Album: Dream Theater: Octavarium|
Street Date: June 7, 2005
Reviewed by: Paul
“You can please some of the people all of the time and you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” I believe this statement describes Dream Theater’s eighth studio album, Octavarium quite well. The album has a little of something for everyone. Dream Theater is well known for wearing their influences on their sleeve, The Great Debate off of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and the opening riffs of As I Am off of Train of Thought being perfect examples. The trend continues on this album, so when you hear bits and say “Hey, that sounds like U2,” or “Hey, that sounds like Metallica,” don’t be surprised.
Production on this album is nearly flawless. John Petrucci (guitarist) and Mike Portnoy (percussionist) have really matured over the years as producers, and it becomes even more evident on this album. James Labrie is at his prime, squeezing the last drop of emotion out of every word. His vocal effects on this album were also a pleasant surprise.
Fans of Dream Theater are already familiar with their virtuosity and sheer prowess with their instruments. This, however, is one of the few albums that might not make you say “Wow, did you hear how awesome that was?”
1. The Root of All Evil - This track is part three of Mike Portnoy’s Alcoholic’s Anonymous saga, the first two being The Glass Prison (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence) and This Dying Soul (Train of Thought). It is definitely one of the harder/heavier tracks on the album, but it does so without sacrificing melody. Those familiar with the previous entries into his saga will recognize familiar lyrics and guitar riffs throughout this track.
2. The Answer Lies Within - Often referred to as the token ballad, I think it’s far deeper than that. The lyrics clearly speak to John Petrucci’s children, assuring them that all will be okay in the end as long as they stick to their guns. James Labrie is definitely the standout member on this track with his fantastic vocals. Also, as kind of a twist, this track is the first on the album to feature a live orchestra, which is a first in Dream Theater history, doing away with the conventional keyboards.
3. These Walls - This track took me back to the older days of Dream Theater, specifically Falling Into Infinity. It has a bit of the older Dream Theater prog sound with heavy keyboards during the chorus and downtempo verses. It’s very predictable in song structure and doesn’t offer much musically. However, James Labrie stands out again as he sings with intense passion and clarity.
4. I Walk Beside You - A definite homage to U2, this is an upbeat and uplifting track with a catchy melody, but not much else. On the surface, this is a good song, easy to listen to and easy to enjoy, but much like today’s radio music, it becomes bland quickly and easily ignored as time goes on.
5. Panic Attack - Definitely one of Dream Theater’s hardest and heaviest songs in their career. This song does not let up in intensity from the moment it starts until the end. Geared more toward the metal fan, it’s full of fast, crunchy riffs, good solos, and very aggressive vocals. Fantastic metal effort, but not for those with lighter or more downtempo tastes.
6. Never Enough - This is a song with heavy, and obvious influences, many will quickly recognize a very strong Muse sound to this track. Much like I Walk Beside You, on the surface, this song is very catchy and easy to listen to. As you dig deeper into this track, however, you will find more to it musically and lyrically. Musically, this is probably the most difficult and awe inspiring track on the album, from the opening keyboard and guitar riffs all the way through the unison breakdown. The lyrics are a bit trite and shallow, no digging to understand the references, although, the lyrics hit very close to home for many Dream Theater fans. This should state the entire point/mood of the song “Sacrifice my life, neglect my kids and wife, all for you to be happy. All those sleepless nights and countless fights to give you more, and then you say how dare that I didn’t write you back, I must be too good for you, I only care about myself!” For me, this is the most powerful track on the album.
7. Sacrificed Sons - The albums only real political song, a lot of people find it to be written with questionable intent. James Labrie carries on, rather eerily, asking what religion would ask anyone to sacrifice their son in the name of God? He also questions whether or not religious fanaticism will be the end of mankind/civilization. The track, musically is haunting and well played, leading to a very progressive solo section and ending on a rather aggressive note musically and vocally. Not one of my favorites on the album, but definitely worth the listen and deserving of my respect.
8. Octavarium - This is easily Dream Theater’s most involved piece of music since Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes From A Memory. Twenty four minutes in length, this track is definitely not for the light hearted. Don’t be alarmed though, this is definitely not a monotonous, bland, insipid track that drags on. It is chocked full of variety, good musicianship, great lyrics, and geared toward the prog rock fan more than anything. There are references galore in this one, from the subtle opening reminiscent of Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd, to the more obvious piano melody from Bohemian Rhapsody. Easily a favorite by most Dream Theater fans, this is the pinnacle of the album, if not the latter half of their career. A must listen.
In closing, this album is not without its flaws, but makes up for any through its cleverness and good song writing. For those not in the know, Octavarium is Dream Theater’s eighth album to date, it contains eight tracks, and has several references to the numbers 8 (eighth album) and 5 (number of members in the band). The track listing on the back of the album shows an octave on a piano turned sideways, each track is listed on a natural key which is also the same key the respective song starts on (for example, the first song is on the F key, The Root of All Evil, and starts in the key of F, the second song is listed on G, and starts in G, and so on). Flipping through the insert will also reveal several references too numerous to list here.
Overall, I found this album to be an enjoyable experience for those with any taste is rock music and a definite worthwhile investment.
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