Dream Theater – The Astonishing

While here at Heavy Blog we usually err on the “for its own merit” side of the album/career debate, choosing to focus on an album’s singular traits rather than its place within a band’s discography, this would be a mistake here. While The Astonishing, one of the most anticipated albums of the year, is certainly a departure from everything Dream Theater has been giving us in the past few years, it’s also a return to several key sounds from the beginning and middle period of their career.

Even that departure requires an understanding of the bigger picture of their trajectory; to depart from something, you need to understand something. And so, the first thing that is immediately apparent when the first real track (that is, not the intro) of The Astonishing begins to play is: this is a rock opera. When the second track begins to play, something else becomes immediately apparent: the main touchstone for this album within the extensive Dream Theater discography is Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. That spring in the step, that hopeful and cheery outlook, screams of that intricate album, the closest the band have come to a rock opera in the past.

Yes, OK, but is it a good album? That’s what we’re all here to find out. In two words: yes and no. In more than that, The Astonishing contains some amazing tracks, possibly the best the band have produced since the lukewarm Octavarium trickled into our ears. When the tracks are playing, it’s impossible to resist how downright energetic this album is. At these moments, the cheesiness is perfectly balanced with that old-school Rush feel that Dream Theater have always been famous for and things work.

They work really well in several points: on “Lord Nafaryus” for example, LaBrie delivers the intricate villain role with brilliant precision, doing things with his voice that he never has, as far as register and delivery goes. The artificial strings blend perfectly with the over the top piano, accentuated by signature guitar bridges from Petrucci. This cohesion is perhaps one of the best marks of a good Dream Theater album: when they work together, instead of playing against each other, they sound best. The slightest, cheesy touch from Petrucci near the end really closes the deal, making this one of the best tracks on both albums.

This track is followed by two more excellent iterations of this new-fangled sound: “A Saviour in the Square” is epic to the exact degree needed, with a splash of horns to spice things up. LaBrie returns to more conventional grounds and reminds us that, regardless of personal taste, he is one of the most consistently excellent singers in the industry. Personal note time: when “When Your Times Has Come” kicks in, the next track down the line, I get teary eyed. This song is cheese to the maximum degree, but Rudess has chosen old school synth effects, with a wink to Kevin Moore perhaps, and LaBrie executes beautifully. This is “Hollow Years” territory: you know it’s cheesy rock but it just touches something within you and it works.

Which brings us to the major defect with the album. Honestly, what band can expect to release 33 tracks and get that perfect balance between emotional propensity and technical achievement? Even Dream Theater, one of the most veteran and influential bands operating today, can’t pull it off. The Astonishing is replete with filler tracks, songs that really have no right existing other than an obscure parts they play in this (rather underwhelming) story that the album attempts to tell. And that’s not enough: cliche guitar parts mix with over-sweetness in LaBrie’s voice and bounce off the most cliche lines that Rudess can make from his keyboards.

And they’re repetitive as well. There’s no reason for “Act of Faythe”, one of the cheesiest songs ever made by Dream Theater, to exist when a track like “The Answer” exists as well. There’s supposedly a common theme being iterated upon here but it’s not interesting enough to carry the tracks forward. Nor are the ways in which the band iterate upon it interesting in anyway: they include shifting the mood just a bit to give it a lighter or darker spin and nothing else.

All of these flaws extend to the second “CD” as well, and then some. “A Life Left Behind” for example is a track which could have come right out of Awake but it’s successor, “Ravenskill” is completely pointless, taking too much time with its intro and failing to deliver when the main theme is introduced. Since the flow between the tracks, a famous trope of progressive records, has been completely abandoned here in favor of the “track by track” structure of rock operas, the second CD is hard to pin down and connect to the first.

By the time you’ve reached it, so many filler tracks have gone by without a clear approach to thematization that the thread is almost impossible to grasp. The narrative has been completely lost and every track, even the good ones, start to sound the same. That’s no accident: even the good tricks utilized on this album are the same old tricks that we know from this album itself and from past entries in the Dream Theater discography. While the overall style of the album is new, in that it taps into tropes that were only lightly present in their careers so far, the track progression is the same tried and true method.

