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Astonishingly Underappreciated - 93%

the_trendkill, June 16th, 2011

Among crowds of Dream Theater fans, Falling Into Infinity frequently draws the most hate of all the band's albums, and is nearly unanimously the choice for Dream Theater's worst release to date. It garners a tremendous amount of hate for being a "sellout" and for being a classic example of how a major record label "takes over a band and ruins it." What bothers me, though, is that although such claims are legitimately founded in reality, the finished product would indicate to the contrary. The album may be more mellow than any of Dream Theater's other releases, but in no way does that make it mainstream.

Falling Into Infinity opens strong with "New Millennium", which immediately gets to work showcasing the abilities of the band's then-relatively-new keyboardist Derek Sherinian. The mellow, laid back tone on many of this album's songs allows for the keyboards to really come to the forefront, and the album benefits greatly from it, because Derek Sherinian's performance is excellent. His style is very different from that of his predecessor or successor, but that doesn't make it any less outstanding.

"New Millennium", although a decent opening track, doesn't really stand out to me as one of the album's best. However, it accomplishes exactly what an opening track needs to do: get the listener's attention and set the pace for what's to come. In that regard, the song is fantastic, as it lays the groundwork for the album with relatively gentle tones, chugging rhythms, and well-defined bass and keyboard lines. The unfortunate downfall of this album is the song that comes immediately thereafter. Butchered by EastWest in production, "You Not Me" is absolute garbage and really makes the album as a whole stumble over itself before picking up again.

Though it would seem from what has been stated already that the album by track two is a disaster in the making, this couldn't be further from the truth. The remaining songs on the album are unexpectedly great. "Peruvian Skies" is reminiscent of a Metallica ballad, starting with several minutes of a slower section telling some sort of tale and then picking up with a much heavier second half. The latter half of this song is probably the heaviest section of the album, and although many fans decry that it's not nearly heavy enough, I claim that point is moot, because it absolutely rocks and I can't help but bang my head whenever I hear it.

There are a couple of other head-bangingly awesome moments on the album, most notably "Burning My Soul," which is defined by a style of riffing that Dream Theater has never done before and never did again. Its uniqueness is perhaps what makes it stick out in my mind, but it's also catchy as can be and is a rock solid song as far as I'm concerned. It also marks the beginning of a long, overarching middle section of the album, featuring three connected tracks. "Burning My Soul", "Hell's Kitchen", and "Lines in the Sand" all flow beautifully into one another.

"Hell's Kitchen", in my opinion, is second only to "The Dance of Eternity" in Dream Theater's catalog of instrumental songs, and is a much less challenging listen. Honestly, it's downright serene, and so is the introduction to "Lines in the Sand". Having owned the album for many years, it's still tough for me to tell when one has ended and the other has begun, because they flow together that well. "Lines in the Sand" is a new approach to a Dream Theater epic. It's really experimental at times, with some strange riffs and breakdowns, but that's what makes it so memorable. And criticize it as you may, Doug Pinnick's guest vocals on "Lines in the Sand" really do add to the song as a whole.

"Just Let Me Breathe" is another major highlight of the album, greatly expanding upon the low, chugging riffs first explored in the opening track. The vocals are fantastic, as LaBrie does an excellent job of thoroughly berating the popular music industry, which is beautifully poignant given the stifling circumstances under which this album was created and for which it is so frequently criticized. The solos in this song are out of this world. The dual-tracked keyboard solo in particular typically makes me feel like Derek Sherinian is attempting to rip my skull in half, my ears being tugged in two different directions in rapid succession.

The closing track, "Trial of Tears", is one of my favorite Dream Theater songs and is almost certainly the strongest song on the album. The entrance is serene, and the first movement filled to the brim with excellent riff work. Also notable is LaBrie's vocal performance, which I think is one of his best, and the outstanding solo work by John Petrucci, which comes to the forefront in the instrumental second movement. The closing sections of the song are powerful, filled with emotion, and beautiful, which gives the album a tremendous ending.

