Known for their mind-blowing musicianship and lengthy, technical epics, Long Island’s Dream Theater are simply the biggest progressive metal band that’s ever been. Formed back in 1985, the group’s core sound has been the scale and complexity of prog legends like Yes and Rush, mixed with contemporary metal heaviness. The band have stayed relevant for the last three decades by continuing to evolve whist keeping their core musical objectives the same.
Like any band 35+ years into their existence, Dream Theater have more than a couple of fantastic tunes that would fall under the ‘deep cut’ label. Dream Theater with lesser talked about gems dotted throughout their career, and fifteen studio releases to their name, we had a whale of a time combing through their immense catalogue to dig out their 10 best deep cuts. So what are they?? Read on and find out…
"Larks Tongues in Aspic Pt 2"
Kicking off our list is a King Crimson cover from the deluxe edition of 2009’s Black Clouds & Silver Linings. A legendary and important band in the history of prog, it’s a no-brainer for Dream Theater to cover the Robert Fripp-led group. A faultless take – if you didn’t know any better you’d think "Larks Tongues In Aspic Pt 2" was a DT original. The modern production drags the instrumental piece into the current age, but the fact that arrangement sounds completely undated is proof of a timeless original and makes for a great cover.
"Light Fuse and Get Away"
From the first Dream Theater album When Dream And Day Unite, "Light Fuse and Get Away" is an almost completely forgotten gem from the band’s jurassic period. Then-vocalist Charlie Dominici, performing on his only Dream Theater release, sounds strong – albeit unremarkable. What cannot be denied is the obvious talent that is on display from the rest of the band, with their highly recognisable sound almost fully formed. As one of the least played songs from that LP, the only time it’s seen the stage in the last three decades is when Dream Theater briefly reunited with Dominici on-stage in 2004.
Dream Theater’s eight full length Octavarium was a hit-or-miss album for some fans; it contains some great stuff, but also some not so hot material (the corny "I Walk Beside You"). The uptempo, riff-heavy "Never Enough" is certainly one the better, and under-appreciated, tracks from that record. It’s got a great chorus, and some absolutely smoking guitar and keyboard interplay during the solo section – it does certainly have more than a nod towards Muse in it’s main riff though. While 2005 is a long time ago, "Never Enough" showed that Dream Theater could bring their sound into the new generation – and seems in hindsight an obvious song for a single/promo release.
Off the first Dream Theater record without founding member Mike Portnoy, 2010's A Dramatic Turn Of Events found the group a true career crossroads. The epic "Outcry" is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that guitarist John Petrucci was able to weather the storm and keep the band on course. A massive, melodic track, it's got some big hooks throughout the first section, but it's the bridge where business really picks up, with crazy time signatures and wild meter changes. It was played sporadically on the album's supporting tour, before being dropped by it’s end, never to return.
"Prophets of War"
A deep cut from Systematic Chaos – their ninth LP and first with Roadrunner Records – "Prophets of War" is an uptempo, modern prog-rock tune from the band at arguably their commercial peak. The sole James Labrie lyrical contribution to the album, "Prophets of War" is – by Dream Theater standards – it’s a pretty straight to the point track – it could have easily been used as a single for the new record with it's big chorus and instantly memorably guitar lines. Instead it was stuck towards the back of the release, and has never been played live.
"Raise The Knife"
Widely known amongst Dream Theater fans as the album that almost derailed their early success, 1997’s Falling Into Infinity was plagued with label interference from the offset. It made for a muddled record, and some of their best material wound up on the editing room floor – specifically the fantastic "Raise The Knife". Thankfully resurrected on the excellent Score concert DVD, how "Raise The Knife" never made it onto Falling Into Infinity is beyond us. A fantastic track with a great chorus and all-round excellent musicianship – it's the Dream Theater classic that never-was.
One of the many then-Roadrunner bands enlisted to contribute to the God of War: Blood & Metal EP, "Raw Dog" – God (of) War backwards – holds a pretty important place in the history of Dream Theater. The instrumental serves as the final piece of music involving Mike Portnoy before his departure some six months after it's release. A seven minute, low-tuned track with plenty of solos and unison shredding, Dream Theater fans rarely mention it these days and sadly never had the chance to be performed live.
A mammoth 11 minute track, "Scarred" should be considered one of Dream Theater's crowning glories. Taken from 1994's fantastic Awake, the song is a fantastic voyage through many musical moods and feelings. All band members star here – especially Petrucci who delivers one of his finest and most emotive guitar solos ever. And that bobbing and weaving outro passage is just prog-rock heaven. Underplayed live and under-streamed, somehow this amazing piece of music has become a real deep cut in Dream Theater's overflowing back catalogue.
"A Tempting Offer"
The Astonishing was, sadly, far from that. The 2016 double CD was simply too bloated and carried a concept both too silly and ambitious to properly land. There is gold in there hills however, with the heavy "A Tempting Offer" a big high point – look past the lyrics and supercilious sound-fx and it has some of the record's most menacing and best riffs. It also chiefly shows that maybe with a bit of outside guidance and editing, Dream Theater could have been something special The Astonishing.
Whether it was Dream Theater’s intention or not, they basically wrote the best Deep Purple song in 20 years with the organ-heavy, four minute rocker "Viper King". It's almost a novelty to see them write a 'traditional' style rock track, and it makes for a nice change of pace. Of course the riffs are heavy and the shredding comes fast, but there is a tonne of groove and swing here, and shows that Dream Theater can really hammer out this sort of material if they set their minds to it. As a bonus tune at the end of 2019's excellent Distance Over Time, it deserves to get a hell of a lot more limelight than it has to date.
So how was our list? Dream Theater have such a deep back catalogue that there are enough deep cuts to do a full second list – so what are they? Sound off in the comments below!