OK, we’ve saved the best (worst) for last. Sharp-eyed readers might have noticed that we haven’t mentioned two current members of the band. The first, John Myung, might not surprise anybody; his absence, both in sound and words, from the band is a thing of legend by now. On The Astonishing, or at least on the copy that we of the press received, he is almost 100% missing. Whether in the mixing or in the recording, the bass was completely swallowed by the other instruments and is completely absent from the final product.

However, now we come, here at the end, to the most egregious and unexplainable flaw in this record: Mike Mangini. Throughout the album, Magini displays an almost impressive amount of disinterest in what’s going on around him. The drums line are not only performed in a lackluster way, they also sound as if zero effort was put into their writing. We know Mangini is a talented drummer but that talent is nowhere to be found here: obvious fill after obvious fill churn out under paper thin cymbals and pointless kick drums, ultimately amounting to nothing much. There’s literally no moments on the albums that are worth mentioning for their drums and this infuriatingly frustrating, given what we know of  his obvious ability.

At the end of the day, when you put all of the above together, you get a disappointing album. If this had just been a bad album, we could have chalked it down to age, momentum and being out of touch. That’s impossible though, since when the album is good, it’s really quite good. If only it had been cut to about ten tracks and purged of the incessant repetitions, it might have been the best Dream Theater album in years. Instead, it’s a puerile attempt at a grand gesture that ultimately falls on its face, caught too close to the sun with wax spilling over, giving all its features the same, bland, indecipherable structure.

 

Dream Theater – The Astonishing gets…

3/5

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.






Comments

  1. Washington Skidrow says:

    With all due respect to Dream Theater, the amount of songs on this album is absolutely ridiculous. I had a feeling that this would just end up a bloated mess but I’m glad to hear that there are legitimately good songs on this.

    1. Eden says:

      There’s a 4/5 album hiding in here somewhere. It’s just covered in a lot of nonsense.

      1. I wonder if it would help to just delete the filler tracks and just leave the good ones. Could you think of an optimal track list out of the 33 total? I’m not really in this for the storyline anyway.

        1. Rafael Franken says:

          I’m listening to de cd2, and man, I’m dissappointed! I’m a hard core DT fan, and tend to like even their worst works, but the producion of this album is far their worst work! The drums are boring, and I don’t listen to cymbals. It seems that JP is the best guitar player in the word, but the worst producer!!! SAD.

        2. Eden says:

          Too much work IMO. I mean, you’d be left with a stunted album. The drums would still be boring, the production would still be half assed. It would be an OK album but nothing more.

          1. I guess I’ll go listen to Images & Words again.

          2. Eden says:

            Always a good idea.

        3. hinter says:

          This review offers a “suggested playlist”, though for other reasons.

          http://progreport.com/dream-theater-the-astonishing-album-review/

        4. Raphael Mastro says:

          That’s not a bad idea…

  2. did you beat the game?

  3. MelbCro says:

    Interesting review, but I’m still quite hopeful to be honest. I’ve seen other reviews that have been very positive. I do trust your opinion Eden but when it comes to DT I don’t think our tastes match up. Like in this review you call Octavarium lukewarm, I think that’s one of their best albums. And I know you’ve mentioned before how you liked their last album, which i thought was really average. So I’ll have to wait and see.

    1. Eden says:

      Always form your own opinion :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Zaghuran says:

    This is unfortunate to hear. However, I am still excited to listen to this a few times on my own in order to make my own impressions of this record. I have always wondered why some of Dream Theater’s newer albums have had such questionable production values considering the money and resources they have access to, especially compared to many newer metal bands. Many of which seem to have far better sounding production.

  5. Sir Tapir The Based says:

    It’s a Dream Theater album, of course it’s gonna suck.

    1. MelbCro says:

      yawn

    2. Eden says:

      yawn [2]

      1. Sir Tapir The Based says:

        That’s what I do while listening to Dream Theater, along with vomiting.