Overall, I can't justify the ire this album usually draws. It's easy on the ears, but it's still solid like a rock. Though it's not my favorite Dream Theater album, it's one of my top picks, and I look forward to listening to it for many years to come.

Highlights: "Hell's Kitchen", "Just Let Me Breathe", "Trial of Tears"

It could have been a really great one... - 71%

kluseba, January 3rd, 2011

This album could have been a masterpiece of progressive music as I listened to the original version of the epic "You or me" that was reduced to a short single by the label with the help of Desmond Child. The album was intended as a double album including a brilliant second part of "Metropolis" with a length of more than twenty minutes and thsi excellent demo can still be found and ordered at Ytse Jam Records or simply found on the internet. But this new album now mostly tries to continue the silent and calm style of "Awake" with a more commercial approach. Faceless ballads like "Peruvian skies", "Hollow years" or "Anna Lee" just bore to death. The mainstream production by the horribly overrated Kevin Shirley is another weak point of this record without guts and experiments. Even the epic "Trial of tears" is just an endless suffering and makes me fall asleep. This could have been such a great record but the pressure and conditions at that time made this album one of the worst ones in the band's discography instead. The extremely bad cover artwork adds another minus to this album.

But there are still a couple of great tracks on this record after all. The straight opener "New millenium" or the darker and more atmospheric "Burning my soul" as well as the very atmospheric and magic instrumental track "Hell's kitchen" that convinces with beautiful guitar leads are some of the hidden masterpieces on this commercial record. My very favourite track is the very progressive "Lines in the sand" that has some surprising and amazing Krautrock and electronical influences and strong back vocals by King's X singer Doug Pinnick. This song is extremely diversified, surprising and grows more and more every time I listen to it.

It's because of those songs that I still like this record and would recommend it to a fan of progressive music and would not vote this album as the band's worst effort and can give at least an average note.

Peaks and Valleys - 70%

OlympicSharpshooter, July 29th, 2004

Pity Falling Into Infinity. Pity Falling Into Infinity for being forced to follow Awake, both Dream Theater’s best album and the best album of the 90s. Dream Theater had of course released the A Change of Seasons EP in the meantime, and Derek Sherinian had plenty of time to acclimatize himself to the high pressure, high-quality Dream Theater style, but as good as he is (and as entertaining a personality) the band lacks the genius of Kevin Moore and the absence hurts this album considerably. From a playing stand-point Sherinian fits in well, but he doesn’t have the subtlety that Moore brought to the band, nor does he write lyrics which force a rather inexperienced Mike Portnoy to contribute a lot in that department, some of which don’t turn out too well.

Furthermore it is well documented that Dream Theater was forced into a more commercial direction by the label, and producer Kevin Shirley was made full producer and thus had the authority to play a role in the writing process and severely edit some of the compositions. Sometimes this works out well (the decision to remove “Hell’s Kitchen” from the instrumental section of “Burning My Soul” was a good idea), but more often you feel that Dream Theater has been hamstrung by politics.

It’s also worth noting that Dream Theater had a lot more material written than is on the album, most of which ended up on the DTIFC Fan Club CD entitled Cleaning Out the Closet. It’s baffling that tracks as good as “Raise the Knife”, “Speak to Me”, and “Cover My Eyes” were left off of the final album, and the only explanation that makes sense is the ol’ blame the label routine, cos really, there’s a lot of stuff here that really isn’t that great.

The most egregious example of this is “You Not Me”, co-written by hired gun Desmond Child who penned a number of hits for bands like Bon Jovi and Aerosmith. The problem is however that Dream Theater has little in common with the Jove or Boston’s finest, so the result is a total mess. Computerized drum-beats, horribly lame lyrics (“watching you run is making me laaaaazay…”), and a frankly awful chorus that sounds like it’s been ripped from an N*Sync record and roughly stitched onto a low-end DT song. These guys are known for soaring vocals, but the chorus has that sparkly guitar sound and sadistically catchy mentality that one generally associates with boy bands.

