Dream Theater - Octavarium 5/5

Reviewed: 7-22-05


1. The root of all evil
2. The answer lies within
3. These walls
4. I walk beside you
5. Panic attack
6. Never enough
7. Sacrificed sons
8. Octavarium

Despite, and maybe because of, being the pre-eminent progressive metal band in the world, I am starting to feel sorry for Dream Theater. They continue to put out excellent CDs with varying sounds but so many people are tired of the band, many people find any reason to be negative toward the band, whereas those same fans would likely be all over the same CD if it were released by a new band. ‘Octavarium’ is the band’s 8th CD, 9th if you include the ‘A change of seasons’ mini CD, and it finds the band as strong as ever; in fact, this is my 2nd favorite Dream Theater CD just a little behind the incredible ‘Awake’.

‘Octavarium’ is a very diverse CD, but the quality remains high throughout. “The answer lies within” is a strong ballad; “I walk without you” sounds a lot like U2, especially in the chorus. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it is a very well done track. The other 2 tracks in the first 4 are fairly similar to some of the tracks off the previous Dream Theater CD, ‘Train of thought’. These are good, solid tracks. Particularly interesting is a short chorus part of "The root of all evil" where the melody is identical to that of a 'Train of thought' track, "This dying soul". Although it seems like Dream Theater may be running out of ideas and copying itself, this section comes right after the line "This dying soul” so it was clearly intentional.

Although the CD is already terrific after these 4 tracks, it really picks up momentum the rest of the way – and we still have almost 50 minutes of the CD left. The next 2 tracks, “Panic attack” and “Never enough” are unlike anything I have heard from the band before. They have strong instrumental parts behind the vocals with some nu-metal influences (but no more than influences), feature some extremely good vocals, with singer James LaBrie even working in some falsetto parts. The guitar and keyboard interplay on these tracks is particularly strong. The last 2 tracks are longer and more typical of Dream Theater. “Sacrificed sons” is a slow, emotional track featuring some nice orchestration. The final track, “Octavarium” is a 24 minute opus ranging from very slow, almost a capella parts, to very fast instrumental pieces, to LaBrie’s screaming “Octavarium”. The track itself seems like a tribute to bands of the past, with parts sounding like bands such as Pink Floyd and Yes. It is a wide ranging track that is done exceptionally well from start to finish.

So what are some of the complaints I've heard about the CD? Some people think they have copied other bands too much. As I have already said, one track does have a strong U2 sound to it, but it doesn’t bother me as it’s so well done. The other bands I hear mentioned are Linkin Park and Muse; admittedly, I have never heard a CD by either of those bands but, like with the U2 sounding track, I don’t really care if they have borrowed a sound from another band, these tracks sound terrific and that’s all that matters. Another complaint I've heard is that many of the tracks on this CD have long, several minute, quiet intros that just make the CD longer without adding anything. This may be true, but it has never once bothered me.

This is a great CD, my 2nd favorite by this fantastic band. The playing is as excellent and perfect as we have come to expect from Dream Theater. LaBrie sounds as good as ever and is trying some new styles to go with plenty of classic sounding LaBrie. The songs are excellent, diverse and the songwriting doesn’t sound like a band that’s been around a long time and is running out of ideas or going through the motions. Instead of nitpicking this great band, they should be appreciated for being exactly what a progressive metal band should be – always sounding like themselves but never making a CD that sounds exactly like one of their previous CDs. Dream Theater does this better than any other band and 'Octavarium' adds another classic to their very impressive discography.




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