        1. Jayden Leonard says:

          I could probably say some of the same crap about Charlie Puth. Anyways, how come you hate them that much? I ain’t egging you on, I’m just kinda curious.

          1. Sir Tapir The Based says:

            Problem 1: James LaBrie.
            Problem 2: they can play their instruments, but their songs are uninteresting “look at what I can do” wank fests.

          2. Jon Drake says:

            Umm… then why are you reading an album review and, going further, commenting on it?

            I really hate internet trolls. Go find something better to do.

          3. Sir Tapir The Based says:

            Because I wanted to make the comment? How fucking stupid do you have to be to ask a shitty question like that? Seeing as you are a Van Halen fan, very fucking stupid.

          4. Jon Drake says:

            Nice conversation skills. Let me dumb it down for you…

            If you hate a band, why are you reading an album review of theirs. And further, why bother commenting on it? It’s ignorant and ridiculous to go out of your way to shit on things you’re not into. No one gives a damn about your opinion on this topic, so stay out of it. Go comment on things you ENJOY, unless you’re up for some actual conversation or dialogue. If you’re not, then fuck off.

          5. Sir Tapir The Based says:

            Well obviously someone cared enough to reply twice. The idea of “don’t comment if you don’t like” is fucking retarded.

          6. Jon Drake says:

            Is it as “retarted” as not being able to spell the word “retarded” properly, dummy?

          7. Sir Tapir The Based says:

            Oooooh, dummy. That was pretty fucking mean, dude.

          8. Eden says:

            Play nice now. There’s no problem with reading a review or commenting on a review for a band you don’t like. I replied with “yawn” mainly because the original comment was just shitposting, since it was expressing a negative sentiment without explaining it, which is why I had nothing better to say.

            As to your actual points about Dream Theater, Dream Theater has a very long career, prior to Scenes From a Memory, that wasn’t filled with “wank tests” at all. Awake, Images and Words and Falling Into Infinity are great albums that emphasised much different aspects of technicality, more akin to Rush for example (like this album but in a good way).

            I’d recommend Learning to Live (Images and Words), Scarred (Awake) and Trial of Tears (Falling Into Infinity) if you’d like to start exploring the more intricate and less technical aspects of their career.

            As for LaBrie, I can’t help you there. That’s a subjective point and if you don’t like him, that’s cool :)

            Thanks for elaborating on your dislike, this kind of conversation is always positive.

          9. Eden says:

            The “play nice now” part of my comment was addressed to both parties by the way, your comment was just the last. In addition, there are plenty of parts of their career posts Scenes and pre-Systematic Chaos which also contain some pretty emotions-based writing, like Finally Free on Scenes or Solitary Shell/Misunderstood on Six Degrees.

          10. Sadistikexekution says:

            When are you going to kill yourself?

          11. Sir Tapir The Based says:

            Already did.

          12. Sadistikexekution says:

            Cum bakk to metalsukks.
            Smitty is a mess

          13. Sir Tapir The Based says:

            Smitty’s still a thing?

          14. Sadistikexekution says:

            Barely, but he is.

          15. Sadistikexekution says:

            Nice conversation skills, nice one hahaha

          16. Sadistikexekution says:

            When you wank, does that make you a bad person?

          17. Sir Tapir The Based says:

            I don’t wank.

    3. Jayden Leonard says:

      Metropolis Pt. 2 begs to differ, mate. Sorry.

    4. Sadistikexekution says:

      WTF tapir?!!?!??!

  6. David Draun says:

    The album before Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence was Metropolis II: Scenes From a Memory, and that WAS a rock opera. No mention of that here, only that Six Degrees was the first attempt at a rock opera. Your credibility to talk about Dream Theater already takes a hit within the first few paragraphs of your review. I shall form my own opinion. Good day.

