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Dream Theater - The Astonishing review



Reviewer:
7.5

405 users:
6.67
Band: Dream Theater
Album: The Astonishing
Release date: January 2016


Disc I [Act I]
01. Descent Of The NOMACS
02. Dystopian Overture
03. The Gift Of Music
04. The Answer
05. A Better Life
06. Lord Nafaryus
07. A Savior In The Square
08. When Your Time Has Come
09. Act Of Faythe
10. Three Days
11. The Hovering Sojourn
12. Brother, Can You Hear Me?
13. A Life Left Behind
14. Ravenskill
15. Chosen
16. A Tempting Offer
17. Digital Discord
18. The X Aspect
19. A New Beginning
20. The Road To Revolution

Disc II [Act II]
01. 2285 Entr'acte
02. Moment Of Betrayal
03. Heaven's Cove
04. Begin Again
05. The Path That Divides
06. Machine Chatter
07. The Walking Shadow
08. My Last Farewell
09. Losing Faythe
10. Whispers On The Wind
11. Hymn Of A Thousand Voices
12. Our New World
13. Power Down
14. Astonishing


One of the pioneering bands of progressive metal, the iconic Dream Theater, unleashed their new opus at the end of January. As is the case with all their releases, The Astonishing is going to draw all kinds of comments from "this is the worst thing ever" to "album of the year material". One thing is for certain, with more than 2 hours of music, their latest record is a demanding listen drawing inspiration from many musical and dramatic influences.

The whole thing essentially feels like a symphonic rock-oriented movie sound track. The story is anchored around both science-fiction and fantasy themes, a futuristic and dystopian world with chivalry values if you wish. The band has incorporated various elements to make that obvious, from alien robots buzzing, those could be straight from Devin Townsend's Ziltoid universe, to a full-blown choir, crowd applause and a whole bunch of equally surprising tidbits. I believe that the intention was to create a rock opera in the spirit of Jesus Christ Superstar meets Pink Floyd's The Wall, which jives with the album being presented as act I & act II.

Act I of The Astonishing is an ambitious piece of rock music with maybe too much emphasis on ballads and little in terms of progressive anything, which often sounds like a musical featuring James LaBrie. Yes, it is upbeat and feel-good music for the most part but it does not deliver in terms of progressive metal as we expect from Dream Theater. James is clearly shining though, and most of the tracks are really growers once you are adjusted to listening to a rock opera. It takes a lot of repeated listens to get into it. My first pass-through had me shaking my head, by the third one I started to get it. A notable exception is the progressive and groovy "A New Beginning", which is the standout track for me of this first act.

Act II recaptures some of the essence of what made Dream Theater special without completely moving away from what has been created in act I. The first half of act II features the heaviest and more progressive songs such as "Moment of Betrayal" and "The Path That Divides". But soon enough the rock opera vibe comes back with a vengeance starting with "Losing Faythe" and we are signed up for another 20-minute ballad-fest to conclude what is undeniably a very puzzling yet appealing album.

The Astonishing is a gutsy effort that is sure to make people talk. It takes a lot of patience to get into. If you have no prior knowledge of the rock operas that the album is oftentimes emulating and paying tribute to, this will be an underwhelming listen. Especially if you expect the trademark progressive sound of Dream Theater. That incisive heaviness simply is not there. Otherwise, given time, this is the sort of record that will slowly grow on you due to talented songwriting.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 6


 



Written on 04.02.2016 by Bringing you reviews of quality music and interesting questions such as:

"A picture is worth a thousand words. How many words is a song worth?"

I have only got so much patience and skills, you do the math.


Comments

Comments: 24   [ 1 ignored ]   Visited by: 599 users
04.02.2016 - 04:06
Metren
Donkey Hotte
Based on my first two listenings of the album, this review seems fair and hits all the right points. It also makes me want to give the album another chance, maybe it is a grower. At least I never got the impression that they were being lazy or not trying with this album.
----
I am not nor have I ever been a musician or a member of a one-man band, especially a band that has a name that starts with "D".
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04.02.2016 - 09:51
slim pickings
Account deleted
I like concept albums and rock operas but the new DT album just does not deliver anything for me. The more I try listening to it, the worse it gets. LaBrie's performance is very good, I agree to this, but it's not enough.
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04.02.2016 - 10:11
andreosokin
SOUNDERY
Great review, though I would give a "9" for performance. The production is pretty lame indeed, especially the drum sound and the ridiculous autotune on The Gift Of Music.
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04.02.2016 - 10:48
Daniell
_爱情_
Written by andreosokin on 04.02.2016 at 10:11

Great review, though I would give a "9" for performance.


