Dream Theater – Awake
Two years after igniting the prog-metal world with Images and Words, Dream Theater returned with this release. A long haul at over seventy-five minutes of material, the album is, as one might expect, a mixed bag.
On the one hand you have some very tight ensemble playing, such as in “6:00” and “Mirror/Lie”. The band does occasionally extend into wankery, such as with “Erotomania”, but manage to avoid it on the whole. (And besides, that might be your thing, which is cool). While Dream Theater has never been a band whose lyrics spoke to me, there are also some nice efforts in that department, particularly with “Voices” and “Scarred”.
So where are the flaws on what could be quite a gem? Well, there’s the aforementioned “Erotomania”, an example in chops as an end unto themselves. Then there’s the rather melodramatic “Space-Dye Vest”; on the one hand, it’s good to see the band try different things. On the other hand, this isn’t really what I had in mind.
This album shows Dream Theater in a progression towards a more commercial metal sound. The prominence of the keyboards has gone down in direct proportion to the increased presence of the guitar. Vocalist James LaBrie’s voice is not as clear, as he attempts a more earthy, metallic growl. I’m not sure he’s terribly successful in that regard, and the reader can conclude for themselves whether they think this evolution of the band’s sound is a good thing or not.
On the whole, a pretty solid album. While prog-metal bands were starting to spring up on Magna Carta to sing about Dungeons and Dragons and produce some really cheesy coasters, the band who inspired them was moving a bit into different areas. Those who dislike progressive metal are still advised to stay away, but I think there’s much to like here.