    1. Eden says:

      Hey David,

      Sorry, but I don’t consider Scenes From a Memory to be a rock opera. It’s a concept album but it’s not a rock opera. It doesn’t have a lot of the distinguishing elements, sounds or themes of a rock opera nor does the album structure and individual track structure conform to the opera definition. Rock operas have mostly short tracks, focusing on a large host of characters. Scenes has three characters (four, if you count the psychiatrist).

      1. Eden says:

        By that definition, even Six Degrees barely qualifies but because of its shorter songs and more “rock” feel (rather than the prog metal feel on Scenes) it’s a better candidate. It’s large track number also helps although I wouldn’t disagree with someone who said that Six Degrees wasn’t a rock opera or with someone who says it is. But Scenes is DEFINITELY not rock opera.

        1. JuniorLu says:

          I don’t know what definition you use for “Rock Opera”, but SDOIT sure as hell isn’t one. It really isn’t even a concept album. The second disk is one song with multiple movements, but both CDs together do not tell one cohesive story. Also, depending on who you talk to, “concept album” and “rock opera” are synonymous. I would agree with David that the better comparison would be to SFAM since they each use the entirety of the album to tell a story.

          Also, the author of the article needs to get facts right. The strings on The Astonishing are a live orchestra–they aren’t fake.

          1. Eden says:

            Hey,

            First off, I’m the author this review. Secondly, didn’t I just say that “Six Degrees” barely qualifies? I then went on to say what makes it a slightly better candidate than Scenes and explained that it was mostly the more rock-y feel that it had. You know, as in “rock” opera? As for the two CD’s not telling a cohesive story, you’re right. I should have said “Six Degrees, CD2”. I thought that was obvious.

            Thirdly, saying that “concept album” and “rock opera” are synonymous is absurd. “My Arms Your Hearse” is a concept album and so is The Ocean’s “Pelagial”. They have nothing to do with rock operas, so that definition of concept albums is not serviceable since it wouldn’t describe tons and tons of music that’s out there and is clearly a concept album.

            As far for the strings part: you’re right, they aren’t fake but we weren’t given that information when this review was written. I didn’t want to go into that too much in the review, since slandering labels is not a habit of mine, but we were provided with very little info on how this was recorded. It should have instead said “artificially sounding” since they sound quite artificial. Whether that says something about my ear (which, admittedly, isn’t very fine tuned when it comes to strings) or about the production of the album, is a whole different matter. Regardless, it’s far from the album’s main issue and I didn’t even refer to negatively in the review; they’re quite endearing when they’re used properly.

            Thanks for reading and commenting!

          2. Eden says:

            Sorry for the typos and missing words; I wrote this on the go.

          3. JuniorLu says:

            I wasn’t meaning to be argumentative. Sorry if it came across that way.

            Notice that I said “depending on who you talk to” the definitions can be synonymous. I have had highly trained progressive musicians use the terms interchangeably. I was just wondering specifically about YOUR definition. Either way, I don’t believe SDOIT2 really qualifies.

            Re: the strings, I just wanted to point that out in case you didn’t know.

            I agree with some of your other points and disagree with others, but reviews are really just opinions, and since there’s no point in debating opinion, I’ll refrain from doing so.

            There is little question that there will be a divide between DT fans and critics on this album. I’ve been a hardcore fan since 1991, and having gone into it with as open a mind as possible, I can honestly say I am also mixed. Not their best work, not their worst. I applaud the ambition, in any case.

    2. writer says:

      I disagree. SFAM is not a rock opera. In my mind a rock opera contains fillers, little, short interludes.
      SFAM (my most favourite concept album) contains no fillers in any sense of the word.
      Also, “rock opera” sounds to me like it contains (or is made up entirely of) cheesy, expendable songs. That also does not apply to SFAM, but according to several reviews does apply to TA.

  7. jon zuchin says:

    Im a huge fan of DT. But this album is a very disappointing one. The things dont flow, repetead sounds and ideas over and over. Listen 2 hours ininterrupted is a boring adventure. Mangini is very good live, but maybe not as good creating things. I will buy the album anyway…

    1. MelbCro says:

      DT went with Mangini because he was safe and wouldn’t be a presence in the song writing. If they were interested in someone adding creativity they would have gone with Minnemann or Donati

  8. Nice says:

    This is the review with the lowest rating I read so far. The lowest rating I came across so far was the one by Michael Rensen of RockHard (7/10), but that review is only accessible for subscribers of the magazine, so I haven’t read it, yet.