The bass is almost non-existent. the drumming is totally lazy. It seems like Mr Myung and Mr Mangini recorded their parts in a day or two, without a single bit of creative input on their side. I'd say that 7 for performance is generous.
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04.02.2016 - 11:28
slim pickings
Account deleted
Read the only negative review on PA that this album got and the reviewer is so right, I mean it's the only review that I agree with.
http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=1522649 - for the curious
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04.02.2016 - 11:32
andreosokin
SOUNDERY
Written by Daniell on 04.02.2016 at 10:48
The bass is almost non-existent.


Blame the mixing guy, it's not JMX's fault => production


Written by Daniell on 04.02.2016 at 10:48
It seems like Mr Myung and Mr Mangini recorded their parts in a day or two


Two days for recording drums should be a normal practice. Dan Swano recorded drums for Katatonia's Tonight's Decision in less than 24 hours.

They're definitely not lazy, I'd say it's Petrucci who's pushing them back with creativity to make way for his epic chorus effect on the guitar So blame the producer, JP => production, again
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04.02.2016 - 11:40
andreosokin
SOUNDERY
Written by Guest on 04.02.2016 at 11:28

Read the only negative review on PA that this album got and the reviewer is so right, I mean it's the only review that I agree with.
http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=1522649 - for the curious


That's a great review, btw! And after reading it I suddenly realized that Beyond Twilight had For The Love Of Art... released 10 years ago, with 40+ tracks which were 38 minutes long in total, which makes an average track size 4 times less than on Astonishing. But that album was almost perfect! There was something original in it, something wild... And it there was no meaningless song length extension, which is exactly the case with DT's new album.
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04.02.2016 - 12:18
MikeVonDoom
Written by Metren on 04.02.2016 at 04:06

Based on my first two listenings of the album, this review seems fair and hits all the right points. It also makes me want to give the album another chance, maybe it is a grower. At least I never got the impression that they were being lazy or not trying with this album.



x2! 'nuff said!
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04.02.2016 - 14:24
Daniell
_爱情_
Written by andreosokin on 04.02.2016 at 11:32

Written by Daniell on 04.02.2016 at 10:48
The bass is almost non-existent.

Blame the mixing guy, it's not JMX's fault => production

If bass lines were a bit less glued to other instruments, we'd hear the bass guitar more. Check "Learning To Live" or "Illumination Theory" to verify.
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04.02.2016 - 14:31
Daniell
_爱情_
Written by andreosokin on 04.02.2016 at 11:32

They're definitely not lazy, I'd say it's Petrucci who's pushing them back with creativity to make way for his epic chorus effect on the guitar So blame the producer, JP => production, again

Last time I checked, DT were a 5 man band. If, as you put it, Petrucci pushed drums and bass to the background to make room for his sounds, it is a bad sign that only confirms what I said - there is zero creativity in bass and drum lines.

Quote:
Two days for recording drums should be a normal practice. Dan Swano recorded drums for Katatonia's Tonight's Decision in less than 24 hours.

Coming up with creative and interesting drum parts should take a much longer time though. And that's what I meant, not the actual time it took to lay drum tracks.
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04.02.2016 - 17:33
HCT18
Account deleted
To be very honest I haven't liked any of post Portnoy albums. I think that the problem is just simple as that - with Portnoy leaving the band lost much more than a drummer. It also lost the guy who has been the soul of the band so long, pushing others constantly to their limits. And it lost a producer who knew how drums should sound.
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04.02.2016 - 20:43
andreosokin
SOUNDERY
Written by Daniell on 04.02.2016 at 14:24

Written by andreosokin on 04.02.2016 at 11:32

Written by Daniell on 04.02.2016 at 10:48
The bass is almost non-existent.

Blame the mixing guy, it's not JMX's fault => production

If bass lines were a bit less glued to other instruments, we'd hear the bass guitar more. Check "Learning To Live" or "Illumination Theory" to verify.


I won't argue, those have a lot more interesting bass lines, and that was considered as progressive music for a reason! Myung is probably not as interested in songwriting as before; sometimes it feels like he's just "doing his job"

Written by Daniell on 04.02.2016 at 14:31

Written by andreosokin on 04.02.2016 at 11:32

They're definitely not lazy, I'd say it's Petrucci who's pushing them back with creativity to make way for his epic chorus effect on the guitar So blame the producer, JP => production, again

Last time I checked, DT were a 5 man band. If, as you put it, Petrucci pushed drums and bass to the background to make room for his sounds, it is a bad sign that only confirms what I said - there is zero creativity in bass and drum lines.

Quote:
Two days for recording drums should be a normal practice. Dan Swano recorded drums for Katatonia's Tonight's Decision in less than 24 hours.

Coming up with creative and interesting drum parts should take a much longer time though. And that's what I meant, not the actual time it took to lay drum tracks.


A 5-man band, led and produced by Petrucci.

