Dream Theater - The Astonishing

Hello ladies and gentlemen. Let’s begin the year of 2016 with this newly released album by the New York Progressive Metal veterans.

Before the release, these guys came out with two tracks, The Gift of Music and Moment of Betrayal. They sound the same as we all used to hear. But when it comes to the album in its entirety, it is totally different from what we expected.

As we all know, the album consists of two acts with the total of 34 tracks. The man behind the storyline is no one but John Petrucci. He told The Rolling Stone that hew was inspired by his love for the series like Star Wars and Game of Thrones. The concept of the album is how the rebels go against the oppressive empire, in addition of some dramatic love scenes.

Musically, they come out with something grandeur and ambitious. This is their first time ever to add the full orchestration into the music (Octavarium is excluded since it was only heard in the title track). The symphony is arranged and conducted by the legendary David Campbell, who said this was the biggest project ever done. On the other hand, the entire musical part is composed by Petrucci and Jordan Rudess.

James LaBrie is another one who stand out for this since it already becomes a rock opera and he has to sing ALL EIGHT CHARACTERS in the story. This reminds me of what he did with Ayreon in The Human Equation. He is really the master of fully accessing through a character, even multiple characters at once.

Mike Mangini told Blabbermouth about the challenges he had faced during the writing process and being ‘two people at once’. It was about interpretation of the music without any drum lines. He didn’t add much techniques and his overall sound is a little bit softer than the previous release. In addition, John Myung still does things quietly with his big bass guitar.

Not only LaBrie, but Rudess also stands out for this one. His keyboard arrangements are getting more beautiful and more visual (as Mangini mentioned). On the other hand, Petrucci’s roles on his guitar is decreasing due to the emphasis on the storyline and adding more spaces for the orchestra to blend with each other. Recently, I saw people sharing a meme making fun of the album for the Walt-Disney-ish sounds. But well I see this as an opportunity for the gentlemen to create some new sounds after being Metal for all these years. And I believe fans may want to hear some of their signature instrumentations like before. But I can tell that there are not many songs since they try to keep the story as a whole. There may be at least one within these many songs.

Overall, as mentioned above, it is good for them to create something different while keeping their quality. And Petrucci did handle the story quite well til the end. But being too lengthy is quite boring, especially the first act of 70 minutes with most of the tracks are in the slow tempo. Still, for fans who like concept albums, this shall be worth it. After this, they will be on tour performing the entire release. And I wish they would come to Thailand again soon…

Full Album Stream