A contentious point, maybe, but it’s probably true to say there’s no other band like rock titans, the mighty Dream Theatre. Consequently, few bands divide opinion in the rock world more than they seem to. That’s because they’re an interesting hybrid; neither wholly prog, nor wholly metal, rather, they’re a fascinating amalgam of the two styles. They effortlessly bridge together the two genres, often inside the same piece of music, which has produced an ongoing debate between those fans who are fanatical about their awesome level of musicianship and virtuosity, and those who chide them for what they perceive to be an over-reliance on needless showmanship at the expense of substance. Whichever side you’re on, what cannot be denied is the fact they’ve won Grammy’s and sold millions of albums worldwide, and there can also be no denying either their influence nor their success.
Following on from 2016’s double album, The Astonishing, released to some of the less than critically favourable reviews of their career, comes their new album, Distance Over Time, released on InsideOutMusic. This is an album where Dream Theatre have rediscovered their mojo, focused on the songs and have tapped into a new burst of creativity while, at the same time, retaining everything which has earned them a fanatical worldwide fanbase. This is Dream Theatre at their most dynamic. They’re no lengthy epic rock-outs on the album, with the longest track only nine minutes. Here, there are some crunchingly hard riffs, some intensely complex guitar/bass lines from John Petrucci and John Myung, several lengthy instrumental passages, expansive prog metal and even a touch of melodic balladry, all of which makes Distance Over Time an engaging and powerful listen.
Opening track, ‘Untethered Angel’, highlights everything the critics dislike about Dream Theatre. A slow opening gives way to some dynamic, crunching riffs and speed playing from Petrucci and Myung, and there’s a middle section full of the flash and epic playing their critics love to hate. Similarly, ‘Fall into The Light’ and ‘Pale Blue Dot’ also come under the category of songs containing complex runs, played at breakneck speed. Within Dream Theatres music it’s possible to discern the influence of Rush, but even Rush in their pomp would have hesitated to attempt licks as complex as these. However, they’re not all about the fast and complex. They show their melodic side on ‘Barstool Warrior’ and ‘Out Of Reach’, the latter sounding almost like a love song!
Already a fan? You’ll love this album. If you’re in the mood for this kind of music, there’re few bands better at performing it. Not a fan? You’re unlikely to be persuaded otherwise because this album contains all the elements which has made them what they are. But, whatever, this album is all about Dream Theatre doing what they do best, making complex, accessible and enjoyable music.