(All Album Reviews by Constable Hogweed)
Images and Words is widely acclaimed to be the best album by Dream Theater. Rightly so it is an album of balance between heavy rock and prog mixed into a brilliant package. But wait....in my opinion now comes an album to rival it and....dare I say it?...even better it. But first a little bit of history.
The albums after Images and Words were sterling works, but somehow they weren't up to the monster they had created. What to do now? Of course come up with the obligatory concept album. So in 1999 Dream Theater came up with a 77 minute concept work based on a song from, ermmm, Images and Words. Metropolis - Scenes from a Memory- part 2 was the work in question. To these ears the album was like a rollercoaster white knuckle ride. The thing was it would have helped if you liked the ride in the first place. It ranged from brilliant to painful self indulgence..a certain reason why the advent of CD allowing extra running time was not always a good thing.
So to the latest album, the quite frankly classic Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, a two CD set which showcases all that is great about Dream Theater. CD one opens with a monster track "The Glass Prison" which showcases the heavier, more thrashier side of Dream Theater with outstanding musicianship and James Labrie putting in one of his best vocal performances ever. The guy shows off his full range here, with some nasty back up vocals. "Blind Faith" follows with some (I swear) "She said, She said" Beatles type influence albeit in a heavier way. The bass line is at times pure McCartney (when the guy used to be good) and the vocal phrasings at times echo Lennon...not in sound but more in style, showing the growing maturity of the band as writers...excellence.
"Misunderstood" follows hot on the old heels with some nice 70s styled melodic guitar playing by John Petrucci which leads into a heavier section which echoes some of queens finest earlier works. So what next? Aha! We have a nice dainty ditty about the controversy of the experimentation with stem cells and embryos being the way forward to cure diseases and indeed prolong life.....eternally. Man playing God in other words. The track starts with Jordan Rudess in fine form with some dark synth playing that ushers in the arguments for and against this subject. James Labrie puts both sides of the argument forward via the left and right channels of your speakers...a good touch and indeed a great and intense song, again showing the bands ever growing maturity with a song of pure social conscience.
Pheww only one more song to go on disc one and unfortunately is the only blot on the landscape of an otherwise perfect album. The track "Disappear" should really live up to its name and do just that. Wall to wall depression with the band in over melancholic mood and sounding tired. But hey lets not get too depressed as disc two is now enamating loudly from my speakers (probably to my Westlife loving neighbours annoyance) Yes its the title track, 42 minutes of pure excellence.
The whole mini concept addresses mental illness in an angry and emotional way. Each part tells its own story (eight parts by the way). This for me is the icing on a bloody fantastic cake...ranging from almost pop rock through to the prog metal sound and culminating in an emotional ending which outros with the sound of a gong and the ensuing two minutes as the album winds down in Sgt Pepper ("A Day in the Life" style). If you only buy one prog album this year, make sure this one is at least on your list. The ghost of Images and Words has well and truly been laid to rest.
Rating, if I can quote Jeff Healey- "a 20 on a scale of 10".....