the album so much. After about a year and many listens, I can understand the frustration with this album. It's very long, ballad-heavy, relies on a ridiculous concept and has some of the cheesiest lyrics ever from Dream Theater. That said, I played it just last night and enjoyed every minute. You've really got to be in the mood for a long silly epic, but a listen through the whole way is very cool. The best part is the very beginning, "Dystopian Overture" and "The Gift Of Music" are certainly my favorites and probably my favourite start to a Dream Theater album. The playing on the whole album is very strong and Jordan Rudess in particular gets to show enormous range. James LaBrie tries to sing from the perspective of every character, and he does a very good job with it all, but I wish he would have gone along with Petrucci's idea to bring in a female vocalist. It would have added some texture to the vocal performance, as shown in the single for "Our New World" featuring Lizzy Hale.

I still like this album a lot but I get why it received such mixed reviews upon release. This was a bit overboard and I often wonder if the ideas found here had been arranged in a bit more of a traditional Dream Theater style, would people have a different opinion now?

 The Astonishing by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.51 | 521 ratings

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The Astonishing
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'The Astonishing' - Dream Theater (59/100)

My relationship with Dream Theater reminds me a lot of the saddest scenes from the Toy Story movies. I still remember the day, over half a lifetime ago (!!!) that my first copy of Scenes from a Memory came in the mail. The package hadn't come a moment too soon, arriving on the day of my elementary school's graduation ceremony, a triviality I happily skipped in order to free up precious hours I could spend with the album. Even as a child I quickly developed strong opinions towards each of Dream Theater's other albums as I heard them. Images & Words and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence stirred me almost as much as SFAM, while I was left hanging dry by Awake and Train of Thought. Even if I wasn't always sold all the time by Dream Theater, alongside Led Zeppelin and Yngwie Malmsteen they were arguably the biggest musical influences on me before turning 12.

Like Toy Story however, the enthusiasm wasn't permanent. It's never that I bought into the popular opinion that Dream Theater are "wankers", nor did the heavyhanded cheese wear on me. I wouldn't even say I necessarily grew out of them; rather, it was just a case of gradually opening myself to more extreme and fascinating sounds. Like childhood toys, they quietly faded into memory. However, even as bands like Opeth and later Deathspell Omega and Blut aus Nord expanded my vision of what progressive metal could be, I never lost a love for them. Whenever I heard of a new album coming out, I would light up with excitement. I would feel like a kid again. I defended Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds & Silver Linings from less enthusiastic fans, and shared the joy when they returned to roots on A Dramatic Turn of Events.

It wasn't until 2013 when my opinion finally took a sour turn. Their self-titled album was the first time I felt they had released a piece of dog[&*!#]. Even if a few songs on it shined, it was finally enough to convince me that Dream Theater was finished as a creative act. Slogs like "Illumination Theory" were enough to sap my anticipation for future records. That's a good part of the reason why I'm reviewing The Astonishing in early October, as opposed to January when it was released. Is it possible to feel reinvigorated and simultaneously let down by a band with a single album? In most cases I'd say the answer is no, but when a consummate "has been" band tries to pull out all the stops, supposedly creating the most ambitious work of their career, strange things are bound to happen.

On the one hand, I'm happy that Dream Theater have reclaimed some of their energy they most certainly lacked in 2013. Some of the best prog instrumentation they've put out in years is here. James LaBrie hasn't sounded this powerful as a vocalist arguably since Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Even its mere stance as a concept album implies they're trying to make another Scenes from a Memory. There's some of the liveliest music I've heard from Dream Theater in a long, long time. On the other hand, they've somehow managed to lop off the buzz with a mind-numbing amount of filler and the most clichéd, idiotic and self-absorbed concept I've ever seen set to music. I guess hearing quality Dream Theater material without having to wade in [&*!#] would have been too simple, and not "progressive" enough for them, right?

