Review by Ellen Eldridge
Don’t laugh at the fact that the self-titled album comes as the band’s 12th release. Instead, take it as a signal that Dream Theater has reinvented itself. “We felt like this is a period in our career where the music we are making is so right for who we are as a group. We’re at a great point, pushing into the future, and this is what Dream Theater is all about,” keyboardist Jordan Rudess said. Guitarist John Petrucci echoed the idea when he said, “Self-titling this album was a way to illustrate that we remain in a constant state of evolution.”
The opening “False Awakening Suite” would fit snugly into a feature film. The marching introduction brings images of soldiers taking to the battlefield, a sound that is amplified by the heavy guitar and drums.
Tracks like “The Enemy Inside” and “The Looking Glass” match what Dream Theater fans are familiar with and seem to resonate with a perspective one would expect from the singer of Dream Theater (or any band member). The lyrics call out those who may not realize their “15 minutes have expired” and that too much attention too soon should serve as a cautionary sign rather than one of brilliance. Lyrics cry out “You are caught up in your gravity, bathing in the spotlight, imitating fame…you live without shame” and the fun for fans comes in trying to decide if the songwriter wanted to make a point about a particular band or just caution all artists not to outgrow their britches too fast.
Fans who don’t follow lyrics will love the lengthy solos from all virtuoso band members. Dream Theater remains a band that can spin off like a jam band grounded in the most intricate design of music theory. For those who do pay attention to the lyrics, “Along For The Ride” stands out as particularly memorable.
I never considered Dream Theater a band that spoke too much about politics or religion. I never really thought too much about any of the song lyrics because the instrumentation is so perfectly intricate that one can get lost dancing around to the beats and stumbling over stealthy time changes.
But, in lines like “Shed your light on me” in “The Bigger Picture” and the central idea of “Along For The Ride” resonate with a sense of religious ideation; that the songwriter wishes to confirm a belief in a higher power. “The Bigger Picture” adds the Christian idea of Jesus dying for sins, but “Along For The Ride” fits that piece of the puzzle into place where fans can go back across songs and make decisions about what metaphors in Dream Theater songs call to the idea of religion.
Concerning politics, Dream Theater took a side on Egypt’s struggles with the song “Outcry” from the Grammy-winning A Dramatic Turn of Events. On Dream Theater, the line, “Through the gift of surrender, I’m embracing the fight.” Of course the way the lyrics are written, any and all of Dream Theater’s songs have the ability to be interpreted various way. “Angels” aren’t always religious, but with “Along For The Ride,” a more complete picture emerges.
Dream Theater hasn’t reinvented itself in a way that would isolate or shed former fans, but that a new chapter is opened for the band with a solid lineup and fervent determination to carry on a message full of music and inspiration. Visit www.DreamTheater.net to order and for upcoming tour info. Dream Theater’s self-titled album will be available for download 9/24.