Dream Theater maintains depth with a stripped-down sound

Staff Writer

Academia might seem boring to most people, but like sausage, the product is infinitely better than the process and the ingredients. Take legendary progressive metal band Dream Theater, which emerged out of the Berklee College of Music in 1985 and have been banging the heads and stimulating the brains of fans worldwide ever since. Now they are prepared to continue that tradition with their new album, simply titled “Dream Theater.”

The first thing I noticed when I downloaded the album was that the songs are pretty short, at least for Dream Theater. In typical progressive form, their past albums have been filled with complex 10-minute-plus suites, but this time most of the songs (excepting the 22-minute closer “Illumination Theory”) are in a comfortable, stripped down range of four to eight minutes. It is a good sign, since progressive metal’s most frequent failing is a serious inability to edit. Plus, these songs could be more attractive to new fans who would not want to slug through the denser pieces in the Dream Theater catalog, like “Metropolis Part 2″ or “Black Clouds and Silver Linings.”   

Obviously, the musicianship and technical mastery on this album is incredible, and though it is nothing new to long-time followers, it will awe virgin listeners.

Guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess are considered two of the best musicians alive in their respective fields, and the rest of the band members are not slouches either. But it is drummer Mike Mangini that really comes into his own as part of the band, after having to replace founding member (and drumming god) Mike Portnoy, then work off Petrucci’s programmed drums on their last album. Here, he finally gets to display all the powerful parts he created himself, and they resonate well. It took a few listens, but eventually I was able to come around to the album’s graces, particularly “Along for the Ride” and “The Looking Glass,” which vaguely quotes the opening riff from Rush’s “Limelight” in a bit of a prog-rock inside joke.

Step into Dream Theater’s newest showing, and see what your brain has been missing out on.