Dream Theater have had an interesting release history; from classic records like Images and Words and Scenes From A Memory, the band released what's regarded as "their last good record" Octavarium in 2005. Then came the period of their career where Systematic Chaos through A Dramatic Turn of Events seemed like a good idea, the latter being a step up from essentially the abomination Black Clouds and Silver Linings. Finally we arrive in 2013, where Dream Theater drop their self-titled record and, more importantly, return to where they left off with Octavarium by crafting a record that is front-to-back great.
Dream Theater can be summed up simply; think of the record as having the heaviness of Train of Thought, the catchy sensibilities of Images and Words, and the vocal work of Scenes From a Memory… thrown into a movie soundtrack. It's the perfect storm of what Dream Theater fans have anxiously been waiting for from the band and so much more.
Where songs like "The Enemy Inside" and "Enigma Machine" have the capability to wrap their hands around your throat and slam you into the pavement, there are Rush-influenced jams like "The Looking Glass," ballads like "Along For The Ride," and even the movie-prog closer "Illumination Theory" keeps the record interesting right up to the final piano-laden minutes.
While guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess play their heart out as they've always done, which is constantly commendable, the rest of the band deserve equal praise. For the first time since Train of Thought, bassist John Myung is not only audible in the mix but brings the gritty, low-down riffs like no other. Dream Theater might be his best performance to date. Then there's drummer Mike Mangini, who for the first time since joining the band has written his own parts… and it shows. Mangini is an amazing fit for the band and truly takes the record to another level. Then there's vocalist James LaBrie, who usually gets a lot of flack for his performances, but lo and behold! Once more easily one of his best performances to date and some of the highest notes we've heard out of LaBrie in a long while.
The diversity strewn across the record is simply astonishing, and never once gets boring or have you checking how long you've been listening. In essence, Dream Theater have taken all the mistakes they've made on the past few records and righted them in the best way possible.
Overall, Dream Theater is a grower. It's an album that really takes a lot of you but it's worth it in the end. The performances are genuinely amazing and… it's one of those records where words simply don't do it justice. The bottom line is that if you've been disappointed in the band for the past few years and you're yearning for early 2000's Dream Theater, then this record is for you.