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Articles Home » 2016 Articles » Dream Theater - 2016 The Astonishing
Dream Theater - 2016 The Astonishing

ARTIST: Dream Theater
ALBUM: The Astonishing
LABEL: Roadrunner Records
SERIAL: RR7493-2
YEAR: 2016


LINEUP: James Labrie - vocals * John Petrucci - guitars * Jordan Rudess - keyboards * John Myung - bass * Mike Mangini - drums

Additional: David Campbell - orchestral and choir arrangements * City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

TRACK LISTING: Act I: 01 Descent Of The NOMACS * 02 Dystopian Overture * 03 The Gift Of Music * 04 The Answer * 05 A Better Life * 06 Lord Nafaryus * 07 A Savior In The Square * 08 When Your Time Has Come * 09 Act Of Faythe * 10 Three Days * 11 The Hovering Sojourn * 12 Brother, Can You Hear Me? * 13 A Life Left Behind * 14 Ravenskill * 15 Chosen * 16 A Tempting Offer * 17 Digital Discord * 18 The X Aspect * 19 A New Beginning * 20 The Road To Revolution

Act II: 01 2285 Entr'acte * 02 Moment Of Betrayal * 03 Heaven's Cove * 04 Begin Again * 05 The Path That Divides * 06 Machine Chatter * 07 The Walking Shadow * 08 My Last Farewell * 09 Losing Faythe * 10 Whispers In The Wind * 11 Hymn Of A Thousand Voices * 12 Our New World * 13 Power Down * 14 Astonishing


Having had a return to form somewhat with their 2013 self titled album,this follow up sees Dream Theater in full-on concept album mode. Initially an idea coming from guitarist John Petrucci whose love for such epics as Star Wars and Game of Thrones began him thinking he could make an epic of his own. He started writing alongside keyboard player Jordan Rudess for what would become probably DT's most ambitious project to date. Petrucci and Rudess together fleshing out the music as essentially a score to the story. Two and a half years in the making, the band have put their reputation firmly on the line with this release and with the intention of playing the whole thing live - from start to finish which in itself is a risk. Have they bitten off more than they can chew?

The Songs
Well, there is one hell of a lot of music on this album; over 130 minutes in fact. To talk about individual songs in isolation is not really what this album is all about. I've found that the only way to listen to this is from start to finish, and take in the whole story. So set aside a whole evening if you want to listen to this in its entirety. So, what is the story? It's a fairly convoluted affair in all honesty, so if I was to say it's Rush's '2112' with knobs on you might get the picture. But that's not really giving it due credit, but with the new writing format here on GDM I thought it best not to go into any real detail or I may go into thousands of words! Star of this particular show for me is vocalist James LaBrie who takes on all the various characters in the story and he's never sounded better in my opinion. Contemporaries such as Aryeon tend to use different vocalists to tell the story but that for me leads to a lack of consistency, so by using just one voice it keeps the whole theme on track. The extensive use of orchestration by David Campbell has also had an impact on the sound as the music seems more grandiose than ever. Of course there are all the usual Dream Theater-isms firmly in place and the playing is, outstanding, but what takes this to a different level is that the band have backed off a little on the heaviness and by introducing a lighter more melodic touch to it all makes it all the more palatable. Yes, the heaviness it still there in places, but this really is quite accessible considering the length of the whole piece. Divided into 2 acts I would say that the second part is slightly heavier than the first, as time is taken to tell the story with due care and diligence, At times I found myself hearing bands such as Queen in there, particularly when the band go all out with the bombast and pomp. It never outstays it's welcome and the length of the piece is fully justified.

In Summary
My first impressions of this album were not great. I felt that there was just too much to take in, but I've persevered with it and boy has it paid off. I think that Dream Theater could well have made their career defining album. Its vision and scope are breathtaking and in an era where people's attention span seems very limited, to go full-out with an album like this is taking a risk, but it's a risk that has paid off in spades. Way back their 'Images And Words' album invigorated my interest in all things prog and this album has breathed new life into my admiration for the genre. 'The Astonishing' is, just brilliant! I know it's a little too early in the year to make predictions, but this should be sitting in my top 5 come December. [word count 648]

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#1 | Carl Noonan on February 14 2016 07:35:32
I've seen some ridiculous comments about this album 'Where's Petrucci?', 'the drums have no punch', 'there are no hooks' are 3 off the top of my head, which makes me think the posters haven't listened and are just saying something negative because they think it's cool. I have no problem with people not liking things but when it's obvious they haven't listened it winds me up. Anyway, yes, it's a very long album with short songs by DS standards, the longest track clocking in at 7.41. However, it's a brilliant piece of work and gets better with every listening. I agree with the review about James Labrie, best he's ever sung and the rest of the band are stunning. This album does take some getting used to and it takes time to digest but if you can make the time to listen it will pay off. Top 5 of the year for me and it's only Feb.
#2 | gdazegod on February 14 2016 09:50:09
If I can find a spare 130 minutes in one sitting, then I'll be prepared to give it a go.
#3 | Explorer on February 14 2016 10:18:04
It`s definitely worth it George. I was going to make reference to other concept albums in the review but wanted to keep the wordage down, but this is on a par with `Operation Mindcrime`, `Brave`etc, it's that good.
#4 | roadrunner158 on February 16 2016 11:35:30
I've yet to listen to all of it in one sitting, but I like what I hear. The one thing that still annoys me is that it's pretty cheesy in parts - not only the story (who cares?), but also some of the music. Disney meets DT? If I can get over that aspect, I'm sure I'm gonna love it.
#5 | rkbluez on February 27 2016 20:22:42
Excellent album...great sound great playing by all advice listen to this one loud so you can pay full's not an album you want to check out while your surfing on line or doing something else...the first few times I listened to it low it just doesn't hold your interest...a little volume seems to bring out all of the good aspects of it...third time was the charm now I'm right into it.
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