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Has anyone here, like me, ever liked a band a whole lot in the past and over time acquired a lot of the CDs in their discography, listened to them really enthusiastically at first but gradually less and less choosing other music over them almost not wanting yet still somehow thinking they're better than certain other bands until finally you stop listening to them altogether and your CDs just sit on a shelf collecting dust? Then, you come across them again a while later, give them a refreshing listening, and say to yourself "Wait a second! I don't like this!" That is exactly my experience with Dream Theater, and Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory was the first album by them that I acquired. As it turns out, I think it's their worst.
All the alarms that went off that started to get me think this album isn't as good as I thought it was all went off one at a time over time. I believe the earliest was for the lyrical themes; and to be frank, the story this album follows fucking sucks. Some dude undergoes hypnotherapy for reasons that never are really explained. All I can gather is that he's wondering what his own life is about, which I don't believe should warrant the hiring of a hypnotherapist. Just realize that life has no meaning and nobody is going to miss us when we're all dead; a philosophy like that makes for a happy life. But, he goes through with this anyway and he experiences a past life as a woman who's stuck in a love triangle dilemma with two assholes who happen to be brothers. This story goes nowhere interesting and only ends with two of the three characters dead; a happy ending would have all of them dead, probably from suicide from realize that they're living inside a soap opera. I also don't understand why the dude in the present just had to go back to relive a stupid drama like this. Surely if he had traveled back further in his reincarnation history, he would have come across a Spartan, pirate, viking, or even a prostitute. If this soap opera is the most exciting past life he could get, his other lives must have been filled with Arabian carpet merchants, Irish sheep herders, and Indian garbage men.
Alarm number two came from James LaBrie. I really cannot stand the guy's voice; he sounds like a woman even when he's not trying to be the voice of the woman character in which case such as in the first "Tonight I've been searching for it" part in "Strange Deja Vu" in which he sounds really, really bad. But you know what? LaBrie's voice goes pretty well with the cheesy shitty lyrics, and these two together go well with the crappy music on this album. Crap goes really well with crap and crap, and this leads me to the third alarm that went off which took longer to be heard than before, but after a while I finally realized how poor the music is. Regression is a useless intro that plays into another intro track, "Overture 1928", which contains music that sounds like it was stolen from the opening theme of a show on Home and Garden Television. It's this soft, shitty rock garbage that plays into the first song with lyrics "Strange Deja Vu". From there, the band makes a couple of attempts at a darker sound with two lame results: "Fatal Tragedy" and the horribly bloated, chug laced "Home". "Through Her Eyes", "One Last Time", "Through My Words", and "The Spirit Carries On" are the worst of the worst here where the album is at its softest and most flowery.
And you know what? I feel bad for John Petrucci. The guy can obviously play a couple of good solos. The catch is that they're surrounded by this HGTV themed nonsense so he'd might as well be the guitarist from Men Without Hats. This feeling is not mutual for Mike Portnoy. I have no idea why this blue-goateed twelve stepper is praised so much when there is so little about his drumming performance that is at all special. Nothing he does here stands out.
After a bloated soft rock piece and some sounds of the modern guy walking into his home, you hear this "WAKE UP!" announcement, convenient for those of you who fell asleep listening to this album.
Now, it would be a bit of a far shot, but I believe that this train wreck could have been avoided if they made some of the following improvements during production. First, the lyrics would have to be completely rewritten. This precursor to Twilight is a lost cause, might as well scrap the whole story and begin anew. I'm sure if Dream Theater still wanted to make an album about a guy going back to a past life, they could write up a story about one of his ancestors discovering an elaborate plot concocted by the Knights Templar to take over everyone's minds, so he assassinates key members of this order to deconstruct their plans. You know, a story that actually had meaning instead of something that only spineless support group wankers can appreciate. This would be a key change in the album's turn out considering they'd definitely make the music more interesting instead of matching up with a shitty story. Second, James LaBrie would need to be dumped from the line-up. Bring in Russel Allen or someone else who actually sounds like his gender; I just say Russel Allen because he's had a history of singing about epic tales. Third, you bring in a second guitarist to play rhythm guitar. With the added depth of sound, maybe they can ditch a lot of this soft rock sound and actually write a few interesting riffs. It couldn't be Michael Romeo or anyone else who would greatly overshadow John Petrucci though. Wouldn't want to demoralize him even further. These changes would help pave the way to a more acceptable album.
As it stands now though, Scenes From a Memory is a boring album that should be avoided. This is an album that I used to really like, so you can't say that I didn't try to like this. But that just goes to show how pathetic I was in early high school before growing up and getting myself a booster shot of pride and self-esteem. Now, this album doesn't mean anything to me but bad music that is unfortunately considered to be good by a large number of people.