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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Great Debate

Is Falling Into Infinity an album so evil? Is it not?

The record company forced the band to write a more song based album, less progressive, for spreading the masses. Evil evil capitalism, really.

To draw my "lines in the sand", let me start at the beginning.

It was in 1990, prog seemed dead to me for many years, I was into metal, King's X was the high end of greatly crafted music, metal itself was beyond the edge of a mass product, my musical self was dumb, my interest almost dead.
When I listened to a friend's copy of "When Dream And Day Unite" I was very much impressed that someone does make this great music again and I instantly got me a copy myself. It took many listens over some months to explore and understand the full divineness of this recording. A good, good sign.
"Image And Words" was so different, it was almost shocking, but still, another divine album. Their first gig in my area, supported by Fates Warning. Awake came out, another album, again heading another direction. The fusion elements Sherinian introduced to the band combined with a new move of progmetal. Another gig, where they played "The Great Medley", a pre-release tour. Awesome, awesome! I already was a big fan of them. "A Change Of Seasons" again took me months to really understand everything they did put in there, as every album before.
It went on and on, every new album showed some new directions and skills of those guys, it was unbelievable.
"Falling Into Infinity" simply showed that they have those fine skills in writing "normal" songs too. Nothing bad for me, and I loved those songs and still do. As for gaining fans, it may have helped, but wasn't necessary anyway. The band Dreamtheater got mentioned in every corner of the global metal scene, like wildfire.
Gods. Creators of the universe.

Then came "6 Degrees Of Inner Turbulence". Looking back in 2009 now, I think this album introduced the turning point. It sounded to me as if they lost some love, some enthusiasm.Still the fine writing of those gods, but it didn't touch me emotionally. I never warmed up on it and never will.
"Train Of Thought" hit me better, it was a bit like back to "Awake". But less innovative, harder, faster, but almost without all those fine ideas in writing that made them being the gods of DT. "Octavarium" got even worse. 7 normal-length tunes that plainly pump out guitar - aggression without saying anything or leaving any kind of impression or emotion. The prog epic Octavarium sounds like an interwaved collection of prog clones; you simply never hear a DT-identity in any of its notes. The band regresses tragically.

They move to Roadrunner Records. Light at the end of the tunnel?
"Systematic Chaos" - oh no, the regressing line continued linearly. As BG said so perfectly: They are nothing more than a proggier, better Metallica. I didn't purchase this album.
What will the next album be like? A prog - Motörhead with LaBrie - vox. I better do not imagine that....
I don't think so, rather than that I bet they will not change any further and keep up doing the same and the same, stating that this is the DT sound. Their place in the market.

Twisting this article by 6 degrees, I go back to "Falling Into Infinity", the fan collecting album Atlantic insisted on.
The album is good, it ever was, it just showed another aspect of those geniusses.
I have no idea for what reason they changed label. Not knowing anything is good in that case, gives me a chance to speculate:
Atlantic saw where they are heading to and tried to bring them back on the track of being innovative and spectacular. DT didn't want to, they intend to reinforce their place in the market as the DT sound. A tross on a money collecting quest.
Now would that be better than the intention of releasing "FII"?

If they wanna get me back in the boat, they better concentrate on new musical adventures, bring in a couple of different styles and genres, show their incredible skills, set up more new, higher levels in prog metal, give me a reason for studying an new album for several months.
What we got for the last few albums was a bunch of so extremely high skilled geniusses hanging in the couch of a progmetal-Bonjovi. Please guys, stop that tragedy!!!!!


Lamneth said...

I think the opinions will always vary depending on a number of factors. Younger/newer listeners of the band don't seem to mind the newer albums as much as some of the people who have been fans of the band for many years. I personally haven't liked to much of the newer stuff that they have released, but I don't dislike it either. They just sounds more forced to me. "Scenes From a Memory" was their last great album in my opinion, and 6DoiT had a few good songs on it but also some really annoying ones too. "Falling Into Infinity" may have been more of a commercial album, but it had some really good songs on it and kept some of the bands early vibe. I know some people who really disliked it at the time it came out. Many people liked Train of Thought but to this day I think it's the worst of the bunch. It sounds too much like they're trying to be Metallica and not themselves on it. The other thing I miss on the newer albums are Petrucci's well thought-out/well executed guitar solos. I don't hear that as much on the newer releases.

BG said...

If I remember correctly, someone from DT actually said that Train of Thought was a Tribute to Metallica sort of album.

BG said...

Oh yeah...almost forgot to say that I like the irony of the title of your post :)

T-Bo said...

