There are a lot of words one can use to describe Dream Theater, words like Legendary, Revolutionary, Consistent, Unique, all words that have over the years, been used in conjunction with them, and all of them are right. Dream Theater are a band that have blazed a trail in metal and hard rock for close to 30 years now, doing things on their own terms and in their own time.
Much like a fine wine, they also get much better with age, with each album being better than the one that proceeded it, which for a band with this kind of lifespan is no easy feat. It is somewhat surprising that it has taken the band this long to release a self titled album, but that is exactly what we have here.
Following on from 2011’s “A Dramatic Turn of Events”, “Dream Theater” in many ways feels like a continuation of that, like the other side to that record in many aspects, the band has definitely kept up their harder edge, and this may be the heaviest album they have ever made. Opening track ‘False Awakening’ is reminiscent of something you would find on a John Williams Star Wars soundtrack, with a heavy amount of atmospheric orchestration and choir thrown in, its a moody, and lavish way to open things. In typical Dream Theater style sets you up for what comes next, and what’s next is ‘Enemy Inside’ which served as most people’s first taste of the album, its a fast paced heavy track, which has kind of become the bands trademark over the last decade, it in some ways reminds me of the ‘Glass Prison’ on “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” which isn’t a bad thing at all.
The ‘Looking Glass’ opens with a very 80’s almost Darkness-eque riff and twinkling keys, this is a very large nod to the bands past, the ‘Images and Words’ and ‘Scenes from a Memory’ era of the band, its a welcome look into the past and is one of the better tracks on the album, one that really gives James Labrie a chance to shine. ‘Enigma Machine’ once again raises the tempo whilst throwing a riff into the mix that has a hint of the ‘Inspector Gadget’ theme about it, which is odd but also quite interesting within the context of the song, this track is more for the musician among the band’s fan base showing off the capable skills of Jordan Rudess, John Petrucci and Mike Mangini to full effect, without really slowing the album down at all.
‘The Bigger Picture’ is the album’s token slower song, and is again something that would fit in nicely on the bands classic ‘Images and words’ which again shows that the band hasn’t forgotten their roots. The albums closing track ‘Illumination Theory’ is a massive 23 minute long beast of a track that sees the album go out with a bang, albeit an extended one, it could almost serve as a career highlight reel, here is Dream Theater‘s 28 year career in one 23 minute burst of music.
No one knows how much longer Dream Theater will continue for as a band, but for a band this late into their career to still be delivering music of this level on a consistent basis is not a walk in the park. Dream Theater are a very special band and one that will always have a special place in my heart, and its fitting that this is a self titled release as it really does capture the essence of what makes the band who they are, where they have come from and where they may go in then future.
Many moons ago the band wrote about Dream and Day uniting, well, on this album its more about the past, present and future uniting and may they continue to for many more years to come.