I know The Astonishing is hammy and self-involved from start to finish; I can't help but love certain things about it however. At its very best, it comes across as a spry continuation of the bright prog they revived on A Dramatic Turn of Events, blown up considerably with symphonic orchestration and sprawling structure. Ignore the lyrics to "The Gift of Music" and "A New Beginning" for a second, and focus on what they're doing with the music. The busy interplay and effortless finesse is nothing new for them, but it can certainly feel that way in light of their last album. A lot of Dream Theater's detractors brush them off on the charge of wankery, but that polished technicality is easily the most exciting thing about them here. I don't think it's ever been the amount of notes that Dream Theater plays that have set many listeners against them; it's the way they fall short when they opt for other approaches.

Lamentably, The Astonishing is pretty chock-full of these "other approaches". Even if it's easily the most bombastic album these guys have ever put out, it's also probably the softest album note-for-note. The technical prog-outs are as impressive as ever, but their ballads post-Kevin Moore have always been hit-or-miss. Many of the 34 tracks take the shape of piano interludes and lilting vocals. Don't you get it? Dream Theater aren't trying to be badass here, they're trying to make you feel your feelings! Not that I haven't been struck emotionally by DT in the past, but whenever they did so, it was an authentic by-product of the band capitalizing on their strengths. Here, you can tell they set out specifically to tug on your heartstrings. Given the album's faux-dystopian concept revolves around the spiritual power of music I suppose it makes sense, but the dry kind of hammy superemotion expressed here almost serves to work against that thesis.

The biggest standout talent this time around is easily James LaBrie. Surprisingly, a lot of fans seem to agree. I've always loved his voice (despite understanding why others do not) but he sounds particularly passionate and confident as a vocalist. His stepping up to the plate could not have happened on a more fitting album. The Astonishing is a very vocal-driven album. I don't think there's any salvation for the plot or lyrics, but for what it's worth, the melodies and performance almost make the whole thing work. It's all the more impressive to hear James adopt different voices for each of the personae in this story. This ability to characterize his voice is something any fan who has heard their covers knows full well, and it's refreshing to hear this talent put to use on original material.

Although Dream Theater have given their detractors plenty of extra justification to hate them with this album, I'd honestly say a lot of the music is solid. A near-hour of this stuff could have been cut and the album would be no worse for well, but I get that they weren't trying to make a normal album with The Astonishing, and I can respect it as such. The only unforgivable aspect here are the lyrics and general concept. Falling somewhere between a mindless ape of 2112 and terrible Young Adult dystopian fiction, The Astonishing supposedly tells the story of an evil empire and a band of rebels who resist them using, uh, music? I get the basic idea they're digging up here, but I couldn't help but think of a battle where soldiers are popping up from trenches and shooting at other with riffs. Okay, so music enlivens the spirit, and creates e-m-o-t-i-o-n. Evil empires don't like emotion, apparently. I guess Dream Theater wanted to make a soundtrack to the film Equilibrium, instead where they take out all of the cool martial arts gunplay and replace it with [%*!#]ing piano ballads. That's nothing to say about the moronic cast of characters. A rebellious girl named Faythe? An evil leader called Nefaryus? Pour a load of venomous earwigs into my hearing holes and end me now.

There are times where it reads like very bad Star Wars fanfiction, and even then that is giving it too much credit. I have a soft spot for self-absorbed rock opera concepts (see: Ayreon, Rhapsody of Fire) but The Astonishing sounds like a corporate-sponsored amalgamation of all the most predictable tropes coming together into a single, amorphous [&*!#]pile of irrelevance. Insult is added to injury when you consider how great the conceptual angle has worked out for them in the past. Scenes from a Memory is arguably my favourite album concept ever, where clever lyrics unfolded a mindbending concept that still leaves me in awe. So it took them less than two decades to shed that brilliance completely in favour of a microwaved casserole 2112? Lyrics aren't everything, to be sure, but with the weight the album's marketing placed on the hokey concept, it's almost unbelievable they allowed something like this to mar otherwise solid music.

It's incredibly easy to criticize The Astonishing. Dream Theater haters could have a field day with this one like none other in the past. My job of reviewing this album would be a tad simpler if I could simply dislike it. But when you look past the trite concept, the filler interludes and ballad material, the saccharine bombast and ridiculous length (and it is possible to look past all of that, sort of) there's some of Dream Theater's most exciting material in a long time waiting. Of course, all but the band's biggest fans won't have the patience to get to the good stuff. Maybe in a few years they can release a "Greatest Hits from The Astonishing" EP and call it a day?