    Having listened only the the two pre-released songs and having read some reviews my expectations are more in line with this review – of course without having the insights. And I think this is a good thing, as now they can only surprise positively.

    I don’t expect the album to be as good as SFAM. And after the last one, in my eyes one of their weakest, this one would have to be really weak to disappoint me.

    Being a “rock opera” which I’m not a big fan of – I only think the good ones are nice to listen to from time to time – I’m also aware not to expect an ordinary DT-prog-rock / prog-metal album.

    So, thanks for this review. I personally think it prepares me better for my first listen(ings) of the album than the reviews that glorify it beyond believe.

    1. Jayden Leonard says:

      I always thought that last album of theirs improved stuff a fair bit after A Dramatic Turn Of Events (that one’s probably one of my least favourite ones after maybe Falling Into Infinity & When Dream And Day Unite), but hey, that’s just me.

      1. Nice says:

        In my opinion the album “DT” is just horrible songwriting. They had several good ideas for intros, verses and choruses. Unfortunately they glued them together like patchwork – – with unfitting bridges. I.e. they combined good intros with weak verses and ok choruses and vice versa.

        There is only one song on “DT” that is whole, i.e. consistent from a songwriting standpoint: Along for the Ride.
        And “The Enemy Inside” can be marked as ok. But the rest is just bad songwriting – with “Surrender To Reason” at the bottom.

        That doesn’t mean that the performance or the production is bad. But it doesn’t help the album with me.

        If I had to pick the best DT song I’d say: It’s hard to pick just one. But setting aside the long songs I would pick “Home” as their best song (maybe my most favorite prog song altogether). But as this is not a stand-alone song but part of a concept album I have an additional pick for a stand-alone song, and that would be “Breaking All Illusions”.

        Regarding FI and WDADU.

        WDADU has first and foremost a real bead production – and not yet JLB as singer. The songs themselves aren’t that bad. “Afterlife” e.g. is a killer!

        FI is more of a prog-pop album, so I guess most people that dislike the album on the grounds of the choice genre-change. But within that setting it is very well written and done. So it’s more a question of genre taste.

        In contrast to that “DT” isn’t really a deviation from their standard prog-rock/-metal signature. As I said before: In my opinion it’s weak songwriting that prevents me from liking that album. And that says something because other than that album the only other albums I don’t really like are SC and BC&SL – the latter two more because of their style, not the songwriting – so taste again.

        Taste is a subjective thing. And it can change through the years or just by mood. But weak songwriting stays almost forever. :-)

        But that’s just my opinion. And I’m not one to trash DT altogether.

        1. michalR says:

          The reason seems to be quite obvious, previous albums were co-written by Mike Portnoy. Self titled album is the first after his departure from the band so it definitely has some influence on songwriting. I was a huge DT fan many years ago, I still love Falling into Infinity album which I consider the best in DT history, but the few latest releases are just crap. Going to listen the new but this review confuses me a lot, so I’m afraid I’ll pass after just few tracks.

          1. JuniorLu says:

            Just so you know, the self-titled album was the SECOND after MP left. ADTOE was first.

          2. michalR says:

            Ok, you are probably right, I’m no longer a fan of current DT. I have tried self titled album and it was horrible experience having in mind how amazing they were in the times of Awake or Falling, but I’m not sure if ADoE was also co-written by MP because it’s the last listenable DT album to me.

          3. JuniorLu says:

            MP did in fact leave prior to any writing being done. As for the rest, we all have our opinions, and that’s what’s great about art…enjoyment of it is subjective. Personally I think FII is dreadful in terms of songwriting and production and I avoid it. Same with BCASL, though it’s production is better. My feelings on The Astonishing are mixed. Weak story, less insane prog metal, more theatrical music. This was clearly written with the idea of a stage musical in mind, and that was bound to turn some people off. But looking at it differently from all their other work has me so far appreciating it for what it is. That said, it will never be in my DT Top 5…but I’m fine with that.

