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Here we go again - 52%

colin040, October 22nd, 2019

The best studio album of Dream Theater can be traced down right here and as you see, that’s not saying much. Awake is yet another effort of these guys that while ambitious, is just too problematic for its own good. Even the performances are becoming more inconsistent here and I can't help but think these guys weren't allowed to contribute their own craft and that instead, they told each other what to write. That’s the only logical explanation I have for this problem - Kevin Moore’s keyboards become more inefficient, James LaBrie tries to show his tough side with mixed results and John Petrucci tries out his new toy, which doesn’t all work out for the best either.

Awake sees Dream Theater slipping into darker territory – something which on paper should work out well, but truth to be told doesn’t mean that much. The two biggest differences compared to Images and Words are the vocal lines and the seven string guitars. First of all, James LaBrie doesn’t sound super slick anymore; the clean vocals more often breathe more life into these songs than they did on the band’s previous album, but it's the distorted approach that's rather tricky. Certain vocalists sound appealing at their more aggressive performances, but LaBrie’s performance comes off rather unnatural at times. I’m not talking about vocal technique here, but it’s out of his vocal character, especially on ''Lie'' where the pseudo-intimidating whispered/half distorted rapped delivery (it’s not quite on the level of ‘’Take the Time’’ but still!) is just...awful. And that harmony halfway through is quite something, too, as it recalls an elderly tenor sounding all hysterical and pissed off at his neighbor. Regardless, ‘’Lie’’ is definitely the worst tune on this album (I should mention having checked the video clip of this song doesn’t make things better either). Second of all a few tunes here were written on a seven string guitar, which one might expect to work out for the better but that's not always the case. ‘’The Mirror’’ happens when you give a seven string guitar to the wrong musician - I’m all for chugging but if that’s basically all you do in a track, your creativity is rather out of sight - not to mention LaBrie embraces the same errors as he did in ‘’Lie’’ and Moore’s wasting his talents with his pseudo-spooky keys that wouldn't even scare a five year old.

Dream Theater still appear ambitious and unpredictable here so aside from the the heavier tracks, you still find some ballads which for the most part aren’t exactly better than the ones from Images and Words. ‘’The Silent Man’’ sounds so dumbed down it’s not even funny – an acoustic bore which I’d rather expect from a sixteen year old boy trying to impress his girlfriend with. ‘’Lifting Shadows of a Dream’’ is slightly better, recalling the mysterious aura that ‘’Voices’’ possessed, although it’s not exactly inspiring, while the album closer is pure crap – this thing is called ''Space-Dye Vest'' and it comes off as melodramatic due to the keys and movie samples (seriously, when did such a thing ever work?) James LaBrie’s lower register isn't all that bad for the softer tunes on this album, but he’s not capable of saving this track from mediocrity – I mean it’s a song about Moore falling in love with a model he’s seen in a magazine for crying out loud. Look, I’m all for ballads about love if 1: they’re good, and 2: they’re more relatable than falling in love with a magazine model, but in this case neither applies. Give me a break.

Despite sounding harsh, Awake is not without highlights, even if there are just a few of them. I find the longer tracks to demonstrate the band at their most united and focused - while slightly overlong, ‘’Voices’’ does have a mysterious aura to it and slowly unfolding itself as LaBrie takes the song forward with some actual proper lines bellowing over the choppy guitar lines. ‘’Scarred’’ does appear somewhat loose, but the half soaring/half calming vocals resonate well with the chugged grooves and Moore’s lively keys – the ending is certainly one of the more emotionally resonating moments of Dream Theater as far as I’m concerned. Tracks like ‘’Caught in a Web’’ and ‘’Innocence Faded’’ are more of the instant and catchy numbers and work well, too. The former stomps with some conviction and the aggressive vocal lines match well, while the latter is a real ear-worm of a track that lives by its repeated chorus until Petrucci turns the track into a blistering shred feast for the last minute.

The highlights of Awake would resulted into a decent EP, but instead this is yet another bloated and confusing release that's just not doing it for me. One last note: does anyone else think ‘’Erotomania’ sounds more like a video game soundtrack than a metal tune? I can imagine this was written to fill the space – because a one hour and eight minutes long Dream Theater album simply wouldn’t have been enough, right?

I couldn't stay...wait for it...well, you know - 61%

Jophelerx, December 7th, 2018

I've hardly made my opinion on this, the most well-known and iconic of progressive metal bands, unclear; if you've read my review of When Dream and Day Unite, I state it pretty unambiguously. Of course, some Dream Theater albums are better than others, which even die-hard fans of the band can likely agree with, and the first two albums with longtime vocalist James Labrie, Images and Words and Awake, are most often pointed out as unassailable bastions of progressive metal mastery. This being the case, I am going to do my darndest to go on and assail them anyway--in this case, my preference between the two (i.e. my favorite Labrie Dream Theater album), 1994's Awake.

We start out with "6:00," a song title which, to me, seems iffy at best for a metal song, though perhaps there could be some clever justification of such a strange title. Upon listening to the track, no there is not. A jumble of unexciting media clips opens things up, followed by a "groovy" riff which to me evokes such things as the worst of Alder-era Fates Warning and much of Queensryche's 1990s output. For fans of popular modern progressive metal, I suppose this may put the riff in good company, but to me it sounds like a superficially aggressive, ultimately pitiful attempt to channel real rage, and Labrie's laughable tough-guy/macho vocal performance only confirms my impression. Suffice it to say, I'm not a fan of the song, and their choice to make it the listener's first impression of the album is troubling at best.

"Caught in a Web" does a lot more to warm me up to the idea of, if not enjoying, at least feeling neutral towards this album, with a stronger performance from Labrie evoking Urban Breed of Tad Morose fame - in fact, the riffing has similarities to Tad Morose as well, and while I'm not a huge fan of that band, either, this compares to some of their more enjoyable songs and, while the uber-prominent keys are never going to be my thing, I can at least understand the appeal here. Moving to "Innocence Faded," we're presented with a softer, more thoughtful manifestation of the band, more overtly bringing to mind thoughts of the band's prog rock forefathers, Rush; and while I find Labrie's vocal lines--especially in the chorus--relatively underwhelming, I do appreciate the lead guitar, as, like much of Rush's output, it manages to noodle around a bit in a fun way without ever straying into "guitar wankery" territory. This is a welcome refreshment for Dream Theater, and I wish they would stick to such a paradigm more often.

The three-part sequence, "A Mind Beside Itself," continues to channel Rush for the most part, and this is most evident in the ending of Part 2, where the building, swirling leads combine with some genuinely emotive lines from Labrie to create an atmosphere full of wonder, not dissimilar to Rush's well-known epic, "2112." Unfortunately, Part 3 sees a devolution to banal, uninteresting acoustic chords with an equally bland Labrie accompanying, making my impression toward the epic overall rather mixed. However, I won't deny the band credit for the greatness of Part 2, especially in the second half, which is easily the high point of the album for me.

"The Mirror" brings us back to the realm of aggression...which I don't think is the band's strong suit here, the opening riff being evidence of that in that it's literally one note repeated over and over, an impressively uninspired level of musical laziness usually reserved for genres like nu metal. I'm aware that a lot of modern progressive metal does make use of simplistic riffs, sometimes even to their credit when layered with other sounds, but for me this undeniably goes too far, especially against mediocre keyboard lines. Labrie's lines and performance are fairly good here, but aren't enough to hold the song together on their own, ultimately making this track another failure. "Lie" is more of the same, with semi-rapping, a new low point for Labrie--though for the chorus, he does shift back to the try-hard macho/tough guy vocals we heard in "6:00." The only redeeming element is some cool soloing near the end, but that's not enough to change the fact that this track is thoroughly unenjoyable for me, and frankly it boggles my mind that such a track exists on an album so many seem to hail as the high point of progressive metal.

Thankfully, "Lifting Shadows off a Dream" eschews the shitty vocals and lame riffs again to deliver us a legitimately heartfelt ballad, which contains LaBrie's best performance on the album and some simple yet actually interesting riffs which work well as a backdrop to the centerpiece of Labrie. The last two minutes give us some echoes of the atmosphere that was explored at the end of "A Mind Beside Itself Part 2," creating the only song on the album I really have no complaint with, and one that is legitimately worthy of praise. "Scarred" is also quite a strong number, creating a mysterious, ominous soundscape that works more often than not, though at times it does become overly repetitive. Mainly, it's that one simple metal riff that's repeated over and over again. It's not bad the first few times, but it's not strong enough to stand up to the repeated use it has here, and by the fifth or sixth time I'm just waiting for it to be over. However, that's the only complaint I have from an 11-minute song, so ultimately this holds up very well.

Finishing out the album strong, "Space-Dye Vest" is a tasteful, introspective, and melancholic piece, and the band is surprisingly capable of pulling back when it needs to pull back--at least in this case. With somber keys and trembling, moody Labrie the only elements for much of the song, it's a stark contrast from most of the other tracks, and one that is most welcome. Unfortunately, the last couple of minutes start adding drums and synthesizer effects which only detract from the poignancy of the piece, though they are peeled back again in the final thirty seconds. So, ultimately, my review of the album is at least mixed, and there are clearly some good things going on here, but when it's bad it's just full-out dog shit, as in "6:00," "The Mirror," and "Lie." It's certainly the most impressive of Labrie Dream Theater, and to my surprise I have actually given it an identical score to the band's debut, When Dream and Day Unite. However, it's certainly a far cry from being the pinnacle of progressive metal, or even modern progressive metal, and most of the accusations I have about the band (lack of real emotion, guitar and keyboard "wankery," longwindedness) are still applicable here, although in a less virulent form. So, while I'm not at all recommending the album, if you have a burning desire to listen to the band, this album wouldn't be a bad choice.