Another song that flat-out does not work is “Take Away My Pain”, a limp ballad that covers the same territory as “Another Day” from Images & Words but with little of the same success. Portnoy appears to be playing bongos or something, and the whole package just seems to scream ‘adult contemporary’, something we metalheads tend to avoid like the plague. It’s definitely written for the 45-60 and looking for happy music demographic, toothless acoustic pap in the same vein as later Paul Simon or Sting.

On the whole the album also lacks the depth of Awake, with little of the penetrating psychological muck and more juvenile anger (“Burning My Soul”) and sedate balladry (“Trail of Tears”, “Hollow Years”, “Hell’s Kitchen”), and also an alarmingly topical slant that is really quite far removed from classic DT concerns (check the blatant name-drops on “Just Let Me Breathe” and “Take Away my Pain”). However, when this album is good, it’s really good.

Despite its generic lyrics and harmlessly aggressive LaBrie snarling, “Burning My Soul” packs some serious crunch, and “Hell’s Kitchen” is a satisfying piece of mellow prog if you’re in the mood for it. The best part is that this song segues into “Lines in the Sand”, a bristling, loopy progmonster that packs a funky bounce and some of Petrucci’s best stuff both in the lyric and the guitar department. It’s got power and groove, infectiously catchy melodies (uncommon in epics), even featuring a great guest spot from King’s X howler Doug Pinnick and a mesmerizing solo that takes the time to move the listener and advance the song unlike some of the sometimes pointless shredding of Train of Thought and other more recent releases. “Lines in the Sand” is both profound and grand, easily amongst the best compositions in the DT canon.

“Peruvian Skies” is both their best ballad and their most convincingly metallic pounder all in one song, Floydian psychedelia and Metallica riffery. Although Dream Theater is somewhat infamous for ‘adolescent girls in trauma’ songs (see: Scenes from a Memory, “Anna Lee”, “Goodnight Kiss”, etc.), “Peruvian Skies” makes you rather ambivalent about the lyrical content because it rules so damn hard.

Portnoy’s other two lyrical contributions are solid as well, although again not specifically due to the lyrics themselves. “New Millennium” manages to invoke a futuristic vibe through Myung’s use of the Chapman Stick, the strangely alien tones enhancing the eventual metal crunch that builds in intensity throughout the song. The lyrics are slightly repetitive, but much like the guitar the repetition and submerged backing vocals tend to add to the effect. As for “Just Let Me Breathe”, while it does give a slight impression of an aging prog band screaming ‘we’re kinda fun, sometimes!’ into the night, it’s also a bouncy fun song, a real kick live and an occasionally poignant commentary on the sorry state of the music biz.

Falling Into Infinity is an enigmatic album, an album of peaks and valleys. On “Peruvian Skies” and “Lines in the Sand” the band is at its best, and even the overwrought “Trial of Tears” favourably invokes classics like “Learning to Live” with its mercury drop bass lines and poetic lyrics. Dream Theater certainly retains the gift of creating inspired progressive metal, but sadly from here on with less depth and power than on the Awake record, and from here on out much more sporadically than one would like...

Stand-Outs: "Lines in the Sand", "Peruvian Skies", "New Millennium"

Underrated - 94%

HealthySonicDiet, April 23rd, 2004

Many metal bands are well-known and respected for their diversity among/within albums, even though some of the oddball, atypical albums that these bands release aren't well-received by the metal-buying public and the media. Dream Theater lies somewhere in the forefront of bands who strive for continued experimentation and evolution.

Falling Into Infinity is Dream Theater's 1997 follow-up to the much-loved 1995 EP A Change of Seasons. To the dismay of many, the epic title track of ACoS didn't foreshadow what was to come from the band; however, it established its own unique footing in the prog/rock metal genre and in DT's discography.

Personally, I can understand why many metalheads and Dream Theater fans don't like this album and why many people consider it DT's worst offering, but it's much better than When Dream and Day Unite, Scenes From a Memory, and Train of Thought IMO.(Chronologically, these three albums suffered from weak riffing and vocals; overuse of soloing and cheesiness; and mallcore elements.)

