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Metal - Released February 22, 2019 | InsideOutMusic

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In 2016, prog metal progenitors Dream Theater issued the 130-minute conceptual opus The Astonishing, which all but left metal behind to pursue a classic prog direction. Widely acclaimed by mainstream rock media, it proved divisive among fans and the metal press. Whether they admit it or not, DT took note. When it was time to record for new label Inside Out, they collectively decamped to a rural spot and lived together for the four months it took to write and record Distance Over Time. Ultimately, they took full measure of their history together and made a nearly complete U-turn, heading (mostly) back to basics for an injection of inspiration and renewed force. First single and opener "Untethered Angel" is classic Dream Theater, offering an abominably heavy riff from bassist John Myung and guitarist John Petrucci. James LaBrie's clean vocals soar above Jordan Rudess' driving organ and synth and Mike Mangini's thundering double kick drums. It's replete with time and tempo changes. "Paralyzed," despite its 4:17 length, is a riotous crunch-and-crush jam with roiling snare and tom-tom thud; the unhinged grooves from Myung and Petrucci, along with Rudess' piano, add ballast and drama for LaBrie, and he delivers the lyrics with characteristic commitment and remarkable range. "Fall Into the Light" with its bell-like cymbals and crashing snares provides a backdrop for seriously heavy shredding, offering two of Petrucci's finest solos. Musically, "Barstool Warrior" and "Out of Reach" could have been part of The Astonishing (though they wouldn't fit its subject matter). Their hooky prog ranges from anthemic rock djent to ELP-esque keyboard runs to Peter Gabriel/Steve Hackett-era Genesis -- which all entwine and add an expansive dimension to Distance Over Time. "At Wit's End" is a creative peak that illustrates the band's preference for leaving the heaviest hitters near the album's end. It delivers a kaleidoscopic range of prog metal tenets with frenetic polyrhythms, screaming guitar and keyboard solos, chugging bass, and emotive, soulful vocal refrains. The eight-and-half-minute "Pale Blue Dot" is another. Using Carl Sagan's phrase for describing earth from space, it commences with an ambient sci-fi intro that balances intense heaviness, knotty, time-stretching progressions, near-symphonic bombast, a taut hook, a foreboding chorus, and killer solos from Petrucci and Rudess that aggressively engage counterpoint. Vintage-era Deep Purple were a big influence on Dream Theater. The bonus track "Viper King" is a charged yet radio-friendly tribute to the Ritchie Blackmore/Jon Lord/Ian Gillan era, with its punched-up hard/prog rock swing showcasing insane collisions of organ, with unhinged guitar and bass exchanges prodded by maniacal drumming in supporting a loping cinematic chorus. Dream Theater reaffirm their identity on Distance Over Time, displaying a collective hunger, abundant energy, creativity, and musical (re)discovery. This set should erase the schism between fans and win the band a whole slew of new ones. ~ Thom Jurek

Hard Rock - Released September 9, 2016 | Roadrunner Records

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Hard Rock - Released January 29, 2016 | Roadrunner Records