 When Dream And Day Unite by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.20 | 1152 ratings

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When Dream And Day Unite
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars The debut album WHEN DREAM AND DAY UNITE seems to have been a much hated album since the beginning by the now much worshipped progressive metal band DREAM THEATER that emerged from the primeval metal ooze all the way back in 1985 when the three long term members John Petrucci, John Myung and Mike Portney were all students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA and formed a band under the name Majesty. Under that moniker they managed to release one demo before being sued by another band of the same name and ultimately changed it to the name of a movie THEATER in Portney's hometown. The three founding members started out covering Rush and Iron Maiden songs and it's no surprise when you hear this debut album. The title WHEN DREAM AND DAY UNITE actually was lifted from the song "Bastille Day" from Rush. After many auditions for lead singers, the band settled on Charlie Dominici who at times nails the Geddy Lee vocal thing which IMHO is no easy feat and certainly uncommon.

Fast forward to 1989 and the band known as DREAM THEATER released their debut album. It's pretty amazing but after only a few years of throwing all the musical ingredients into their magic musical cauldron, this band actually started sounding like a distinct entity within the musical universe although there is certainly no hiding where all the influences came from. Rush and Iron Maiden are the biggies, but there are many traces of the progressive metal bands emerging from the 80s including Fates Warning and Queensryche but what really separates DREAM THEATER from the pack is their inclusion of symphonic prog keyboards that add a whole new dimension to the big bang of progressive metal of the era. Not so much Rick Wakeman inspired but actually more like a neo-prog band like Arena or IQ where the keys add a background atmospheric development to the mix with occasional outbursts of virtuosic wankery. Portney and Petrucci also display total mastery of their respective instruments on this one as well.

I really don't understand why this album gets the flack that it does. Yeah it's a raw and somewhat archetypal for the band's future sound that would admittedly only gain power and focus to create albums much more magnificent and magnanimous than this one but nevertheless is filled to the brim with all kinds of metal rawness and hard driving energy that make debut albums of top notch bands like DREAM THEATER so much fun! Already on board this release are signs of completely distilled musical masterpieces such as on the all instrumental mind bleep "The Ytse Jam" where not only do the members display full command of their technical chops but we also hear the songwriting brilliance on tracks like "The Killing Hand" which deftly blends technicality and songwriting prowess and "Afterlife" which already blends addictive melodies with the top notch progressive metal chops of the day. True that Dominici might cop too much of a Geddy Lee worship complex and the other influences hadn't quite simmered down into the proper cohesiveness of the future albums but i am constantly amazed at how well the band pulled things off on this album and find it more than a thrilling album to revisit time and time again. The music on this one is a lot more aggressive and rooted in heavy metal but it still displays amazing progressive time sig workouts in full regalia.

Yeah, i know. It's that horrific album cover right? It's one of those WTF were they thinking moments in metal history. Nothing against pretty dude on the cover but all i know is that if i was about to be branded like a bovine in a stable i'd probably have a more emotional response on my face. DREAM THEATER really should offer an alternative album cover for re-releases of this album but don't let the horrible album cover scare you away. This music offers a complex array of many musical styles perfectly blended together in a very listenable way. The production may not be as good as it should have been considering there were like four guys in on it and in the end this album has a lot of prototype elements that were much better done on "Images And Words" as well as albums beyond, but damn if i don't find this a brilliant blueprint or rough draft of what would fully ferment in the next few years to become one of the progressive music's knights in shining armor to rescue the genre from the ever stagnating glam metal scene. Woefully underrated. Close your eyes, ignore the album cover, listen to the music! It's excellent!

 The Astonishing by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.51 | 521 ratings

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The Astonishing
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Rune2000
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Dream Theater breaks their two year per album cycle to deliver us some high concept art. Too bad it's not nearly as good as the band seems to think that it is...

