Reviewed by MJBrady on 13 Jul 2005
2005 sees the release of another new Dream Theater studio cd, and as has been the theme in recent years, the music on this cd has caused yet another disturbance amoung the legion of metal-oriented fans that want the band to stay more on the power side of things. Perhaps the previous cd, Train of Though gave people the idea that the band was coming back to their roots as a metal first progressive band. Well, everything that Train of Thought was, Octavarium seems not to be. As a listener of many musics, and a fan of many subgenres and styles, I find that most every Dream Theater cd is a valid musical statement, as I prefer they do what they want to do, not what I want them to do, after all, they are excellent musicians, and even when they do a ballad, they seem to put their own tag on it.
Octavarium sees the band delving more into the progressive rock world, both in tone and attitude. Which, again for my tastes is perfectly ok. They do have their moments of heaviness, but far less than what was heard on TOT, or their older material. I get the sense that DT wants to continue to explore every possible influence that exists in each band member, so each cd, and song for that matter, will display something old and something new at the same time. And here it seems that the keyboards of Jordan Rudess play a more prominent role in the bands sound and perhaps in the musical foundation of this particular cd. Each time I have listened to this cd, I find that I want to hear the whole thing in it's entirety, just like most of the bands other discography. A good sign indeed.
I guess this band will always have it's share of controversy, just for the simple fact that they have taken on so many different facets to their sound, metal, prog, rock, symphonic, fusion, ballads, and even pop to a lesser extent. They show an openmindedness to their musical explorations that apparently many of their fans refuse to, which I guess makes them, well, progressive;) This recent effort will not stray that far away from their usual tendancies, yet it does seem quite a bit more melody oriented, with less shred and jam centered songs. It also seems to be less technical from an instrumental standpoint, call it the beauty of simplicity, or whatever, but the less is more aspect of songwriting appears more on this cd than many of the bands prior work.
As stated, this cd seems more a band effort than the last couple cds, where they were more focused on virtuoso spotlighting, they still have their tightknitted interplay, but done in a way to allow LaBrie to deliver one of his better vocal performances on a DT cd. James LaBrie has seemingly found that his vocals can be more emphatic by restraining from over the top operatics. I noticed this on his excellent solo cd Elements of Persuasion released this year also.
To conclude, let me clarify again, that my tastes are pretty vast, I have yet to hear a Dream Theater cd that I didn't, yes I even enjoy Falling into Infinity, so keep in mind that whatever the band does, it's fine with me, I wouldn't really expect a bunch of Berklee grads and a Julliard alum to sit around doing the same things over and over, so as they continue to explore their creative juices, it's always interesting to hear the results, whatever the style. And even better, they bring the music on tour and never disappoint live.