Sound — 10
Well, let's start by saying that for me, this albums has the best of each DT album. The production overall it's really cool, even in a low quality audio you can distinguish the instruments. Of course that some parts are a bit confusing but in a high quality audio like the album you really enter in the studio (using headphones of studio. The guitar sounds amazing through the whole album, it just had the perfect tone. The rhythms are perfectly well balanced and equalized, the solos are not too high but very distinguishable, the clean guitar sounds are crystal clear and very high quality. It looks that John Petrucci, decided to let the acoustic guitar staying on top of the electric guitar itself. The reason of this huge sound and very clear overdrive sounds might be linked to the new John Petrucci Music Man model JP13 which includes new pickups from DiMarzio, called Illuminator Bridge and Neck pickups along with Piezo Pickups on the bridge. On the keyboard (I'm sorry to starting with this two instruments first, but they are the most audible instruments on the album...), Jordan Rudess outstands himself once again delivering an intense library of Sounds from the Spectrasonic's Omnisphere VST plugins along with Vienna Symphonic String Library, CineSamples, Hevyocity Damage, also with his Wizdom Music Company's Geo Synthesizer, Alchemy, Dream Voices, and a lot of great VST's that deliver the Dream Theater Keyboard signature along with the technique and professionalism of Mr. Jordan himself and his amazing ability on the keyboard. Out of his musical mind came the idea of the strings sessions that we hear in some tracks (detailed further on the text), and his invitation for an young protégé of his called Eren Basbug, who conducted an orchestra, so when you hear this strings, know that they are real strings playing through some amazing melodies.
On the drums we have Mr. Mike Mangini along with his mathematical time signatures and astonishing breaks and rhythms. In here we can hear Mike "The Machine" Mangini giving an impeccable work on the drums making the band choice for Portnoy's substitute worth and well placed.
In this album we hear the bass through the whole albums with some highlights on some songs in the album, we even have mini-solos from Mr. John Myung. And for the last but not the least, we have the amazing vocal work from James LaBrie, giving to the listener a bit of everything that he has done in Dream Theater. Namely, melodic tones, soft melodies, high-notes, etc.
So, let's analyze track-by-track.
1. "The False Awakening Suite" - This song opens up for the album with a huge effect on a VST plugin that drives us into an Epic rhythm surrounded with open chords from John Petrucci and John Myung with a solid drumbeat from the Mike Mangini that's letting us know when the song changes from the part "I. Sleep Paralysis" to "II. Night Terrors" and at last to "III. Lucid Dream." The idea of the song was to be an opener for a gig and it's really well done and full of charismatic rhythms and breaks.
2. "The Enemy Inside" - This is a regular heavy tune from Dream Theater, reminding us a bit of "Train of Thought" era. The song involves a dramatic psychological conflict of post-trauma of war. The song is a solid tune with a highly complex riff of a 7th string guitar followed by a Megadeth type of riff that opens to the verse where James LaBrie voice gives a certain soft vibe to the song. The solo is the climax of the song where Petrucci's ability revives the memory of his complex style. The song ends with a high note from LaBrie's line saying "The Enemy Inside" filled with a very metal rhythm on the drums, guitar and bass. A very catchy chorus on this song.
3. "The Looking Glass" - this one reminds me of "Awake"'s "Innocence Faded" a bit. It has that '90s vibe attached to it. The song has a very cool melody from top to bottle with very cool lyrics talk about how younger people act like famous people on Facebook, Tumblr, blogs and all of those social networks...
The solo is really cool with only but melody and some few tricky stuff on the guitar. Behind the solo we have the bass playing a really cool rhythm which audible even on a cell phone speaker. This is one the bass highlighted moments. It also has a master trick on production on the chorus which is really well placed in my opinion, we have a delay effect on vocals singing "digging up a gold mine...". I think that's really cool on the song.
4. "The Enigma Machine" - in here we have a funny sound on the keyboard entering a great section of power chords followed by time changing break that leads into a TV Theme type riff (something in between "Pink Panther" and "Inspector Gadget" kind of thing...). For people who sit hearing a song and waiting for the solo to arrive, they don't have to wait here. This song is a truly battle of solos by John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess and even John Myung mini-solos on the bass. The song twists and turns with solos and rhythms and a fantastic break that look like that it's pulled from a TV cartoon or Film and then goes back to the beginning where it ends.
