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Poovarium. - 40%

Deadwired, June 24th, 2005

There are some bands people just need to shut the fuck up about. Even
though two of my favourite bands are about as guilty of overhyping as Dream Theater are, no one shoves Roger Waters or David Gilmour's greatness down your throat, not like they do John Petrucci or Mike Portnoy. People will shove the technicality involved with Petrucci's method and use it as an excuse to like their music, ignore a plethora of better bands like Spastic Ink. At any rate, I don't necessarily hate Dream Theater so much as I hate their fans. I enjoy them, just in relatively small doses. So, I get "Octavarium," their eigth release, with eight tracks(Dur-hur magosh they am so smart), which I'm confident in saying is a mixed bag straight down the middle. Even beyond that, I still have a few complaints about the CD.

Can't get too hung up on being generally annoyed with the fans, though. Dream Theater are without a doubt a band that has some massive technical talent, but regardless of what most people have claimed, I sense a very noticable lack of songwriting talent. Yes, they've had their moments of catchy hooks and memorable riffs, but I can barely listen to three songs from the entire Dream Theater catalogue in successive order without getting bored, and "Octavarium" is really no different. It's all Progressive Metal that in the end goes completely nowhere, which doesn't really mend the fact that they're a band with relatively blunt teeth to begin with. I mean, there comes a point were Metal needs to have that aggressive edge. Twenty-five per cent of this CD isn't heavy, at all. So, what's so fucking Metal about it? I mean, "The Answer Lies Within" has a nice concept, "Let's put a slow, acoustic piece on this CD." In the end, it barely changes in it's five-minute runtime, manages to completely bore me for the entire length, and on top of that, promotes transcendentalism, an idea that's been dead for a reason: it doesn't work. But hey, I guess they didn't have literary courses at Berklee, eh James LaBrie?

Oh, right, Octavarium. Clever play on words.

Let's not rule out the existence of the other gamete of songs that bore, "These Walls" falsely gives you a whammy-downtuned opening that makes any typical person think, "Metal." Bzzt. Wrong. Petrucci just gives you typical power-chord rhythm and let's the synth go into effect, which at least manages to be memorable. +1 Dream Theater. I didn't get to mention the relatively boring, "Let's attempt to be heartfelt, even though we've done the same sound several times before on our other CD's" verse that sounds like it was inspired by "Welcome Home(Sanitarium)," ironically another overrated song. Dream Theater -1. The song seriously sounds borrowed from an array of radio-rock bands. Dream Theater -1. More pointless, witless lyrics. Dream Theater -1. Solo I could play with my left nut(That's the undeveloped one). Dream Theater -1. "I Walk Beside You" also follows in the generally same manner of being completely boring, it sounds like the latest Indie Jam with better drumming. Honestly, Portnoy manages to pull off some very catchy drumming here.

What did most of those songs have in common? Most of them weren't Progressive at all. Aren't Dream Theater Progressive Metal? Yeah, 'Dream Theater just don't like being labeled!' Dream Theater must not like making coherent music, either!

Now, those aforementioned tracks and "Sacrificed Sons" pretty much make up the boring tracks on the CD, leaving you with the obvious ones left, even though a good portion of "Octavarium" is useless as well. The CD falsely starts strong with "The Root of All Evil," which along with "Panic Attack" makes itself one of the most memorable two tracks on the entire CD. It's a good deal heavier than most of what's on here, and has a fairly obvious theme. Dare I mention Dream Theater's stance on music downloading and point out the hypocrisy, though. LaBrie manages to pull off some memorable and catchy vocal lines, although the chorus sounds a bit lacking. "Panic Attack" starts out with a maniacal and depressive bassline, then rushes in some fairly heavy guitar and drum meshing that builds momentum it doesn't quite execute, easily setting itself as the heaviest song on "Octavarium." Excellent orchestral piano melody, as well.

"Octavarium," the title-track, clocks in at nearly twenty-four minutes, but has alot of excessive and unneeded additions to it; some that just seem to drag along. For instance, nearly the first four minutes of the song is a solo that's supposed to be heartbraking, depressing or whatever on top of some ambient synth. Then, after it starts to bore you, Dream Theater amplify the volume, and build some fairly large momentum, and BAM. Nothing happens. Just like sex with a chronic masturbator, they popped their load a looooong time ago. Of course, that's not saying that the acoustic section is horrible, because it's not. It's actually the highlight of the entire CD, and sounds a lot like something I'd hear if Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton decided to do music together. I feel like it's all for naught afterwards, though. Relatively boring rhythm while LaBrie goes back into pseudo-introspective mode. Myung then starts indulging himself in some funky bass moves, while Petrucci delivers some likable guitarwork in conjunction with Rudess providing continuous piano. Again, it starts to get repetitive and then Dream Theater mend it falsely with an unneeded electric section where the only thing that changes is the amplification. Luckily, though, Rudess saves the day with a quirky, yet highly addictive synthesized section and Petrucci providing some finally competent rhythmic action. Finally, Petrucci initiates active mode. A solo with Rudess's often weird, circus-y synth involvement. Petrucci manages to cover a lot of relatively wide ground here, constantly switching mood and sound, form electric to acoustic, from frenetic to beautiful, all without losing a single lick of momentum. Now, this is what all of Dream Theater needs. Just as Petrucci was shining, LaBrie fucks ALL his shit up. I don't want to hear some midget yelling "TRAPPED INSIDE THIS OCTAVARIUM!" after some epic guitarwork. It's not even a real word, or feasible geometric concept. Could've at least done TesseracT a favor and mention something 4-dimensional, but he could've said it twice for added intelectual effect. No, I'm not being serious either, but read some of the ravings about Dream Theater, it'd fit right in. Anyway, the CD ends on a fading guitar solo, adding to more of the excessive amount of music that could've spared me having to be so bored.

Even then, though, I'm still bothered. Dream Theater are supposed to be Progressive. Where the fuck is the Progressiveness? "Octavarium" was the only track that showed a noticable amount of progressive structuring and songwriting, and a lot of the time, it was just false-build up one after another, or they jumped into a verse that they really could've done without. Not to mention, if they're so Progressive, why do I feel like I've listened to this exact same CD before? Y'know, John Petrucci might've wowed me for three CD's at most. Portnoy might've sounded like a complete monster for a few more; two at most. There's a point where so much technicality(Which outside of the title-track seemed nowhere to be found on the CD) would've fucked Dream Theater over by eventually not being that surprising, then leaving people to realize that as a songwriting unit, Dream Theater fail horribly. Trying to headtrip us? Failed. Trying to create some momentum? Failure again.

Dream Theater are Metal for easily entertained Metalheads when it boils down to it. This band has become uninteresting, and now they're just running on pretentious, false-intelligence so Metalheads with a superiority complex can have their flag-ship band, though they tend to think of Meshuggah as annoying, leaving Tomas Haake's obvious intelligence(The guy is an English Dictionary, and he's Swedish) unnoticed or never mention Ron Jarzombeck. Maybe other people need the cohesiveness Dream Theater have as well.

You may let in the sharks now.