DT took a different direction with Falling Into Infinity--one that lays off the face-peeling guitar assault and shoots towards prog-rock territory to create an ethereal, accessible album that gives nods to Eric Johnson and Pink Floyd.

A rotten brownie point is that FiI isn't quite as progressive as I & W, but it's not as commercial as Train of Thought, even though Train of Thought oddly has some of Dream Theater's most impressive soloing and riff-work. Where this album succeeds is its earnest portrayal of feeling and organic tones.

Beginning the album in typical triumphant flair is New Millennium, an 8+ minute funky ditty that shows Labrie getting down and dirty with his vocal gymnastics and illuminates Petrucci's uncanny ability for spiraling, unrelenting guitar wizardry. Honestly, I believe that this song is one of the catchiest to ever come from the band. The crescendos and key changes are very -I-worthy.

Letting us down with a foray into pop sensitivity is a fairly decent, mid-paced metal n'roll song called You Not Me that is somewhat annoying in its mainstream credibility, but has quite a snazzy breakdown and whimsical guitar solo. The breakdown is exhilarating because of how immediate and staccato it is. It basically makes up for the lackluster songwriting shown here.

Peruvian Skies follows and it's interesting because a strange girl named Vanessa is mentioned in the lyrics. It's quite interesting because she is obviously a different character than Victoria, the whiny bitch on Scenes from a Memory. (If someone could explain the inspiration for these two people, please email me or post something on the forum. I would love to know. Otherwise, Vanessa and Victoria need to go run off to the woods together and have hot lesbian sex or something of that nature....anything that would alter the storylines in the aforementioned song/album so that they would become obscene, thus relieving us from such petty pretentiousness.)

Well, Peruvian Skies consists of dreamy, languid choruses and verses initially, but the chorus is sung with much more fervor near the end and it's an excellent effect if I may say so myself. Guitars aren't too bad either, keeping a steady rhythm that has a very attractive climax.

Keeping with the pattern of heartfelt, driving songs is the first of three excellent ballads to be found here, Hollow Years. Beginning with a flamenco-flavored acoustic guitar piece, it quickly becomes this extremely moving, catchy number that seems to inspire as efficiently as many Christian bands, yet without the lyrical simplicity.

Heralding ambivalence from metalheads is a fairly angry down-and-dirty rocker which sounds like one of the slower numbers off of Metallica's Master of Puppets or ...And Justice For All. Soloing isn't noteworthy here again, but that doesn't mean anything because how often do we get to see DT angry? Hmm? Not very often.The bass and drums chug and boom--chiggachiggaboomboom--and help to paint an overall portrait of Dream Theater at their most misanthropic and nihilistic. The only problem with this song is that, at times, the verses sound a bit meandering and incoherent. No biggie, though. It's really quite inconsequential of a problem.

Hell's Kitchen is the lone instrumental that ensues and it is perhaps Dream Theater's most emotional, bare-bones instrumental to date. It's very similar to the instrumental For Absent Friends on Opeth's Deliverance in the way that it takes a set amount of riffing and melody and repeats it for emphasis, while still maintaining a sense of progression.

Lines in the Sand is once again a long, funky number that features guest vocals from Doug Pinnick of King's X. Lasting over 12 minutes, this is a masterpiece, featuring 'planetarium' intro guitars(I know that description sounds way off base, but I'm using the psychological technique of attaching sounds and/or images to physical, tangible objects), great(yet simple) soloing, and excellent soulful vocal performances by Labrie and Pinnick.

Take Away My Pain is the second of the three ballads on this album, and I'm sure that person X who is listening to this album and hates it is saying to himself "YES! PLEASE TAKE AWAY MY PAIN!" by now. I respect person X's opinion, but TAMP(on)(no, jk. haha) is one of DT's best ballads. The band creates an interesting effect by saying one line in the last line of a choice verse and repeating it in the first line of the chorus. The guitars are minimal here, for this is more of a keyboard-driven melody that sounds similar to 80s alternative pop and such at times. The way this song is structured is more like that of PoS, since the soloing is purely obligatory. That makes it very refreshing.

