Intro: Dimitris Kaltsas
26 / 03 / 2019
The decline of the Dream Theater releases is a common ground even amongst their most loyal fans in the last years (even 17 for some). The issue becomes bigger not just because the band is huge in the metal world, but the timeless leader of progressive metal that appeared and got gigantic because of their unique and fresh sound. The truth is that the things became bad with A Dramatic Turn of Events (2011) and Dream Theater (2013) and it reached (or even gone beyond) unbearable with The Astonishing (2016).
This year’s Distance Over Time seems to find the band in a creative rise. Only the thought of that makes the fans impatient or even excited for the result.
A predictable improvement
Let’s start with an assumption. The days that Dream Theater were prodigals, pioneers, bold and inspired are long gone. The present album cannot reach the levels of their previous great releases, and to be exact it’s quite far from those albums and someone that loves their music and at the same time keeps a non a fanboy attitude toward such a loved band can see that. Their sound is not far from the classic Dream Theater sound they have set, there are no surprises nor changes from whatever someone has in his mind when he hears “new Dream Theater album”.
Some of the positive things that one can hear in Distance over Time. The production is impeccable both in sound and mix. The instruments have space to breathe. Especially, the drum sound is to be taught in a seminar. Myung and Mangini are the big stars of the album with great ideas in the songs and they are one of the best rhythm sections in music right now. Petrucci’s solos don’t tend too much in exaggeration and are great in both tone and ideas. The times he exaggerates are there, but his playing is always flashy and definitely interesting.
And now for the negatives. There is not a single big track. And I’m not talking about duration long, but in value. There is nothing bad though, however most tracks are mediocre with some good instances. That’s probably the most annoying thing in the album. It’s a flat listen without any peaks. Personally, I’d prefer an album with 4 exceptional songs and then couple of bad ones that this flat album. They’re playing amazingly, but nothing too remarkable. In the negatives we should also put James Labrie who is indifferent in his mostly predictable vocal lines.
The album is quite compact and less spread out from what they are used to, with small durations and quite heavy elements in the guitars which most of the times resembles sounds from Black Clouds and Silver Linings, Train of Thought and A Dramatic Turn of Events. There are some more melodic parts that bring some variation. Untethered Angel and Paralyzed have lots of cliché Dream Theater elements, like heavy guitars and themes in the keyboards that always make the listener think that they have heard them before. They’re not bad songs, but none have the aura of a song that will be memorable. Special note for Fall Into the Light with the change in the acoustic part somewhere in the middle being the most interesting things in the album with Barstool Warrior with the impressive intro resembling a more metallized version of Kansas however the next part of the song being quite trivial for a Dream Theater song. Room 137 is indifferent, S2N is very interesting and heavy, while At Wit’s End is the most progressive song with its changes in times and themes, giving a nice feeling in the record. A feeling that gives the impression that is a very well played album, with a lot of nice parts but without any great inspiration and no classic aura.
If for the previous two releases the feeling was that they were weak, you can’t actually say that for the present album. It’s not however a big album. It’s an above average album which will please the faboys of this big bang while most of the people will quickly forget it.
5.5 / 10
At least for the last 5 years, Dream Theater release indifferent albums and Distance Over Time doesn’t really try to renew their stagnant musical chapter. It’s a potpourri of their sound after the quite important departure of Mike Portnoy grafted with elements from their past successes. If they were giving me a collection of their songs from their music swam, I wouldn’t see any difference from the present release. Some good riffs, great production and a good performance from the quite debatable Labrie, are not enough for the second wind that the most optimistic fans await.
Yes, S2N and Room 137 are dynamic and made to be performed live, yes they are virtuosos, yes there are changes in songs like Pale Blue Dot but did we really wait 2019 to prove that to us? If those are our expectations from a band that created masterpieces, created a whole school and nurtured most of the progressive metal fans, then it seems that it’s quite late now for Dream Thetater and it would be nice for our conscience for them to stop wrinkling their image.
5.5 / 10