Every time I hear that Dream Theater is going to release another album, I get a little excited–not like I do when I hear that Rush is releasing a new album, but excited nonetheless. On September 24, 2013, Dream Theater released its eponymous twelfth album. The album begins with “False Awakening Suite,” a short, majestic piece that highlights Jordan Rudess’s keyboard playing. The next song, “The Enemy Inside,” is a blisterin
g, guitar-heavy song about living with guilt and shame. Mike Mangini’s drumming is machine-like. Hearing these two songs left me hopeful that the rest of the album would be as good. Instead, I was left feeling cheated and disappointed.
The musicians in Dream Theater are at the top of their game. The musical interplay between John Petrucci, John Myung, Jordan Rudess, and Mike Mangini is mind-boggling and awe-inspiring. James LaBrie still has great vocal range, though much of the time he brings a level of pomposity to his singing that is exceeded only by Creed’s Scott Stapp.
Disappointingly, Dream Theater’s song-writing hasn’t evolved at the same pace as their musical prowess. On this album, songs like “Behind The Veil” and “Surrender To Reason” are devoid of emotion. Then you have “The Bigger Picture” and “Along For the Ride,” two sappy ballads, typical of many of Dream Theater’s more recent albums.
“Enigma Machine” is a decent instrumental, with Petrucci, Myung and Rudess interacting musically on a level that most musicians can only dream of. But still, there is something very sterile about the way the song feels. Maybe it’s that the playing is too perfect, too mechanical.
The final song on the album, “Illumination Theory,” sounds like an exercise in using a computer to combine discordant pieces of music into a 22-minute song. Again, the playing is excellent. However, the song doesn’t flow from one section to the next very well, not like Rush’s “Natural Science,” “Xanadu,” or “Hemispheres.”
Bottom line: The musicianship on this album is excellent, but the song-writing is lacking.