Progressive Rock/Metal

Dream Theater – Falling into Infinity

Lots of folks hate this CD, and it’s easy to see why. Dream Theater changed their sound and their approach quite a bit for this album. For the most part, it’s not as obviously heavy metal as anything they’d done previously. There are quite a few “singles,” some of which even got played on the radio when this album was released. And, the band got a new keyboard player, a sneering booty-shaker named Derek. Instead of shredding and double-kicking like mad, they’ve expended more effort on songcraft and production, while experimenting with new sounds and styles. It feels more modern and mature for them.
I got it with fresh ears, being my first Dream Theater purchase. I immediately took to the proggy parts — the complex rhythms, the instrumental interplay, and the thought-out arrangements. I didn’t really know what to think of the singles though. I tried to let them grow on me (the way Rush and Marillion did around the time I got this), but they never did. They’re pop songs (either ballads, AOR rockers, or quasi-alt-metal rockers), sometimes done well, sometimes not so well, but mostly not especially interesting to me. (It kinda bugs me that the verse riff of “You Not Me” is very similar — probably coincidentally so — to a Quicksand song I know and love.) Kevin Moore’s absence as a lyricist is felt here. As usual, I feel James LaBrie sometimes tries too hard; this time, it’s when he’s trying to sound tough.

The parts I like best are usually the ones that don’t sound so much like earlier albums. “Peruvian Skies” swirls around ominously, and builds slowly until it breaks out into a headbanging groove, eventually reprising the swirly themes with a big heavy-metal finish. “Hell’s Kitchen” builds similarly, but in a more positive, dreamy kind of way. It’s an excellent set-up for “Lines in the Sand,” an epic I enjoy for a few minutes, and then lose interest in as they overextend certain bluesy themes. “New Milennium” has some impressive rhythms of bleeping sounds and textures, while maintaining a melodic quality — yeah, kind of a “Discipline” feel. “Trial of Tears” opens with a nice “tribute” to Rush (think “Xanadu” meets Hold Your Fire) and settles into the final “epic.” John Myung’s thoughtful lyrics and basslines keep the pulse going throughout, underneath some relatively emotional guitar and keyboard solos.

Thus I have mixed feelings about it. Overall, I enjoy listening to it. There’s a lot of good stuff I get into that makes it easier for me to overlook the stuff I don’t like quite so much

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