Dream Theater do not need any introduction: this powerhouse of rock and prog has been delighting fans for a number of years. Now they are ready to release their latest (fifteenth) opus called A View From The Top Of The World. It has been a challenge: the band was in the middle of a sold-out world tour in support of their last release Distance Over Time (and the 20th anniversary of Scenes From A Memory) when the pandemic cut short almost everything. They returned home with LaBrie back in Canada and the rest in various parts of the States. Fortunately, DTHQ (Dream Theater Headquarters), their very own live recording studio, rehearsal space and control room had just been completed. LaBrie joined the band via the internet for writing sessions before a relaxation in lockdown rules allowed him to fly and join Petrucci to record all of his vocals.
Seven tracks, seventy minutes: longest twenty, shortest six…this is going to be good!
The opening track, The Alien, comes out of the blocks like a melodic thrash metal mix and then floats into a beautiful few notes/good notes piece by Petrucci before the basic riff returns to back Labrie’s wide-ranging vocal from harsh (for him) to a soaring chorus. Rudess sprinkles Moog motifs and he and Petrucci continue to play around and expand upon the melodies with some great interplay and duetting, all the while backed by a great bass line and some seriously complex drumming…a great heavy, proggy, metal start. I should mention that Petrucci has the enviable ability to be blindingly fast and yet (very) rarely descends into meaningless wildly-diddly-ness and always maintains a melody with every note from his signature MusicMan. Note to self: you have a Steve Morse Signature MusicMan with more pick-up settings than a speed dating session but still can’t achieve those tones…practice more you muppet! But I digress; next up is the slightly more relaxed heft of Answering The Call…not that much more, as again the drums and bass backbone are built around by every keyboard known to man and more genius guitar with LaBrie at his melodic best, topping it all off.
Invisible Monster, after the gentle guitar intro, has a tiny hint of funk wrapped in the punch of the main melody, as LaBrie tells of the “creature beneath your bed [and] wrapping its tail around my neck.” Scary stuff but the time changes and the riff progressions (especially in the almost happy middle section) still allow you to lose yourself in the music and the guitar/keys duets and solos, if not the imagery. Now prepare for over ten minutes of Sleeping Giant: a shifting, sonic soundscape that ranges from classic rock riffery to more keyboard and guitar wizardry that even hints at Rush in some of the bass-led sections. Put it this way, those minutes fly by as Rudess again utilises his vast bank of keys effectively and is matched by some genius soloing from Petrucci.
Transcending Time stands out for a couple of reasons: it sounds fresh from the 1980s with a touch of the polished rock of Boston, although Labrie doesn’t use helium! Also, there are some Yes touches…but still with each Theater member firmly stamping their own authority over it all. The guitar solo, in particular, shows my earlier comments about fast, not widdly apply.
Awaken The Master builds across an extended opening of very heavy riffs and thundering bass to a staccato piece to introduce the vocals that again encapsulate melodically and, what I like a lot about LaBrie, clear enunciation that adds so much to the enjoyment. The final track is epic in every sense: over twenty minutes with each player making a definitive statement …superb guitars, canny keys, hefty bass, wide-ranging, controlled vocals and thundering drums: A View From The Top Of The World is Dream Theater distilled, refined, mixed (not shaken or stirred and definitely no silly umbrella) and served as a delicious cocktail of all that is good in metal, rock and prog…all in one delicious glass.
For Dream Theater fans, this is the band at the top of their game: there isn’t a single minute of the seventy that doesn’t captivate in one way or another, so if you haven’t ordered it yet…you’d be advised to do so. Should you be unaware of their wide-ranging, genre-blending rock, this is a very good place to start.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful progressive metal album that is one of their best and able to, as they do, transcend genres and so it should appeal to everyone who loves rock…whatever the variety.
The Alien (9:32)
Answering The Call (7:35)
Invisible Monster (6:31)
Sleeping Giant (10:05)
Transcending Time (6:25)
Awaken The Master (9:47)
A View From The Top Of The World (20:24)
James LaBrie: vocals
John Petrucci: guitar, vocals
Jordan Rudess: keyboards
John Myung: bass
Mike Mangini: drums
Produced by John Petrucci
They have dates booked for the UK (Belfast, Newcastle and London) and European tour in April/May 2022; tickets from the usual outlets and HERE. They have just had to cancel their US tour that was due to start this month due to…Covid.
(iTunes didn’t go too far back in time: 2019 and The Drippers Action Rock album: think punked-up Gillan (the band) or Hanoi Rocks with an extra snarl!)