Dream Theater – Dream Theater

Roadrunner Records

Review by Rick Ossian

Being their first ever self-titled offering marks a decided milestone for this aggregation.  Being their second together with their “new” drummer (2011’s A Dramatic Turn of Events was their maiden voyage) Mike ‘Monster Metronome’ Mangini also finds them treading potentially dangerous waters. The reason I say this, of course, is because of departed founding member Mike Portnoy. Those of you who still find themselves lacking passion for our hero dreamers should be strangely uplifted. Had it not been for Portnoy’s departure, we, the rock world, would not have Adrenaline Mob! Think of it, no Flying Colors, no Winery Dogs, no Portnoy/Sheehan/Macalpine/Sherinian, no… well, you get the picture. Of course, before he bailed we still had Transatlantic and a good chunk of Neal Morse’s solo output.

But enough of that.

Let us focus on Mangini.

As I mentioned above, he is truly a monster here, and Dream Theater are none the less percussively driven as a result of his work. Particularly in the opening bit, False Awakening Suite, his drumming is more a statement of intent than anything else. It’s as if the toms, snares, bass and cymbals are imploring us to “take a listen!”

The Enemy Inside, for those of you keeping track, is available as an instant download should you have made your purchase, through iTunes, of a special CD/DVD release (probably a limited edition). Doubtless there are also regular mp3 and vinyl 180 gram versions as well, should your pocket prove deep enough. I’m also told there will be a full-blown concert DVD to follow in November. They’re at it again. You would think we would know this pattern by now (does this remind anyone else of Iron Maiden, mayhap?).

The Looking Glass  hits us with a heavy opener riff, chugging but clean. Mangini, again, comes into his own very well on this number. It is one of the shorter tunes, which, when dealing with DT, can mean just about anything. On The Looking Glass it means just shy of 5 minutes. Labrie warns us not to stare too long, however, as we may ‘watch (y)our dreams be cast aside“.

While I’m on the subject of James LaBrie, his latest, Impermanent Resonance, is also currently available (when does this guy find time to breathe?). He is in fine firm form and fettle on this latest gathering of masterpieces. On Enigma Machine, the boys charge headlong into a typical DT opening, full of demonic riffing and an incendiary jam featuring Jordan Rudess, John Myung and John Petrucci (Liquid Tension Experiment, G3). They’ve travelled these roads before, but they always sound ‘well’ travelled, if you will. The Bigger Picture also features some very pretty piano playing from Rudess, a lilting, melodic guitar solo from Petrucci, and a dreamy middle section that is slightly off the path but good nonetheless. Classical fans will absolutely adore the piano introduction and Labrie’s brilliant vibrato and timing.

Behind the Veil is another syncopated beauty, featuring, for lack of a better word, a foggy opening. Rudess deploys his most haunting of synths, again conjuring an almost neo-classical vibe, and about halfway in we get a big HELLO from the rhythm section, who we will henceforth refer to as ‘The Engine Room’. A positively urgent riff kicks you in the gut about 2½ minutes in, John Petrucci and Mike Mangini again excel here.  LaBrie again sounds vaguely menacing, and by turns angelic, but always powerful, even forceful at times.

Surrender to Reason features a nice journeyman riff, and again a classic DT vibe, along with a short burst of the “monk-chanting”-type vocals. Another very cool solo from Petrucci about 4 minutes in.

Along for the Ride is considerably mellower than most of the fare on offer here, but it does kick in about a minute-and-a-half in. Labrie alerts us that we should ‘never be crippled by chaos and doubt‘, as we are, doubtless, just ‘along for the ride‘.

Illumination Theory could easily have been a side unto itself had it’s glory been released upon us in the days of vinyl. In fact, it takes up it’s own side nowadays (on vinyl) as well. An epic monster in its own right, this extravaganza is a full 22 minutes plus, incorporating along the way a purely classical section about midway through. Just when you think it’s over, Rudess lays a beautiful, almost elegaic, piano coda on us. Petrucci also tosses in a seriously wah-drenched solo. Probably some of the most exciting moments in the entire presentation reside in this progtastic powerhouse. Rumour has it that this number was temporarily leaked on the internet prior to its release, but don’t get me started on hackers. Argh!

If you are a DT fan, and even if you’re not, you could not go wrong by getting their latest.

Enough said!

Rating: *****/5

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