I've been thinking about writing this for a few weeks, but there's no other way to state this than Progressive Music in general is the coolest fucking music around. In the case of Progressive Metal, Dream Theater are considered the archetype, although they clearly had influential assistance along the way.
I love many bands, lots of music, both old and new, going back to the 60's with Hendrix, The Who, Deep Purple & such, all the way up til' Dimensionaut by Sound Of Contact (read my review on them, trust me, I'm a doctor). My three favourite bands of all time, while I'm strongly thinking about it, are Rush, Iron Maiden & Dream Theater, all for different reasons but yet all for the same. Starting with they all do their own thing in their own way and they do it very, very well, very well indeed.
When it comes to Dream Theater, what I particularly like about the band before the music even starts to play is that there are no egos to cast a cloud over what you're listening to. It is all about the music and the music is what DT are all about. DT have gone through various changes in line-up in their 28 year history, starting out with the line-up of Mike Portnoy, John Myung, John Petrucci, Kevin Moore & Charlie Dominici (who created the band's Majesty symbol, after all, his name is in it. Clever stuff). Their first record 'When Dream And Day Unite' honestly didn't get the credit it deserved. of course, if it had had the Remastered (2002) production values then, surely, it would have been received differently, but for the album as a whole and the tracks within, a good album. Ytse Jam is fucking brilliant. 'Images And Words' is probably my favourite album. I say probably because I am quite partial to their new eponymous album and 'Six Degrees' and even 'Systematic Chaos' (which I'm surrently listening to as of writing this), but yeah, fuck it, Images And Words is their 'classic' album, though they have great albums throughout their catalogue of quality music. Even with line-up changes of Dominici to James LaBrie & Moore to Derek Sherinian, followed by Jordan Rudess and yes, Portnoy for Mangini, I'll address my thoughts on that in a sec, but the music has a clearly defined evolution that cements the band as legends of a legendary genre that itself evolved from Prog Rock.
With the current line-up (pictured left) the band did indeed feel like a rebirth, so their latest album being self-titled was indeed quite fitting of that notion, but for those that to this day still bith and moan about Portnoy being gone, believe me, I am a huge Portnoy fan, but seriously, move the fuck on. He has, the band have. Maybe the lanets will re-align one day down the road and the fan boy's will get their wish come true, but for now, be grateful that a) the spirit of the band carried on and b) that Mike Mangini is that fucking good a drummer that he can fill the incredibly gifted shoes of Mike Portnoy. For the time periods that the certain line-ups existed, they certainly fitted the mould and upon looking through their history, it's clearly understandable where certain things needed to change in order for the band to be where it's at today. Arguably, five of the best individually gifted musicians, in the same band. What are the odds. With reference to Mike Portnoy, if you are wondering whether he has disappeared into obscurity, obviously he hasn't, he's been with AX7, Adrenaline Mob and formed a brief band with Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine & Derek Sherinian (PSMS) and their live dvd is awesome. Plus, The Winery Dogs (Portnoy, Sheehan & Kotzen) and finally Transatlantic (with Neal Morse & co, review of theirs to come). So, if you're missing Portnoy then don't threat no more, there's plenty of music for you to listen to.
For the 'metalhead' in you, may I recommend a dose of Train Of Thought followed by a dash of Black Clouds, arguable Dream Theater's two heaviest records (though the new one is definitively in the same mix). Train Of Thought is what Metallica's St Anger coulda, shoulda and woulda been if someone held an axe to Kirk Hammett's surf board collection and gave him an ultimatum. Though as much as one can admire Hammett for his metal guitar status, he ain't no John Petrucci........fact!
I can hear the "WTF's" through the minds of metal diehards daring my questioning of Metals "greatest guitarist". Bitches, please, he's good but he ain't even Dave Mustaine ffs. Here's the truth, Metallica evolved quickly, Kill 'Em All was a quality debut, Lightning would've been better with MOP's production. MOP was great, just should've had some better songs like on AJFA, which had the worst fucking production of the four albums mentioned. Then, they became a har rock band and became huge, you know the rest, but Hammett didn't evolve as much as Petrucci has and, to this day, you can hear it in the music.
Compare Metallica's last full length album (not fucking Lulu, yes, Lou Reed RIP but, no, just no, ok?). Death Magnetic, Metallica's ninth album, released in 2008, match it side by side with DT's Systematic Chaos, their ninth album from a year earlier. Death Magnetic, despite the overall creativeness of the songs, had fucking horrible production. Not as bad as St Anger with a bucket lid for a snare drum, but the tracks, they distort through the speakers. There's no sound engineer on the album notes and I can't blame them for not wanting to be affiliated with it neither, because for a band of Metallica's stature, it's fucking terrible. The songs on the other hand....well, they're just as bad, especially when you compare it to Systematic Chaos, an album who's main singlewasn't reliant on ripping off their own song from seven albums before. Where's the creativeness?
Dream Theater themselves have always claimed to be a mix of Yes with Metallica's sound. I can see why, but I'd swap Yes for Rush and then you're abit closer to the mark. The irony of DT "taking" a Metallica approach and ultimately bettering it without compromising the quality of their song writing and over produced sound is simply quite cool. I'm just greatful as a fan that they've done so in such a fashion that has meant that, unlike many Metallica fans, I don't need to sit around twiddling my thumb(s) waiting for Lars to do the press rounds and for my sense of impending excitement to catastrophically come crashing down like a fucking moonsault from the top of a ladder, minus a crowd of 15,000 people shouting "Holy Shit!" in unison.
I've just had a flick through my musi collection and remembered a German Prog Metal band I came across back in the glory days of Myspace (oh, what fond memories one has of that now baron wasteland of spam and tears of Justin Timberlake) called Dreamscape (no, it's not that similar....ok it is). Despite the (similar) name, I can't deny, they do indeed bare a similar resemblance in sound....and style....and in general. But you know what, they actually do their own thing in the shadow of DT. I will post links and videos below of both the Theater & the Scape so that you may compare for yourselves, but take my word, Dreamscape are a decent band. I haven't much of them in the last few years, but there's always hope.
In terms of progressive music, whe it comes to DT, there's always something to be said. The consistency of their songwriting is quite unique, especially when factoring in their musicianship. I mean, fuck, check out the Liquid Tension Experiment video I've posted below for proof of that. Prog has some brilliant bands to look back on, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Rush just to name a few, two of those I'm a huge fan of, though funnily enough, for me, Yes-West was more to my liking than some of their prog stuff. I said some, not all, prog has changed dramatically over the years, but different bands did it differently. Rush, in my humble opinion, are the greatest Prog Rock band, ever, period. The journey from 2112 to Hemispheres solidifies that, then going into Permanent Waves and into Moving Pictures. They evolved from a great Prog band into a great Rock band while maintaining their core balance and evolving. If they regressed back to 2112, it would've been a yawnfest. Subdivisions et al needed to happen, though with the seven albums Rush released in the 80's, with permanent Waves being the very 1st album released i the 80's (Fact) all the way up to 'Presto' (love that album), they were the backbone of the 80's sound and came out of it a better band just as bands like Dream Theater were getting ready to grab the passing torch and hold onto it tight.
Click Here for the Metal Evolution documentary series on VH1 Classic - Progressive Metal is the final part in the series. For anyone wondering why this blog is only part one. Think about it, I haven't addressed that other prog band yet........Tool!
This is where I'll blog about the things I like and don't like from music to wrestling & thensome for everyone to read and enjoy.