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CD Review: Dream Theater – Octavarium

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Dream Theater is back and as impressive as ever. I don’t think these guys have released an album that I haven’t liked yet. That is not to say that I don’t like some over others, but they all have a consistent level of musical ability on display.

Epic songs are the order of the day. If you are looking for short radio styled rock songs, you will have to go elsewhere. Dream Theater excels at long songs with a variety of time changes and pacing. The type of song that will drag you in and get you involved wondering which way it will turn. This is especially true of the 24 minute title track which takes you on a melodic journey.

The first track on the album, “The Root of All Evil,” opens quietly but soon explodes into a heavy riff letting you know that they mean business. Eight minutes of pure heavy rock. A great way to reel a guy like me, who is a sucker for a heavy riff, into the album. One of the more outright aggressive tracks I have heard from them. Everyone is just digging in and chugging away.

This is immediately followed by “The Answer Lies Within.” A song which is completely opposite of the opener. It opens with a light piano playing behind James Labrie’s soft vocals. A song of hope, a look to the future. A very mellow song that just floats into your ears, a very easy listen in stark contrast to the prior aggression.

“These Walls” is next, opening with some dissonant guitars that turn into a heavy opening riff before settling down for the words to come in over top. This song combines the qualities of the first two, adding a little brightness to the initial heaviness and a little heaviness to the slower portions. This is used to create an atmosphere of hope in a song that centers on someone who is sinking and looking for help.

“I Walk Beside You” is a good song, also focusing on the theme of hope and how there is always someone there to support you.

The heaviness exhibited in the opening track returns with “Panic Attack.” This time speed accompanies the riffing. This is the song to put on in the car, turn up the volume, and just cruise. It is heavy and aggressive, great.

“Never Enough” seems to take on fandom. It questions how much has to be done to be appreciated. It may seem like all of the hard work and effort can be taken for granted. If they choose to leave would they come back out to support them then? Would it be too late?

The next song is the first one I can think of where the topic has more of a political bent based on current events. “Sacrificed Sons” gives an interesting take on the events of the past few years. Questioning why this was done. Questioning the faith that would require people to commit this acts and how they must have surely been misled. But instead of expressing hatred or anger, it requests that we essentially pray for those who have died. It is a beautiful song.

Rounding out the album is the 24 minute title epic, “Octavarium.” History doomed to repeat itself. A musical journey that takes the listener through a progression of different sounds and styles, from the soft and melodic, to the heavy and dissonant. It is a song that exists to be experienced.

Each song evokes a different atmosphere, but all distinctly Dream Theater. The album as a whole is about hope and discovering it. The album is thematically on the darker side, but the music and the direction the dark takes sheds light. You may be alone and losing hope, but there is always something or someone for you to hold onto and overcome the darkness.

Another in a long line of musical successes. This is one of the most talented group of musicians working today. They have never failed to impress, or develop. Over the last few albums it seems as if they have been tempering their obvious technical expertise with more service to song structure. Now, don’t read that wrong. They have aways given each song a lot of thought and structure, it just seems that lately the soloing is more sparse and built into the song, making the song the focal point rather than having the song serve the solos. There are also a number of great solos in the mix here. It is just a very good album.

Bottomline. This is a given for any fan, and a need to listen to for those who are looking for something new. Dream Theater is one of those bands that puts out consistently excellent albums without catering to the populace, although I think that there music should have a wider appeal. Basically, any fan of music should give this a listen, a truly excellent album.

Highly Recommended.

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  • http://www.yensid.org Yensid

    No doubt man… this album ROCKS. I have enjoyed Dream T in the past but this is their best album to date… NO DOUBT! Get it, get it, get it now and crank it.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    I am hoping to cath them live on Gigantour, I saw them live back in 96,97, and 98 and they put on a great show. THis album makes me want to go back and listen to the early albums again.

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    This album’s a pile of dung. A really, really low moment for the band. This is a bunch of really boring, repetitive, do-nothing songs. The title track is just ridiculously pointless – first it steals the opening of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On” and then it does absolutely nothing of note . . . for 24 minutes!

    Oh, and in case anyone’s keeping track, you can now add Muse to the list of bands that Dream Theater is stealing riffs and, in this case, entire songs from (Metallica and Tool were riff-checked on the last two albums excessively.) Check out “Stockholm Syndrome” and tell me that DT didn’t steal that entire song for “Never Enough.” It’s shameful – and I hope DT gets their butts sued off by Muse and their people.

    This is a band with a tremendous amount of talent but a well of creativity about two inches deep which seems to have dried up as soon as they finished recording Scenes from a Memory. Sad.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~proy1/ Paul Roy

    It is certainly better than their last piece of crap “Train Of Thought”, but doesn’t hold a candle to their earlier best work. I have listened to this about five times and have yet to be blown away like with their previous better albums, such as “Images and Words”, “Awake”, “Metropolis Part II”, hell, “Falling Into Infinity” even blows this one away. They should beg Kevin Moore, to rejoin the band and get rid of Rudess, who adds nothing to the music. Who cares if he is technically brilliant, he sounds like shit. Dive me Derik Sherinian any day. This albums has its good moments, Sacrificed Sons has some nice melodies, and the title track has its moments, but overall it is pretty boring. Again!

