DREAM THEATER – The Astonishing

DREAM THEATER - The Astonishing
  • 4/10
    DREAM THEATER - The Astonishing - 4/10


Roadrunner Records
Release date: January 29th, 2016

User Review
9.5/10 (4 votes)

Dream Theater’s thirteenth album is not their usual M.O. This time they’ve written a Rock Musical consisting of 34 tracks with a total running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes. Now that in itself is a lot of music to process for any listener. It is a really demanding piece of work and you might want to give this one four or five spins before deciding whether you like it or not.

It is without a doubt a Dream Theater album and the music is recognizable even though the format has changed a bit. None of the songs lasts for more than 7 minutes and with the honorable exception of “The Gift of Music” there are no single stand-out songs on the album. This album needs to be judged as a whole and not by the individual tracks.

This concept album is divided into two parts that tells the story of a future where all human tasks are performed by machines, including the making of music. A band of rebels is trying to topple the oppressive empire. Their goal is to spread the joy of man-made music and to liberate the people. James LaBrie sings all the lyrics for the 8 characters in the story which makes the it very difficult to follow if you’re just listening and not reading the booklet. Maybe they should have invited some guest singers along for this one.

Musically speaking there are many highlights here. There are grandiose and epic orchestra and choir parts arranged by none other than David Campbell and it’s exciting to sit and listen to the different layers as you plow through the album for the fifth time and are discovering something new. However, if you’re expecting multiple synchronous solo runs by John Petrucci (guitar) and Jordan Rudess (keyboard) then you will be disappointed. Judged as a whole it’s easy to get the feeling that there are more ballads on this album than what’s necessary and at times it seems a bit too repetitious. Act 2 is more varied and there’s more happening both instrumentally and story-wise. The playfulness that Dream Theater once used to show with their instrumental skills is absent here and they’re arguably not succeeding in conveying this story to us through their music. It’s difficult to understand where they are going with this album.

Dream Theater will be playing this double album back-to-back on tour and the shows will include the most ambitious visuals of their career. Maybe the album will make more sense in that setting. Credit should be given where it is due and Dream Theater should be given credit for their will to evolve musically and avoid releasing the same album over and over again. Sadly The Astonishing is the most confusing Dream Theater album to date.


  • Kristian Singh-Nergård

    Kristian is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He is Metal Express Radio's Marketing and Communications Manager, and on occasions also reviewer and photographer. Based out of Oslo, Norway, Kristian is a bass player and owner of the independent record label Pug-Nose Records. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2006.

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