Friday 27th January 2023,
The Black Planet

DREAM THEATER – The Astonishing

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 Dream Theater has been a part of my life for many years, and it was a shock, in 5 years now, to see Mike Portnoy and the band part ways.Since that moment, my relation with DT has been a suspicious one, always comparing their new material with previous one. And despite the tipping change, DT carried on with the same vision they always had, creating music  and storytelling. Interestingly, that is what brings them together in their new album of epic proportions. And with Game of Thrones aspirations.

Long passed seem the struggle with creativity of «Wither» times. This time around Petrucci (the famous 6/7 stringer) came up with a vision of dystopic, but clean future, almost like a children’s book. So we have this future, populated with characters, that desperately try to save humanity thorugh the power of music.

Theatricality has always been a feature of progresive music, moreover if you labeled your name with it. So we’re transported into a trasnformed America of the future, almost like a Hunger Games remake. Unlike previous ones, Metropolis pt 2: Scenes from a Memory for instance, The Astonoshing makes way into synphonic metal, and I believe will difficultly leave a bigger mark in fans.

As a DT fan I grew to believe that each and every album would be great, but this came to me as a very bold, even a megalomonous one. Unlike Scenes From a Memory, The Astonoshing is like Final Fantasy transported to a Prog-Metal symphonic Opera, that just works altogether. Whereas in Scenes From a Memory you could drag out a track, The Astonishing works only when played altogether. An even for most prog-believers, you need to have an endurance ear. This is why it is difficult to point a track in particular. But that’s what Petrucci and Ruddess were thinking about. They wanted to test fans. Myself, the first moments were rather harsh, but quickly emmerged into it. Even so it lacks the quality and symbolicness to overcome classics like Train of Thought or 6 Degrees of Inner Turbulance.

On the more technical aspect, this is the first time, Petrucci and Ruddess et the others apart of the creative process. Myung, Mangini and LaBrie made no contribution whatsoever, even the arrangements. It was said that those two had the creative momentum within the band, even so, DT was reckoned to be very democractic band as to the writing process goes. You can see that keyboards, as well as voice, make a great impression in this record.
You still have a DT trademark, the instrumental tracks, more concisive, and as a way of changing scenery, “Dystopian Overture”, “The Hovering Sojourn”, “Digital discord” and others.

This is a stand-alone vision, and a contribute to a progressive, symphonic music, a legacy tribute to bands such as Yes, Genesis and even Queen, with a great vocal emphasis, despite the poor vocal versatility that LaBrie has. Personaly, I just miss the more focused tracks, with a metalic Pink Floyd sound such as Illumination Theory or Count of Tuscany. But this is not the only downside the Astonoshing lacks, it requires a vast production to be played live, as well as a full live concert with Orchestra Aid. That is why DT cut their European Tour short already. Hope to seem them, but not The Astonishing.

7/10

 

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