Re-Awakened - 90%

octavarium, April 24th, 2012

This is a rewritten review.

After first hearing Panic Attack from Rock Band 2, I became introduced to Dream Theater and later acquired their second album Images and Words and was immediately blown away by their mix of metal, progressive rock, and jam band-like instrumentation. I slowly but surely acquired every other album by the band (becoming a massive Dream Theater fan), and Awake was one of the last I obtained. While most critics and first time listeners often hold the consensus that Images and Words was the band's best effort (yours truly included) several hardcore fans consider this to be the band's magnum opus that was at first lost and underappreciated amidst the rise of grunge music upon its release. Recent reviews have been kinder to this album and almost every fan considers Awake to be at least one of the top three releases by the band. Upon listening to this album for the first time, I realized its potential to be their best but felt that it lacked top-to-bottom consistent quality. However after further listens, Awake still stacks up to be one of Dream Theater's best, even if some songs are better than others.

After the magical and dream-like Images and Words, the band was pressured to try and put out a more commercial and radio-friendly album. Therefore, Awake has in some aspects more of a straightforward hard rock/heavy metal feel, but still retains several elements of progressive time changes, instrumentation, and emotional lyrics. The album starts off very strong with the first three tracks 6:00, Caught in a Web, and Innoncence Faded, which definitely show off the album's more rock/metal tendencies. 6:00 features an excellent drumfill opening and snapping snare, which is a consistent drum technique used by Mike Portnoy throughout the rest of the album, resulting in Awake to be considered one of Portnoy's best. Caught in a Web has a heavier and more grinding guitar that is also more fast-paced and slighty more intense than 6:00, but also contains an extremely catchy chorus. Innocence Faded has a very upbeat melody and features one of James LaBrie's finest vocal performances, hitting an F5 similar to that of Learning to Live. Awake as a whole shows off LaBrie's range, often using an aggressive rasp while occasionally going softer and melodic to soaring at the top of his lungs. All in all, the first three songs succeed as being very catchy and memorable and displaying the band's move to a heavier sound. The next three songs form the Mind Beside Itself Suite and are all connected together. It is unfortunately here that the album starts to lag a tad bit. It starts off with the instrumental Erotomania. While it retains the upbeat rock sound present in the three previous songs and features excellent instrumenation (especially a particular drum fill by Portnoy) it just doesn't measure up the same way to later instrumentals the band has been known for, such as Overture: 1928, The Dance of Eternity, or Stream of Consciousness. However, Erotomania is still quite an impressive example of musicianship. The next part of the suite is Voices, which is the first nine minute-plus song on the album. Voices has intersting lyrics about mental illnesses and diseases with interesting instrumentation and a heavy feel. However, upon listening to it the first time I felt it drawn-out and not that interesting despite the instrumentation. But Voices eventually grows on you and the chorus becomes more and more catchy with every listen. It is ultimately a track that can be appreciated for being forward without too much grandeur. The next song is The Silent Man, which is a particularly unique track being an entirely accoustic power ballad. While certainly different from what the band had done before, it unfortunately fell victim to the same fate as Voices the first time around: just not that interesting. But with continued and further listens, The Silent Man grows on you and can be better appreciated for its emotion captured in such simplicity. Though A Mind Beside Itself falters in some areas and doesn't continue the strong beginning of the first three tracks, they are by no means "bad" songs and become more entertaining if given time and patience.

Things pick up a tad with The Mirror, a sort of precursor to the Twelve-Step Suite about Mike Portnoy's alcoholism. One of the heaviest and most grinding songs on the album, it also features some interesting organ-sounding keyboards and a strong mix of high and aggressive vocals by James LaBrie. While still not quite as good as the opening songs, The Mirror definitely does keep the ball rolling and leads up to perhaps the highest point of the album: Lie. Probably the heaviest song on the album, Lie is also very catchy and has an extremely memorable chorus. LaBrie makes an intresting use of using hushed vocals during the verses and his aggressive rasp in the choruse before the song ends with an extended guitar solo which features a brief reprisal of The Mirror. Lifting Shadows Off a Dream is another truly unique track, being a sort of ambient and tranquil power ballad while also using deep bass and melodic keyboards. The penultimate song is Scarred. While, like Voices, it doesn't live up to other nine-plus minute songs the band has been known for, it is much more solid than Voices, starting off quiet and tranquil before picking up in aggression and speed in the verses, without sacrificing any of its ambience, before reverting to a melodic and tranquil chorus. It is also heralded as perhaps LaBrie's best performance on the album, as he shows off the dynamics of his range most prominently in this song. Scarred may not be the feat of musicianship that Learning to Live was, but keeping in mind that it is more straightforward and direct than Learning to Live, Scarred still succeeds in most parts as being an "epic" track. And with that, you would think the album had come to a satisfying conclusion. But there's one more surprise left.

The final song is the last work of Kevin Moore, who left just as the album was completed: Space-Dye Vest. This song is without a doubt the band's most bizarre and uncharacteristic song (the song has never been performed by the band live and was acknowledged that it would not have made the album if the band knew Kevin was leaving). It is largely a dark and melancholic piano ballad that becomes increasingly more haunting with low piano keys and hushed vocals and becomes increasingly bizarre with various sound clips of movies about love and obsession to complement the lyrical content (it's about how Moore fell in love with a magazine model wearing the famous vest) and it is quite a while before the rest of the band joins in, while the piano and keyboards remain dominant. At first, I was taken aback by the song and was upset that this was chosen to close the album rather than Scarred because it seemingly had no place on the album. But it will eventually grow on you after a few listens and is honestly a very interesting and haunting piece of music. Still, it's kind of a weird way to end the album and ulitmately leaves me with mixed feelings.

6:00, Caught in a Web, Innocence Faded, and Lie are ultimately strong enough tracks to hold up the album. However, while the rest of the album remains somewhat hit-and-miss, songs such as Erotomania, The Mirror, Lifting Shadows Off a Dream, and Scarred are also very solid. This is not necessarily the best album to listen to songs just by themselves (accept the first three and Lie), but if one listens to Awake from beginning to end without interruption, the pieces all come together well and ends up being one of Dream Theater's most solid releases. Even if I will continue to have somewhat mixed feelings about Voices, The Silent Man, and Space-Dye Vest (which are not bad, just "kinda good" and "what the hell?"), the quality of excellent combined with solid outweighs (for the most part) the songs that are somewhat lacking. Fans of Images and Words may need to give Awake a few listens before they truly appreciate its quality, but it ultimately pays off. While not their most consistently strong albums, Awake remains an essential Dream Theater release.

Boredom in aesthetic perfection - 65%

kluseba, January 3rd, 2011

I don't know what is wrong with me but I don't understand or share the hype about this album. I really liked the very diversified first strike "When dream and day unite" and the magic moments on the progressive rock revival masterpiece "Images and words" but "Awake" is mostly boring, complicated and dull to me.

Just to give you an example, the epic song "Scarred" is very diversified but not catchy or addicting for a single second. It lacks the hectical genius of "Metropolis" or the touching and profound melodies of "Surrounded" or the freshness of "Only a matter of time". This track is just long and boring, it has no magic tranquility and no guts either. The often cited "Space-dye west" shows us that Kevin Moore has some skills but the intro already rather reminds me of a boring evening in a high society restaurant for rich couples and thsi track never has the same magic as the harmo´nies he created on "Surrounded" or "The killing hand". The song is very relaxed and vchilling and surely has a special atmosphere and is a good choice to close an album on a calm note but to me this song is mostly boring and overrated. "Lifting shadows off a dream" makes me even faster fall asleep. Normally, I like silent progressive tracks as I am a huge fan of King Crimson but this pop ballad is simply dumb.

Those relaxed songs do not fit with the rather modern and rocking songs like "Lie" where James LaBrie sounds like if a disco pop vocalist would try out to do some hard rock or the very rhythm orientated opener "Six o'clock" that is one of the rare songs that I really like on this album because every instrument shows its forces in this surprising and very progressive track that unites everything about the band.

But a part of the diversified and still somewhat straight "Six o'clock" and the beautiful "Innocence faded" that convinces me with a catchy chorus and beautiful guitar leads that could have been on "Images and words", there is no third song on the record which I really adore and that's why I really feel disappointed about this so well received record.

I would even go as far and say that this album is probably the weakest and most boring one in the band's very strong and stunning discography. I would rather listen to the first two albums and recommend those than this overrated boredom in aesthetic perfection.

A great album from A to Z - 99%

Passoul, December 3rd, 2005

Awake is called the dark album from Dream Theater, cause of the depressive emotion you have all along in the songs. But that's not a bad thing in fact! Even if some people believes that this release is not progressive enough but too much focus on the heavy sound, I would tell that they are wrong. How could the progressive emotion of the music doesn't mix with heavy? I think that this album reflect that it can be mixed!

After the success of Images and Words on the prog-metal scene, Dream Theater do as they want and make something really different from their previous album. This is just the reflection of a progression through the music. The progression could be bad or good for different person and that is more a subjective opinion than a fact. For myself, I don't think it is worst or better than Images and Words, it is just different and good!

