When I saw the black & white cover with an eye hidden in a rock in the woods and looking into a tunnel or perhaps a mausoleum, I knew that this was going to be a heavy back to basics offering from the masters of progressive metal.
I just got a copy of it yesterday. And after a couple of listens I must say I like that they've returned to a "true" heavy sound combined with "true" progressive elements and lost the aspects of indie-rock-pop and hair metal that have plagued their albums since 1995.
Some of the vocals on the opening track are reminiscent of Metallica as is some of the guitar work & that put me off initially, especially hearing it on the first track as you think perhaps the whole album is like this, and especially if like me you've never been a fan of Metallica's indie-metal(for want of a better definition).
My only complaints are that it sounds as if La Brie, on some songs anyway, is consciously trying to sound like James Hetfield, in his intonation, phrasing and slightly harder delivery.
This album has a harsh, raw, dirty sound in places mixed with some great progressive guitar and keyboard playing, and I must say I'll take that harshness over the soft-poppy-hair metal of their last few albums anyday.
The songs are all crafted to include sections of guitar virtuosity with beautiful hard passages of progressive noodling.
However, some of the guitar passages at times, but not too often, tend to guitar masturbation, which is noticeable on some of the longer songs, which could easily lose a coupler of minutes without any ill-effects to the listening experience.
For me the best track is track six, which is perhaps the most representative on the album of the genre, with a balanced mix of heavy guitar work and passages of neo-classical all supported by astounding keyboard work, and as ever solid drumming and bass playing.
My criticisms aside, this for me is their best and most listenable album since 1995's A Change of Seasons, as everything since that album has sounded like tired and dated poppy hair metal to me, with just enough progressive elements and just enough heaviness to warrant the description "progressive metal" but not to warrant repeated listening.
This already ranks alongside When Dream & Day Unite and Images & Words as my 3rd favourite Dream Theater album. I rank it slightly better than A Change of Seasons.
So if like me, you've been waiting for a Dream Theater album that harks back to their "true" progressive metal style of '89 to '92 then this is the one for you. It is both truly heavy in a modern way while avoiding the cliched stlyes of indie-metal and truly progressive in a symphonic and occasionally neo-classical manner.
And so it is the complete antithesis of the weak style they delivered on Falling Into Infinity in '97.
So if you like wimpy hair metal Dream Theater ŗ la Falling Into Infinity don't buy this album!
And so of course that means that many of the fans they garnered during the '90s will totally detest this back to basics album. But those of us who have been on the bus since the beginning will recognise this heavier style and thus enjoy the ride all the more.
OK, please let me start with telling you that I actually think that Dream Theater are a great band with brilliant and talented musicians. But this albumÖahem...how shall I put it..is downright boring. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with the music or the musicians, itís just that the whole thing is....sorry... boring!!! Maybe itís because that these guys are so good they forget their soul in the process!? What am I talking about? Well, Iím talking about...let me give you an example: Steve Vai or Satriani..are extremely superb guitar players when they burn through the fretboard itís fabulous, itís fantastic, itís supreme...but where are the feelings? Iíd rather hear a guitar player with his inner soul coming through the tones/notes. Than a guitar player showing off...never mind!! This album by Dream Theater is, in my opinion, one of the lesser albums...sorry guys! If you long for excellence and superb musicianship try out: Explorers Club or Transatlantic !! These guys are superb and refreshing!!!