The protest anthem of the album, Just Let Me Breathe, suddenly jumps in next and throws you for a loop with its ADD hyperactivity. Lyrically, it deals with the media's sensationalization of celebrities such as Shannon Hoon and Kurt Cobain and the vast cookie-cutter that is our mainstream music industry. This track is incredibly danceable. If your spouse or sig. other is in the room with you while listening to this, you may feel the urge to do a jig or something. The main guitar line in the chorus is very syncopated and catchy, but the background guitar line is a little annoying and may take away your attention from the main melody for a moment. Also, the interlude has some really nasty vocal work from Labrie.( I mean gutsy, not sexual or gross)

Finally, we get to the last ballad of the album, Anna Lee. The point has been made that this hearkens back to Pink Floyd, but I couldn't necessarily concur, since the only Pink Floyd release I own is Echoes. I can, however, confirm that it's the best ballad of the album and the one that leaves the most lasting impression. I say this because of the poignant piano intro, clever vocal arrangements, and sublime soloing, which DOES in fact sound like Pink Floyd a la Comfortably Numb, perhaps. Simply spellbinding song.

Trial of Tears is the final song of the album and the guitar tone sounds amazingly similar to that of Eric Johnson in the beginning. The pre-chorus in Pt. I- It's Raining is really annoying because Labrie says 'raining' too much, but the actual chorus is decent and the verses flow pretty well, despite being a little slow.

Pt. 2 is an instrumental called Deep in Heaven, culled from the line "Raining deep in heaven" in the chorus of Pt. 1. This instrumental is not really all that noteworthy and is just a convenient way to segway from Pt. 1 to Pt. 3- The Wasteland. The Wasteland is the closing part to ToT and begins with a mesmerizing acoustic guitar lead before the pre-climactic vocals and the reprise of the line "It's raining, raining, raining deep in heaven". Repetition can be very positive as a means of emphasis, but it somehow manages to sound sophomoric here. Some lyric restructuring would've added more punch.

Summarizing FiI, you could say that it is more of an accessible album, but at its conclusion the listener still feels as if he has followed the band through fields of wildflowers and patches of thorns, and that is part of what makes this album notable. It's not epic, but it's still quite progressive, and progressive qualities can often be construed as epic.

I agree with sparse sentiments claiming this album to be underrated and, hopefully, more people will learn to like this album and/or stop avoiding it like it's the evil troll under the bridge.

Extremely Underrated, Not Heavy, but Still Great - 91%

PowerProg_Adam, February 23rd, 2003

This album is considered to be a waste of money by most fans, but it is probably tied with Images and Words as my favorite Dream Theater album. Some of it does sound slightly commercial, but when you are a progressive metal band, there really isn't such a thing as being commercial. Most people's problem here is that the album is nearly half ballads. IMO these are some of the bands most spiritual and enjoyable songs.

New Millenium starts the album off on the right foot. A very up-tempo track with an extremely catchy feel to it throughout. This is one of the few heavier tracks on the album, but captures the power that James LaBrie is capable of singing with.

You Not Me is sort of one of the bands heavier ballad type songs. Probably my favorite off of the album. Containing very harmonic vocals and backing vocals, along with excellent lyrics makes it an all around great song.

Peruvian Skies is a bit of a disappointment. I've never really been able to get into this song. It does have some nice bass work, but it just seems to lack emotion. IMO the worst song on the album.

I am confused as to why Dream Theater made a video for this song. It is a very heart-felt song, but sounds kind of sappy at times. Pretty nice lyrics, but doesn't sound like something the band should make a habit out of doing. Its a pretty decent song, but hearing modified versions of it won't make me or too many other Dream Theater fans happy.

Burning My Soul is where Dream Theater gets back to their basic ass-kicking formula of old. Without a doubt, the absolute heaviest song on this album. Very doomy, has a sound unsimilar to any other of the bands songs, but it I would be very please to hear songs this damn good in the future from these guys.