There are song that are heavier and other that are more soft, just like on an usual DT release. Songs like 6:00, Caught In A Web, The Mirror, Lie represent more the heavy section of the release. These last songs are really great with a good play of guitar work and an awesome deal of bass and drums along with an atmospheric keyboard that sometime do a solo or two. Labrie sing with energy but sometime he push maybe a little bit too much like on Caught In A Web, that is not my favorite around. 6:00 is just a magnific song to begin the Cd with a very good intense drumming that get you into the Cd. The Mirror is an usual Mike Portnoy signature for the lyrics and the sound. A more crushing sound with agressive lyrics that is what he writes! Lie really follows hand in hand The Mirror with another agressive sound that tells: "Don't tell me, you taugh of me!". The riff of this song has crush and the solos are fast, but maybe lack some emotion.

Other song are more on the soft side like Innoncence Faded, The Silent Man (that is part of the A Mind Behind Itself), Lifting Shadows off a Dream and Scarred. These tracks are all great show a lot of emotion in the lyrics and in the music. Lifting Shadows off a Dream is a composition of Myung and the lyrics are very poetic. It is indeed one of the best writter of DT and it is sad that he doesn't write anymore. Scarred really get you straigh in the heart with a melodic sound and some more heavy part.

But this release I think that this release is the place of two main tracks: "A Mind Behind Itself" and "Space Dye-Vest". The first is three song that are linked together showing the world into the mind of a little boy. Erotomania is the first part of the serie and it is a instrumental episode with a lot of solos of all the kind. It is a good song, but not one of the best around they have made. Sometime you feel like it is going nowhere and then it falls into the crushing Voices. This song is a equilibrum between heavy and soft reflecting how the world have two different point of views and that the main character of the song is trapped in. The Silent Man is an accoustic song with a great Petrucci work and a Labrie that we don't find often with a really soft voice. Weirdly this Silent Man sound like if it is Myung...

Space Dye-Vest is the most depressive song of all DT carrier and I don't think it will be beaten by any other song. It is a song written by Kevin Moore and the majesty of his music-wise is shown through the whole song. It is one of the finest work I have never listen to. The keyboard are just impressive and the ambiance of the song is incredible. Even Labrie doesn't sound like he is the same.

Awake is one of the dark episode of Dream Theater, but remain a wonderful album with complex song writting, beautiful solos and a perfect ambiance in the whole Cd from the beginning until the last note of keyboard! Nearly the perfection...99%. A must for everyone into metal!

This... Is awesome. - 100%

estaticfear, May 29th, 2005

That is to say, it puts you in awe of the music you're hearing. I don't think that "this is badically really cool" cuts it here.

I love this album so damn much.

I don't know why. The general sound of this release isn't radically different to any of DT's other stuff in the sense that Train of Thought was, and despite not being all that heavy, this is definitely Dream Theater's first step into becoming one of the greatest metal acts in existence. Most of the songs are definitely metal here.

The opening track, 6.00, is interesting. There are some trademark obscure audio samples in here, and the plot of the thing is set on a christmas morning at - you guessed it - Six AM. It's a nice five-and-a-half minute song about the train of thought of a man faced with a difficult decision - Whether or not he should leave his band. The singing is superb, and the lyrics are well-written. It's kinda psychadelic, and there's some very talented guitar work around. Not necessarily a bad song, but not the best on the album... However, still a perfect choice for an initial track. Way to go.

Things really pick up from Caught In A Web onwards. It's pretty heavy most of the way through, and again, the lyrics are wonderful. The backup singing makes it all the more enjoyable, and it's distinctly melodic. There's quite a long period devoid of vocals, but the talented guitars and drumming make it less of a chore and more of a treat to listen to.

Innocence Faded is light-hearted yet still surprisingly heavy. It's distinctly progressive - More so than the previous two songs - With the song's form changing radically the whole way through. The singing stops earlier than expected, but it's still thoroughly good.

Erotomania is, in my opinion, one of the best instrumentals written by any band - Not merely DT, not merely progressive, not merely metal - Any band whatsoever. Most of the song is made up of riffs torn straight from other DT songs; I can recognise A Change of Seasons, Pull Me Under, The Silent Man and perhaps one or two bits of Metropolis here, plus that one long semi-classical bit that was originally part of Pull Me Under... It's funny to think that the band created this by messing about in soundcheck. A+, sirs.

Voices is the second-best track on the whole album, in my opinion. It tackles subjects such as the church and the morality of the world through the eyes of a child, but it's not the sort of thing that's apparent simply by listening it through... You have to spend some time intepreting it yourself. LaBrie's singing here is probably among his best, and the music itself... Wow. Forget the lyrical content, and focus on the music here. This ten-minute opus is perhaps lethargic at parts, but it's a perfect song to zone out to - Listen to it on a train or a bus, or any other time when you're not doing anything in particular, and you'll know exactly what I mean. The speed this song accumulates is fantastic - It's got the best musical co-ordination of anything on the album. And when the samples kick in (another artist in the studio at the time reading lines of poetry), you just have to think to yourself about the music in the background, and how fast those guys must be moving their hands to do this.

The next song is called The Silent Man, and it's the only DT song with acoustic guitar establishing the rhythm the whole way through. It's perfect single/video length, which is probably the reason it was released in both forms. It's got some wonderfully atmospheric lyrics here, and the trippy backup singing is *fantastic*. Nothing much else to say, because although a great song, it's nothing radically out of the ordinary - just a nice acoustic interlude.

The Mirror... I'm a bit undecided about this one to this day. It's one of their heavier efforts, but not heavy in the sense that their other stuff is. The keyboards in this song truly are fantastic, but it just seems a bit... Coarse. Probably the weakest song on the album, and it really doesn't sound good when it's played live - Unless it's the instrumental version. However, I usually make a point of listening to this prior to hearing Lie, simply because they seem like two parts of one song. The only really good part of this song occurs when the reusable riff phenomenon kicks in and Space-Dye Vest's main keyboard part is played.

When it finally does cut into Lie, it's definitely for the better. DT's heaviest song in the 90's is right here, and it's possibly the most influential heavy metal piece since The Number of The Beast. Being up with Pull Me Under in DT's "huge hits" category, it's no wonder people go wild with the sound of the first few bars blasting through the speakers. It's been called generic. You know why it sounds generic? It was the first of its kind, and everyone picked up this style from here. The only midly disappointing thing about this song is its abrupt ending. I'd've preferred a faded one, thanks.

Lifting Shadows off a Dream is superb. Myung wrote the lyrics for this one, I believe... I remember watching the double feature dvds with commentary, and when this one was played, everyone was commenting on how great the lyrics were, and pressuring him into explaining what they actually meant (of course, he didn't say anything). The bass line for this song is... Wow. In fact, that one particular guitar riff that's continually rising up and down the octave on a complicated string of notes... Wow. A great listen with some great lyrics.

Scarred is fantastic. It's the longest song on the album, but you really wouldn't know that by listening to it. It's so enthralling that you're just pulled under (no pun intended) into the music, and the chorus and its variations are fantastic. It does get a tad repetitive at points towards the end, but this is saved by a faded outro. One of the more mild songs on the disc.

Space-Dye Vest is, in my opinion, the best thing Dream Theater have ever written. I'm glad that they don't play this one live, because without Kevin Moore, it'd be butchered in and out. It's by far the most emotional piece of music DT have ever chucked out, and thankfully so. The sampling from an obscure TV show I've never heard of is perfect for the music, and hearing Conan o'Brien's voice here is also surprisingly fitting for a man like him. The lyrics are again some of-- Hell, the lyrics on this whole album are the best I've ever heard. I implore you to go out and buy the thing solely for the closing track.

Easily the most influential piece of progressive metal to this day. Without this, I honestly believe that the whole genre would be lost.

Metal Gets its Awakening - 100%

BleedingRoses, April 11th, 2005

In 1994 the Heavy Metal scene had taken a backseat to more stripped-down, grungy style of music called Alternative Rock or Grunge. Bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, with their politically conscious and sometimes undecipherable lyrics, ruled the radio waves with their muttering angst and 3-chord progressions. Any Heavy Metal that still existed consisted of tuned-down guitars and simplified lyrics and music in order to make the music more readily mainstream. Somewhere, underneath all of noise of Metal bands scrambling to find their new voice and once again hit the top of the charts, a band called Dream Theater would release what is arguably one of the best Heavy Metal albums of all time. And yet only a small, close-knit, underground following of this superbly talented band would be privy to this masterpiece called Awake. And that’s what makes it even more special.

Comprised of musicians who have studied at such renowned music academies as Berklee College of Music and Juilliard, Dream Theater are phenomenal to behold, and equally difficult to love. As musicians they are so talented, and write with such complexity, that most people find them hard to stomach. Either they are too complex, or too loud. Most ordinary music fans wouldn’t give them a second listen, unable to appreciate the level of musicianship displayed by each member of this progressive, heavy, intelligent Metal band. This is what makes Dream Thater so exceptional to those of us who adore them. It’s like a secret society made up of those who wholeheartedly love the music and the band, the lyrics and the guitar solos, the bass lines and the double bass drum. Awake is the album that cemented Dream Theater into the hearts and minds of those who merely liked them before, the album that created devotion and loyalty that can only be dreamt of. And it left in the dust those fans that were there for the moment during the semi-mainstream success of their first album, Images and Words.