By "recording" I meant actual recording, not arranging.
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04.02.2016 - 22:23
Risto
Wandering Midget
I can clearly hear improvised bass lines whenever the music gives a chance. The material isn't exactly bass friendly a lot of the time in that sense, and Myung most likely knew that.
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05.02.2016 - 22:20
Panterica
So far it seems quite nice. Better than I expected.
----
Li'ed - Prog-Metal from Jerusalem
https://open.spotify.com/artist/7aZWDrAAvDSLMaSmDSE8zA
https://www.facebook.com/LiedBandMusic
http://lied-band.bandcamp.com/
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06.02.2016 - 00:23
slim pickings
Account deleted
Written by Panterica on 05.02.2016 at 22:20

So far it seems quite nice. Better than I expected.


I'm sorry, really am, but I LOLed reading that.
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07.02.2016 - 00:24
Mr.Wilson
Written by Guest on 06.02.2016 at 00:23

Written by Panterica on 05.02.2016 at 22:20

So far it seems quite nice. Better than I expected.


I'm sorry, really am, but I LOLed reading that.


Why? because he has a different opinion?
----
"..Damned in any Language..."
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07.02.2016 - 00:58
SoUnDs LiKe PoP
I am a HUGE fan of DT ballads, and so I was excited when I heard that this album was mostly ballads...

... damn what a letdown.
----
I lift weights and listen to metal
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07.02.2016 - 07:48
slim pickings
Account deleted
Written by Mr.Wilson on 07.02.2016 at 00:24

Written by Guest on 06.02.2016 at 00:23

Written by Panterica on 05.02.2016 at 22:20

So far it seems quite nice. Better than I expected.


I'm sorry, really am, but I LOLed reading that.


Why? because he has a different opinion?


no, I did not mean it in a rude way, I'm just surprised at how much some enjoy this album. For me, DT's new album was a big disappointment, but then again I did not have great expectations anyway. When I saw the track list and the fact that it's a rock opera, I did not even think "this could be good", actually the opposite. I don't know why I was so negative.

The more I try listening to it, the worse it gets.
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08.02.2016 - 10:49
Azerethum
They tried something different for sure but the whole idea of an album of 34 sound alike melody theatrical songs really got me bored though i wanted really to dig in this one. Musicianship and production are perfect but the whole outcome not my cup of tea. I think if they wanted to try something so different shouldn't be under the DT name (maybe some concept/side project album or something).
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13.02.2016 - 01:35
RockSplendid
Written by Guest on 07.02.2016 at 07:48

Written by Mr.Wilson on 07.02.2016 at 00:24

Written by Guest on 06.02.2016 at 00:23

Written by Panterica on 05.02.2016 at 22:20

So far it seems quite nice. Better than I expected.


I'm sorry, really am, but I LOLed reading that.


Why? because he has a different opinion?


no, I did not mean it in a rude way, I'm just surprised at how much some enjoy this album. For me, DT's new album was a big disappointment, but then again I did not have great expectations anyway. When I saw the track list and the fact that it's a rock opera, I did not even think "this could be good", actually the opposite. I don't know why I was so negative.

The more I try listening to it, the worse it gets.


I don't know why you're trying to persuade everybody that it's not a good record. You're totally free to not like it and it's just your opinion.
I liked the album too, it's a nice effort, it actually reminded me of Human Equation album by Ayreon, although it's far from that in musicianship but I appreciate the record and LaBrie's vocal. It could have been better, however it's better than their last couple of albums.
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13.02.2016 - 13:45
slim pickings
Account deleted
Quote:
Quote:
Written by RockSplendid on 13.02.2016 at 01:35

Written by Guest on 07.02.2016 at 07:48



I'm sorry, really am, but I LOLed reading that.


Why? because he has a different opinion?


no, I did not mean it in a rude way, I'm just surprised at how much some enjoy this album. For me, DT's new album was a big disappointment, but then again I did not have great expectations anyway. When I saw the track list and the fact that it's a rock opera, I did not even think "this could be good", actually the opposite. I don't know why I was so negative.

The more I try listening to it, the worse it gets.


I don't know why you're trying to persuade everybody that it's not a good record. You're totally free to not like it and it's just your opinion.
I liked the album too, it's a nice effort, it actually reminded me of Human Equation album by Ayreon, although it's far from that in musicianship but I appreciate the record and LaBrie's vocal. It could have been better, however it's better than their last couple of albums.


I'm not trying to persuade anybody with anything, I've just tried to state my disappointment with it and my surprise to so many people praising this album. If I have offended anyone, I'm sorry, it was never my intention.
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16.02.2016 - 15:19
Daniell
_爱情_
If user votes are anything to go by, this is the worst DT album.
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16.02.2016 - 15:52
Risto
Wandering Midget
Written by Daniell on 16.02.2016 at 15:19

If user votes are anything to go by, this is the worst DT album.

More like most polarizing in a while. I sort of get the low ratings, Train of Thought is pretty popular here, for example.
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26.08.2016 - 20:22
BlankFile
It´s not a bad album. It has its moments.

But i have to say, i almost fell asleep in some parts. Too much Theatrics i think.
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