Album Review: Dream Theater - 'The Astonishing'

2 February 2016 | 11:28 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Progressive metal heavyweights 'astonish' listeners with their most ambitious release to date.

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Dream Theater are a household name in any prog-lovers humble abode. Through the decades the band has satisfied metal's nerdish and most passionate fans with unbelievably intense and dramatic compositions. Their latest album, 'The Astonishing', may just be their grandest endeavour yet; a double-disc concept album, spanning just over two hours long.

Before we dive into it; we'll give you a quick rundown as, while it may be cheesy at points, the record lives up to its name and delivers *cough* an astonishing experience that Dream Theater have been working up to since 'Metropolis Part II' or 'Six Degrees'. 

DT fans would know that any album put out by the veterans is often comprised of a lot of grandeur, and 'The Astonishing' is a further testament to the fact. It's a stunning concept, with breathtaking instrumentals, from both the band and additionally from the City of Prague’s Philharmonic Orchestra that provides a cinematic lens over the wondrous compositions. James LaBrie’s vocals have improved immensely over the past decade, however, for the first time since 'Metropolis', his vocals have soared and shined through just as much as Petrucci’s playing, or Rudess’ wizardry on the keyboard. This statement is not to discount LaBrie’s vocals on past albums, however. While the story may be, for lack of a better word, a bit corny, it portrays a tale meaningful to both John Petrucci and the rest of the band. Something that really can be heard in the music itself.

The only gripe with the full-length is its immense length. As previously noted, the record's running time is around two hours and ten minutes, which results in a listening experience that may take a couple of attempts to smash through the entire monolith. There are some tracks that highlight the album more than others, but seeing as how each song flows into one it's better left unsaid as 'The Astonishing' is an experience that is meant to start from track one, and end only at track thirty-four.

Spanning a mind-boggling 34 tracks, The Astonishing' might seem like an effort, at times, for even the most dedicated Dream Theater fan, however don’t be intimidated by its titanic length for between the theatrical moments and the times of shred or dissonance, Dream Theater have given fans an epic follow-up to their last album, and something that was worth the wait.

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Act I

1. Descent of the NOMACS

2. Dystopian Overture

3. The Gift of Music

4. The Answer

5. A Better Life

6. Lord Nafaryus

7. A Savior in the Square

8. When Your Time Has Come

9. Act of Faythe

10. Three Days

11. The Hovering Sojourn

12. Brother, Can You Hear Me?

13. A Life Left Behind

14. Ravenskill

15. Chosen

16. A Tempting Offer

17. Digital Discord

18. The X Aspect

19. A New Beginning

20. The Road to Revolution

Act II

1. 2285 Entr’acte

2. Moment of Betrayal

3. Heaven’s Cove

4. Begin Again

5. The Path That Divides

6. Machine Chatter

7. The Walking Shadow

8. My Last Farewell

9. Losing Faythe

10. Whispers in the Wind

11. Hymn of a Thousand Voices

12. Our New World

13. Power Down

14. Astonishing