5. "The Bigger Picture" - This is one of the soft and cool songs on the album. It has this really melodic rhythm on the piano followed the amazing vocals of James LaBrie where you can hear his emotions floating on the song. The solo is a very melodic highlight of the song but the vocals is the center of this song.
6. "Behind the Veil" - This song has a real vibe from the '90s vibe too. It also has a bass highlighted part. The lyrics are very intense and talks about kidnapping and kidnapping point of view. The song has a cool solo that repeats itself on the end.
7. "Surrender to Reason" - This song has a vibe from the '90s too, but more to the "Falling Infinity" era... This song is about life and life meanings. It starts with a cool chord progression followed by an acoustic section of strumming chords. The melody is very remarkable and it drives to a climax near the end where it also ends with the same riff that starts the song.
8. "Along for the Ride" - This song starts with an odd acoustic riff that reminds me of classic music (don't know why...) this drives the song into a recent memory from "A Dramatic Turn of Events" tune "Beneath the Surface" by the melody and by the synth solo that has the same preset that was used on "Beneath the Surface." Which don't make the song worse or better. The song is very cool, has a mini guitar solo and a very cool rhythm. This was the second single of the album released nearly a month after "The Enemy Inside."
8. "The Illumination Theory" - This song is monster. It's 22 minute epic song. Illumination Theory stands in stark contrast to the mediocre, uninspiring trash masquerading as music that popular culture tries to sell us. The song starts out with the part "I. Paradoxe à Lá Lumiér Noire"; part "II. Live, Die, Kill"; "III. The Embracing Circle"; "IV. The Pursuit Of Truth" and the last part "V. Surrender, Trust & Passion." The song starts with a floor drum opening to a huge section of guitar open chords involved with a strings section melody that has an awesome epic vibe. After this section, follows a great Megadeth type of riff again that leads the song into a whole solid track that has it all, aggression, melody and a typical metal pattern. Later comes a section with solos and really complex parts followed by a break of nearly a minute that leads into a fantastic epic string session preformed once again by the orchestra invited to record in the album. After a special effect sound of an airplane crashing enters a solid bass and drum part with a really cool lyrics entering "Mothers for their children/Husbands for their wives/Martyrs for the kingdom/Fighting for your life." The song starts to end with a beautiful melody with lyrics that ends up with a very powerful line saying: "Until you struggle through the dark You'll never know the joy in life." After this comes a solo again very melodic and complex. The songs ends after a minute of silence and Dream Theater tags out with an awesome melody on a piano and guitar following.
Lyrics — 9
When you start to read the lyrics you'll find out that the lyrics have a message incorporated that teach us something. Like, defeating the greatest enemies of all times - our fears. To appreciate life; to face our problems to understand that we're all in this world together; fighting and dying for a cause; criticizes the nowadays society but in a way of correction.
All of the lyrics have a meaning. All of the lyrics are the typical Dream Theater style of lyrics. For the fans that like surreal stories and stuff like that you'll find that in this album the lyrics are realistic. There's a whole concept to the album and it has really good identify lyrics for every each one of us.
Overall Impression — 10
"Dream Theater" is one of the best works in the Dream Theater's carrier. This album gathers a pieces of old albums, especially on the sounds and sections of songs.
"The False Awakening Suite" reminds me a bit of "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence"; "The Enemy Inside" reminds me of "Train of Thought"; "The Looking Glass" reminds me of "Awake" and "Images and Words"; "Enigma Machine" reminds a lot of "Scenes From A Memory" by it's TV/Theatrical genre of music; "The Bigger Picture" is the type of song that would fit perfectly on "Octavarium"; "Behind the Veil" reminds the "Awake" album too; "Surrender to Reason" reminds me of "Falling Into Infinity"; "Along for the Ride" reminds of the previous album; "The Illumination Theory" seems like a fusion of "Black Clouds and Silver Linings" with "A Change of Seasons" and "Octavarium." It's just these kind of sets in particularly that when you listen to their previous works you'll find similarities on each and every one.
For people who don't know the bands work, I suggest this album for starting. And of course later on, the discography of the band. For people who like music it has it all.
No words to describe it more than: Dream Theater.