Dream Theater

The Studio Album Collection 1992 - 2011

Written by: BW on 01/08/2014 23:27:51

I’m kind of scared to go near prog rock music again. The last time I did this I reviewed the latest album from Saga and that opinion received as many mixed reviews as the comments underneath it. This, however, is a move back to one of those bands I know a bit better. Dream Theater are a band well known across the globe, playing their brand of Progressive rock and metal to the masses all across the globe. They aren’t without their controversy though, with the out-of-the-blue exit of original drummer Mike Portnoy (replaced with Mike Mangini) causing ripples throughout the fanbase, as well as the odd keyboard player change early on in the band’s history, but these things haven’t stopped them from having a power of quality work behind them. If you’ve never had a chance to pick any of this up then you MUST get yourself this ten album collection, featuring a host of their well known tracks.

The first album up is “Images and Words” which has the iconic track “Pull Me Under” and the album as a whole is a fine example of what prog rock should be, with a great selection of tracks, but the ones to look out for in particular from this album are “Metropolis – Pt.1” and “Under A Glass Moon” with the former producing an album all of its own, which is also included in this collection. The thing about this first album on the collection is it shows them before the throatier and metal elements began to kick in on their later work.

“Awake” was not one of their best albums, but this isn’t to say that there isn’t a great example of just what they can do on there. “Erotomania” is a great selection of key and time signature changes, not to mention some intricate keyboard work from Jordan Rudess. It is all of this variety and performance that has made them one of the biggest names in the genre and in turn has spawned a few bands off the back of it too, aspiring to be as tight as they are.

Rolling onto 1997, “Falling Into Infinity” saw a good blend of tunes come together with “New Millennium” showing they had lost none of their ability. I would say that there was a bit more along the lines of keyboard work in this album than in some of the others, but it also had some of their moodier tracks too, with “Peruvian Skies” lending itself more towards Pink Floyd in its execution, it was more of a conventional song, but with some nicely knitted together chords in a very similar way that Waters and Gilmour may well have done in their heyday.

“Metropolis – Pt. 2 – Scenes From a Memory” is one of their best albums in my opinion. From intro to finish this is the masterpiece in their crown for me. Right from the off you have the scene setter in “Regression” which has the main character being put into the deep sleep of hypnosis, ready to relive things from his past. Once “Overture 1928” kicks in you just know that the guys are at their tightest. The two Johns (Myung and Petrucci) take care of the bass and guitar sections sublimely, with everything fitting into place perfectly. It is my favourite track from any of the albums, with a particularly sublime fast section near the end of it, as it seamlessly blends into “Strange Deja Vu”. It is an album you have to at least hear, if not own.

On a personal level I had mixed feelings with “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” but it isn’t to say that it doesn't have the odd flash of brilliance. The standout track here is “Misunderstood” that has some really menacing undertones and a dark edge, especially through the bass, allowing the guitars to crawl around like a spider on your back. Watch out for “About to Crash” though, as it is another signature DT track and one that fans know and love, with good reason.

When 2003’s “Train of Thought” appeared, we began to see a darker, more metal induced feeling coming from the band. Straight from the word go you have a low end bass note allowing for some minor chord work to set things up for a deliberately slow intro for “As I Am”. This was the album that started the growling of La Brie and Portnoy on the mic. You either loved or loathed it. I was in the latter category if I’m perfectly honest. “Stream of Consciousness” is another one on this record to keep an eye out for, but this wasn’t their strongest album.

The last of their albums before briefly moving over to Roadrunner Records was also their best album, in terms of strength of songs and the product as a whole. “Octavarium” was an absolute gem and the title track, as well as “Sacrificed Sons” are two of their best songs. It is one of those truly pleasant musical experiences you need to hear from start to finish.

“Systematic Chaos” didn’t quite have that feel that most other Dream Theater discs had delivered before, but this was about the time that things were becoming a little disjointed in the camp. I think it shows in the album. If there was gonna be a filler in a collection of albums then I would say this is that bad boy right here. Some of it grows on you, but it feels a little pushed.

To be fair though “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” did bring things back together a bit more in 2009. “Rite of Passage” and “Wither” are two of the standouts here, but also keep an eye on “The Shattered Fortress” as it is an underrated track. Everything on the album though felt like it was what we fans had come to expect, with different styles, keys and times being thrown at you thick and fast.

The final album on here was the last with any input from Portnoy. “A Dramatic Turn of Events” is a hit and miss collection of songs and does have the odd good moment, but does let itself down too. For every great track like “Far From Heaven” you get something a little too mixed up, like “Build Me Up, Break Me Down” but for an album that bridged a transition period, it holds up better than some would expect.

I do apologise for the very brief looks at these albums, but the fact is people know I’m a big fan of the band, so a high review score is more or less obvious. The one major gripe I would have with this collection is that they’ve missed out the best live album recorded with an orchestra outside of Metallica’s “S&M” album, namely “Score”. Aside from that you are getting nothing short of a prog fan’s version of heaven. If you do not have any of these albums then this is an absolute necessity. If you have "Octavarium", "Six Degrees" and "Metropolis – Pt. 2" though, I’d maybe have a think about it, but it will still be worth it if you’re a fan missing a lot from the collection.


Download: Overture 1928, Misunderstood, Sacrificed Sons, Pull Me Under
For The Fans Of: Symphony X, Thoughts Factory, Rush, Pink Floyd
Listen: facebook.com

Release date 08.07.2014
Rhino/Warner Bros.

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