After the breakup with Mike Portnoy the band have so far released one great album with A Dramatic Turn Of Events, one bad album with their 2013 self-titled release and one average album - The Astonishing. I do respect Dream Theater for going all in with their their concept and thus giving their fans more than just another DT-release, but The Astonishing exposes one of the band's biggest weaknesses; they simply can't write lyrical content. This becomes even more obvious when they have to write a concept album and the story makes more damage to the album than good.

Before going it to the lyrical content, let me be clear that I do enjoy this album's music. The album would probably be a great single disc release if the band removed some of the unnecessary narrative moments, backed up only by a piano, and made more of the tracks instrumental. But since this album is meant to be experienced as a concept album with an accompanying story that the listener can indulge in, there's just no way for me to overlook the lyrics.

I would summarize my biggest problem with the lyrics by simple stating that they leave little for the imagination. Everything is watered down and extremely simplified thus leaving me with a feeling of dissatisfaction as if the band could have done so much more with the concept and the characters. Here are some of my spontaneous suggestions for improving the storyline (possible spoilers ahead):

1. Skip the cliché character descriptions and their motivations - You're not making yourself any favors by creating one dimensional characters that are only there to move the plot. Either skip the whole description of the characters and make the listener create their own background stories for them or go all in and indulge into the characters.

2. More focus on the Nomacs storyline - Human characters are obviously in the center because the story is about their feelings and not about the cold machines. But why did the band put so much effort in creating the Nomacs and used them prolifically in the imagery when they have nothing to do with the actual story? If you want to go all in on the fantasy/sci-fi genre then why not create a story where the Nomacs where created by the humans but eventually overtook control of the human minds? Or how about a story where the Nomacs where actually built by an alien race in order to control the humans by removing the feelings (ie Nineteen Eighty-Four)?

3. Skip the whole Romeo & Juliet ending - it's an overused plot that creates tension and tragedy but feels cheap and uncreative.

4. Skip plot details that go nowhere - Usually when a new element is introduced to the story it is done in order to make them significant later on. The Astonishing throws us a bunch of small details that just lead nowhere and are abandoned as soon as they are mentioned.

5. Be more consequential with the magnitude of Gabriel's gift - We learn that Gabriel has the gift of healing but it only seems to work for plot convenience. At least write a line and mention why he manages to heal one character and not the other.

6. Create a closure for the X story arc - the character seems to be completely wasted with no real purpose to his existence in the story. At least write a passage or two about him at the end of the story in order to create some sort of closure.

I don't blame Dream Theater for trying but they should have someone on their camp who could have at least given them some constructive criticism on the written word. Why not try a collaboration with a published fantasy writer where the band collaborates on the lyrics with an outside party or write lyrics for an established fantasy story? The music on the album is pure Dream Theater so it's pretty decent but the lyrics are poor thus if you are able to overlook the latter The Astonishing is a good, but non-essential effort from the band.

***** star songs: Dystopian Overture (4:51) Act Of Faythe (5:01) Brother, Can You Hear Me? (5:11) The Road To Revolution (3:35)

**** star songs: The Answer (1:53) A Better Life (4:39) Lord Nafaryus (3:28) When Your Time Has Come (4:19) Ravenskill (6:01) A New Beginning (7:41) 2285 Entr'acte (2:20) Moment Of Betrayal (6:12) Begin Again (3:54) The Path That Divides (5:10) My Last Farewell (3:44) Losing Faythe (4:13) Whispers On The Wind (1:37) Hymn Of A Thousand Voices (3:39) Our New World (4:25) Astonishing (5:51)

*** star songs: The Gift Of Music (4:00) A Savior In The Square (4:14) Three Days (3:44) A Life Left Behind (5:49) Chosen (4:32) A Tempting Offer (4:20) The X Aspect (4:13) Heaven's Cove (4:20) The Walking Shadow (2:58)

** star songs: Descent Of The Nomacs (1:11) The Hovering Sojourn (0:28) Digital Discord (0:48) Machine Chatter (1:03) Power Down (1:25)

Thanks to [email protected] for the artist addition. and to Andy Webb for the last updates

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