Dream Theater’s Octavarium Gives Band Songwriting Cred

Dream Theater has been around since the mid-1980s and has generated a solid following of fans worldwide,so much so that it wouldn’t matter what the band released, just as long as it was musically challenging and finger numbing to the bone.
The problem with Dream Theater is they are too good. Their music is usually beautifully written but the band has had issues over the years making it nearly impossible to enjoy complete albums due to the fact that the band goes out of its way to over play in every single song.

Sure, it is cool to hear musicians who can ACTUALLY play their instruments these days. It is nice to have the drum idols and guitar icons still existing in this world of musical mediocrity that is spoon fed to us on a daily basis thanks to Clear Channel executives and radio station managers who quite honestly lack the balls and guts to allow creative growth and freedom amongst different genre’s other than the typical straight forward rock like Creed or 3 Doors Down.

Drummer Mike Portnoy has been widely considered in many rock drumming circles as the next Neil Peart. Personally, I find this to be off the chart insanity. Peart and Portnoy should not even be in the same sentence as both have charted two totally different musical directions.

Peart-has developed his own signature sound and drum patterns. Some even go as far as to call it “Neil Bop”,plus Peart is responsible for writing and recording some of the most successful music in rock history if not music history. It is doubtful that Dream Theater will ever write an album as musically brilliant as Rush’s Moving Pictures or other Rush albums such as Signal, Grace Under Pressure, or Power Windows. But they will sure as hell make you believe they have tried.

Their musical egoes get in the way. Between John Petrucci needing to shred a thousand notes every 45 seconds and Jordan Rudess needing to sound just like Petrucci half the time with keyboard sounds so annoying you can’t figure out which artist is playing what notes. Bassist John Myung is really the true underdog in the band as he has been buried in the mix so much over the years,that half of the time you are not even aware that he is in the band.

You would swear the other members of Dream Theater had Michael Anthony from Van Halen handling bass guitar duties the way he is lost in the individual song structures. But you sure can hear the howling of James LaBrie,whose vocals at times can make you squirm and yet at other times make you want to cry.

With Octavarium Dream Theater finally puts most of their problems listed above to rest.

The band has managed to create an album that the average music fan can enjoy with melodies and straight driving drumming from Portnoy for the most part,allowing sonic pleasures rarely given from the New York based prog-rockers.

At times during the record if you closed your eyes you would swear you were in the middle of an obscure U2 record mixed in with Muse,Coldplay, and some odd but beautiful Pink Floyd esque style of music.

Highlights on the disc include “Right Beside You” which could easily become the first memorable radio hit for the band if Atlantic Records plays its cards right,”Sacrificed Sons” which is a fitting tribute to victims of 9-11 as well as a nod to troops fighting the war on terror across the world, and the title track “Octavarium” that features an appearance from Jordan Rudess on slide-guitar,bringing listeners back to moments where we were treated to music like this from none other than David Gilmour of Pink Floyd.

Simply chilling and beautiful, Rudess finds his niche on most of the tracks and plays in the pocket.

James LaBrie has managed to soften is attack and now harmonizes with the best of him,more than likely because of the stunning work he did on “Elements of Persuasion” a solo effort he released earlier in the year.

The band does not forget its metal roots at all. “The Root of All Evil”,”Panic Attack”, and Portnoy’s ode to certain ungrateful fans “Never Enough”.

With near perfect releases such as “Images and Words”,”Scenes From A Memory”, and now “Octavarium”, Dream Theater might have finally discovered how to write music that does not require an eye chart to focus.

Dream Theater is about to embark on one of its biggest tours ever,”Gigantour” being headlined by metal veterans Megadeth. The tour also features Symphony X, Anthrax,Fear Factory, and Dillenger Escape Plan.

Octavarium-4 stars out of 5

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