What exactly is fearless music? Anyone who turns on their radio today is usually subjected to the mouthwash clean crap that spews out of the likes from one of Clear Channel's 1200 Colgate Mouthwash radio stations. Sure you may get lucky and find a decent independent radio station. Maybe some off-the-wall college radio station will dare to play fearless music. But what is fearless music?
As a musician, we want the freedom to express ourselves. Just stand back and let us do our thing. We don't give a crap what anyone else thinks about the sounds that are emitted from our instruments. It is ours... and we own it. Seems to me that guys who are willing to fearlessly play whatever they want tend to also be highly technical players. If you want 120bpm 4/4 dance music, then turn on a Clear Channel radio station. If you want what i refer to as 'music for musicians', then you most certainly want Dream Theater. While the lineup has changed a bit over the past 25 years, the heart and soul of this epic band has once again exploded onto the scene with their new self-titled album Dream Theater.
Musicians will of course lock into the technical prowess while listening to Dream Theater as their jaw will hit the ground in awe time and time again. Lightening fast guitar licks by John Petrucci, blindingly fast bass drum and tom thwacks from Mike Mangini, ballistic bass guitar from John Myung pushing the music until it bleeds and the ever-present magical keyboard playing from Jordan Rudess. In fact it took me a few complete album plays to lock into the sheer sonic soundcape and bask in all its glory. Initially, i was hoping for a more primal and raw album sound quite frankly. With over six complete album plays under my belt, and am listening to the track "Illumination Theory" as this review is being written, i say to myself "Holy crap! Dream Theater has just unleashed another sonic masterpiece. Damn, i can't wait to hear the album again!"
Allow me to back this truck up for a sec. For those unfamiliar, Dream Theater is a hard rock band. No, wait, they are progressive rock. No, wait, they are something else. And it is because they are something else is precisely what makes Dream Theater the band, and of course the album Dream Theater, a musical masterpiece. When you combine that with HDtrack's online digital download of modern 96kHz/24-bit high resolution versus 1970's low-fi 44.1kHz/16-bit CD, your ears are rewarded with Earth-shattering sound produced by the band's own guitarist John Petrucci and mixed by Andy Wallace; a man who has worked with RATM, Nirvana, Bad Religion, Prince, Phish, System Of A Down and many others. To give you a bigger clue, Andy Wallace's name is credited on well over 80 million albums that have been sold worldwide.
The first track, "False Awakening," has prominent orchestral sound backing as the syncopated hard-hitting pulsations get more immense as the music moves forward. Can't help but be reminded of another fave band of mine, Epica. With each passing song, which in and of themselves can stand on their own, you then put them all together and the listener is rewarded with a complete album that brings you on a musical journey. And hell yes i want to ride it again and again!
"The Looking Glass" evokes inspiration not just in the great lyrics as James LaBrie's voice grabs you, the music seemingly never lets go. From Jame's initial bold unleashing to the way he fluidly sings during the quieter passages, this man has me hooked! Add in the screaming guitar solo, rock solid bass and methodical drumming and this is indeed fearless music.
Of course if you want something more, how shall we say, up to speed, then "Enigma Machine" will be right up your alley... if that alley just so happens to be protected by highly-strung guys holding Uzi automatic weapons that are ready to fire. At one point, 3 minutes 21 seconds into the track, i was waiting for flames to emit out of my 6' high, 180 lbs mastering studio speakers. Frankly, it only takes two words to describe Dream Theater's track "Enigma Machine", and those two words are "Fuck yeah!"
With the adrenalin still surging through my veins, the next track "The Bigger Picture" gave my body a moment of rest as it begins softly and builds to an enormous soundfront. Music reviewers can fearlessly make up words just as Dream Theater can fearlessly play music. The band's carefully crafted musical journey continues and i never want to get off, so to speak.
Could go on describing each track, yet if you don't get the point of this meticulous majestic musical masterpiece, then you just don't get it. For the rest of us, especially musicians, i predict many hours carefully analyzing every guitar lick, bass thwack and drum smack until you can 'play with the band'. Um, good luck with that! Yet when you do, the rewards will be well worth it! Of course in the end what really matters is that you...
Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin