Dream Theater

All posts tagged Dream Theater

By Carl Begai

Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen has returned to form with his progressive metal opera project’s ninth album, The Source. In 1995 he introduced his “more is more” mindset with The Final Experiment, setting the tone for each future production stamped with the Ayreon name, garnering a loyal cult following and high expectations from those fans. It was the third album, Into The Electric Castle released in 1998, that laid a solid foundation for Lucassen’s multi-vocalist epics, and The Human Equation in 2004 that put him on the metaldom map as a creative force to be reckoned with, or respected at the very least. There have been a few missteps along the way depending on who you talk to – 01011001 from 2008 and The Theory Of Everything from 2013 are not the easiest albums to get into – but the fans are responding well to The Source. In fact, the constant comparisons to The Human Equation and Into The Electric Castle suggest that Lucassen may have struck musical gold once again.

“I know what you mean,” Lucassen agrees. “I had that feeling a twice before because everything came together so easily. The cast came together, the music came together, the story was easy, which are things I had with The Human Equation and Into The Electric Castle. Sometimes that happens and I just try to steer things in the direction they need to go.”

The ease with which the material The Source came together could have and probably should have been a bit frightening for Lucassen. How many musicians have boasted about new music coming together effortlessly only to be carved by the press once it goes out to the public?

“I’m insecure as hell about that,” he admits. “I start with 50 ideas and I hate most of them, really (laughs), because I figure they’re not good enough. The ones that I do like, I’ll play them to Lori (Linstruth / girlfriend, ex-Stream Of Passion guitarist) and she’ll be like “Well, yeah, okay…” So, I’m completely insecure until the very last moment, which is what makes me a perfectionist. That’s what makes me work so much harder, especially when I hear other stuff like the new Opeth or the new Devin Townsend. That’s when I’m thinking ‘Oh my God, my stuff doesn’t even get close to that…’ (laughs). The reactions to The Source have been so good that the insecurity is gone, and usually it’s always there.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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Progressive metal and concept albums seemingly go hand in hand, yet prog kings Dream Theater have ony two to their name despite a 25+ year career that has yielded 13 studio records. Additionally, some fans might be startled when they realize 17 years have passed since the release of the band’s first concept album, Scenes From A Memory, which is widely regarded as one of their best works to date. In January 2016, Dream Theater unleashed The Astonishing on an unsuspecting fanbase, which turned out to be a much bigger and very different animal from its Scenes From A Memory counterpart. The band then chose to take The Astonishing on tour and perform the 34 track rock opera from beginning to end rather than present a “typical” Dream Theater show: no “Pull Me Under”, no “Afterlife”, nothing from Falling Into Infinity, Awake, Train Of Thought or Systematic Chaos, and no cover songs. A potential recipe for career suicide or at least a disaster, but the band’s early 2016 run through the UK and Europe turned out to be a huge success.

Sure, some fans have slammed the band for not bringing their classics to the party, but anyone who follows Dream Theater religiously should have expected this. Fortunately for the band many fans did and weren’t disappointed. Starting April 14th, fans in Canada and the US can experience The Astonishing in a live setting for themselves.

“It’s actually been incredible,” vocalist James LaBrie says of the feedback Dream Theater has received. “It’s as great as we could have expected because, let’s face it, you’re taking a risk doing this when you have a discography as expansive as ours. A lot of fans are expecting to hear songs from any given Dream Theater album, but we thought that since it’s been 17 years since our last concept album and we never played Scenes From A Memory through live, it’s something we want to do for The Astonishing. And we wanted to do it right. We were preparing this tour as far as production goes a year before we hit the first show because it’s quite elaborate. It’s unprecedented as fas as anything we’ve done, and it’s something we want to look back on and say ‘Yeah, but we did do it and had a great time.’ It’s been very successful. We knew we were going to leave some fans upset and digruntled, maybe alienate them to a certain extent on this tour, but we also knew that we have a worldwide fanbase that would want to be a part of it and gravitate towards it.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Band Photo - Next To None (1)

There’s an unwritten rule in rock and metal that if you’re not legally allowed to drink, you don’t deserve a record deal.