Few bands could have conceived of, let alone pulled off, the exercise in excess that Dream Theater have with The Astonishing. In a vast catalog that includes several album-length conceptual statements -- Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence -- this is so extreme that it pushes at what their fans (a fanatical lot) may accept. Guitarist John Petrucci has written a double-disc sci-fi rock opera, set in a dystopian future in an invented country (the package contains maps). In it, music created and/or performed by humans has been outlawed by the state. Only government-sanctioned and programmed machines are entrusted with those functions. A small band of rebels cling to and fight for the vision (and redemption) of human music. Petrucci consciously sought to create as grand a statement as Tommy, The Wall, and Operation: Mindcrime. Whether or not he and the band have succeeded will likely be debated for some time. Well over two hours long, The Astonishing contains 34 tracks. Dream Theater are accompanied by the Prague Symphony Orchestra and three choirs, all conducted by maestro David Campbell (Beck's dad). Petrucci entrusted the character voices to vocalist James LaBrie, who executes them authoritatively with his vast range and remarkable control. Keyboardist Jordan Rudess is the wheel all this music turns upon. In addition to his grand pianos, organs, and beautifully wrought synth sounds setting up melodies and harmonies, he handled the choral arrangements, and provided orchestral direction for Campbell. Petrucci's guitar playing is, as usual, breathtaking (check "A Better Life"), though he doesn't solo as much. Bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Mangini aren't used as prominently as they usually are, but a musical narrative of this scope demands rhythmic flow and consistency. There are a couple attempts at singles -- the excellent melodic prog rock of "The Spirit of Music" and the more metallic "Moment of Betrayal" -- but singles aren't the point. Several other individual selections do stand out: "Dystopian Overture" (which deliberately pays momentary homage to the "Overture" from Tommy); "A Life Left Behind" (whose intro reflects Yes' influence); "Three Days" (Mangini's shining moment, which commences as a ballad but transforms into a prog metal anthem); "Chosen" (a power ballad sure to become a concert fave); and "The Path That Divides" (an angular metal powerhouse overdriven by Rudess' manic organ). But these tracks serve almost as "arias" in classical opera; they are connected by much more "recitative" (a narrative device to move the plot along). Though it may be grandiose to say, like opera, The Astonishing shouldn't be disassembled, but judged holistically. It was planned as an immersive, one-sitting listening experience. As demanding as it is, the story and music are worth the effort. Dream Theater have invested in the "album" concept (and in listeners' attention spans) even as the music biz doubles down on the notion that long-players are merely envelopes to hold singles. ~ Thom Jurek

Hard Rock - Released December 4, 2015 | Roadrunner Records

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Metal - Released September 26, 2014 | Roadrunner Records

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Hard Rock - Released September 26, 2014 | Roadrunner Records

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Metal - Released June 4, 2007 | Roadrunner Records

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Few bands in the history of rock have warranted the "either you love them or hate them" tag as much as Dream Theater, as fanatics consider them musical geniuses, while detractors sneer at their bombast. Either way, there's no arguing that the group has built a large and loyal following over the years by doing things their way, and with little to no help from radio or MTV. And on their tenth full-length overall (and first for their new label, Roadrunner), 2007's Systematic Chaos, the quintet sticks to the prog metal game plan that they've followed since their inception. In true Dream Theater fashion, the gentlemen are not ashamed to show off their chops -- as evidenced by the album opener, "In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 1," in which James LaBrie's vocals do not kick in until after the five-minute mark. Elsewhere, "Forsaken" proves wrong those who say that Dream Theater is all about instrumental gymnastics and not songwriting, at least momentarily, while "The Dark Eternal Light" features some nifty Pantera-esque riffing from John Petrucci. Additionally, "Repentance" is one of the album's four ten-minute-plus, mid-paced epics, and features a prerequisite of countless extended prog suites and spoken word passages. Unlike other veteran rock acts that attempted to update their sound with the times (and failed miserably), Dream Theater has admirably stuck to its guns through thick and thin -- much to the delight of their legion of admirers -- and they continue to do so on Systematic Chaos. And for that, we salute you with a flurry of flawlessly sweep-picked arpeggios. [The 2007 CD/DVD edition features the entire album remixed for 5.1 Surround on an included bonus DVD.] ~ Greg Prato
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Metal - Released June 22, 2009 | Roadrunner Records

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Hard Rock - Released September 20, 2013 | Roadrunner Records

