After eleven albums and twenty eight fantastic years you would think Dream Theater would be out of ideas and out of the game, but as shown in their self-titled 12th album they are still at the top of their craft. The album is over an hour long but flies by in what feels like no time at all. The interesting thing is that each song can conjure up memories of old Dream Theater songs but still have a uniqueness that makes them totally different. “The Enemy Inside” has a similar sound to “Strange Déjà Vu” and “Home” out of Scenes from a Memory but is totally different. The similarities just give the songs extra meaning. “The Bigger Picture” sounds a bit like “Vacant” off Train of thought and “Through her Eyes” off Scenes from a memory. In fact the album as a whole reminds me of Train of Thought, Scenes from a Memory, and Systemic Chaos. The use of solos in the songs is not overpowering like some of the group’s most recent albums (I’m looking at you Black Clouds and Silver Linings,) often coming off sounding reserved which is a refreshing new take.
The songs flow together quite well and some of them sound like they are tied to one another which is an aspect of music that I think many artists overlook or just plain ignore. The faster tempo parts seem to be perfectly tied to the slower tempo parts which give the album a very cool pacing. The vocals, usually my least favorite parts of Dream Theater albums, are actually spot on. Vocalist James LeBrie doesn’t force them like he has in the past: here they’re timed well and aren’t awkward in any fashion. The bass parts are, as always, cool and collected; just listen to “Surrender to Reason” and “Enigma Machine.” The classic Dream Theater motif of tempo changes (for those of you who don’t follow DT much they like to mess around with tempos within their songs) comes up repeatedly in this album, most noticeably on “Enigma Machine.” Jordan Rudess’s synths are a bit more groove-forming on this album than previous albums but they still have definitive moments of brilliance.
The last suite of songs, encapsulated as “Illumination Theory,” is a great specimen of prog metal. It has periods of great heart pounding rock interrupted by a more classical piece and then continues with rocking your face off. The classical piece is arranged by Eren Başbuğ who doesn’t make the piece too flashy; he keeps it reigned in and polished. Their is just something to be said about the comparison of smooth classical music and more thrashy rock. If someone told this idea to me I would say it couldn’t be done but Dream Theater pulled it off.
All in all I have to say this album might sit on the top of my Dream Theater album list or second only to Scenes. The album is everything I want or imagine in a good prog album and that is why I will give out my first ever…