Awake consists of 11 tracks totaling 78 minutes of mind-bending music not intended for the faint of heart or mind. It is an emotional journey through spirituality, love, heartbreak, loss, self-definition, and helplessness. It reaches into your soul and squeezes out every ounce of thought process and emotion a listener didn’t know existed. Each song plays out like a home-video of the lyricist’s life, heart, mind, and soul. You are given the opportunity to listen to the words and hear the music and understand exactly the feelings that went into each note, chord, word, phrase and harmony.

It is within this album that Dream Theater perfected the art of technological genius without excessive over-playing – an all-too-common phenomenon so respectfully referred to as “musical masturbation.” There is a level of infallibility reached in this album that was never reached again, even by Dream Theater themselves. As if they were guided by a higher power, Dream Theater created their magnum opus; a feat few bands have the privilege of accomplishing. The album is a dream-like recitation of a seemingly subconscious collective of thought and emotion, intermingling flawlessly to create every song.

The first experience the listener has with this album is the prophetically unconscious ramblings of a man who feels left-out, out-dated, and yearning to find something else to hold on to. All this in a song simply titled “6:00.” Featuring a self-indulgent, yet fittingly complex drum intro, “6:00” defines the inner-workings of the mind of the band’s now-estranged keyboard player, Kevin Moore. As the composer of the lyrics, Kevin shouts from behind a glass wall using the lyrics of this song, begging to be let go, cut free. It is clear that he feels as though he is on a path to nowhere and sternly wishes to find himself amongst another amalgam of musical creativity; one that doesn’t include the other members of Dream Theater. In the lyrics “So many ways to down a man / so many ways to drag him down” we can see his feeling of helplessness and seclusion in picture perfect lyricism. It was not long after this album the Kevin deserted the band, leaving a sinkhole that made this album’s raw power seem overwhelmingly predictive.

Following “6:00” is the first of five songs lyrically composed by John Petrucci, the band’s guitar player. Each song has an element of spirituality, a struggle between spirituality and religion, and a defiance, of sorts, of the rites and doctrines put forth by the church as a whole and generations of family ideals regarding belief. Much of this album is Petrucci’s rollercoaster ride of a journey through the space of true spirituality, from the insubordination of childhood beliefs drilled into the mind of a child, to the embracing of the morality and ultimate peace of simply living a spiritually connected life as opposed to a religious existence. “Caught in a Web” is the first step toward spiritual self-discovery. It is a journal entry from the heart of a man who feels trapped within the web of religious devotion. “Try to push me ‘round the world some more / make me live in fear” is a lyric that displays a feeling of being bullied into fearing God, being sucked into the “hellfire and damnation” ideals that so many churches sledgehammer their patrons with. “Caught in a Web” is an honest portrayal of someone who believes that belief is within the person, not within the ritual of a churchgoer. It also deals with the rebuttal faced once he voices his opinion of religion. “Spinning a cage / denied and misread,” clearly sums up the feeling of isolation once you decide to detour from a long-standing belief system, particularly those enforced by family.

The third track is a melodically beautiful slap in the proverbial face called “Innocence Faded.” By “slap in the face” I mean that it is a truly eye-opening, biographical account of what happens when one finally realizes that nothing is as it seems. Again, the idea of spirituality abounds; finally coming to that awakening of spiritual mindfulness - a realization that those rules and rites that were blindly followed all the while you were growing up are just that – man-made rules and rites. One lyric stands out more so than others: “The faithful live awake / the rest remain misled.” This line boldly draws the line between being faithful and religious. It plainly states that those who have faith will live an awakened life, a life with a connection to God. The rest, who blindly follow church doctrine, are being misled. The guitar lines are hauntingly dissimilar to the meaning. Flowing and clean, this melody draws the listener in with the expectation of finding a semi-benign set of words. The truth is, the listener who listens with an open heart and mind will find themselves buried deeply in an honest, emotional proclamation of the letting go of the blind assembly-line of prayers and hymns and “repeat after the pastor,” and the discovery of a personal, one-on-one connection with the Higher Power.

The fourth song is an emotively atmospheric instrumental track that begins with an alarm-like buzz of keyboards and guitar, sending a sort of wake-up call of urgency to the listener. It gradually transcends into the depths of repetitive, though not monotonous, heavy, bass-and-7-string-guitar-laden rhythms. The song then builds from there into a fluently melodic, almost dream-like fluidity of stand-out guitar riffs and melodies, and climaxes with the first occurrence of the “recurring riff phenomena.” This is where the band uses a melody line form another song in the album and incorporates it into a different song. This one is the riff from “The Silent Man,” a simple yet powerful acoustically-driven track with an evocative melody line which occurs later in the album. Following this, we hear a flowing and mind-bending guitar solo which swan dives elegantly into another repetitive rhythmic chant-like section. If you listen closely, you’ll hear recurring riffs from “Caught in a Web,” as well. The song bows out gracefully at the end with soft chimes and a liquefied guitar sound, reminiscent of a dream sequence. This transition leads perfectly into the next track, named “Voices,” another side-road along the journey of Petrucci’s spiritual discovery.

“Voices” is narrative in nature, telling the story of a boy repressed and frightened by the images and words used by his grandmother in discussing God and Church. It is the inner struggle of a child feeling as though he is being constantly watched and pored over and judged by God and by others. It’s a constant back-and-forth between what he’s taught and what he feels. The song later relates religious devotion to the ideological fascination fans of a band can have. This song is a pleasantly understandable stream of consciousness dedicated to spirituality, inner turmoil, growing up, and dealing with being lonely while not being alone. It tackles the topic of sex before marriage and of fanatical listeners who view musicians as their own personal Messiah. It is many questions and few answers, almost seeking to be figured out. The musicality itself is driving and eerie, perfectly encompassing each emotion within each melodic transgression.

“Voices” then shifts eloquently and purposefully into the simplified acoustics of “The Silent Man.” “The Silent Man” provides the closure to “Voices,” adding a surreal sense of calm and sincere discovery of that inner spiritual peace we all so often seek. Using only acoustic guitars, the music itself provides a denouement to the emotional train wreck that occurs in “Voices.” The lyrics of the song represent the hindsight of someone who has discovered that God is in everything, even with us. “When there is reason / tonight I’m Awake / when there’s no answer / arrive the Silent Man.” These lyrics represent the Awakening to the presence of the spirit and the recognition that when you need an answer, the Silent Man, or God, is there.

And then, so as not to let you get too comfortable, the album takes a sharp turn into the depths of “The Mirror.” Written by the band’s drummer, Mike Portnoy, “The Mirror” is an autobiographical account of what it’s like to look at oneself everyday as a recovering alcoholic. It is a schizophrenic conversation between one mindset and another, both trapped inside one person; a devil versus angel approach to the struggle with self-doubt and betrayal by someone who is supposed to be a best friend – the self. The guitar riffing is the heaviest, mind-pounding guitar riff of the album, and arguably of all time, just hammering the struggle of the song straight into your heart. Petrucci uses a 7-string guitar as the main guitar in this track, thus adding a deeper “crunch” to the sound of the song, allowing the listener to feel the grinding and tension that the lyricist feels. Brilliantly written and executed, it is one the most emotional songs on the album. It is also another place where a recurring riff is found. Toward the end of the track the riff from “Space Dye Vest,” which I will discuss later, occurs.

In the space of a heartbeat, “The Mirror” turns into “Lie.” The eighth track on the album, “Lie” is the last of the musically heavy hitters. Another monster written by Kevin Moore, this song chronicles the tension between Kevin and the rest of Dream Theater. Kevin is fighting the monster, which is Dream Theater. The opener of the song, to me, and almost definitely a reference to Beowulf; “Daybreak / at the bottom of a lake / it’s a hundred degrees I can’t breathe / but I won’t get out ‘til I figure it out / though I’m weak like I can’t believe.” To me, it is the ultimate homage to the ultimate battle against the ultimate “other.” The song is a constant war between the lyricist and an “other,” be it the band or a girl. It is a narrative of mistrust, broken promises and disloyalty. It is a blatant “middle finger” toward any and all who have done something to Moore that he is now reliving in a painful, angry, aggressive song. Musically, the song is relentless and powerful, with Petrucci again using the 7-string guitar to drop the level of “crunch” even lower. This is also the song where James LaBrie’s vocals are truly worth mentioning as a catalyst to the raw emotion of the song. His vocals shift from angry to haunting, soft to overwhelming, all in keeping with each and every passion the writer is attempting to portray. “Lie” is also the keeper of two of the best guitar solos of all time. Petrucci displays his unrelenting emotionality with every not of each solo. Shifting from slow and straightforward to fast and liquid, these solos are what make the listener want to rewind the track again just to see what was missed the first time.

After the assault of “The Mirror” and “Lie,” the listener gets a welcome reprieve with “Lifting Shadows off a Dream.” Written by the seldom-heard bassist John Myung, “Lifting Shadows…” is an ethereal melodrama of metamorphosis and connection between people; a slow ascent into heavenly beauty, with a montage of voice and music right in the center that leaves the listener breathless with anticipation and then release. It is an almost spiritual ascent into musical melancholy that touches the soul and makes the heart shutter. The song descends into a puddle of tears and sensation, leaving the listener wanting to try it again.

