|» Cd reviews||
131 minutes of music on a record is quite a bit more than what I can stay really attentive for, even if it's none other than the progressive masters Dream Theater who are occupying my time. The band certainly holds the capacity to make extensive records, yet there's a limit to what most human minds are able to absorb and even though they have come out with a bunch of great material here, I think that this limit has been exceeded well before the final tones conclude this record.
Dream Theater has changed quite a lot in comparison to the latest records and this one has a softer appearance than what I'm used to hearing from these amazing musicians. This conceptual album, which is divided in 2 acts, is somewhat different because it's not in the same tangible way a display of musical skills and I believe that they have chosen to keep a big part of the performance in a kind of moderate environment just to fit the story to a greater degree.
The album is very atmospheric without being especially epic and with brilliance they manage to put a nice mood to the whole album. Still I think that they have decided to bring forth a little bit too many interludes and songs that might be regarded as ballads on the album and therefore this album comes out as more piano-based than what they normally do. This feature has definitely made room for an overall lighter expression and many of the monumental heavy elements are kind of non-existing.
LaBrie's voice comes out as quite functional and I believe that he often is a target for too negative comments because of the other guys' amazing abilities. I think that he comes out just fine with his work in the studio and there are tons of much poorer vocal performances in the world of heavy music. Admittedly, he doesn't try to scream his lungs out and doesn't put himself in jeopardy by trying to reach tones in a higher range. He instead stays in a safe zone and with this approach he completes his duties in a sufficient manner.
The Astonishing is more than anything a record that has to be thoroughly listened to several times before knowing what is really going on. True fans to Dream Theater I guess have the attitude and will to do so, but the question is rather if the band's everyday fans will put enough effort into this album to really get to know it well and to find the album's true capacity. Personally I think that this is the band's greatest work in years and definitely the best since Mike Mangini joined the band.
Yet this achievement's excessive playing time somewhat overshadows the total experience and the more isn't always the merrier. I know that it sounds strange to some of my fellow metalheads, but if this one had ended before the 80 minute mark, I would most likely have been overwhelmed by this experience and would have rated it even higher than the 7 chalices that I now hand out.