Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
Release date: February 22nd, 2019
Dream Theater Line up:
James Labrie | vocals
John Petrucci | guitar
John Myung | bass
Jordan Rudess | keyboard
Mike Mangini | drums
Dream Theater online:
In the world of progressive metal, there is a particular band that consistently sparks controversy within their fans. Be it due to their line-up decisions or released music, Dream Theater have created an encyclopedia worth of opinions. Irrespective of whether you have strong feelings or not, they have a new album just around the corner and you are definitely not going to be skipping any songs. After their previous release The Astonishing spanned well over 2 hours, the band have taken a more digestible approach that fits into one CD. As a whole, the album represents a balance between Dream Theater’s individual progressive chaos and a fulfilling sense of rich, melodic purpose.
Opening the album is the initially released single, ‘Untethered Angel.’ The familiar sound of John Petrucci’s mysterious acoustic/electric arpeggios introduces a harmonic space that gets abruptly trampled on by a gritty and aggressive full-band riff. The simple groove makes no strong statement for the progressive development of the album but sit tight. James LaBrie’s voice soars into the spectrum and sits above the aggression more comfortably than it has ever seemed to. Like many Dream Theater songs, the chorus is large and sustained, the following verses are a much more technical development of the first and then… we get that feeling. That ‘Dream Theater are about to go solo-god-mode’ feeling. Be at ease knowing they deliver the goods and exit the song with an outro powerful and brutal enough to be at the album’s end.
Track 2 ‘Paralzed’ adds darkness to the aggressive atmosphere with a deep, head-banging wall of chunky riff. Jordan Rudess incorporates a subtle but incredibly effective softness and height through his masterful piano playing. This contrasts what is happening with the rests of the band’s energy which creates this light vs dark feeling. Well before the second song reached its end, the band have proven their song-writing has flourished with detail whilst brewing in their secluded and secret mountain studio. The song also features the first emotion-filled, but none-the-less impressive and epic guitar solo.
The next song features the second single of the pre-release phase ‘Fall Into The Light.’ With an introduction starring a bluesy-prog riff and a chorus melody intricate enough to be stuck in my head for the next week, the song toys with great potential. My only fault is the acoustic and relatively slow and un-related instrumental bridge section that drags on for about 2 minutes. Granted it picks back up into a mind-smashingly quick keyboard solo, it could have been shorter. The highlight of this song though was the end solo. Petrucci knows pretty much every trick in the book when it comes to shredding but here he ripped something new out which I can only describe as an unstable laser. However you describe it, Dream Theater are still generating new jaw-dropping ideas after 34 years of being together.
Flashback to the uplifting and euphoric emotions present in Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, ‘Barstool Warrior’ dives into a series of musical motifs. The song is a theatrical happy piece that juxtaposes the mental state of its character. Progressive metal by no means has to be aggressive, which the gentlemen of this band are very talented at demonstrating. Equipped with beautiful faded note swells, a piano solo, crowd stopping progressions of melody and heart-touching lyrics of self-discovery, the song sits very comfortably as the icon ballad all Dream Theater albums are partnered with.
‘Room 137’ and ‘S2N’ both demonstrate what the band can do in terms of technicality, melody, harmony and aggression, but felt relatively safe. ‘S2N’ peaked with a sludgy, down-tuned breakdown at the end of the song that was full of attitude (of course accompanied by phenomenal guitar and keys solo). John Myung also received his spotlight starting the song off with a fun, energetic and erratically timed, yet groovy, bass riff.
My ears stood up tall as I heard my favourite part of the album, the theme riff to ‘At Wit’s End.’ My thoughts immediately took me back to Systematic Chaos’ opener ‘In The Presence Of Enemies Pt1.’ Mix the peculiar selection of notes with lightning speed and you get a concept that may or may not want you to give up your instrument. There is always the potential of parts seeming unimaginative or repetitive, yet every second exists with a rich level of importance.
Strip back the rhythmic complexities the band are capable of and focus on the holy voice of LaBrie in ‘Out Of Reach.’ The song is clearly designed to portray the feeling of a movie character coming to a life-changing feeling of self-discovery, filled with love and acceptance. Personally, I enjoy the more progressive side of the band but its position in the album serves (as well as a beautiful song) as a neutralising agent to the previous aggression. After the song, your ears will be sonically refreshed and prepared for the grand finale.
If you don’t enjoy an exotic salad of rhythms and epic, melodic adventures, you probably aren’t a fan of Dream Theater anyway. If your palate does cater to the eclectic display of talent, ‘Pale Blue Dot’ could be your new best friend. Perfect for the guitarist looking for a challenge or drummer looking to crunch some numbers, the song sits in between the ballad capabilities of the band and their technical arsenal of tricks.
As a fan who has let all Dream Theater albums engulf my ears for weeks on end, the direction of the band is putting a big smile on my face. The option of modernising to include electronic elements or allowing other genres to shape their sound has come nowhere near close to touching them. It seems these progressive kings will continue to shape and influence music in a way no other band does.
Dream Theater – Distance Over Time tracklisting:
- Untethered Angel
- Fall Into The light
- Barstool Warrior
- Room 137
- At Wit’s End
- Out Of Reach
- Pale Blue Dot