The tenth track on the album is personal and touching, passionate and intelligent, heart-wrenching and uplifting. It is Petrucci’s final stop, his destination at the end of his spiritual journey, allowing all of his hopes, fears, sentiments and beliefs shine through in a fantastic microcosm of spirituality and the realization that one just found the truth, that the journey is over. “Scarred” is and eleven-minute expose of the soul of a man who has just realized what he needs to do to feel his connection with God. One of the many stand-out lines is “Learning from misery / staring back at dissent / leaving distrust behind / I’m inspired and content.” It is the last line of the song and the voicing of the idea that he has learned lessons, discovered truths, and can now face his past and start again, leaving those struggles behind and learning to be content with that which he knew all along, that true spirituality is not found in ritual, but in oneself. The song is a beginning-to-end narrative of his entire spiritual journey, summing up the feelings portrayed in the other songs on the album. It is a display of inner strength, of self-confidence, and of honest devotion to an ideal. Musically it is otherworldly and lingering, eloquent and meaningful. The last two minutes of the song are a gentle lullaby into the serenity of contentment and happiness, peace and hopefulness, gradually fading away until the song finally sleeps.

The last track on the album is an eerie single-melody-laden song written by angst-riddled keyboardist Kevin Moore. “Space Dye Vest” is a slowly executed chant telling the unequivocal story of lost love. A depressed and broken-hearted, monotone and relentless melody continues throughout the track, displaying without qualms the unyielding lyrical self-mutilation of the lyricist, unashamedly portraying him as unworthy of love and boundless, aimless and unaware. It is hopeless and zealous, a cry for attention that is brilliant yet annoying at the same time. It’s the jumping off the bridge at the end of an emotionally fervent album. This song, though flawless in and of itself, is not, in my opinion, the best song to end an album that as a whole is so brutal in its honesty and so ruthless in its emotion. Not that a “happy ending” would be more appropriate, but merely something more melancholy and bittersweet, as opposed to immodestly suicidal.

As a whole, Awake is even greater than the sum of its parts. It is a breathless ride through passion and fear, through spirituality and defiance. It is angry, yet sad; uplifting, yet melodramatic. It is an album worthy of praise and yet is not something that should ever become mainstream. It is deeply personal, not only to the band members, as witnessed through the lyrics, but to the fans that love the band, myself included. It is the reflection of our heart and soul and should never be taken so lightly as radio-friendly pop. Awake is a gift from the band to us. It is a declaration of trust in the listeners so deep that they are willing to manifestly lay their hearts out on the paper for use to read and hear. They are telling us, the listeners, more about themselves than loved ones tell us. It is an honor and a privilege to be a devoted fan to such a band – a band who is not afraid to be themselves and be true.

Awake is a needle in a haystack to most – they know not that it’s there until it pricks them, but nonetheless when it does there is a reason. This album found me when I was in need of a musical slap in the face, and it is sure to find others who are subconsciously searching for music to believe in, for musicians who have earned the dedication they receive. It is an album that will truly stand the test of time, even if it is only within the hearts, minds and CD players of the elite group of people who are fortunate enough to know of this album and love it. For that is where it is meant to flourish, only among those who are mentally and spiritually aware and capable of comprehending the masterpiece that will befall them when they hear Awake for the first time – a time that will most certainly not be the last.

Just about as good as it gets - 80%

OlympicSharpshooter, June 4th, 2004

Awake is the critical record from, what was at the time, an amazing band. In a career full of blindingly bright moments, Awake is the shining crown jewel that rises above them all. Images & Words is more influential, Train of Thought is heavier, Scenes From a Memory is the current cosmopolitan pick for their best, but none of that matters. Simply put, Awake is where Dream Theater moved away from the sometimes sophomoric excess of their first two records into a realm of maturity and glorious yet restrained performances, a realm that is heartbreakingly perfect, a realm that they seldom fully enter anymore, preferring an amalgam of the lyrical darkness of Awake with the absurdly amazing playing on Images & Words. Thus, much as I enjoy parts of the catalogue, they are virtually incapable of ascending to the absolute pinnacle of excellence that they achieved a decade ago, this year.

I tremble as I try to express how much this record has meant to me, how these songs are burned into my mind. This is prog-metal gone dark, stripped of it's silly window dressing and it's trademark excess. Awake is song writing over performance, real emotion and ideas over flights of fantasy and overblown "messages". Every performance is sharp, every note planned out and pressed into the service of the song. If you consider the maniac soloing of "Metropolis Part 1" or "This Dying Soul" distracting or overwhelming, take the time to immerse yourself in a work of grand, groundbreaking vision.

The album works on a variety of levels, from the high ground intellectualism of the lyrically challenging "Scarred" and "Voices" to the down and dirty rock'n'roll power at the heart of "6:00" and "Lie". In addition, the use of the famous recurring riff phenomena gives this album a cohesiveness and unity like no other album I can think of, save for overt concept albums like Scenes From a Memory and Tommy. It's subtle, requiring many listens to discern, but soon you might find yourself theorizing about the significance of say, the keyboard melody from "Space Dye-Vest" appearing in "The Mirror". Is this symbolic of "The Mirror"'s alcoholic protagonist sliding into the delusional despairing isolation of "Space-Dye Vest", is it simply Kevin Moore sneakily adding another touch of complexity to a frightfully intelligent composition, or is it just your imagination, did you really hear what you thought you did? The recurring riff phenomena gives Awake an amazingly dream-like quality, as if these songs are just being fished out of some sort of collective unconscious, pure emotion manifested as spell-binding music.

This album marks a paradigm shift for the neo-prog movement. I am firm in the belief that without Awake many of the more cerebral modern prog acts wouldn't be around as they are today, many of them probably going in a more Symphony X -type direction. Awake addresses real concerns without being comically topical like Rush, Queensryche, and even later Dream Theater can be (see "The Great Debate"). Every song relates to a feeling or an internal conflict, as if we are being given a chance to sift through the subconscious of the members of the band, who were at a tremendous crossroads in real life too.

Thus, from Kevin Moore we get the desperate cry for freedom of "6:00", a catalytic opener with perhaps Mike Portnoy's most charmingly and jaw-droppingly self-indulgent performance, a perfect counterpoint to Moore's frenetic keyboard squawk. This (along with "Erotomania") is the link to the prog-mania of the "Ytse Jam" and "Learning to Live", a real performance piece that can truly be called energetic like almost nothing else. Despite the very real sense of a creative mind confined to mediocrity in the lyrical narrative, Kevin Moore is writing fun, hummable, almost rapped lyrics that highlight James LaBrie's new found sense of power and aggression. LaBrie chews scenery here, snapping off syllables and giving a biting edge to his high notes that seems to owe more to Sebastian Bach than any classically-inclined operatic style as employed on the previous album. Indeed, this song is the adrenaline on a measured and gloomy record, a track that incites bopping and headbanging from the opening samples, impeccably arranged until they have their own bizarre rhythm and pentameter.

Like Moore, Petrucci gives us a harrowing glimpse into his own mind, fearlessly pounding us with his self-doubt, with his religious conflicts, with the primal screams that we all sometimes would like to get out. "Caught in a Web" provides an interesting counterpoint to Moore's wanderings and desire to escape, almost as if the album mirrors the falling out between Dream Theater and Kevin Moore. On "6:00", Moore tells us that he feels hemmed in. On "Caught in a Web", Petrucci tells us that he cannot escape, as if Dream Theater has become the spiders web and Moore it's helpless prey. Appropriately then, the song is a sledgehammer, with Portnoy and Myung driving the song forward with a single-minded trudge while Petrucci and Moore, if anything, lighten the affair with a hopelessly gloomy yet still anthemic flick of the wrist.

LaBrie and Petrucci continue on in this little analogy I'm playing out in my overly analytical mind with "Innocence Faded", a very Images & Words style song about, obviously, the loss of innocence. Throughout this review you may notice I don't give much in the way of criticism towards the music (because I think most of it is just perfect), but I will say that "Innocence Faded" has a pretty poor chorus. The verses are amazing, great examples of the dark side of I&W, as the keys and guitars sparkle without being uplifting; the chorus however, is simply incongruous with the rest of the song. It's like they grafted the chorus from another song onto an unfinished one. Regardless, the ride-out harmony is amazing, and it's blessed with some truly stand-out performances.

After a frenzied instrumental work-out called "Erotomania", which is incidentally one of the strongest uses of the recurring riff idea as it shares riffs with at least three other songs, Petrucci gives us a superbly poetic lament about how difficult it is to have faith sometimes. "Voices" features some truly amazing lyrics, both effecting and ambiguous while possessing a great flow and cadence (no Anthrax-style line cramming here) that give LaBrie a perfect platform to truly shine on. This is one of the prime examples of where Awake improves on I & W. On the Petrucci-penned "Under a Glass Moon" for example, the poetry is cheesy and depends to heavily on florid description. Here, Petrucci raises important questions that stick with you. "Is there fantasy in refuge/God in politicians/Should I turn on my religion/These voices in my head tell me to..." Musically, the performances are solid as ever, with special mention to Kevin Moore. Appropriate to the theme, Moore turns in a gothic, cathedral like tone that is unique in the DT canon (perhaps the ride out in "Finally Free"). Rather than lose the focus of the story Petrucci is trying to tell with showboating and key'n'strings duels, he adds texture and flavour throughout, adding to the chilly atmosphere permeating the track. "Voices" is an epic that remains committed to song writing, the crazed and eventful break occurring at a logical point in the song and following an amazingly well-chosen cameo by a rap artist who adds an extra degree of credibility as Petrucci gradually ramps up the intensity underneath. Other than "Scarred", I feel "Voices" is James LaBrie�s finest hour, as he displays an incredibly amount of shade in his tonality and impeccably well-chosen phrasing. In fact, the only improvement that could possibly be made to the performance occurs on Once in a LIVEtime, where James actually manages to inject more feeling and emotion into the final charge that leads into "The Silent Man".