Personally, I love all of DT's releases. Not to be a fanboy or anything, but I listen to a HUGE variety of music, not just prog. A lot of people have been accusing DT of moving far too mainstream or too metal or whatever. Believe me - that's not the case.

Octavarium is probably my favorite album of all time: it's analogous to FII in how it's more of a simple, song-based work rather than a huge conceptual piece. I mean, I know Scenes is great, but to be honest a lot of it feels convoluted and contrived to me. It's an absolute masterpiece, but I can't stand to sit and listen to it all the way through, which actually is something I can do with Awake or Octavarium or 6 Degrees, or even SC.

I think the thing about their latest one was that they didn't take it too seriously. After the massive Scenes and 6 Degrees, the super-intensely emotional (anger is an emotion too) Train of Thought, and another huge conceptual work in Octavarium, the band wanted to just play around, have fun with their music and create something fun. And really, it is. It's a fun album: the instrumental section in The Dark Eternal Night, the background vocals in Prophets of War, the intro guitar solo in In The Presence of Enemies. Song for song, it's their weakest album, but it was good for the band. Everyone's gotta release a clunker every once in a while, and you know what? If it had been released by Circus Maximus or Vanden Plas or Dreamscape, they would've been hailed as the new prog kings. It's a good album, it really is. The band is older now, their influences are different, they've matured and grown over the years. I don't think we're going to get the youthful exuberance of When Dream and Day Unite or Images and Words ever again, because that's just not who they are anymore.

Really, DT are MUCH more than a proggier, better Metallica. In the early days, they focused on creating unique and interesting melodies. Now the focus has shifted towards riffs, grooves, and solo sections. And really, other than a few similar melodies here and there, DT couldn't be further away from Metallica. There are fundamental differences in their riffs and note choices, even in heavy parts. Even at their heaviest, DT just doesn't write the same type of music as Metallica. It's like comparing apples to air fresheners.

DTX will be much, much better, take my word for it.

BG said...

It is probably true that if another band made "Systematic Chaos" they would be seen as the next big thing in prog.

I personally dislike to compare bands as they all have different reasons (backgrounds) for what they are doing. I think that the most fair way to rate a band is to compare it to their previous achievements. So, YES...Dream Theater produced a very good album, but as much as I like doesn't even start to be comparable to the quality of their earlier releases.

rillys said... band have a nice touching...

LordPL said...

:o You forgot Metropolis pt. 2 Scenes from a Memory, ray! :nono: ;)

stringray said...

No I didn't, PL. I felt no need to mention it. :D

MAVIII said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MAVIII said...

I agree with you Lamneth about what generation DT fan you come from. If youre a newbie, ANY era will seem fresh and new and you can pick and choose without any bias. But me and T-Bo are Brothers to DT :) A song or 2 might dissapoint, but they are 1 of many spokesman for this genre of Prog, like to Rush, I am a dedicated fan (a "Fanboy" if you will).

Though, I must say that after many listens, "Systematic Chaos" is my least favorite, but its only because it's hard for me to hear 2 songs on it, otherwise it's a cool album, it has its Strong tracks though and have become favorites.
But my story of "Falling Into Infinity"...

I was working for Tower Records in Santa Monica at the time, years before I had gotten to know a long-time employee from Brazil named Andre' Marins, an incredible Guitarist and funny guy who had his own "Sayings/Annalogies" that caught onto other employees and we all used them quite often.
I had been a DT fan since "When Day and Dream Unite" after seeing an ad behind a Keraaaang Mag: "If you like Rush and Queensryche, you'll love Dream Theater", I was always on a quest to find this genre that was growing and did not really have a name yet (Though being a Fates Warning fan from "No Exit", then going backwards, then forward with each release), so DT satiated my thirst.