Basically, you have to pay your dues before a Corner Office Suit gives you the opportunity to sign on the dotted line. It should be a process of getting the band out of Mom’s basement and into the garage, tormenting the neighbours with crap covers and even worse originals, being ripped off for rent at your first rehearsal space, asking Dad to bail you out of debt or jail (whichever comes first) before finally locking down that fateful first gig in front of a potentially hostile audience on the way to the big time. So it goes that when people discover newcomers Next To None – consisting of members aged a mere 16 and 17 – sitting pretty with a contract signed to InsideOut for their debut album, some folks dismiss them without hearing a note.

Drummer Max Portnoy has the added pressure of being the son of living and very active drum legend Mike Portnoy, who made a name for himself as a founding member of prog metal kings Dream Theater. Mike currently calls The Winery Dogs home, but divides his time with several different artists including Neal Morse, Flying Colors, Metal Allegiance and Twisted Sister. The thinking is that Portnoy family ties led to InsideOut picking up Next To None and that Max wouldn’t be anywhere without dear old Dad. Max is quick to shut down that line of thinking with regards to the latter.

“He didn’t push me into it or anything like that,” he insists. “Being in a band is something I’ve always wanted to do. Growing up watching my dad play drums did influence me in getting interested in making music, but he never forced me into learning how to play drums. I knew I was going to be a drummer when I grew up, I never questioned it. When I got older and met Kris (Rank/bass), that’s when I decided I was going to form a band. We started playing covers before trying to write our own songs, but my dad didn’t have anything to do with it.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

TIM & JAMES STUDIO #3 best

In 2000, Niagara native Tim Donahue made a small international splash with Into The Light, a solo record showcasing his skills as a fretless guitarist featuring current Foreigner vocalist Kelly Hansen. A year later he began working on a significantly heavier batch of songs that were unashamedly metal-influenced and came with a wish list of potential singers. During a meeting in Toronto over burgers and beer, I had the honour of hearing what would eventually become the Madmen & Sinners album. Asked who I felt would be the best voice for the material, I suggested Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie, unaware his name was at the top of Donahue’s list. Contact was made, plans were hatched, and in 2004 the duo released the Madmen & Sinners debut, an album unique to their respective careers. It was new territory for both Donahue and LaBrie, and ground they (sadly) haven’t returned to since.

“I don’t play the six-string fretless at all anymore unless I’m asked, like for the tracks on Nozomi Itani’s album (Station To Station from 2012). That was the first time I picked up the fretless in many years. Other than that I play the fretless harp guitar. I hate to say it, but the harp guitar has so much going on that when I pick up the six-string I yawn (laughs). I don’t mean that as anything against traditional guitars but the harp guitar kicks my ass and takes me to places I’ve never been.”

Although it’s been over 10 years since the release of Madmen & Sinners, the record still holds a special place in Donahue’s heart.

“I love the heaviness of the tunes. There are a lot of heavy bands out there and I’m certainly not the heaviest guitarist, but the songs and the actual writing, I think that’s why the music hits you in the heart even though some of the songs are really heavy.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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This interview came together in the interest of covering The Winery Dogs, but it was a given that no matter which of the trio got tapped for the chat – Richie Kotzen (vocals, guitars), Billy Sheehan (bass), or Mike Portnoy (drums) – there would be plenty to talk about with regards to their respective careers outside the band. It was Portnoy that stepped up, and the conversation that followed touched on several aspects but certainly not all facets of his career. Hell, taking time to walk through all the projects and plans he’s had on the go over the last few years would have forced the cancellation of the show. And that’s without discussing his departure from Dream Theater.

First up, congratulations were in order for the success of the Progressive Nation At Sea 2014 which took place back in February. It was essentially a 70000 Tons Of Metal-styled boat cruise for the progressive rock/metal nerd legions, and it was Portnoy that led the charge.

