View Full Version : 2011 Album of the Year? New Dream Theater AND Opeth reviews....

09-03-2011, 04:15 AM
So, just to recap what KK and myself have been saying. This is a glorious year for metal music, 2008 Album of the Year winners Testament have a new one coming out. 2001+2005 winners Opeth have a new one. Dream Theater has a new one. 2007 winners Machine Head have a new one. And Symphony X set the bar pretty goddamn high with Iconoclast.

Well today I got not one, but two new CD's, both of which are some of the afformentioned contenders. Dream Theater's "A Dramatic Turn of Events", their first AP(After Portnoy) effort, and Opeth's "Heritage".

So let's start with Opeth :

There is, without a doubt, no more consistent band in the world of heavy metal right now. Since 2001's "Blackwater Park" dominated everything you thought you knew about progressive rock, they've released greatness upon greatness. The double-release Deliverance and Damnation, one hard, one soft CD, was loads of brilliant music that showed off what makes them so special, the range they can, and do, play. There is no one like Mikael Akerfeldt in the metal world, that can growl as if satan is exiting his mouth one second, and sing beautifully the next minute. Lots of singers do both, but no one does both extremes better than Akerfeldt. It's allowed the band to record songs like the hauntingly gorgeous "Isolation Years", and absolutely brutal "Blackwater Park" all with the same group. Their willingness to throw themselves fully into every song as an exploration makes them truly the most unique, and interesting band to listen to in music today. Their complete unwillingness to compromise or conform to anything resembling a limitation makes them special(take the God of War soundtrack, entitled "Blood and Metal", which Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Dream Theater, Mutiny Within and Opeth all wrote songs for). Killswitch, Trivium and Mutiny did what they do. Dream Theater made a brutally hard instrumental. Opeth wrote a ballad with no heaviness at all.

So what do you do if you've spent 15 years making the same genre of music even if none of the CD's ever sounded the same? Well, you change it up again.

This time, gone is Akerfeldt's screaming, and in it's place is a more standard line of progressive rock music.

So naturally, the easy thing to do would be what the heavy metal world always does, turn your back and say they sold out, or it's all bullshit, or how dare they, as if you somehow ever owned the band that never fit a mold.

What it does, is ignore the biggest glaring point of all about "Heritage"...it's pretty outstanding. It's similar in some respects to "Damnation", in that it's a complete album departure from the usual sound. It's quite outstanding though, and deffinitely worth checking out.

The thing that makes the album hard to review is, it's a very slow, very prodding, very atmospheric, very layered effort. There is nothing fast here, nothing to bang your head to. There is musical brilliance here, but it's damn sure every bit the departure they warned it was. This is NOTHING like Opeth has ever recorded. It's beautiful when it wants to be, haunting when it wants to be. It's a brilliant band making more brilliant music. But I think the problem is it's "too much", it's so very slow and bleak that frankly it's hard to get through the entire thing.

There are wild tempo changes, and the album is, if nothing else, never, ever predictable. It's just, frankly, a little bit boring.

If I can draw a comparison, it's kind of like Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" in some respect. It's brilliant, there's real artistry on display through the entire thing. And it also feels like it's building to something. "Hurt" literally teases you with the one or two notes that it feels like the song is building to, then ends. This never gives it to you.

It's great music, but not a great CD. It needs something to break up the total feeling of bleakness that overwhelms the entire thing.

So, on to Dream Theater's "A Dramatic Turn of Events"...

Everyone knows the story by now for Dream Theater, the founding member of the band, Mike Portnoy, maybe the greatest single instrument musician left on this planet(he's a better drummer than anyone at any other instrument) left the band. They found a worthy technical replacement for him in Mike Mangini, now the question is, how does he work with the band's recording process?

My first thought is, listening to "On The Backs of Angels", the first track on the CD and the first single, is "This is exactly what Opeth's CD is missing, something upbeat or quick to break itself up".

My next thought is remembering how huge a fan I am of this song. It portends very good things for the rest of the album as a return to form for Dream Theater. So what's in the rest of the album?

Hard to explain really...if you were searching for comperable CD's, it's at times "Train of Thought", at times "Scenes from a Memory", but always interesting, and always very very good.

John Petrucci takes the lead on everything now musically, the band flows through him now, and it creates a different sound and dynamic that is absolutely in no way heard in that first single. The first single sounds like Dream Theater. The rest of the album sounds different, but the same. All the aspects of a Dream Theater album are there. 10 minute epics. Songs that trade off playful, creative prog style dueling solos, everyone having their turn in the sun.

But under all that, lies a different band. Frankly, I'm kind of thinking it's for the better.

If you want a better idea of what you're stepping in to, the 2nd song will let you know really quickly. "Build Me Up, Break Me Down", has this little techno style opening from Rudess, while Petrucci builds in the background, and then absolutely explodes with a crushing riff.

The band's more riff driven, which frankly is a huge plus I think, because Petrucci showcases himself in a different light. Some of these riffs are really brutal. Yet it somehow never doesn't feel like Dream Theater. There's a ton of stuff happening in these songs, just about every instrument under the sun finds itself in here at some point, and some of the solos are mind blowing, some of them are playful as hell(Rudess from about 5:00-6:00 in "Breaking All Illusions" is just a mile of fun).

It all really works for me. I'm in love. Whether this is better than Symphony X, I'm not entirely sure it is, but it's pretty fucking close. It's deffinitely more enjoyable than Opeth's effort, which as I said, it's not that it's bad, it's that it's too slow.

Bring on Machine Head and Testament, let's keep this bitch rolling.

09-07-2011, 10:36 PM
Cayuga.... Once again, pretty accurate reviews my friend. I agree, the musicianship and musicality of the Opeth piece is there, but it's lacking. I could say, maybe a little disappointing. The Dream Theater piece, I was concerned heavily. I wasn't too sure what was going to happen with Portnoy out. Then I'd get snippet after snippet, soon full track after track. I am more than pleased with what Dream Theater is giving us. Petrucci really comes to the forefront. Solid effort! I am eagerly anticipating Machine Head. Of course I cannot wait for the Testament album either. I am hearing Testament is now slated for February 2012. Don't forget the highly anticipated new album from the resurrected Sanctuary.

09-11-2011, 03:22 AM
One thing I'll add about the Dream Theater CD, I just don't think it's as good as their prime old stuff, nor do I think they could ever reach those heights again now.

The one thing that really stands out about the album is how little Mangini does to really stand out at any point. He's just sort of....there. There are very few moments where he's the one shining.

The more I listen to it the more I come to a realization, no one could ever replace Mike Portnoy. He may have wanted to do things differently than the band and that's what led to some off albums, etc etc. But at the end of the day, he also took a backseat to no one.

There was an interview with Petrucci on blabbermouth that stands out, he basically said "Mangini let us be us, and we just handed him what to play". That really does show through. Mangini is not really used like he could have been at any point, and if there's a weak point to the CD, it's the drums through no fault of Mangini's.