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Dream Theater, to many, have been in a downward spiral since 1997's Scenes From a Memory, and to some, have been spiraling downward ever since their second album Images and Words. The trend stops here. 2005's Octavarium shows us yet another array of styles that Dream Theater can take on and perform successfully. The songs are much less meandering (save the 24 minute title track) and are much more to the point, yet still have that progressive touch. Petrucci plays a much angrier guitar than we have heard from him in the past. Rudess plays a MUCH bigger role in every song now. This album is one of the best showcases ever of how to correctly use keyboards, something I feel they failed to in their other albums, where Rudess was mostly limited to his spacey solos and minor background parts. Myung takes on one of the best bass tones I've heard in a long time, although he is still hidden in the background for most of the album, much like every other album (Again, save the title track, where he holds together an entire section with an amazing bassline) Portnoy is Portnoy, we all know what he can, and does do.
Most importantly, and the biggest surprise is James LaBrie. The very critiscized vocalist has EASILY the greatest performance of his career on this album. He displays an amazing array of styles, range, and actually sounds excellent. I have always liked LaBrie more than your average person, but still only recognized him as a good-great vocalist. Here, he is an exceptional vocalist. From the heartfealt The Answer Lies Within to the enraged screaming of "TRAPPED INSIDE THIS OCTAVARIUM" he puts on a stunning performance.
Anyways, the album itself has no fixed sound, but overall it leans much more towards the Train of Thought sound than any other of their albums. However, it isn't very comparable, the same way Train of Thought isn't comparable to any of their albums before that.
Song by song, each song is very different, and is a classic in its own way. Therefore, I feel I should not discuss each song individually to spoil anything, especially since this album isn't officially out for another 8 days. Just listen, and wait for all the great surprises. I will however, for fun, list the songs I consider best to worst.
The Root of All Evil
The Answer Lies Within
I Walk Beside You
To all Dream Theater fans: This album is easily their best work since Scenes From a Memory, and will absolutely not disappoint you. Have no hesitation about picking it up the day its released for whatever price you have to pay.
To those who aren't big Dream Theater fans: This album is very well worth listening to, even if you have never liked Dream Theater before. The biggest critiscism of Dream Theater is usually James LaBrie, and I guarruntee you if you listen to this whole album your opinion of him will change. This is an extremely likeable album for fans of every genre, and is the next prog classic that will spawn clones for generations to come.