Last night at Germano Studios (676 Broadway) Long Island prog metal heros Dream Theater held what they billed “an intimate playback” of their new, self-titled album. The evening promised an introduction and discussion of the album with members of the band, who would also be in attendance. Oh, and free Hor D’oeuvres. Naturally, we went.
The album, out in September, is the band’s 12th, and it features a couple firsts. It’s their first self-titled record, and last night was the first listening party they’ve ever hosted in advance of a release. “We want to illustrate that the best is yet to come,” said keyboardist Jordan Rudess before the listening commenced. “There’s no better way to illustrate that than to self-title an album.”
Dream Theater hold a significant place in the colorful history of metal. Founded by three Berklee music school dropouts (guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and former drummer Mike Portnoy), it was one of the first–if not the first–bands to combine heavy metal with progressive rock.
As audience member (and Meek Is Murder drummer) Frank Godla succinctly put it, “Before Dream Theater, there was just prog and metal.” All prog metal bands, from Meshuggah to Mastodon, that have emerged since owe at least a tip of the hat to Dream Theater.
So how’s the album? Here’s what we can tell you about last night.
We’d be lying if we said we knew all the specs on these premium axes, but we’re pretty sure guitar aficionados will appreciate them. (“Yummy” was how one gearhead friend described this photo.) These weren’t used last night, but they were sitting pretty next to the following…
Bucket o’ Wine
Speaks for itself. There was also a bucket o’ beers and a nice snack spread, complete with mini falafel pitas, among other goodies.
Twenty-eight years strong.
These are the mighty speakers through which the music reached our ears. (Note the album artwork in the center.) Most listeners stood or sat reverently about five to ten paces back. It was loud. In a good way.
Dream Theater’s progressive metal has always been characterized by highly complicated, usually very long compositions that stylistically know no boundaries. Drawing on jazz, classical, and rock, they continue to blow the proverbial doors off any limitations of metal, expanding the genre into uncharted realms, attained on the wings of Olympian musicianship. This record is no exception, and it’s one of their finest efforts yet. The uptempo songs are molten with heaviness, while the ballads soar with orchestral arrangements. The band called it an album for old fans and new fans alike (but what else are they going to say?). They’re not wrong. It should appeal to their longtime followers by ratcheting up to a level of near-perfection the dark and light contrast of metal vs. Romantic (capital R) stylings for which the band is already known, while new fans may find it more accessible than prior records. (The mixing and mastering are worth noting, as well, for their superiority and for not succumbing much to the modish “loudness war”.)
This is a watermarked copy of Dream Theater’s unreleased self-titled album.
What watermarked seems to mean, apart from having our name on it and being traceable if leaked online, is that it can’t be played on a laptop. Instead, to re-listen, we are using the following contraption…
Yes, these machines still exist. This Sony Boombox was purchased in 1994, making it almost a decade younger than Dream Theater. Point being, this band’s been around a really long time. They’ve more than earned the right to title an album after themselves, as they wholly own the niche of music they birthed.