Speaking of that very song, "The Silent Man" is a perfect example of how versatile Dream Theater has become. It's inspiring and up-lifting acoustic song-writing, and that nifty little solo towards the end of the song would fit on a far more mainstream record than this. I love this song for it's simplicity, just James and John on the guitar without any accompaniment (there may be a hint of keys towards the end to give that escalating sensation), and the Live Scenes From New York version actually angers me because in adding electricity and making it a full band piece, the subtlety and magic is gone. However, on the album there is nothing but pure perfection, even down to the excellent backing vocals contributed by one of the producers. Lyrically, this song is also about faith and familial relationships, like the calm denouement of an older man looking back at the passion of his confused youth ("Voices"). However, it is only a brief respite.

Mike Portnoy's contribution to Awake is pure sledge, a love letter to Pantera that is earthshakingly heavy. This isn't heavy for prog, this is undeniably heavy. The guitars are a distorted, face-melting, force of nature like virtually nothing else. The pounding rhythm and crushingly heavy guitar give added support to Portnoy's anguished tale of despair and self-loathing, an autobiographical account of an alcoholic trying to drag himself out of the hole that he finds himself in. This song is mean, sullen, uncommunicative and absolutely spine-crushing. I'll never forget watching this song explode live, heavy beyond heavy on a night when the band played the entire Train of Thought album, possibly the heaviest prog album ever made. "The Mirror" stomped all over it. Special mention to the high (but not sweetening) keyboard work that gives what you think is a slight respite from the stomp before you realize that it is subtly warped and disturbing, more of the cathedral-style dramatics that bolden and only add to the seriousness and class of the record. And then, just as the song seems to be grinding to a halt..."LIE"!

I remember listening to this album for the first time and practically jumping at the abrupt change of gears into this loping crunch-fest. This is Moore's second contribution to the album, and it is similar to "6:00" in that it employs a deceptively swinging vocal melody that sheds more light on his disenfranchisement and growing paranoia (at least, as far Awake being a narrative in my own mind). "Lie" just plains rocks, with a hip-shakin' and headbangin' beat that leads to a real crowd pleasing chorus. Plus, "Lie" features by far and away the most badass rendition of a nursery rhyme ever (sorry "Enter Sandman"), James having fun being bad with the effortlessly memorable lyrics. Recurring riff phenom strikes once again, as we suddenly plunge back into a complex and daring reprise of "The Mirror" which allows the band to flex it's considerable musical chops.

After that two song assault on the senses, another breather is needed, which comes in the form of John Myung's spacey and elegant "Lifting Shadows Off a Dream". The bass in this one is terrific, very melodic and mercurial as with other Myung comps like "Trial of Tears" and "Learning to Live", Portnoy doing some nice almost Simon Phillips-like light touch stuff, Petrucci and Moore adding colour, shimmer, and vibrancy wherever their enchanted music works it's way in. This song is very much about transformation and love, perhaps offering a chance at a metamorphosis for Moore (which, leaving and forming ChromaKey, he took). Regardless, LaBrie is heartfelt and moving, and the harmonizing and gradual uplift on this song is sublime. This is the sound of true art, of a genius that few bands truly possess; something that Dream Theater seems content to toss off as if it's no big thing.

The hardworking, kitchen-sink epic of Awake is "Scarred". It is of comparable length and placement (second last rather than last) to the hardworking, kitchen-sink epic on Images & Words, that being of course "Learning to Live". The difference is that on that record there were no less than five hardworking, kitchen-sink epics ("Pull Me Under", "Take the Time", "Metropolis", "Under a Glass Moon", and "Learning to Live"), and just like "Learning to Live" represents Images & Words, with it's over the top chopperiffic craziness, so "Scarred" is an avatar of the Awake record as a whole, a song of considerable heft and density possessed with a steely-eyed drive and an amazing amount of intelligence.

I consider "Scarred" to be John Petrucci's greatest song-writing accomplishment, the lyrics perfectly emoting the mental scars we all carry through our lies, a grating cry for help that goes unanswered. James LaBrie is amazing in his best performance ever and John Petrucci goes beyond the call with several unbelievable solos, the first being a bit of jazzy genre-bending cool, the second being a high-pitched noodler, and then and out and out note-dense shredder over a mid-paced beat. The song is more active and communicative than the unapproachable and majestic "Voices", especially on it's technically astounding break that gives us the only taste of the duelling that dominates Images and SFAM. The chorus is the only commercial part in the song (it's not quite "You Not Me" though), but it fits in perfectly with the rest, as if the verses are his psychotic ramblings and only on the chorus does he manage to clear his head.

Finally, Moore closes the album with a sombre, introspective piano-only piece. It's an intriguing melody, and there's something hypnotic and tragic about the way Moore mingles the two main piano "riffs" throughout the song. It's a song about growing increasingly alienated from the world, a man who has become obsessed with the models in fashion catalogues to the exclusion of having real, meaningful relationships. On another level, it is Moore's greatest expression of creative freedom on Awake, and yet it is strangely burnt out and smothered, as if it is the aural equivalent of his deadened nerves as he grows catatonic. It is dreamy and only half-awake, best enjoyed when in a dark mood or about to head into sleep. Because it is so stark and centered on one instrument, every move counts, the way he pauses before hitting a certain key, or the way he adds in little transitory fills to move into a new vocal melody becomes a captivating experience. James is both worn and fresh in his vocal delivery, and when the whole band comes in to help drive the song to it's inevitable doom it is every bit as fine and grand an ending as any other in the DT catalogue, more so even because it is so antithetical to the huge anthemic closes of "Learning to Live", "A Change of Seasons", "Grand Finale", and "Trial of Tears".

Kevin Moore left Dream Theater because he was bored and frustrated with the way the band was putting performances ahead of song writing. It is odd then that he left after the record that fits that statement the least of any in their discography, the one most obviously bearing the imprint of his unique style. If he had not gone on to create even better music, I'm not sure I'd be able to get over the tragedy.

Do yourself a favour. Buy Awake, and study it hard. It is both the most accessible and the most challenging record Dream Theater has released yet. It is also one the greatest prog-metal albums, prog-rock albums even, ever made.

Stand-Outs: "Space-Dye Vest", "6:00", "Scarred"

Let's try this again... - 100%

HealthySonicDiet, April 20th, 2004

Ok, Dream Theater's 1994 successor to Images & Words actually exceeds it in quality, IMO. Whereas I & W has much more of an 'adult contemporary' feel(seriously, listen to Surrounded and tell me it wouldn't sound good on the radio), Awake is unabashedly metal. My dad said that it sounds like Journey and is not as emotional as other Dream Theater releases, but he has probably confused Dream Theater with Vanden Plas, Pain of Salvation, and others on numerous occasions, so I'm not taking him seriously. I'm not familiar with Journey, but this record IS certainly emotional. It's just overflowing with emotion, and not of the cheesy kind a la Scenes From a Memory.(You thought only power metal bands could be cheesy, didn't you?)

The lyrics on this album are Dream Theater's best if you ask me. They have a sort of tangible realism that is unmatched. "The Silent Man", especially, has some especially great lyrics..."A question well-served. Is silence like a fever? A voice never heard or a message with no receiver?" Ha, I love figurative language and riddles.

The music itself, though not the norm for Dream Theater, is their best. Every song is precise and concise for the most part and overall, this has some of the bands' best performances. John Petrucci is especially noteworthy because his guitar tone is absolutely lethal here. You don't have to be a death metal guitarist to have a lethal guitar sound.

Every song on here is classic material, whether it be the poppy Innocence Faded or the neoclassical instrumental Erotomania(which I find to be their best, though I haven't heard the instrumental Eve from the Silent Man single, which someone on the Pain of Salvation message board claimed to be their best instrumental). Though I suppose it can drag just a little, Awake is Dream Theater's most solid release yet. Even nu-metal aficionados and prog haters should love this.

An amazing piece of prog metal - 95%

panteramdeth, April 6th, 2004

What an amazing piece of progressive metal! Some people say that Images & Words is their best album, but I think this is their best. This is their best because the album is full of variety, and features some great instrumental genius. Just imagine if you were given sheet music from guitarist John Petrucci as a novice guitarist yourself, you would never be able to figure out all the different song structures. Plus the drumming and bass playing is also top-notch. Overall, this is just a top notch album.

"6:00" greets us first, and the drumwork in the beginning of the song is just amazing. And vocalist James LaBrie, while not necessarily possessing great range, hits every note on this song crystal clear. The tempo is upbeat, and it's a great upbeat feeling that continues into the next songs, "Caught In A Web" and "Innocence Faded". These two songs are very melodic and have really good solo work from John Petrucci, plus some nice fill work from drummer Mike Portnoy. "Erotonamia" is an instrumental that features many time changes and many interesting parts, and is one of the few metal songs I can say where I love the keyboard work. "Voices" is of the slower variety and clocks in at over 9 minutes, but it is a very nice listen, because it features some of James Labrie's most emotional singing - a definte strong point.

