When goose bumps freeze: Dream Theater „Distance Over Time“

Dream Theater
Distance Over Time
Erscheinungsdatum: 22. Februar 2019
Label: Inside Outmusic (Sony Music)

With Distance Over Time Dream Theater appears in best form. Even if the Prog-Metal band does not really offer anything innovative, the new album is absolutely brilliant – with several highlights that make every prog rock / metal / rock fan’s heart beat faster.

By Dylan Cem Akalin

Finally a new Dream Theater album! The American Progressive Metal band is one of the few whose release I really always face with the utmost excitement. I would not call myself a hardcore DT hipster, but I love the band since its early years. And I was not one of those who talked about the end of the band when keyboarders Kevin Moore and Derek Sherinian left the group. A real shock for me, however, was when drummer Mike Portnoy turned his back on the band. I thought he would leave a huge gap not only as a drum machine but also as a producer and songwriter. And at first I got the impression that he did … – until I saw Mike Mangini (and the band) live for the first time. An incredible drummer! And the musicians seemed to live up in some way.

Still, the band has not had it easy in recent years. Above all, the double concept album „The Astonishing“ (2016) was extremely controversial. Although I think that the album has its highlights. But it was extremely split among the fans. No idea if that was the reason that DT then went on tour with an old program!

Dream Theater FOTO: Promo

Nevertheless: I think courage must be rewarded. I find it remarkable that the band turned away from the well-trodden paths. The new album may be seen as a gift to the fans, in a sense it is a „back to basics“: the fifteenth studio has the meaningful title Distance Over Time … supposedly an indication of the progress and longevity of the band.

Reference to their own roots

The album is a single reference to their own roots, with the band demonstrating their unique ability to write catchy tunes that are accompanied by unique song structures and amazing virtuosity. Dream Theater stands for outstanding, brilliant instrumental mastery, for emotional melodies, hymnic moments, unusual song structures and the combination of hard metal riffs, dreamy piano sounds, acrobatic keyboard / guitar runs, remarkable sound and the unbeatable vocals of James LaBrie. All these expectations are fulfilled by the band again.

Anyone who has seen the band live will immediately believe that it is about the chemistry among the musicians that makes this music possible. „The bonds of different elements lead to friction, energy and ultimately fuel the creation. It happens throughout the life – especially in the music. The music of Dream Theater is based on the interplay and fraternity of the musicians as well as on the harmony of the instruments, „they say. Right on!

I really enjoy how Jordan Rudess supports the melodic vocals of LaBrie with imagination and virtuosity, John Petrucci crosses the keyboards with breakneck runs and then, like a string quartet, peels a tune out of the distorted harmonies, while John Myung collaborates with Mangini to power the soloists. „S2N“? How can you have such a sound ?! A piece that is so insistent that your goose bumps freezes on your skin.

The opener „Untethered Angel“ is already DT pure. Structurally and atmospherically, the song could also have appeared on „Train of Thought“ or „Systematic Chaos“. „Paralyzed“ comes with a simple, descriptive riff, as drums, keys and bass and as the vocals start, the song begins to melt into a recognizable form – also thanks to the beautiful chords work of Petrucci. And LaBrie’s vocals still have the power and scale that they had in the ’90s, maybe even more supple and with more variety today.

„Fall Into The Light“

„Fall Into The Light“ starts with an aggressive metal guitar that reminds a bit of Iron Maiden. Later, Petrucci creates beautiful melodic leads on his guitar, which have something of Metallica’s „Orion“ before Magini’s snare leads to Jordan Rudess‘ crazy keyboards. „Barstool Warrior“ has something of the mood of „Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory „(1999), including beautiful piano work and perhaps one of the best Petrucci solos on the album. Legendary, how this guy opens his wings and sails away!

„Room 137“ starts off more powerfully: has something of „Awake“ (1994), but with challenging vocals that have a bit of a nightmare soundtrack, especially in the vocoder part it remotely reminds of „Strawberry Fields“ by the Beatles. Cool again is the guitar of Petrucci, with excursions into Psychedelic influenced blues rock genre. By the way, this is the first song that Mangini wrote the lyrics for.

And then „S2N“, which starts with an electrifying bass intro. The piece lives from the wild instrumental interaction between Petrucci, Rudess, Myung and Mangini. This piece could become a highlight at a concert. A challenge to all participating musicians. Then this confusing, always present drums, Mangini drives his fellow musicians like a tornado. A bumble bee flight in the middle of a merciless hurricane! The highlights are the solos in the middle section, while Mangini’s drums freak out like in a voodoo dance. Then the breaks with the short „Wow!“ In the interval …

The essence of Dream Theater

„At Wit’s End“ is like the essence of DT, from the stunning piano chord ballad to technical attacks. It‘s the story of a woman’s abuse and a man who assists her to get through it all and overcome her trauma of the past. A few minutes before the end, the song seems to end by fading out, but then a ghostly version of the outro comes back into focus before disappearing altogether. „When women are injured, they suffer from PTSD,“ says the singer. „They can never really see themselves as the same people they once were – because they are not in every way. And such experiences create a lot of split in relationships. It may be impossible for couples to overcome them. In many cases, they do not succeed, and they break apart. In the song, the woman is at the end of her mind, and the man assures her that they can go through it. „

„Out Of Reach“ is again such a ballad, which is literally written for James LaBrie. The epic „Pale Blue Dot“ is inspired by the reflections of the American astronomer Carl Sagans on the fleeting nature of humanity and our responsibility to the planet. The nearly ten-minute song begins with a radio noise and sounds like the oxygen cylinder, which is supposed to evoke associations with a spaceship that looks down at the earth. But it does not take long and DT pull out all the stops to fire one instrumental salvo at a time.

As a bonus track there is „Viper King“, a kind of continuation of „A Change of Seasons“, which also acts as a tribute to Deep Purple: high-energy metal grooves with evil Hammond B3 outbreaks. A great fun as a bonus.

For the first time in two decades, the bandmates lived, wrote and recorded together in the remote five-acre Yonderbarn studios in Monticello, New York, over a four-month period. They all moved to the country house, where they exchanged memories, grilled and strengthened their lifelong friendships. The music took place throughout the summer organically and spontaneously in the beautifully converted barn.

„Of course we did a lot of recording together, but usually we move into a studio to produce the record, and during that time everyone either commutes or stays in a hotel, „says Petrucci,“ this time we did things differently; Yonderbarn did not have any distractions so we could concentrate on creative work and spent twelve to fourteen hours a day at work, while having fun between writing sessions as well, we cooked alternately, like brothers in a fire house, and it was summer , the weather was wonderful in New York. „

„It was like going back to summer camp,“ says LaBrie. „Being together all the time was a profound experience. I think the songs reflect the energy. It was great fun.“ You really can hear that!