During the last decade or so, some people have been complaining about the repetition of some motifs in Dream Theater’s music. Their last, self-titled record especially disappointed some fans for being ‘more of the same’. Personally, I enjoyed ‘Dream Theater’, judging the quality of the songs rather than trying to figure out if the state of mind of the guys making it was ‘progressive enough’. Anyways, this time no one can accuse the band for lack of ambition; ‘The Astonishing’ is a thought out, detailed, double concept album with about 130 minutes of music.
The story takes place in a dystopian future where music is entirely ‘mechanized’, until after many years a man with the gift of music is born. That man’s name is Gabriel, and he is the protagonist of ‘The Astonishing’. Whether you care about the concept or not, hats off to John Petrucci for the work he put into it. He and Jordan Rudess are also the ones responsible for the soundtrack. I use this term because if you’re looking for traditionally structured songs, with a verse and a chorus, there are almost none to be found. This is actually the most impressive characteristic of this album: There is enough interesting music and storytelling for it to be cohesive and not be tiresome for the listener.
However, since expectations for this group are high, I have to say that the second cd is slightly inferior. Especially when the mood flirts with a Broadway musical vibe, I would welcome the – unwanted for some – straight forwardness of ‘Dream Theater’.
In conclusion, I’d love to see ‘The Astonishing’ live in its entirety in Dream Theater’s upcoming tour. Keep in mind though, that the large scope of a project doesn’t necessarily guarantee a masterpiece.