Prog-metal band Dreram Theater recently released its 14th full-length studio recording to the masses. The album, Distance Over Time, is another strong effort from the band. The band’s first outing away from Roadrunner Records since the 2005 release of Octavarium (Atlantic Records), is a positive return to form for the band. It has far less of the spit-shined commercial sound of those records that the band released while on Roadrunner’s roster, and more elements of so many of its past albums. Its lyrical themes are just as interesting as its musical content. The album’s opener, ‘Untethered Angel’ is just one of the songs featured in the new album that serves to support those statements. ‘S2N,’ which comes just past the album’s halfway point, does just as much to support the noted statements, and will be addressed a little later. The album’s finale and bonus track ‘Viper King’ proves just as interesting as ‘S2N’ and ‘Untethered Angel.’ It will be discussed later, too. Each song is important in its own right to the whole of Distance Over Time. When they are considered together with the seven other songs not directly addressed here, the whole of the album presents Dream Theater as a band that has finally gotten back up to speed. Yes, that awful pun was intended.
Veteran prog-metal band Dream Theater has been making music, touring the world and building its fan base for 34 years. The band’s new album Distance Over Time serves as a reminder of all that the band has accomplished in that time, while also reminding listeners the band in whole has no intention of slowing down as it continues to move forward. This is evidenced in part through the album’s opener and lead single ‘Untethered Angel.’ The song’s musical arrangement is easily comparable to the songs featured in the band’s 1999 album Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory. That is evident early on in the song’s five-minute plus run time. The combination of front man James LaBrie’s vocal delivery style along with John Petrucci’s guitar line and Jordan Rudess’ keyboard arrangement couples with Mike Mangini’s work behind the kit to create that sense of a song that would have fit well into that album. Considering the overall theme of that record, the lyrical theme of this work makes it feel even more like it would belong on that record.
The lyrical theme of ‘Untethered Angel’ centers on someone dealing with a lot of inner turmoil, which is very similar to the past life recollections of the figure at the center of Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory. Given, the scenario there is not entirely like that presented here, but it is still similar enough that it would work. LaBrie sings in the song’s lead verse, “You’ve built this world around you/Your universe/In spite of best intentions/Things could not be worse/Chaos and fear have left you hanging by a thread/As you argue with the voice inside your head/Untethered angel/Falling into darkness/Don’t be afraid of letting go/Giving up yourself will set you free.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Misgiving and dismay/Nightmares and wasted days/Can’t live your life this way/Something needs to change/Cold feet and second thoughts/Entangled, tied in knots/Avoidance at all costs/A painful thing to watch.” From there, he returns to the chorus as the song reaches its bridge and finale. Overall, the song seems to be addressing someone, again, dealing with a strong inner battle with himself/herself. Those who recall MP2: SFAM will recall that the subject’s past life had quite a lot held inside. Yes, it was a different scenario, but it was still a dark past. To that end, this is still similar enough to the prior record to make it work. Considering it on its own merits, it works just as well because it serves as a reminder to those going through difficult times in life (who isn’t going through some difficult emotional situations?) that things can get better. Keeping this in mind along with the song’s fully engaging musical arrangement, the whole of the song becomes a solid started for DOT and just one way in which the album proves itself a strong return to form for the band. It is just one of the album’s high points, too. ‘S2N,’ which comes just past the album’s halfway point, does just as much as ‘Untethered Angel’ to show what makes DOT a positive new offering from Dream Theater.
‘S2N’ stands out in part because of its musical arrangement. Needless to say, the song’s arrangement is classic Dream Theater all the way around. Bassist John Myung’s impeccable work once again shows why he is nicknamed the octopus. John Petrucci’s guitar line joins with Myung’s bass line to take listeners back to Dream Theater’s heyday while Mike Mangini’s time keeping and Jordan Rudess’ work on the keys strengthens the foundation even more. Mangini’s ability to seamlessly keep time while utilizing every single inch of his kit is impressive to say the least. The whole of the arrangement harkens back to the works featured in the band’s 1997 album Falling Into Infinity while also adding a bit of a modern metal vibe – again thanks to Petrucci – at times. That element is just one part of what makes the song so engaging and entertaining. The seeming social commentary contained within the song’s lyrical content adds its own share of interest to the song.