          4. michalR says:

            Maybe production on FII is not that great but it contains few killer tracks, especially suites which are just fantastic. I also love the Sherinian’s keyboard playing and sound, totally different than Moore’s and lightyears from inhuman today’s sound I just can’t stand. The last album I really like is Train of Thought, they just got into thrash-like territory, playing like mid-age Metallica. The compositions are quite powerful, and the melodies just memorable, you can even take some headbanging ☺

          5. JuniorLu says:

            I remember when FII came out, I felt extremely let down by about 70% of it. When I saw that they had collaborated with Desmond Child, I knew right away that they had to be getting pressure from the label to write another “hit”, and it was a massive turn-off for me. I also was turned off by Dug Pinnick’s appearance on Lines in the Sand, an otherwise good song. But given the direction of the music scene back then, I figured that was going to be their last…that it wouldn’t sell well and the label would drop them and that would be it. When they came back with SFAM, though, it was clear that they had regained control of their artistic vision. Portnoy even says the same thing in the book “Lifting Shadows”. The interference from the label and the forced collaboration with Desmond Child drove him to quit. He ultimately didn’t because after it didn’t sell well and the D. Child tune didn’t chart, they finally said they would no longer let the label hear anything until they had a finished product. They got their originally targeted Moore replacement and new producers, and they made an amazing string of albums in SFAM, SDOIT, and TOT. There’s even some good stuff on Octavarium and SC, but even I wasn’t liking their overall direction with part of SC and all of BCASL.

            But hey, we’re also talking about guys that are getting older. Their tastes change just like anybody’s, and that was reflected in the music they made. I haven’t liked all of it, including the “aged Metallica” stuff you mentioned. I also understand your feeling that some of Jordan’s playing is a bit over the top, but I like it–thiugh differently from how I liked Kevin or Derek. I also have tried to keep in mind that this band is very different from years past, much as Floyd was after Roger and Genesis was after Pete and Steve left. I still find things to like in the later work, but it was just very different. Many have argued that the later stuff is worse, but I am yet to find ANY band that is as strong toward the end of their career as they were in their prime.

            DT has been the biggest musical influence in my last 25 years, though, so I’m not going to stop supporting them. It helps that I also am a fan of musical theater, so the dynamics and theatrics of The Astonishing don’t remotely bother me…though I certainly can appreciate that it isn’t going to be for everyone, and that isn’t to say there aren’t any flaws, because it’s very far from the best work in the DT catalog.

  9. MelbCro says:

    Falling Into Infinity is an amazing album. Hell’s Kitchen, Trial of tears, Lines in the Sand, Peruvian Skies, New Millennium. Awesome album, and a true prog rock record. The only people disappointed with the album are DT fans that are more metalheads than prog fans.

    1. Daryll Hurst says:

      Drums and keys sound fantastic on that record.

  10. MelbCro says:

    Ok so I’ve listened to this album a few time and man am I disappointed. While the album is conceptually ambitious, musically its incredibly safe and by the numbers. There is very little genuine experimentation here at all, in fact its one of the least progressive things they’ve ever done. You know safe DT can be fine, unfortunately most of the music here is really unmemorable and as a whole this album is such a chore to get through. Everything just bleeds together as a lot of it just sounds the same, its stacked with so much filler and to me there is no flow at all, its just an absolute mess. There are so many ballads on here as well, and I’m not anti-ballad but I’m certainly anti boring ballads. These ballads just leave me cold, there is no emotional kick to these really bland songs. But to be fair the are definitely a bunch of good songs on the Astonishing, I’ve had to make a custom playlist to make this album listenable. Its 11 tracks and goes for 53 minutes, works together quite well and its a decent listen. Its unfortunate that this good music gets buried in the monotonous mess that makes up the majority of this 130 minute album.