“Thank you. It was amazing. I played with three bands on board, seven sets in total. I played two shows each with three of the bands and a seventh set with Jon Anderson doing all the Yes stuff, plus there was two days of rehearsal on board, and then overseeing the whole thing, it was incredible. It was a fucking blur, and it went beyond my expectations. I saw the guys from Haken a couple nights ago and they were telling me how they’re still buzzing all these months later. That was a pretty common reaction from everybody that was on board whether it be the bands or the fans; everybody walked off that cruise just buzzing because they had been a part of a once in a lifetime event. For me it was incredibly surreal having overseen the project from both sides, as a player and a promoter or whatever you want to call it. It was one of the highlights of my career, hands down.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

There are moments during this interview when Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess comes across as a peace n’ love kinda guy. Not in a so-chill-he-must-be-on-something way, but rather with a Life Is Good enthusiasm for the band’s current status as prog metal kings. You can’t blame him for being upbeat considering the wave of success Dream Theater is riding with their latest album and the recently wrapped European tour. It’s a buzz that’s sure to get louder when the they kick off their North American tour later this month, featuring (almost) nightly three-hour shows designed and guaranteed to captivate everyone in attendance.

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“We decided that we were going to do the An Evening With… shows, which is a big thing because we’ve been going out with opening bands and not offering the whole big production,” Rudess begins, recapping the European tour. “This time it seemed like the fans and the promoters really wanted that and we were ready to make that happen. It was three hours of music and it was a big show; a lot of playing and my fingers are definitely feeling it (laughs). The reaction to it was really great. I felt like the European leg was our best tour so far, especially looking at the ecstatic faces in the audience at the end of a really long show. It proved to me that doing things like this was a great idea. We went into this with the idea that we would try to up our game a little bit and put even more into the show. Not only the amount of time that we played, but the whole experience. We wanted to create a show where, from the time people walk in the door to the time they leave, they’re part of our world. We wanted to take people on a journey with this tour so we put a lot of thought, time and energy into it. At the end of that two month leg, I have to say doing things this was was a gamble that paid off in terms of making the fans happy and bringing more people into the shows.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Dream Theater can lay claim to devoted international fanbase, with some of those followers bordering on fanatic. It’s just a question as to which side of the room is waving that particular banner. There are the ones that find worth in every album the band puts out regardless of how much Dream Theater deviates from what’s been deemed their signature sound (established by their first three records, When Dream And Day Unite, Images And Words, Awake). Then there are those that pick and choose their favourite DT records and will gladly cyber-stomp on anyone that tells them they’re out of their proggy little minds. So it went that when music from the band’s new self-titled album started circulating, the widespread accolades for a job well done (save for the expected Mangini versus Portnoy bitching) was surprising. Sure, some folks have dismissed the new music as a letdown, but guitarist John Petrucci couldn’t be happier with the result or the positive feedback that’s been coming his way since the record landed in the laps of the press.

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“One of the great things is that the press has been very genuine and very up front about the way they feel about our music,” says Petrucci. “The album has been getting a very positive response, and what’s interesting is that we set out to do certain things on this album and people have picked up on those things without us really saying what they are. That makes me feel that we were successful in following through on what we initially planned to do.”

Ditching the journalistic neutrality schtick for a moment, my long-standing personal view on Dream Theater is that somewhere down the road they forgot how to write songs. Hard to say when, but as much as I enjoy prog rock and metal, the widdly 10+ instrumental virtuoso epics that have dominated the last several albums sucked the enjoyment out of the listening experience. It felt like math class; the foundations of the exercises were familiar but they’d become too damn complicated to follow. The new Dream Theater album, however, feels like a step back to the era of real songwriting for the band some 15+ years ago.

“It was definitely a conscious decision to do that,” Petrucci insists. “Every album that we make, we do what we feel at that time. Whatever the strength is that we focus on for any particular album, it’s definitely done on purpose. In doing that, I think it’s done a couple of things for us. It’s created a lot of variety, but it can also be divisive because the albums are very different. Fans might like a certain period of Dream Theater history or a certain style, but I don’t think that takes away from the overall catalogue. The new album is so different because we went in wanting to write a more focused album.” Continue Reading

Been a LONG time since I’ve dished out one of these columns, but things are back to what passes for normal around here which means we#re back in business. That said, read on for your metal hoser updates…

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As most Dream Theater fans know, Canada-born frontman James LaBrie recently released his new solo album, Impermanent Resonance. There a full story with LaBrie here that goes over the ins and outs of the record, but from a completely biased point of view it’s fair to say Impermanent Resonance is one of his best (perhaps falling just shy of Static Impulse’s epic stature).