Next is "The Silent Man", an acoustic-based ballad where you feel like you are in the studio with the band. James LaBrie's vocals shine again, as do the backing vocal harmonizing on this. "The Mirror" and "Lie", I didn't care for at first, because I thought that John Petrucci was trying to steal from Dimebag Darrell's riffset, but both songs have grown on me, because they are both headbanging, thrashy, and pretty good in the prog and songwriting category as well. "Lifting Shadows Off A Dream" is another great mellow song from DT, with more emotional-style vocals from LaBrie, and very well-written lyrics. "Scarred" is the only weak track on this song in my opinion, because little seems to change during the song, it just seems like DT meanders on and on for the 11 or so minutes of its length, beating the same parts to death. But that is a small complaint, because the album ends with the excellent "Space Dye Vest", which begins with a piano interlude and works into a very futuristic setting for almost the rest of the song, and it shows the tremendous variety and diversity that this band has.

Overall, there are highlights nearly nonstop for this disc. This album is a can't miss for fans of power and progressive metal, and for metal fans in general. If you're a fan of intricate musicianship and songwriting - don't delay - pick up this album today!

Nothing breaks like a broken promise.. - 90%

doomsoldier, March 17th, 2004

First off, I'd like to note that I think Dream Theater is the best band in existance, and that I am familiar with all of their work. That said, Awake is a great addition to DT's discography, even though it can't top the Dream Theater magnum opus, Images and Words. What it comes down to for me is that I prefer the progressive side of DT to the heavier one, and this album definitely focused more on the latter than it's predecessors did. Songs like The Mirror and Lie, as well as some of the heavier songs that would follow on other albums (The Glass Prison, Honor Thy Father) are great, but they just can't compare to the likes of Metropolis pt.1, Learning To Live, Peruvian Skies, Fatal Tragedy and Solitary Shell. Even so, Dream Theater has never released a bad album, nor have they ever done anything half-assed, and Awake has a solid tracklist containing plenty of beauty and melody.

The journey Begins...

1. 6:00
Kicking it all off is this solid track which is definitely geared in the direction of hard rock, rather than metal. The voice clips here seem to be a bit overdone for my tastes, but the playing is tight and cleverly woven. A great intro to an album of this style.

2. Caught In A Web
Possibly my least favorite song on the album, CiaW is catchy enough, but I find myself longing for the end, and none of the riffs quite seem to catch me. The highlight of this song would probably be the lyrics.

3. Innocence Faded
An excellent piece, more akin to the old Images and Words style of DT, Innocence Faded is full of awesome tunes that stick in your head for quite some time after listening. Labrie sounds great here as well. Petrucci's lyrics are quite fitting.

4. Erotomania
A bit directionless, but that could be attributed to the nature of "A Mind Beside Itself", and also doesn't really detract from the overall enjoyment of the track. The music is technical and the melody between the instruments is very nice.

5. Voices
In my opinion, one of the most overrated Dream Theater tracks ever, Voices doesn't deserve to be as long as it is. As in all other DT songs, it has it's share of harmonious riffs, but there just isn't enough to fill a ten minute time slot. The lyrics and vocals are suitable for the theme though.

6. The Silent Man
Among the best the album has to offer, The Silent Man is the perfect ending to A Mind Beside Itself. Bubbling over with emotion and feeling, this song is what DT is all about. The only problem is that it's so short. Petrucci's guitar solo near the end was finished before it even got started, and that's really unfortunate. Check out the live version of this song, which is even more mind-blowing.

7. The Mirror
As previously stated, I don't find this song to be as fantastic as many DT fans would claim, but it's a good track in which Portnoy has a chance to let flow some profound lyrics about his fight with alchoholism. Possibly the heaviest song in DT's discography at the time of Awake's release, The Mirror is crunchy and, at times, considerably catchy. Short keyboard breaks are placed here and there, and are nice too.

8. Lie
My opinion towards this song is almost identical to that of The Mirror. It just doesn't grab me. The lyrics are fantastic though, and rank among Dream Theater's best.

9. Lifting Shadows Off A Dream
Tied for the best song on the album with Space-Dye Vest, LSOaD is sweeping in scope, has beauty and emotion flying out of it's ass, and showcases magnificent vocals and lyrics. Absolutely perfect.

10. Scarred
My feelings for this song are mixed. I'm not really fond of it for any reason in particular, but it's got nice ambiance and I love listening to it to relax, which is odd, because it's not entirely calm and peaceful. It's definitely a hit or miss kind of deal, and you'll wither love it or hate it.

11. Space-Dye Vest
Wonderfully creative and moody, SDV is a perfect swan song for both the album, and for Kevin Moore, the keyboardist who wrote it, and would leave the band soon after. Although, it may seem depressing to some, it's a beautiful track to listen to, and never seems to get old.

So there you have it, Awake, by Dream Theater. DT fans really ought to pick it up, but others who are undecided should listen to Innocence Faded, and The Mirror. If you like them both, you should enjoy this album. If not, find a different CD more geared to your tastes.

Deservedly praised release - 87%

CrowTRobot, February 6th, 2004

After firmly establishing their niche in the progressive metal genre with 1992’s “Images & Words”, Dream Theater released this somewhat ambitious follow-up. Fortunately, they succeed more often than not. The overall length of the album may turn off some interested listeners, but fear not; on no occasion did I find myself overly bored with any section of “Awake”.

The opening few tracks, "Caught in a Web" in particular, don’t tread very much new ground, reminding everyone of the consistency that DT has retained over their career. Around fifteen minutes into the album, however, the excellent “Erotomania” kicks the album into high gear. Great work all around, especially on the part of John Petrucci. Instrumentals are always a safe bet with Dream Theater. The remainder of the “A Mind Beside Itself” trilogy (Voices and The Silent Man) demonstrate a solid song writing ability, something that is occasionally overlooked when one listens to DT.

Next up, “The Mirror” is a great example of how the band gets criticism for recycling riffs too much. An excellent set of riffs, mind you, but a bit repetitive. “Lie” busts out with some unexpected attitude from James (I know that sounds a bit cheesy) on vocals, and of course, a great Petrucci solo. Also, one can’t leave out mention of the best lyric of all time, “Never been much of a Doubting Thomas”. “Lifting Shadows off a Dream”, besides having an annoyingly long title, is one of the more forgettable tracks on the album. “Scarred” reveals that John Myung is as capable a bass player on the slow songs as he is on the fatser ones. Finally, the keyboard dominant “Space-Dye Vest” wraps thing up. If I’m correct, the band refers to this as “Kevin’s song”, so they don’t play it live anymore. That may be a good thing because the samples ruin a lot of the promise of this song.

In closing, it takes a while to fully appreciate this album, but the rewards are by no means far and few between. Seek out “Images & Words”, “A Change of Seasons”, or maybe even "When Dream & Day Unite" first if you’re a new listener, then proceed to uncover the band’s best attributes without too much filler on this diverse work.

Didn't put me to sleep - 90%

OJ16, February 2nd, 2004

First of all, I would like to say that this was my first Dream Theater album. This was the album that opened me up to the wonderful genre known as Progressive Metal and introduced me to the band Dream Theater. Awake opens up with "6:00", it's a very good opening track...pulls you right in with it's punchy keyboards and great singing by James Labrie. Caught in a Web is next, another very good track. Innocence Faded follows and it's a pretty upbeat song. Not one of the greatest by Dream Theater, but nothing horrible either.

Next, in my opinion is the amazing trilogy "A Mind Beside Itself" consisting of "Erotomania", "Voices", and "The Silent Man." This trilogy is a perfect example of Dream Theater's ability to write songs. Suprisingly, the acoustic Silent Man is my favorite part.

After this, Dream Theater gets heavy with "The Mirror" and "Lie" while softening it for "Scarred", "Lifting the Shadows off a Dream" and "Space Dye-vest." The standout track from the second part of the disc is Lie, which is a brilliant song. Although Lie is my favorite, never does Dream Theater slack off on this album. This is one of Dream Theater's best efforts. Great album from a great band.

Two Words: Simply Amazing. - 95%

f4c30fd34th, August 25th, 2003

This album is a perfect representation of Dream Theater's style. It has the amazing riffage and solos by John Petrucci, the incredible drumming of Mike Portnoy, the solid bass lines by John Myung, the intricate keyboarding of Kevin Moore, and the dramatic, yet slightly annoying singing of James LaBrie. Everything about this album is almost perfect. This album is tied with "Images and Words" for DT's second best album (the first being Scenes From A Memory).

The album starts with the opening track (duh) entitled "6:00", which starts with a short drum intro, then goes into a crazy keyboard line. The riffage kicks in and continues for a while, then theres an awesome keyboard solo, which is the highlight of the song.

The next song, "Caught In A Web" is rather heavy, as it is done on a 7 string guitar. It has a catchy as hell keyboard melody, and a damn fine guitar solo that slowly builds up into a screaming orgasm of wonderful-ness.

Moving on, "Innocence Faded" is a good solid song with a catchy chorus, not much else to say about it.

The next song is "Erotomania", the best song on the album in my opinion. It's an instrumental that uses themes from other songs. It starts with a solid chromatic riff, then goes onto some complicated sounding passages. It then goes to a slow more melodic passage. It builds up, and Petrucci plays some awesome classical stuff, before going into an all out crazy fast string skipping solo, sure to leave you with your mouth wide open.

"Voices" is awesome. I can't tell you just why, it just is.