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Though Dream Theater recruited drummer Mike Mangini to replace Mike Portnoy on 2011's A Dramatic Turn of Events, his drum parts had all been scripted before the change, leading to the rather stilted feeling of the album. This self-titled offering, the band's 12th album overall, marks the first time Mangini was involved in the writing and creative decision making from the jump and it shows. Produced by guitarist John Petrucci and recorded and mixed by Richard Chycki, this is one of the more dynamic, far-reaching albums in DT's catalog. Opener "False Awakening Suite" is a brief but cinematic near-instrumental with twinned guitars and keyboards riffs from Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess, all underscored by a string section and layered choral vocals by James LaBrie. The band's harder edges are displayed immediately after in "The Enemy Inside," with Mangini's fast, syncopated tom-tom and heavy drumming charging through the labyrinthine changes, as prog and death metal join in an unholy alliance; LaBrie is in command, atop it all. "The Looking Glass" is an obvious tribute to Rush, particularly the big arena anthems like "Spirit of Radio" and "Free Will" in its crunchy intro. It moves beyond that into something darker and more intricate with numerous time changes and interludes, yet always returns to the hook. These three tracks make for a fantastic opening trifecta, but the rest doesn't disappoint either. The driving, labyrinthine instrumental "Enigma Machine" features some of Petrucci's finest playing on the album, while "Behind the Veil" reveals itself slowly, emerging from lithe, whispering keyboard lines to engage explosive drumming and punishing guitar riffs and varied, thrumming bass parts from John Myung. All efforts lead to the five-part, 22-minute closer "Illumination Theory." Though it borrows a riff from "The Enemy Inside," inspiring its first instrumental section, it moves afield quickly. This is Dream Theater at its most creative. Rudess' keyboard playing comes right out of Frank Zappa in several sections, but particularly in "Live, Die Kill." There is an atmospheric interlude in the second instrumental part "The Embracing Circle." In the fourth section, "The Pursuit of Truth," Rudess, Petrucci, and Myung exchange fours, sixes, and eights in syncopated time signatures as Mangini prods them with explosive fills and elephantine rolls between verses. To finish, the music becomes positively majestic (à la Queen) in the final section "The Pursuit of Truth," whispering to a close with acoustic piano, strings, and a single-line guitar melody. Dream Theater is one of the quintet's big ones; it holds inside it everything a fan could want, yet also expands the reach of American prog metal. ~ Thom Jurek
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Hard Rock - Released September 16, 2013 | Roadrunner Records

Hard Rock - Released August 6, 2013 | Roadrunner Records

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Metal - Released September 12, 2011 | Roadrunner Records

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Metal - Released August 25, 2011 | Roadrunner Records

A Dramatic Turn of Events, the 11th studio long player from progressive hard rock act Dream Theater, is understandably among the most anticipated in their decades-long career. Founding drummer Mike Portnoy -- long considered, with guitarist John Petrucci, to be DT -- left the band and was replaced with veteran Mike Mangini. This is the set that answers the question about his impact on their sound. Interestingly enough, it's not that much. Mangini is as much a complex, intricate drummer as Portnoy was, though he is more an ensemble player; he plays more on the beat than behind it. A Dramatic Turn of Events is a much more keyboard-driven offering, though there is plenty of good old-fashioned prog metal here, too. Given its nearly 80-minute length, there is something here for virtually every fan -- or detractor -- to grab hold of. Singer James LaBrie doesn't indulge his high metal screech here that often, and prefers to sing plainly -- a good thing. Three tracks -- “Outcry,” “Breaking All Illusions,” and “Lost Not Forgotten” -- feature wildly long instrumental segments with more odd time signature changes than you can likely count. The latter of these sounds almost like Meshuggah with keyboards and stacked with multi-part harmonic vocals. Opening track and single "On the Backs of Angels" contains all the DT trademarks: disciplined drumming, intricate seven-string guitar riffs that grow increasingly more explosive, a Gothic chorale, and John Myung's insistent basslines, which are nearly buried in the mix. Jordan Rudess' keyboards counter Petrucci's guitar and Mangini's drums for dominance and come out on top. That said, the melodic structure of the tune harkens back to DT albums previous to the last decade's. As melodic as it is, it's almost knotty compared to the sheer melodicism of “Build Me Up, Break Me Down” that follows it. One does have to wonder about the inclusion of the ballads "Far from Heaven" and the string-laden "Beneath the Surface," which have clunky, trite lyrics, sappy instrumentation, and feel like filler; it would have been better to have trimmed them to keep the album a reasonable length. In sum, a Dramatic Turn of Events, while not a perfect offering, has enough of what makes Dream Theater attractive to make it a necessary purchase for fans. ~ Thom Jurek

Metal - Released July 18, 2011 | Roadrunner Records

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Metal - Released September 14, 2009 | Roadrunner Records

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Metal - Released June 19, 2009 | Roadrunner Records

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Metal - Released June 19, 2009 | Roadrunner Records

Metal - Released June 5, 2009 | Roadrunner Records

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Metal - Released June 5, 2009 | Roadrunner Records

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Hard Rock - Released May 25, 2009 | Roadrunner Records

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