Sound — 8
How I'm still mesmerized by the "metallic" grandeur of Train Of Thought and then Dream Theater comes back with something that might depress their Metalhead fanbase, but their Progger fanbase will listen to the album with an almost orgasmic feeling. TOT was a kick in the face of every Dream Theater fan, with its dark and heavy feeling. As such, Train is my favorite Dream Theater album. But Octavarium is really different of its predecessor.
Funny fact: maybe you didn't realize, but every DT album since "Scenes..." are inter-connected. They start like the album before finished. The last, deep piano note at the end of "In The Name Of God" opens up the album on the 3rd part of Mike Portnoy's "A. A" saga, "The Root Of All Evil," which is a heavy hard-rocking song like DT does 'em. Sound-wise, it could be seen as a good mix of "New Millenium" and "As I Am."
"The Answer Lies Within" first seconds remind me somehow of Evanescence's "My Immortal," depressive feeling not-included. It's a really laid-back song that contrasts deeply with "The Root..." Again, in order to compare with previous DT compositions, we hear a lot of "Hollow Years" in this song. Beautiful melodies, and a richer feeling than many Dream Theater ballads though.
Every Dream Theater album has to have its keyboard-driven track. On Octavarium, "These Walls" is a playground for the Keyboard Wizard that is Jordan Rudess. The keys are all over the place in this "aerial" piece. Amazing drum work courtesy of MP, who really kicks it out in this song. Unique in sound this one, maybe mixing a bit of "Home" with the basswork and "Misunderstood" for the overall feeling and vocals.
A good way to see that Dream Theater wanted to build something completely different than "Train Of Thought" is the fourth track of the album "I Walk Beside You." DT goes U2. And it's seriously amazing how "Mainstream Rock" the track is. It's quite the first time the boys compose something like this, a novelty for them in a way. But on a personal note, it's really not my style. Could be seen like a bit of filler, but it's not like DT to produce filler.
"Panic Attack" fills the hole that "I Walk Beside You" punched in my Metalhead heart. Great bass intro (we like John Myung), and some big heavy riffage from Petrucci. The "impossible-to-do-solos" track of the album obviously. Magnificent vocals harmonies too. LaBrie really shines on this track. Can't wait to see it live. Very much like "Honor Thy Father" in sound.
"Never Enough" is a great track but again, it's a territory that Dream Theater obviously didn't explore very much in the past. There are some stellar keyboards in there. The Exaggerator also shines, providing some great riffage.
Every US band those last years had to pay homage to the 9/11 tragedy by composing a song about it. For Dream Theater it's "Sacrificed Sons." It's introduced with an eerie mix of news clips. Then comes in the atmospheric piano intro and James' soothing, smooth vocals. A nice song, very laid-back in the beginning, rocks the hell out of everything afterwards. I like it.
The title track, "Octavarium" reminded me of one band Ayreon. If you guys reading don't know this project, please try to find some quick. "Octavarium" sounds exactly like a shortened Ayreon album. Proggy at the beginning, builds up to a climax and ends with a delicious flow of notes. The whole song is a real puzzle you have to assemble as each of the four parts of the song flow into each other. The instrumentalists are shining on this track. And you ever wanted to hear how Dream Theater would sound with an orchestra backing them, "Octavarium" is the track. "Sacrificed Sons" featured a four-piece, but "Octavarium" has the whole package.
A strong 4 only because I didn't like "The Answer Lies Within" and "I Walk Beside You.". See it as a 4.7.
Lyrics — 8
I've always seen Dream Theater lyrics like a three-faced figure. There are Petrucci's lyrics: deep, personal and thoughtful. Portnoy's lyrics: more harsh, direct, crazy. And then there are the lyrics that Myung and LaBrie compose, which are sometimes literary and very professional. On "Octavarium" It really belongs to Petrucci. He wrote the most interesting lyrics of the bunch, as Portnoy wrote the most agressive ones (as always). Vocals are amazing. LaBrie is really all over the place with his superb voice. He is mellow and soft on "The Answer Lies Within," melodic on "I Walk Beside You," harmonic on "These Walls" but on "Octavarium", the man shows that he is one of the best singers of the metal/rock business. He does whatever he wants with his voice. He even screams at some point in the song! And you can also see that Petrucci and Portnoy are doing a great job at backing James. I like their back vocals, as they perfectly fit into the picture that James creates. Another strong 4 again the note is darkened by my personal taste and by the fact that sometimes, the lyrics can be seen as a bit cheesy.
Overall Impression — 8
Really, like each Dream Theater album, Octavarium is unique. Instead of trying to keep a sound that fans like, Dream Theater will always try to evolve and push forward. That can obviously be seen with the title track, which I predict will become a classic in the vein of "A Change Of Seasons." If you have a 30 dollars to invest on something, maybe you should try to put it on this album. But be warned though hardcore-fans will like it, metalhead fans won't like the whole piece, and Prog fans just found their ProgMetal ration for another two years.