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    Thank you, Paul – you pretty much voiced every problem I have with this band since Jordan joined. I thought I was the only one who preferred Derek. This is a band that I think I have to just say “I like their older stuff” about, and give up on good new music from. I’ve been disappointed every time since SFAM. It’s only taken me three sub-par releases to learn.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~proy1/ Paul Roy

    Tom, I’m still holding out hope for my once favorite band. I think what they really need is a good producer to knock them upside the head. You see this happen so often to bands who suddenly think that they can produce themselves and the results are usually not too good.

  • bob

    although this album to me is pretty boring, cos i prefer their older stuff which is overall heavier, i don’t think this album is shit, the songs are just softer and therefore not as interesting to some people. even though i don’t think the album was shit, i was a bit disappointed with the solos, instrumental parts. i just think there are to much key boards in the solos and not enough guitars.like the Train of Thought solos, i know some people may be not like TOT. but i like it, cos its their darkest n heaviest album yet. so i still have hope in the band, hoping that they can produce a heavier, more energy album in the future.

  • Sarmad

    Dream Theater had their own style Pre SFAM, you could never tell if any riff or Idea was taken from anywhere. You sure could spot influences and inspirations, but they still sounded like DT, but SFAM was the beginning..(Home – Tool, and Vai)… and after that, sometime they sounded like Pantera, metallica or pink floyd… but less like themselves… SFAM was the last of DT’s true potential… I used to love the fact that each DT album had it’s own feel, and was very different from the other, but since the last three albums, they seem to have been caught in a rut… Labrie’s singing has become really stale, he isn’t exploring anymore… the melodies have become boring too… Rudess was only good for SFAM and some parts of SDOIT…
    They need to either hire a great producer, I think.

  • Sarmad

    They need to hire a great producer!

  • khalil

    All this talk about hiring a great producer is hilarious. and “ripping off and stealing”? please. this isnt my favourite group, dont get me wrong, but one thing DT is known for is getting assulted for just the sake of it in reviews. u have to understand that when playing such a high level of musicianship, its gonna come with the territory. anyways the one thing that hastey reviewers should note about when posting is the word “influences”. thats what music is based on. the basic fan should know that petrucci and portnoy are big fans of muse. plus the title track is a tribute to prog music. it pays “tribute” it doesnt steal. bottom line – the 2nd half of the album is great. the 1st half has moments of brilliance and overall the whole thing has to take about 3 spins. all the great parts just get better and better. not the best by them? sure – but watch, it will be a classic.

  • Sarmad

    I take my words back … I’ve really started to like this album… Good one!

  • SMACK

    Okay, so this may not be the best DT album ever but, it is a great album. Think about it, to be at the ages they are at and playing a million notes a minute, VERY IMRESSIVE!!!! You can still tell they care about giving their real fans music they deserve. Ruddess has been a great addition to DT, Sherian had a I’m Better than you attitude and you could tell it, Jordan is laid back and mixes better with the group. MP is still the best drummer in Heavy/Prog Music!!! Petrucci as always, BLISTERING!!!!! So I would suggest anyone get this album!!!!

  • Lemmiwinkers

    Wtf is wrong with you people? If you think you can get out and do better than do it.

    This album is great, its their best yet in my opinion. Ruddess played a huge role in this one, hes stepping up which I think is great. Labrie does the same, hes stepped up in this album and it wouldn’t have been nearly as good without him, and the effects they added to his voice kick ass. Petrucci is awesome, Myung kicksass, Portnoy keeps a low profile, but provides excellences to the CD. Octavarium is amazing, in case you didn’t notice the album looped .. it starts on Fm I think and ends on Fm. Brilliance compacted into 75 minutes of kickass.

  • http://www.worldpeaceeagle.org Salah Rushdy

    Well Honestly, Dream theater was a band that i felt my soul in it .. last year i used to listen to new metal like disturbed , slipknot, korn .. but Dream theater has a unique style that would let u live the momeny .. my fav. song for dream theater would be Endless Sacrifice …

  • Michael

    My first DT.listening was in 2000 with “Live scenes from N.Y.”
    Since then I know. DT. is fantastic. Let me tell you to all those who say they now are influenced too much by to many groups.NOT TRUE. DT. is instrumentally soo much further than muse, tool etc. Yes even further than the Gods Genesis or P.F.

    I can hear hundreds of new rifs and tunes wich are ONLY DT. And I have a classical degree at the conservatorium. This band does with instruments and tunes mixed in a perfect way wich no band(exept classical and jazz) has ever done.

    IN ALL OF THERE ALBUMS. My god´,can no one hear how different these albums sound from each other!!! All Masterpieces. And when you listen to DT. NEVER forgett they get better the more you listen to them. Very litle music nowadays can do that.

    A TRU FAN FOREVER

  • Mark Collins

    People comparing these to Muse or Tool are flaming ludicrous. They cannot hold a candle to DT!!!!

    They are the greatest musicians period. They can do as a 5 piece what some orchestral compositions take with 50!!!

    Geniuses! Whoever calls this album dung really knows nothing!

