Review by Monty Sewell for MPM
12 million records sold worldwide, 2 grammy nominations and an undeniable claim to the progressive metal throne. Dream Theater stand firm as progenitors of the genre, delivering their usual package of leather bound complex compositions in their latest album ‘A View from the Top of the World’.
Track 1 of the modest in length (lest we forget the magnificent juggernaut that was ‘The Astonishing’) 70 minute excursion drops in at a maths defying 17/8 time with ‘The Alien’. Well versed in the subject of extraterrestrial musings, it’s John Rudess’ etherial toned keys under John Petrucci’s demanding riff that initiates a sense of forthcoming grandeur.
The track builds before diving head first into an eighteen wheeled metal chug which then once again rises, leading us blindly through Petrucci’s cinematic concerto. James Labrie’s clean vocals come in dripping with effects, only adding to the otherworldly experience ‘The Alien’ slowly becomes. A challenging interlude of soloing broken up by Mike Mangini’s ever diverse percussion leaves the listener thirsty under an umbrella of distorted grit.
For the less hard core prog-metal votaries, ‘Answering The Call’ provides an accessible easing into the genre. Vocal heavy, the song is propped up by a smattering of orchestral breaks with its bastion riff repeated through varying instrumental components.
Whilst the band has had a long but unwavering 35 year haul, you can always seem to taste the nectar from their roots with every new album plucked. ‘Invisible Monster’ stirs in a pinch of Judas Priest with the rest of the melancholically seasoned ingredients as LaBrie offers soaring vocals that stretch out across an undeviating rhythmic backing. The song speaks of our inner demons – ‘Invisible monster / Always felt but never seen’ – and offers a relatable insight into the mind of the masses.
We step into the middle ground of the album with the provocatively titled ‘Sleeping Giant’. Whether a social commentary on the worlds current climate or a telling of a more specific, personal event, we’re back into complete and domineering Dream Theater territory. Evocative of the bands 2005’s ‘Panic Attack’ from the favourably received ‘Octavarium’, it’s melodic yet hard-hitting, fluctuating with ease. A highlight being Rudess’ playful, jam-like exhibit of groove keys which graces us at 6.51.
However the most brow raising moment on the record comes in the shape of ‘Transcending Time’. Written in a major key arrangement it certainly jumps out from the rest, only reigning in from being classed as too poppy through Petrucci’s conceptual lyrics and syncopatic soloing.
‘Awaken The Master’ greatly compliments itself, beckoning the metal gods with a demons finger before divulging a fantastical sounding LaBrie. The writing focus’ on the splendour of his melodies where we are reminded how emotive his vocals can be when spun cleanly above the instrumental. Though it’s the three quarter way sludge movement that really hinges the track.
Then, in all its monstrous glory, we come head to head with the final number, ‘A View from the Top Of The World’. From the word go it’s clear the reaction refuses to be anything less than epic as the track cultivates and convulses with each jolting segment. At 5.10 we are spoiled with that rare shine through of bassist John Myung who acts as the bands subtle yet precise anchor throughout the albums play.
If you were to see the tracks journey as 3 separate acts played as one, the second would be its synthesised easing into a steadier middle section. Layered with yet more orchestral pomp, LaBrie howls out ‘I begin the blind descent’ in a literal sense to fresh ears. It’s both tranquil and stimulating. The home run sees the usual exhilarating Petrucci finger work which offers up a familiar sign off for the guitarist.
Considering many long-running bands will have periods that divert from their usual trope, Dream Theater have for the most part stood solemnly in their own. This album will keep fans – old and new – satisfied with just enough speculative intrigueto keep them eager for the next.
Dream Theater presents ‘A View From The Top Of The World’, OUT NOW: https://dream-theater.lnk.to/aviewfromthetopoftheworld