Dream Theater, the masters of artistry rock, released their 15th album A View From the Top of the World last week (Oct. 22), just a seven song record but 70 minutes long in a progressive rock wonderment filled with speedy melodies countered by various tempo changes and a plethora of swift guitar chords and drum fills.
Dream Theater never takes too long to release new music, A View From The Top Of The World coming two years after Distance Over Time and the band has yet to take longer than three years to release a new album since their 1989 debut When Dream and Day Unite. Dream Theater officially formed in 1985. In a first, the band recorded A View From the Top of the World at DTHQ (Dream Theater Headquarters), their own studio in New York City so fans can rightly expect a similar album release timeline for the future.
With musicianship off the charts, it makes ironic sense that Dream Theater enjoys more of a cult following rather than the mass following they deserve. Though more aligned with heavy metal, a genre that doesn’t register with everyone, Dream Theater employs a wild combination of speed metal, heavy metal, hard rock and prog rock for, in many respects, their own category.
Basically, Dream Theater is blast to play.
And though purists may point to the departure of drummer and co-founder Mike Portnoy in 2010 as invalidating, Dream Theater has released five albums since, with Mike Mangini aptly filling in. Guitarist and band co-founder John Petrucci remains and continues to rail down jaw dropping riffs as does bass guitarist and co-founder John Myung. James LeBrie has handled the mic since 1991 and Jordan Rudess joined in 1999 on keyboards.
To say an album starts off with a bang certainly sounds cliched, but indeed A View From the Top of the World feels like an abrupt quick start to a musical roller coaster ride that lets up just enough to let the listener, or maybe the band, catch their breath.
“The Alien” shreds from the start then scales back with a bit of guitar harmony before hitting its stride just when you think the guys have laid down an instrumental to open the album. “Answering the Call” slows the tempo in a more deliberate manner yet with plenty of sonically indulgent sections. “Invisible Monster,” one of the shortest songs (ha! six and a half minutes), lingers at times but holds plenty of Petrucci weight and driven by LeBrie’s vocals so you won’t get pulled under.
Get lost with the various time signature and melodic changes on “Sleeping Giant” and if you just want a straight up 80s hard rocker complete with era sounding keyboards and the occasional slowed-up affecting melody enjoy “Transcending Time” the shortest of the lot (6:24). A View From the Top of the World closes with another lengthy near 10-minute song in the Anthrax meets Styx “Awaken the Master” and the immense 20 minute long title track blends multiple structures – three concept-like parts – into one cohesive piece and though occasionally tedious, hardly bores.
No strangers to crafting lengthy songs with multiple layers, Dream Theater relies on decades old innovation to deliver another consistent album in A View From the Top of the World that deviates just a little from 2019’s more modern rock sounding Distance Over Time but escapes 2016’s two-hour, 34 song long concept album The Astonishing with most songs finishing less than five minutes. More of the same? Perhaps for some, but…
Mesmerizing scale type chords followed by intricate guitar playing accentuated by well-placed drum kicks smother the album serving only to crush the spirit of any beginner player while aficionados will savor the varying long solos and instrumental jams in between bars of vocals that create musical mansions.
Dream Theater A View From the Top of the World Songs:
- The Alien
- Answering the Call
- Invisible Monster
- Sleeping Giant
- Transcending Time
- Awaken the Master
- A View From the Top of the World
- The Crowning
- Rapture of the Deep
- The Driving Force