LaBrie sings in the song’s lead verse, “Are we paying attention or are we drifting/Too much negative action/Not enough positive reaction/What’s the state of humanity/Where’s the peace and harmony/Free the signal/Your inner voice/Time to transcend/Block out the noise/Signal to noise becomes the answer/the world keeps turning as we latch onto the wheel.” He adds in the song’s second verse, “Have you heard the news/A surging sea of circumstance/Pain, starvation, war, abuse/Sterile gloves hide dirty hands/Shocking truth/Climate change/Floods and fires/Hurricanes/Overdose, suicide/Innocent die/Fear and race/Endless lies/Sex and faith, terrorize/Drugs and guns taking lives/Innocent die.” There is little doubt that this is commentary about the current state of the world, and a wake up call about it all. Given, it is hardly the first song to ever address how bad things are and the need for people to do something about it. That does not lessen its impact or importance, as people always need to be reminded and aware so that they do not become complacent about the state of the world. Things can potentially only get worse if people become complacent. To that end, this content is just as important as the song’s musical arrangement. When they are coupled, they make ‘S2N’ another example of how much DOT has to offer audiences. It is definitely not the last example of the album’s strength. The album’s finale and bonus track ‘Viper King’ is one more example of that strength.
‘Viper King’ stands out in part because of a musical arrangement that is largely unlike anything the band has previously crafted. Rudess’ keyboard line and Mangini’s steady hi-hat beat conjures thoughts of Deep Purple as the song opens. Once the rest of the band comes in, the overall heaviness creates a sense of something similar to some of today’s biggest hard rock acts. At the same time, that link back to Deep Purple remains throughout. The whole makes the song’s arrangement perhaps the album’s highest point. That is because, again, it finds the band moving in what would seem to be previously unexplored territory. It is a welcome and successful venture. Of course it is only part of what makes the song overall stand out. The song’s lyrical content adds its own share of interest, again harkening back to Deep Purple even here.
Looking at the song’s lyrical content, one can’t help but make a comparison to Deep Purple’s Highway Star.’ That is because LaBrie seems to be singing about…well…a car; a Dodge Viper at that, thus the title ‘Viper King.’ He sings in the song’s lead verse, “Venomous by design/Lying idle, biding time/Bore down the clutch/Tore up the road/Six hundred horses/Genetic code/Lightning speed/The road she bends/Slammed down the brakes/Losing my ass end.” One can’t help but figure that this is something about a car and simply going out driving in said car. It’s possible that is completely the incorrect assumption, but one can’t help but imagine the noted topic is what is addressed. The chorus adds to the supposition that the song is “auto-centric,” as LaBrie sings, “Drive on/pushed to the limit/My Viper King/We’re flying high/Drive on/Filled with desire/Nothing to fear/I feel alive/My Viper King.” He even goes on from there to sing, “Speed demon/Tempting fate/Do or die/in the blink of an eye.” Once again, if this is not a song about a car, it will definitely be interesting to discover the song’s actually theme. If it is a song about a car and the simple joys of being behind the wheel on the open road, then it has been presented quite well. That is just as much the case considering the song’s musical arrangement. When that element is considered along with the song’s engaging lyrical content, the whole of the song makes for a great final statement from the band on this album, and yet another example of how much the album has to offer. When the song is considered along with the songs previously discussed here and the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of DOT proves to be a positive return to form for Dream Theater and a sign that the band has finally gotten back up to speed.
Dream Theater’s 14th full-length studio recording Distance Over Time is a welcome return from the veteran prog-metal band. That is because, having finally parted ways with Roadrunner Records, the band has finally returned to form on this outing. That is evidenced through all three of the songs discussed here and the rest of the songs not directly addressed. From start to finish, the album offers longtime fans just as much to appreciate as those who might not be as familiar with the band as those longtime fans. Simply put, Distance Over Time proves itself to be a record that shows Dream Theater is finally back up to speed and its members have no intention of slowing down for the foreseeable future. More information on Distance Over Time is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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