Dream Theater - Octavarium

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Warner/Atlantic
Catalog Number: 7567-83793-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 75:46:00

By putting their expectations higher and higher, I'm afraid Dream Theater has come to a point where they can't get any higher. Being stuck on a certain high is not something which rhymes with the band Dream Theater, so standing still doesn't look that good. However, if you are an athlete who just won gold after having received silver and bronze awards, what kind of precious metal is left? A platinum medal? As our ears have been spoiled by technical prowess time after time, we have been getting so used to this high level of craftmanship that each time we want more and more. Another point is that Dream Theater always seems to cram their albums full of new music. In this case, no less than 75 minutes' worth, which in the vinyl age would mean a double album. During the vintage prog years, a new double studio album was only reserved for the big shots (Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans to name but two) and only happened once in their entire career. Dream Theater kind of delivers that kind of material with every single disc!

Octavarium is, like its name suggests, the band's eighth studio album including an identical number of songs, and I dare say that this is no doubt James LaBrie's best effort to date. His voice is incredible all over this album and maybe shows the most "progress," whilst we have been getting used to the quality we can expect from the other four guys. Do NOT for one minute think that I'm slagging these guys off here, as for sure they deliver genius and quality throughout. Yet as mentioned before, the level has become something we take for granted. When listening to "The Root Of All Evil," the drumming to my ears sounds not as complex, not as intriguing as what I'm used to from Mike. On the other hand, it sounds like Octavarium has been given a thicker layer of symphonic approach, which doesn't necessarily mean lush bombastic arrangements. Take the intro for "The Answer Lies Within," which only has piano and voice, yet already sounds a hundredfold better than the kind of crap radio stations throw in our faces day after day. This song surely must be pure heaven when performed with a real huge orchestra. Of course Jordan knows which right buttons to press to have this orchestral sound fill the concert halls, but the actual sound of a "real" orchestra can't be reproduced in the same way. Alan Parsons once told me that even the best sampler will never be able to duplicate an orchestra for the simple reason that with a huge orchestra there's always someone slightly out of tune, out of rhythm, someone might cough, feet might make a slight noise, etc? On this album though "The Answer Lies Within" contains the professionalism of a real string quartet, which already gives a clear indication as to where the song can go. With an extra orchestra on board for two more songs, my hopes are high that one day we might see the band on tour with a huge symphonic orchestra. So far two songs have given us the opposite where atmosphere is concerned, yet there're another six waiting!

"These Walls" is a powerful track with lots of heavy riffs and a mighty great chorus accompanied by classy melodic guitar. No doubt this one will be a firm favourite during live gigs. The kind of material I adore is the superfast stuff like "Panic Attack," which contains the energy of Korn or Linkin Park, yet is filled with superb changes and gimmicks; in other words, Dream Theater at its best. Right at the very beginning of this track, our beloved bass player John Myung gets to stand a couple of seconds in the spotlight before Portnoy is enabled to be the "animal" all over again. This one has "MTV heavy rotation priority" written all over it. The two standout tracks to me come at the very end of this shiny disc. "Sacrificed Sons" begins in a ballad kind of way, giving free reign to Jordan to add symphonic touches before spinning towards a complete opposite approach with wild over the top musicianship and Jordan bringing his synths in play. Petrucci also experiments with his guitar both from a sound perspective as well as from a technical point. Changing directions and atmospheres within a span of ten minutes is what Dream Theater is all about. However the absolute highlight of this disc, the pièce de résistance, the icing on the cake, the cherry on top, has to be the title track. I call it Dream Theater's very own "Close To The Edge," which pretty much sums up what to expect. However, this track is not a Yes clone as it contains a myriad of influences. First up is a lengthy "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" type of introduction followed by pedal steel guitar in true Steve Howe mould. If you thought [that] it's good old John Petrucci playing the pedal steel, then you're wrong, as it's played by Jordan. Next up is a very melodic, symphonic piece on flute which slightly reminds me of Tijs Van Leer meets Quidam. Acoustic guitar and piano open the path for James LaBrie to enter. It really gets wild when Rudess does his Wakeman impersonation delivering those wonderful vintage Moog sounds before settling for the organ. Petrucci tries to fly quicker than Korsakov's "Bumble Bee," like trying to find his way in heavy traffic followed hot on the heels by an army of police cars. The very end of this standout track is pure symphonic delight as the orchestra puts a huge exclamation mark behind this outstanding work, which even flirts with authentic Kansas material.

The album Octavarium was heralded by the band as being their "back to our roots" album. DT fans immediately thought the band would be going back to their Images And Words period, as for most of them that's where their roots lie. However, it's not the roots within DT we're after, yet the musical roots our five inidviduals have. In other words, they have all been harking into their past, summed up their influences. If you take this in account and you're open for their views on the matter, then for sure this is one hell of an album. If you were waiting for a second Train Of Thought then I'm afraid the new album is a completely different train; maybe more of a steamtrain, but a very luxurious one. And those who are waiting for another Images And Words ? please grow up!

The Root Of All Evil (8:07) / The Answer Lies Within (5:26) / These Walls (6:59) / I Walk Beside You (4:29) / Panic Attack (7:16) / Never Enough (6:33) / Sacrificed Sons (10:42) / Octavarium (24:00)

James LaBrie - vocals
Mike Portnoy - drums, vocals, percussion
John Petrucci - guitars, vocals
John Myung - bass
Jordan Rudess - keyboards, continuum, lap steel guitar

When Dreams and Day Unite (1989)
Images and Words (1992)
Live At The Marquee (1993)
Dream Out Loud (1994)
Awake (1994)
A Change in Season (1995)
Falling Into Infinity (1997)
Once In A Livetime (1998)
Scenes From A Memory (1999)
Cleaning Out The Closet (Xmas CD 1999) (1999)
Scenes From A World Tour - Christmas CD 2000 (2001)
Live Scenes From New York (2001)
Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (2002)
Train Of Thought (2003)
Live At Budokan (2004)
Octavarium (2005)
Score (3CD) (2006)
Systematic Chaos (2007)
Greatest Hit (...And 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs) (2008)
Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009)
A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011)
Dream Theater (2013)
Dream Theater - Live At Luna Park (2013)
Dream Theater - Breaking The Fourth Wall - Live From The Boston Opera House (2014)
The Astonishing (2016)
Metropolis 2000: Scenes From New York (DVD) (2001)
Live At Budokan (DVD) (2004)
Score (DVD) (2006)
Chaos In Motion (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: June 14th 2005
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.dreamtheater.net
Hits: 1119
Language: english


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