    I have ALL their albums and each has its own innate quality!

    The best was Images and Words but this is no slouch in any sense. Restrained solos yes, but he does NOT need to prove himself! He is the greatest guitarist period.

    Guys, listen to this a few times then Judge!

  • Miguel Correia

    Simply the best prog rock album I’ve ever heard until today. Period.

  • Russell Skingsley

    Interesting that whenever a new DT album is released people say it wasn’t as good as album X but much better than Y. X and Y vary wildly from listener to listener. This probably goes to show that these guys are in anything but a rut. Each album is unique and appeals to different people.

    One thing is for sure, not many people PLAY like these guys – amazing.

  • Cristobal from Chile

    Dream theater is the best band ever ..
    octavarium is a great album.. but some songs are not so good.. but talent of this band is big! ..lol ok.. bay.

  • AxelS

    So what. That exactly is what DT makes so different! Listen to an album, pick an older one, then the latest, and always expect to hear something new!? Honestly, which other band is forced to hold that level? And criticals, those musicians are some of the best! To form and keep a band like this alive, it needs more, and they are “genious” in what they do!
    A big shout from Germany

  • Edwin

    I expect more from Octavarium so I guess I’m a little dissapointed. I don’t think they should insert a part from Train of Thought album to Root of All Evil, though it’s their right to connect the concept. I disagree with you guys who said that Rudess sucks, in opposite I think he even completes DT perfectness. Where can you find talent & skill same as this synthman elsewhere? However, this album is quite good though not their best. I give’em 4 star…

  • Cherished scenes from my memory

    Dream Theater- I’ve always been a great fan, pre-Train of Thought, ie, prior to the inclusion of Rudess, the resident clown who could never resist squeezing a million notes in a bar, which is too often musically senseless and lacking in good taste. Their style has changed significantly, to the point where they elude me at times. They’re still more than capable in churning out earth-shattering riffs that rock and move my spirit, but in all, I feel they’ve lost a special part of themselves through all that development, that distinct Dream Theaterish vibe that resonated most strongly in albums like Images and Words, Awake and especially Change of Seasons. While we all know who the culprit is, I shall refrain from pointing the finger, since it’s always better to progress and move on than to stagnate. For me, I’ll just hold on to those happy memories sans Rudess (except Scenes from a Memory- his compositions were commendable) and take all the recent records with a huge pinch of salt.

  • Jason

    DREAM THEATER ARE THE BEST PROG METAL BAND HELL THE BEST BAND OF ALL TIME!!!!!!

  • brochu

    i think its one of the best album of dream, it’s different but really good. for thoses who said that DT stoles other band riffs, in fact they bought the rights. does it change something for you?? for me that only proof that DT can play anything

  • Kart from India

    People comparing Dream Theater to bands like Muse etc need to get their head reworked.

    Mike Portnoy is the god of drums.The speed and the energy he shows behind the drums CANNOT be matched by anyone in the heavy metal/prog metal genre.

    John Petrucci is one of the best and the most respected guitarist,period.Few people like Vai,Satriani even come close to him.His fingers just fly on the guitar.

    Labrie might not be the strongest cog in DT,but hes given his feelings to the DT songs we’ve grown to love and is an integral part of DT.

    Bottom line,Octavarium is as good as any dream theater album ever made.My personal fave is SDOIT and Awake.In fact,each album appeals me in a different way.

    Live music and love DT.

  • Theodim

    …. I adore this album!!
    in the presence of enemy pt2! it is really damonical!!! yeeees! it is perfect! “dark maaster amen” lol ^^

  • Edouard

    I think this album is great. Even if we can feel some Muse influences or pink foyd influences on a few songs, I think it’s just great . I don’t understand what’s the problem about showing his influences! And also, I think dream theater is the only band that is able to do only excellent albums, well, that’s what I think, because I’v never been disappointed by one of their albums.

  • Matias Malmivaara

    oh well….

    i like the second half of this album a lot. with it’s pink floyd and muse touch. I saw them playing stockholm syndrome live, and one would have to be stupid to call that stealing. And one would have to be stupid to not understand HOW COOL IT IS!!! Has anyone noted that MUSE had a track on their album black holes and revelations that has a riff almost straight from panic attack? when I heard the DT album, and a bit later I heard the newest MUSE album, i was blown away. The fact is, when it comes to music, there’s no point comparing people to decide who is better than who. DT has its own touch, MUSE has its own amazing style. They’re two completely different bands. Anyone who tries to prove or tell one is better than the other, has a weird approach to music in my opinion. Anyway, nejoyed the album, and still do. I’ve liked the band for quite a time. The only thing I don’t like in this band so much is LaBrie.

  • Neal

    No one is in a category elite enough to offer meaningful criticism of this remarkable band! This album is amazing. They are only in competition with themselves and no one besides.

  • gary

    lol… that was a stupid comment =P

    “No one is in a category elite enough to offer meaningful criticism of this remarkable band”

    haha..

    i guess you don’t know much about music…

    and just for all ur peoples knowledge, music IS NOT ABOUT COMPETITION!!!!! IT’S BLOODY MUSIC!!!!!