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Dream Theater - Octavarium (8,5/10) - USA - 2005

Genre: Progressive Metal
Label: Atlantic
Playing time: 75:45
Band homepage: Dream Theater

Tracklist:

  1. The Root Of All Evil
  2. The Answer Lies Within
  3. These Walls
  4. I Walk Beside You
  5. Panic Attack
  6. Never Enough
  7. Sacrificed Sons
  8. Octavarium
Dream Theater - Octavarium

I just saw something very strange, indeed I am mystified as to why the TMO does not have a review online for this particular DREAM THEATER album - could it be that the band has gone stale and no-one is interested? Whatever the reason, I would now like to introduce you to DREAM THEATER’s eight studio album (not counting EP’s), “Octavarium”, which was released after the much talked about and heavy “Train Of Thought”. “Octa/Octo” is the Greek/Latin word for the number that can be found all through the booklet of this eight track album – the metal balls on the outside cover and the spider trapped in an octagonal labyrinth are but a few references to the number eight. Closer inspection of the cover will reveal that there is another number that is represented by birds, a domino and some fish; this is the number five and stands together with eight in a golden ratio of 5:8:13. Some research on the album and ratio has led to a few interesting reads, some to be found on the well-known online Free Encyclopedia, which I would encourage the so inclined to read.

 

Throughout DREAM THEATER’s history, they have often reinvented themselves while moving forward and up in the music industry, and they have certainly now become one of the most prominent bands in the Heavy Metal world. However, where other bands opened their hearts to the holy dollar by releasing albums to great commercial and journalistic acclaim, thereby alienating the fans that made them so great in the first place, DT has always stayed true to themselves and their fans by constantly bringing new ideas into the fold and sticking to their genre of Progressive Metal. I have heard people say if you have heard one DREAM THEATER album, you have heard them all, but they were obviously just not listening. However, on the first track of the album, “The Root Of All Evil”, the band certainly makes a case for the opposition as there are definite similarities between this and the track off the “Train Of Thought” album, “This Dying Soul”. I read in an interview somewhere that this was a deliberate notion as the later song was written as a sequel to the first in a trilogy, completed on the following album, “Systematic Chaos”. There is always a lot of brainwork when it comes to this band as their music simply is not just about the music, which is an attitude that has helped propel them forward into stardom and fortunately, DT has once again delivered on all fronts.

 

Although this probably is DT’s most musically commercial album to this date, this certainly does not mean that it does not deserve to be mentioned with some of the classic earlier albums. There are two tracks especially that drew my thoughts to the bands U2 and MUSE; the formers’ epic pop anthems come back to life with “I Walk Beside You”, while “Panic Attack” for some reason reminded me a lot of a frenzied MUSE. DREAM THEATER has never shied away from their 60’s Prog and -Rock influenced roots and perhaps on this album it is the first time that it is fully embraced, the title track starts off with very psychedelic soundscape playing keyboards that whispers PINK FLOYD, and as always, the influence of bands like RUSH, KANSAS etc. is there to be heard. The playing time of the aforementioned track stands at 24 minutes flat (hmm, 24/3=8, 8-3=5) and might be DT’s most experimental track to date and provides such an array of sounds and ideas that you won’t be surprised to hear something new after years of listening. Stylistically, “Octavarium” can be seen as a progression from the roots of their previous albums as they still incorporate the sound and style of older albums like “Images And Words”, “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory” and “Train Of Thought”, all of which were instantly distinguishable from each other.

 

Despite the fact that DT “have gone a little soft” on this album, the heaviness of “Train Of Thought” and disk one of “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence” is certainly still around, but the technicality of their earlier work has somewhat been toned down to accommodate for a slightly more Progressive Rock sound. I would say this album got a mixed reception from the legions of DT fans and this has probably been the case with most of the albums since “Metropolis Pt.2”. This provides a problem for fans hoping for another bite of this epic as DT will never sound like that again, but the time has come for people to realize that was only one album and the rest cannot be judged and compared therewith. Complimenting individual musicianship and performance is simply a waste of time - this is recommended for anyone who appreciates world class musical talent, killer riffs, shreds, keys, bass, drums, and especially anyone who listens to Progressive music, but has always though DREAM THEATER to be just a little wild.

(Online April 12, 2008)

Jean-Pierre du Toit



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