Hell's Kitchen is the basic Dream Theater instrumental. Has a bit of an Erotomania feel. Not a bad song, but they have better instrumentals than this. I am glad that they decided not to drag this on though for any longer than they have to. Dream Theater, as UltraBoris puts it, has been known to wanker for the sake of wankering at times, and luckily they don't do it here.

Lines in the Sand is probably the bands longest song ever that doesn't show any really exceptional musicianship. Most of the lyrics here are sang by King's X's Doug Pinnick. This sounds more like a King's X song than one for Dream Theater, so I'm not really too big of a fan of it. Its just too long, and rather uneventful.

Take Away My Pain IMO is by far the band's greatest ballad. Its amazingly emotional, and beautifully written. I believe its supposed to be about the death of John Petrucci's father, and it inspired him to write some magnificent lyrics. My only complaint here is that the guitar solo isn't long enough, it's absolutely amazing, it just ends way too soon.

Just Let Me Breathe is a bit of a corporate song. It contains all of the anti-MTV elements of alot of bands and the fact that they even acknowledge the existence of MTV and the deaths of Shannon Hoon and Kurt Cobain make this song worse than it already is. Not bad musically, but not much lyrically at all.

Anna Lee sounds rather popish, but I still rather like it. IMO it sounds like something that Pink Floyd would have done. The way that LaBrie sings on this track reminds me much of Floyd. Once again another song that is very uncharacteristic of Dream Theater. This song however is rather nice lyrically, but lacks really any musicianship.

Trial of Tears honestly does not seem like a 13 minute song. This track probably displays James LaBrie's voice at its best. Its a pretty nice way to end the album.

My mainly complaint about this album, like many others is the restricted drumming of Mike Portnoy, he is not really allowed to do what he is capable of here. All of the other Dream Theater elements are still here though, and I still believe that this is an album worth having.

Doesnt deserve the hate that it gets... - 80%

PsyKoCracker, January 25th, 2003

Falling Into Infinity is said by most, to be the worst Dream Theater Album... Though I admit that it is below average for Dream Theater, it still is a very good album...

It does seem quite obvious that the record company strived for popularity in some of the songs, but most are still masterpieces. In the end, FII is probobally the least accessable of all of DT's albums...

The album stats with New Millenium, which I find to be very catchy, and I really do like the intro... It then moves on to "You Not Me," which to me seems like an obvious attempt at accessability. It's an alright song, but below average for DT. Next in line is Peruvian Skies, which is a masterpiece. I found Holllow Years to be slightly boring. Burning my Soul is a great song. Next in line is Hell's Kitchen, and I can honestly say that this song makes the album worthwhile by itself.

Hell's Kitchen is a fantastic instrumental piece that shows incredible emotion in Petrucci's playing.

Hells Kitchen fades into "Lines in the Sand" which is a catchy, and good song.

From here on, the rest of the album gets slightly boring...

Overall, FII is still a brilliant album, it supports some of the best DT songs (Peruvian Skies, Hells Kitchen etc.) but it has it's bad spots. I can see why people may not like it, but I really dont think it deserves to be called a bad album in ANY way...

Infinite wankery, zero substance - 30%

UltraBoris, August 7th, 2002

There seems to be something missing from this album: something that got lost in the technicality - the actual songwriting! Only two songs on here manage to be catchy and coherent, and the rest are a complete muddle. An attempt at prog-rock goes horribly awry as song structure is deemed meaningless in favour of fucking around on instruments, simply because they can.

The two decent songs are "Burning My Soul" and "Peruvian Skies". The rest is completely horrible. "Burning My Soul" actually suckered me into getting this album (gotta love being totally disappointed). Dream Theater can be funny like that - they have one absolutely amazing song ("Pull me Under" from Images and Words) and the rest of the time, they are a completely different band.

If you really like to listen to people that can play technically brilliant music with the approximate feeling of a doorknob, this is the album for you.