"The Silent Man" is a ballad type song. Has some nice backing vocals by JP (I think).

"The Mirror" is a masterpiece. It starts out with a nice, heavy 7 string riff with a greaty keyboard melody, then continues on with LaBrie entering doing some of his best vocal work ever. There's a little interlude that has the piano melody from Space Dye Vest in it. pwnage.

Next up is "Lie" The solos on "Lie" are nothing short of mind-boggling. The first one starts with Petrucci climbing up a scale all the way up the fretboard and playing some crazy tapping, then wanking off with wah. The second solo also includes wah and starts slow and melodic, and turns into a wankfest of soloing. Great stuff.

"Lifting Shadows Off A Dream" is another ballad type song, which starts out with an amazing bass line with natural harmonics. The chorus is catchy as hell.

"Scarred"... I don't know, something about this song just doesn't pull me in. I like it when I'm not paying too much attention, sort of using it as atmospheric music. But if I listen to it intently like I usually listen to music, it's just odd. Either way, this is not a bad song.

The closing track, "Space Dye Vest", is a soft, heavily piano based song. It has a very catchy melody. I don't know what it is about this song, but it's just breathtaking. I would say it's the second best song on the album.

If you don't already own Awake, buy it. NOW.

The Silent Album - 99%

Paradox, March 27th, 2003

When you think of Dream Theater's music most think of there much revered (perhaps overly so) break out success "Images & Words," or their concept album opus "Scence From a Memory," or the single 42 minute long musical composition "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence." Few mention "Awake" right off. No one will say this isn't a solid album, but usually it is overshadowed by DT's more ambitious projects. "Awake" is, in my opinion, their best album. It is definitely there most underrated and perhaps their most complete. It has everything from the epitome of progressive metal "6:00," to one of their heaviest songs "The Mirror" and "Lie," to an example of the marathon "wankathons" they are known for (and their critics loathe them for) in "A Mind Beside Itself."

Perhaps one of the reasons I like this album is because of the way it flows from one song to another without there being a blatant segue. The tempos of the songs rise and fall over the course of the album while the "reuseable riff phenonmenon" ties it all together. "6:00," "Caught in a Web," and "Innocence Faded" are all pretty similar in tempo. "A Mind Beside Itself" encapsulates another tempo wave, building through "Erotomania" and "Voices" and then settles down into a nice acoustic number "The Silent Man." "The Mirror" and "Lie" take things to a new level of heaviness. "Lifting Shadows off a Dream," "Scarred," and "Space-Dye Vest" gradually bring the tempo down to a close.

I. "6:00" / "Caught in a Web" / "Innocence Faded"
"6:00" to me is the epitome of what prog rock/metal is. Extremely melodic and technically demanding. These are all three great songs. They can either be very deep and difficult or easy to listen to depending on one's mood. I think James gives some of his best vocal performances right here.

II. "A Mind Beside Itself"
Perhaps the best DT instrumental and the best, most introspective lyrics all rolled into one. "Erotomania" might seem like an over glorified scale, but it works. The solo near the end definitely showcases John Petrucci's talent. "Voices" has some of my favorite lyrics ever. They are so very introspective and really put the writer's heart and mind right out in front of everyone. Perhaps why I like them most is because they don't have an answer to the problems the writer faces. Many musicians think they have an answer to everything, but this shows that they are just as human and just as confused about life as everyone else. The fact that I generally skip "The Silent Man" when listening to this song in no way makes it a bad song. I think maybe it is just something of a let down after the greatness of "Erotomania" and "Voices."

III. "The Mirror" / "Lie"
Two great heavy songs. Musically they seem to be one longer composition, lyrically divided in two. I particularly like the bass riff at the end of "The Mirror."

IV. "Lifting Shadows off a Dream" / "Scarred" / "Space-Dye Vest"
"Lifting Shadows off a Dream," while it isn't bad, it isn't anything spectacular either. I think "Scarred" is DT's most underrated song (appropriately coming from their most underrated album). At first it was just "another" 10 minute DT song, but it gradually grew on me until it has become one of my favorites. I especially like the outro. "Space-Dye Vest" is simply beautiful. What else is there to say about it?

A Masterpiece - 100%

Demented666, November 6th, 2002

Dream Theater a band pegged by many to be no talent, wankers who only masturbate on their collective instruments for kicks, no emotion, no feeling...
Well this is an album that upon listen to it hushes these critics for it is simply a masterpiece blend of incredible and technical musicianship and an overwhelming type of feel, making it one of their finest moments ever.
It has a darker edgier feel and sound, Petruccis guitar tone hits like a sledge hammer and Portnoy show cases his incredible drumming abilities, simply the band kicks ass
The album opens with a bang with 6:00 a bluesy, yet prog infulenced little ditty show case some seriously good guitar work, and musicianship off course Labrie's vocals while everyone may hate them are simply powerful and fit the music perfectly. Caught in a Web and Innocence Faded are two brilliantly catchy songs, especially Innocence faded with its ultra catchy melody line at the chorus. Al this leads up to Erotomania, an innstrumental highlight fromt he album, a blend of classical influences brilliant guitar work and great tempo changes, simply amazing Voices- a more atmospheric and vocally charged song follows, as well as the stirring Silent Man a simple acoustic ballad yet played in a way that it sounds fantastic. The Mirror and Lie follow and we head into a chunkier guitar riffing, with a very modernish sound yet retaining Metal structures, Lifiting Shadows of a Dream is a gorgeous balld type song, And Scarred is simply an unbelievavbly good song.
The album closes with Space Dye Vest- Its a s emotional as it get's the haunting samples and melody line, and the words which echo" I'll never be open again" truly heartbreaking when one thinks on them.
But to conclude this it is a must own album.

The Best?! - 100%

ShrediKnight, October 17th, 2002

What band creates the perfect blend between technique, song writing, metal and progressive rock. Dream Theater. Awake was the first Dream Theater album i bough (not counting the Metropolis pt. 2 DVD which i got before hand). Many people say that Images and Words is a far superior album, however i am probably one of the few that would disagree with them. I feel that this album is a prefect belend between heavy and melodic. I perfer music more on the dark and heavy side (probably from listening to too much metal before hand like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, etc...), along with great playing and this album has it all. Lets go through song by song...

6:00--This is a great opener for the album, they hit you right in the face and say we are Dream Theater! The way the band uses regular song formates of Verse/Chorus/Bridge but makes it so its not boring is amazing.

Caught in a Web--Dream Theater's first 7-string song on the record. Granted not the progy-est songs on the album, but its heavy. Its a great song, and a wonderful use of the 7-string, whats even better is that it doesn't sound like anything that anyone is doing!

Innocence Faded--This is the odd song on the album, it sounds more I&Ws then Awake's dark atmosphere. Still a great songs, and the solo over the moving time signature changes at the end is great.

A Mind Beside Itself:

I. Erotomania--Dream Theater's classic Instrumental song. Full of crazy time signature changes! Its probably my favorite songs of theres. This song is great, its a masterpiece, expecially the classical-style solo from 4:30 on...John Petrucci out did himself this time.

II. Voices--This is a great song. Again showcasing DT's ability to do the regular Verse Chorus/Bridge formate, but make it different every time. Thats one of the best things about this band. Oh yeah, the solo's amazing.

III. The Silent Man--Great song to end the trilogy. Just and acoustic and James, wonderful!

The Mirror--7-string heaven! Even though its a farly uncomplicated song, the way its written is great. Again, not the progy-est but its still DT

Lie--Kind of like the second part of the Mirror. Another great heavy song. Got to love the breakdown before the solo. And count them TWO, TWO GUITAR SOLOS!

Lifting Shadows off a Dreams--Two words: Bass Harmonics! John Myung out did himself, it sounds great. After coming from two heavy songs is good to slow down a bit, but its still dark, and stays true to the overall album's feel.

Scarred--The epic song of the album (not counting the three songs that make up A Mind Beside Itself). Its great, again with DT signature, one verus one way, the other one another, and keep the listener entertained! Plus the Guitar/Keys run before of the keyboard and guitar solos! Briliant!

Space-dye Vest--A Kevin Moore song, this was like is Wait for Sleep from I&W. This great and a great end to a perfect album.

Well to sum up, its a great album, Dream Theater at there best. This is also the first album they wrote with a complete band together. They sound so much tighter on this album. Is just great.

Heavier & More Focused than It's Predecessor - 96%

The_Crimson_King, August 23rd, 2002

From the very beginning of Awake, the listener can tell that they're in for a different experience. Though the prog elements are mostly retained from Images & Words, this does not sound as much like a traditional neo-prog album. There is a definite metal atmosphere in this one.

The previously mentioned opener, "6:00" is an excellent way to start off, though it's a bit of a jarring experience. To some, it is a perfect example of how Dream Theater forsakes structure and melody for instrumental wanking. For me, it's a great SONG. The solos and time changes never get in the way of a clear melody and hook. Both "Innocence Faded" and "Caught in a Web" are solid, catchy tunes with well-defined hooks. Something even an anti-progger could get into.

Both of the epics on this album are great, though "Scarred" is a little too long for it's own good. The heavier songs are awesome and the instrumental, "Erotomania" is both technical AND entertaining. Kick-ass! And the album closer is just achingly-beautiful. LaBrie's overbearing, operatic vocals actually fit this track, though they probably have no right to.

All in all, this is a classic album showcasing Dream Theater at their best. Well worth the money. Even the lyrics have improved.