June 19, 2005

Review - Dream Theater: Octavarium

Here is the first of what I hope to be many posts that I get to post, but which I have done nearly no work on. Remember that submitting reviews, stories, cool links or anything you think other people would like to see gets you Ra points. This is a pretty long review, so I think it's worth a hefty 20 Ra points. This one comes via Casey:

Dream Theater's eighth studio album, "Ocatavarium," returns to what most die-hard DT fans have come to love the band for: compositions that challenge the listener both lyrically and musically. Beyond mere dork rock, this band has symbolism strewn about the album that is all worth studying. Consider Green Day's new album a crappy 99 cent cheeseburger. Use the same analogy for this album and you get two tables full of Thanksgiving dinner. Every time one truly LISTENS to this music, and doesn't just hear, they'll find something new that contributes to the whole.

Dream Theater uses the time tested method of theme and variation often found in classical music. Thankfully, they do it with much heavier riffs along with solos that, as a musician, make me cringe with contempt for their musical aptitude. Their song writing includes elements of U2, Pink Floyd, ELP, Tool, Holdsworth, Pantera and Zappa, but it all sounds like DT because all those bands can't pull off what this band can. On top of that the songs discuss issues that MATTER in life. They're not just complaining about mean parents, talking about kicking someone's ass or getting someone in the sack; nothing is trivialized.

Now for the actual songs. The first tune "The Root of All Evil" is a continuation of two other songs spanning the two albums previous to this, in that the lyrics are all part of one person's struggles and revelations. The song starts familiar enough - w/ the final note from the last song on the previous album - a familiar trick of DT. From there the album is off in many directions, dealing with breaking down communication barriers in "These Walls," clashes w/ ungratefulness in "Never Enough" and even the events of 9/11 in "Sacrificed Sons." Though dubbed a progressive metal band, several songs are conventional in structure, but there's something more - the drum fills, the brief time signature changes and layered textures keep things interesting. Furthermore, the mood of the music coincides with the lyrics so well that it's evident how much effort these guys put into a song. "Panic Attack" exemplifiies this by the opening bass riff.

As for the title track, I don't want to over-analyze, because the rewarding part about music like this is finding the answers on your own. Let me just say the artwork reinforces the song lyrics, and the song lyrics reinforce messages from every other song (listen to the countdown during "Intervals"). Theme and variation of course come into play (tastefully) and the use of orchestral instruments is quaint but powerful. Epic, thick work. It took me a while to understand the "5" in the heavy "5/8" imagery, but turn the back cover 90 degrees and it all becomes clear. Look at where the birds are on the cover. On top of that, look at the back cover and observe where each song title is written. I love this band.

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