Me and Andre', as well as other friends ate up "Images and Words" and "Awake", and talked about their complexity, musicianship and lyrical genius as if we were talking about Rush, Genesis, Yes, Kansas or what have you, Like "Classical Pieces" of ... Prog.
I had heard or read that Kevin Moore was no more and I was very sad about that, I loved his sound, especially on Awake, it was my fave, and Petrucci, Portnoy and Moores (and 1 by Myung) Lyrics were esoteric, prolific and words beautifully strung together.
As us older "alumni" may remember, it took a long time to wait for the New album, "Falling Into Infinity" indeed!
Many of us did not know the story of the hardships they were having with the label, being "assigned" a producer and the band almost calling it quits.
All we knew was YOU GUYS ARE TAKING TOO LONG! The wait was straining us fans and we went onto looking at the new bands coming out of the woodwork, obviously influenced by them. But... I was loyal, I waited and anticipated something awesome.
I either got a CD from a label Rep or impatiently bought it...
Where Awake started with "!!!Badadoom Ba, ba teh badoom ba teh!!!..." of Portnoys Kit into the heaviness of Moores Keys, instead we got...
"weeni ni neh wee ni neh neh weeni ni neh wee neh..." already, I was dissapointed :(
The "Voice Box" in "Burning my Soul" was annoying, but there were strong songs as "Hells Kitchen/Lines in the Sand", "Just Let me Breathe", "Trail of Tears" were the Powerhouses! But then the others started to grow on me.
"New Millenium" finally made me realize that this was the type of Epic they always made, and Deriks Keyboard playing was akin to Jan Hammer, as he plays it like a Guitar with little "fills" that you understand why he looks to many Guitarists as inspiration.
"Take Away the Pain" was to Portnoy-as it was about me and the loss of my Father in the years to come, as the album, it took a few years for it to grow in complexity much like a Fine Wine does. Life lessons and experiences also made the album richer to me. "Hollow Years" and the Video made for it, reminded me of the contemplations in my life, and a ex-girlfriend at the time I still loved (back then) -represented in the Brunette giving her Boyfriend that long hard kiss as she dropped him off, that was my Girl, sensual and bewildering at the same time. Those moods were also represented by the Instrumental "Hells Kitchen", it was all her.
But the "words" to Burning my Soul were how I was treated, as well as in "You not Me".
Later in life, when my life was litterally Homeless but working, I stayed with a couple (this will be told in more detail in a future essay) and The womans 8 yr. old Daughter "Vanessa", who was verbally abused just about everyday when they woke up, as I hid under the covers on the couch of a studio Apt. "Poor poor Vanessa" I thought, so "Peruvian Skies" hit close to home.
"Anna Lee" was just... beautiful, a tender ballad with alot of heart.

When I 1st got into the Video Game Industry in Carlsbad Ca. I used to go to a place in Encinitas called "Lou's Records", they had a great selection of Prog new and used, and I used to go back to San Deigo county to visit some choice Record/CD stores to see what they had. It was Lou's where I had in my hands a Japanese Import of "FII" and it had 3 bonus tracks, I remembered one title but not heard the track until "5 Years in a Livetime" was released on VHS.
"Speak to me" (Live) was such a beautiful Love song, lyrically and musically (better than the studio version), and "Have I lost my mind" (I think its called) was very different for the band and they performed them flawlessly on stage.

Falling has grown well with me, I think the album takes me back to many life lessons and emotions I had and grows with me to this day.
But "Scenes from a Memory" blew my mind! Rudess's contribution to the band and the writing and playing of all members really shown through, but believe it or not, "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" left my jaw to the floor, I understood what they were trying to "do", The almost melincholic and heavyness with enough of the Progressive Rock elements were brilliant. And to have a 2nd disc that basically sounded like a Soundtrack to a Stage Play was astounding to me, especially because they understood what music from a Play "sounded" like, how the structuring was-but it was "Progafied"!
But songs like "Disappear" would hit home a few years later when the Wife of a best friend would die of Breast Cancer, lyrically asked those questions we all ask when there is loss, totally an emotional song that touches me to this day.
As well as the opener "The Glass Prison" I still try to break out of to get to that place I want to be.

Yet, "FII" has those momments of brilliance, back at Tower with Andre', I'd get into debates about FII "and it's momments" and he would say, "Come on! Awake was "Full Fucking Aggression", even in the softer songs!" but I would point out momments like the Guitar Solo in "Take Away the Pain", its a Ballad but then comes the Solo, Petrucci changes the Tone of the Guitar to the Bass/Bridge Pick-ups and all the sudden, it takes up MORE of the emotions of the song...
THAT momment was "inspired", by Petrucci, maybe even by Portnoy since it was such a personal song.
Those are one of many great momments in FII (bringing Doug Pinnick of KingsX to sing the scat Gospel Parts and "Drawing Lines in the Sand!!!" was like a natural instinct or as if Doug was a 6th member).

It has its place in my catalogue heart of DT, and heck, i wish I could get to it packed away in the Garage for my next move. Maybe the new life ahead of me will be inspired by a song within it.
Thanks for re-opening its jewel case in my mind Stingray ;)

Oh and Damn it! I never did find that Japanese Import of "FII" again! (cries)