Plenty of aggression, which falls in line with Static Impulse’s in-your-face approach, but there’s a bloody infectious melodic aspect to the songs that open LaBrie’s music up to a wider audience. Hails to collaborator/keyboardist Matt Guillory for his brilliant songwriting skills. But don’t take my word for it; check out the full record on YouTube. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Bad news for Dream Theater fans that were put off by frontman James LaBrie’s 2010 solo album, Static Impulse:

Yep, he did it again. With the same cast of characters backing him up.

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You have to have a certain amount of sympathy for the folks that ran for cover when Static Impulse was released, however. It was the highly anticipated follow-up to LaBrie’s critically acclaimed Elements Of Persuasion album from 2005, which finally put his solo career on track in the wake of two somewhat confusing Mullmuzzler records. And yet he’d seemingly chucked the possibility of any future accolades in favour of Swedish death metal-inspired aggression, courtesy of drummer Peter Wildoer (Darkane) coughing up blastbeats and growls as required. It was an experiment of sorts concocted by LaBrie, long time collaborator/keyboardist Matt Guillory and producer Jens Bogren that took them as far away from Dream Theater’s prog metal shadow as possible, and for all the bitching and moaning from some scandalized fans Static Impulse was a success.

The new album, Impermanent Resonance, picks up where Static Impulse left off. The tear-your-head-off aggression of some of the songs has been toned down while the melodic aspects of the music have been turned up, but it’s definitely the same creative team behind the metal. And metal it is, with nary a prog-ism to be heard. Just like last time out, the only similarity between this new album and Dream Theater is the guy standing behind the microphone.

BW&BK: Was it clear from the beginning that Impermanent Resonance was going to follow in Static Impulse’s footsteps rather than experimenting with a new musical direction, like you did from going from Elements Of Persuasion to Static Impulse? There are similarities between those records, sure, but Static Impulse ripped the doors off the car you guys built with Elements….

Matt: “I think Elements Of Persuasion was the turning point, or at least a new chapter for us. We’d established ourselves as having a metal foundation within our music so we didn’t want to abandon that at all, especially coming off Static Impulse. We defintely wanted to keep that foundation for Impermanent Resonance but take it a step further, especially with the melodies and the hooks in the music. Also, the atmospheric perspective wasn’t emphasized on Static Impulse, so we wanted to bring that out on the new record.”

BW&BK: Static Impulse is a more aggressive record in comparison to Impermanent Resonance. In fact, if you were to dump the guitars and change the production on Impermanent Resonance you’d have some great pop songs.

James: “Absolutely, no doubt about it. They’re pretty damn pop-ish even as they stand now (laughs) but I get what you’re saying. You could come at some of these songs as a piano/vocal rendition, and ‘Say You’re Still Mine’ is pretty much in that vein as it is. I think Matt put some amazing songs together, like ‘Back On The Ground’ and ‘Holding On’. A song like ‘Back On The Ground’ definitely deserves to be in amongst the songs being played on radio these days, and it stands up against any one of them. For me a song is either song or it’s not good, and what’s important is what it conveys to me regardless of whether it’s a metal song or a pop song or a jazz piece. There are songs on Impermanent Resonance that definitely have that pop sensibility to them.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Call it a safe bet that a fair number of progressive metal fans feel slighted by having two giants of the genre – vocalist Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) – slamming down ton of bricks modern-edged metal with nary a 5/8 time signature or widdly keyboard flourish in sight. Nope, this is feelgood freight train mayhem minus the seatbelts done up old school, with the dynamic prog duo and guitarist Mike Orlando relying on musicality rather than gutteral aggression and the same old boring-ass downtuned chords to get their message across. Allen is a monster right out of the gate, his melodic bellow on lead-off tracks ‘Undaunted’ and ‘Psychosane’ laying the groundwork for some of the strongest material of his career (and wiping those damn Allen/Lande albums from memory). Orlando was either schooled in Stuck Mojo, or the band’s guitarist Rich Ward – who was in Adrenaline Mob for about 5 minutes – made a lasting impression on his songwriting. When it comes down to the groove crunch, and there’s plenty of it, Orlando’s shred is also an echo of Zakk Wylde, giving folks a welcome taste of Black Label Society. With Portnoy providing the backbone for the Allen/Orlando-penned tunes, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Adrenaline Mob’s overall sound is far and away from your average balls-out 4/4 metal band.
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