Author Topic: Dream Theater- A View From The Top Of The World  (Read 13087 times)

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Offline svisser

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Dream Theater- A View From The Top Of The World
« on: November 13, 2021, 07:23:28 PM »
I am making it a point to try and write more reviews for metal archives. I know it is nothing prestigious. It just helps me practice my writing. Here is my review that I just got approved on Metal Archives.

Side note, my comment on The Astonishing is not meant as a blow to it. I am more just trying to admit to the reception that it got as a whole. I will be writing a review on that album at some point. I don't hate as much as some think. Anyways:

Awaken The Members: 87%

In the wake of an historic change, following the release of A Dramatic Turn of Events, fans were mostly hopeful that the Dream Theater they knew was still alive and moving into new territory. However, their subsequent two releases only proved troublesome for many fans. Their self-titled 2013 release only showed that the new lineup had limited chemistry for writing, and The Astonishing will probably (regrettably or not) go down as one of the prime examples of what a terrible mistake made by great musicians can sound like. Thankfully, 2019’s Distance Over Time saw the reset of a band that had journeyed into an area of creative ambiguity that resided between stagnation and pure absurdity. For the most part, this album was not their best, but I think the fans were just thankful to see the band back on track. It was written as a reaction to their 2016 album, so it was rather safe, but it proved to be enough. They were out of the muck and mire that held them down for almost 10 years.

Now in 2021, A View from The Top of The World is the new place marker for what a great Dream Theater album should be. Although this album can’t be placed among the greats like Images and Words or Scenes from A Memory, it effectively displays the writing brilliance of Dream Theater once again. It has those traditional radio-friendly songs like “Invisible Monster,” and “Transcending Time,” then the heavier, less radio friendly but palatable songs such as “The Alien,” and “Answering the Call,” and of course the mini-epics “Sleeping Giant,” and “Awaken the Master.” All of these songs work well to complement each other and keep the momentum of the album up all the way to the new epic, A View From the Top of the World. Overall, the album is well-balanced, has some of the member’s best performances in years (including James), and has what is arguably the best sounding production of any Dream Theater album to date.

The thing that keeps me coming back to this album is that it is not too weighted on one side. We get a well-balanced set of songs that go from dark and complex like “The Alien,” to the more pop-driven, Rush-esque song “Transcending Time,” and the progressively dark “Awaken the Master.” Also, with the first mini epic “Sleeping Giant” taking place right in the middle, the band keeps the listener interested due to its progressive interludes. Also, it sounds like the band just had fun on that song.

John Petrucci is proving competent in his riff writing all through the album. Although most of the riffs favour the heavier single-string/lower-string grooves that have become synonymous with the band since 2009’s Black Clouds and Silver Linings, they work well to introduce and drive each song forward. I was especially pleased with both the heavy 8-string riff that opened “Awaken the Master”, and the riff that opened “Sleeping Giant.” This latter riff may be simple, but it fits quite well into the song due to the reoccurring themes that compliment it.

The only song I had any real struggle appreciating was the title track. The reasons are few (only one) but, simply put, the song should not have been as long as it was. It felt to me that everything after the 18-minute mark was DT doing their typical “epic ending” parts. It got the job done, but it made a decent song a little too bloated for its own good. It is similar to how “Astonishing” ended their 2016 album. It seemed to serve only the purpose of having that “epic ending” that clearly only served to just meet that requirement and nothing more. It gets old after a while.

The best part about this album is easily the performances. The weight of covid and tour delays must have added to the desire to be able to put their all into a new album. I am truly in awe that, even though most of the members are pushing 60, the level of talent and virtuosity that goes into every song is not compromised. Every member works well together to serve the purpose of the music. John Myung and John Petrucci are locked in perfect synchronicity throughout the album, John’s solos are tasteful yet prominent on every track, Jordan’s choice of keyboard parts shift from supporting role to center-stage when needed, and Mike’s playing is the best it has been since he joined the band. The way he matches the rhythmic patterns of every song goes to show how well he works to support the band. He also knows when to hold it back and when to show off. Like many fans, I was amazed by his performance on “The Alien,” but I am also just as amazed at how much he holds back on the second section of the title track, “Rapture of the Deep.” It goes to show the musical maturity that he has. Finally, the performance of James is easily the best in years. The years have not been kind to him, but this album shows that he is working well with what he has. What makes his performance so great is his choice of melody. The choruses are the best example of this. Specifically, the choruses of “Sleeping Giant,” “Awaken the Master,” and the title track. I also appreciated the phrasing that he went with on a lot of the songs. The best examples would be the verse of “Awaken the Master,” and the vocals in “Rapture of the Deep.” In my opinion, this is new territory for this band.

Finally, the production of the album is perfect. It is clearly a very polished sound, but it does not give itself to over production like their self-titled album suffered from. I think everyone can agree on one thing about this album: they need to keep Andy Sneap around. The drums finally sound great. They are loud enough to punch through the mix just enough. We can hear John Myung’s bass parts. John Petrucci’s choice of minimal multi-tracks allows for this. Jordan’s parts fit well in the music, but this has never really been a problem on any DT album. And James, not only gives his best performance since (arguably) Octavarium, he has no auto tune or other dubious “fixes” on his voice that we have heard on the last three albums.

This album is the most promising outing of a band that has more than made their mark on prog metal. They are one of few bands that were the progenitors of this genre, and they are not about to slow down. They defined the genre in 1992, and they continue to push the boundaries even after almost 40 years and over 18 hours of music.

Sleeping Giant
Awaken the Master
A View From the Top of the World
She can turn a drop of water
         Into an ocean
                                           In the room the women come and go
                                                 Talking of Michelangelo.

Offline Dream Team

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Re: Dream Theater- A View From The Top Of The World
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2022, 08:47:49 AM »
Solid effort, but I disagree entirely with the first few paragraphs.