Distance Over Time
I'll be the first to admit that I've been a disturbingly dedicated fan of all things Dream Theater and Dream Theater-related since the release of what would become the group's Atlantic Records swan song Octavarium (2005). Despite this, much of their post-Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009) material has often left me feeling less than enthralled. Mired by an array of line-up (i.e. the Mike Portnoy saga) and label-related turmoil, the resulting input lacked, for want of a more succinct term, the 'heaviness' that initially attracted me to the group's compositional complexities and introspective, thought-provoking lyrical vernacular. While A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011) and Dream Theater (2013) may have temporarily placated my concerns, The Astonishing (2016) would leave me questioning the validity of their future. Now, with the release of the return to form Distance Over Time officially upon us, I again find myself more than happy to shamelessly overindulge in their offerings.
On the brilliant Distance Over Time (2019), an expertly assembled ten song collection of Progressive Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the maddeningly infectious (and perhaps From First To Last “And We All Have A Hell”-influenced) first single “Untethered Angel” and the relentlessly pummeling lamentation “Fall Into The Light”, instantly commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Understandably intent on improving upon the arguably lackluster The Astonishing (2016), the group unleashes a variation of the seamless, multi-dimensional blend of soaring vocals, razor-sharp fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms that has personified their discography. Engulfing the proverbial average listener (i.e. you, the increasingly-faithful reader/listener) amid previously unparalleled, all-consuming auditory landscapes, the group easily distances themselves from their few legitimate contemporaries.
Continuing with the curiously-titled--albeit deftly-executed--gem “Barstool Warrior” and the lightning-fast, emotionally-overwrought “At Wit's End”, the steadfast--to say the very least--combination of vocalist James LaBrie (MullMuzzler, ex-Winter Rose), guitarist John Petrucci (Jon Finn Group, Nightmare Cinema, Liquid Tension Experiment), keyboardist Jordan Rudess (David Bowie, Dixie Dregs, Vinnie Moore), bassist John Myung (Explorers Club, Platypus, The Jelly Jam) and drummer Mike Mangini (Annihilator, Extreme, Tribe Of Judah) steamrolls ahead at what can only be described as a carefully-calculated approach. Armed with a sorely-missed tone reminiscent of their finest recorded moments, the notoriously prolific Petrucci emerges as bona fide leader as the group flexes their more-than-considerable creative muscles early and often. The resulting barrage, while not necessarily groundbreaking, serve as a reminder of their undeniable lyrical and compositional aptness.
A self-Produced affair throughout (with all recording and Mixing duties being handled by James 'Jimmy T' Meslin, Richard Chycki and Ben Grosse), other standouts, including the pleading, quasi-tragedy “Pale Blue Dot” and the equally impressive bonus track “Viper King”, the group ultimately succeeds by returning to their much-celebrated roots. An honest must-have for any genuine and sincere Dream Theater enthusiast--particularly those with an appreciation for their heaviest, most 'straight-forward' works--what ultimately separates Distance Over Time from it's well-heeled contemporaries is the group's ability to maintain their trademark Prog tonality without succumbing to the overblown redundancies of yore. Having already breached the Top 10 in Germany, Norway, Scotland and Switzerland and the Top 30 in the ever-important US Billboard chart, only time will tell if the group's trend of impressive sales totals will continue unabated, further cementing their ironclad reputation.
But what can you really expect? Even more of the classic Dream Theater tonalities you presumably already know and love. With the mighty Distance Over Time effectively capturing the group operating with a seemingly revitalized sense of direction and, for that matter, an outright renewed purpose, the majority--if not all--of the decidedly memorable wares contained herein are all but guaranteed to both leave die-hard completists and the occasional clueless newcomer alike only wanting for more. Remaining atmospheric and undeniably grandiose without, believe it or not, being overtly pretentious, Distance Over Time is easily the finest Progressive Metal release of this year. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself searching for a refreshingly thought-provoking alternative to the self-indulgent atrocities so often employed by their few legitimate contemporaries, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane salve for what ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
Distance Over Time (2019)
The Astonishing (2016)
Breaking The Fourth Wall: Live From The Boston Opera House (Blu-Ray/DVD) (2014)
Live At Luna Park (DVD) (2013)
Dream Theater (2013)
A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011)
Wither (EP) (2009)
Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009)
Chaos In Motion 2007 - 2008 (DVD)
Greatest Hit…And 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs (2008)
Systematic Chaos (2007)
Live At Budokan (2004)
Images And Words: Live In Tokyo/5 Years In A Livetime (DVD) (2004)
The Majesty Demos 1985 - 1986 (2003)
Train Of Thought (2003)
Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (2002)
Metropolis 2000: Live Scenes From New York (DVD) (2001)
Live Scenes From New York (2001)
Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory (1999)
Once In A LIVEtime (1998)
Falling Into Infinity (1997)
A Change Of Seasons (EP) (1995)
Images And Words: Live In Tokyo (DVD) (1993)
Live At The Marquee (EP) (1993)
Images And Words (1992)
When Dream And Day Unite (1989)
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