  11. Eliza says:

    I remember when I first heard The Gift of music and thought that this album will be cheesy as hell. Still, I can’t bring myself to dislike them because I once really loved Images and Words.

  12. Juergen Schacherl says:

    My god, I’m shocked… Isn’t this the cheesiest album released in many a month? Oh my, I’ve been a hardcore fan since 1989 (was 12 when I discovered When Dream and Day Unite and got hooked immediately) and have followed them through many highs (Train of thought, one of my alltime faves, Metropolis 2, Images and Words, Awake,…) and also some, well, not-so highs (Systematic Chaos? Meh. A dramatic turn of events? meeeh). I’ve also seen ’em live maybe 4 or 5 times and have honestly loved their last album, especially the Rush-ian tones in “The looking glass”, which I thought could be a great step into a new direction for them… techy elements, catchy melody, a beautiful solo, clearly audible bass lines and phenomenal drumming, but an altogether more accessible sound architecture. One of the best DT songs released in the last 10 years and 5 minutes of mainstream prog metal heaven (I’m listening and weeping to it while writing this, haha). 10+ of their albums have been on every single one of my mobile devices (phones, mp3-players,…) and I treasure them immensely.

    But then along comes “The Astonishing”. Astonishing indeed. Astonishingly bad. A compilation of the kitschiest elements of every DT-record so far and some rockier, but totally forgettable and uninspired tunes. Totally overblown and wholly lacking in musical and storytelling significance. I gotta be honest, after the first listen, I deleted 15 songs from my ITunes and after the second attempt I’m down to about 10 songs I might want to give a third spin. Haven’t decided yet.

    What I have decided on: I’ll sell my tickets for their current tour, haha, cause I simply can’t stand the thought of listening to all 140 minutes of “The Astonishing” ever again. What the hell happened here? And I have to agree with you, Mangini’s drumming is way below par on this one. Now this is a guy who is NOT having a good time.

    The whole record reminds me of the dog meme “shit, I forgot how to dog”, only here it’s “shit, I forgot how to rock” or “how not to drown in cheese.”

    Luckily, this also brought new releases by Dissona, Mandroid Echostar, LSD on CIA; Latitudes, Exumer, Ketzer, the phenomenal Perihelion Ship (and also, pleasantly surprising, Megadeth) to wash away my pain.

  13. Matt says:

    Your review is spot on and you mention several points that other reviewers have glossed over. I frankly don’t understand where all the positive reviews for this album are coming from. It makes me doubt the legitimacy of the reviewers from several major publications. This album is lazy, boring, and flat out bad. DT recycled a lot of musical ideas (particularly on keyboards) and wrote a horribly bloated and tedious album. Myung and Mangini, as you state, give wooden performances more consistent with what I would expect from a hired gun and not a full-fledged member of a band. This album is embarrassing and you were generous to give them a “pity f**k” three star review.

  14. DT says:

    This new album is by far their WORST ever.
    It makes WDADU sound like Moving Pictures. I’m sorry JP but I am not not astonished, I’m disappointed and flabbergasted! I’ve got three tix to the show in Mesa AZ that I’m probably going to have give away on Craig’s if this is the stuff you’re going to play. Arghhhh

  15. Daryll Hurst says:

    I can hear Myung quite well throughout the album.

  16. RMorales says:

    Well, this is the most respectable negative review I’ve read so far. Basically because reviewer Eden has actually heard the entire album, has thorough knowledge of previous DT albums and almost every individual song ever published as well as the band’s development over the years. He has compared what he has just listened to with what he knows, and makes a valid point with solid arguments. Other times, he throws in some subjective terms, like “cheesy rock”, which don’t actually mean anything and “filler”, which is either a synonym for “I don’t personally like it”, or “I really didn’t get it”.

    Still, 3/5 is not horrible. And my opinion is that I welcome the fact that The Astonishing is the first DT album that actually broke free of the bounding boxes set by Mike Portnoy and persisted well after his departure.

  17. Aces says:

    Great review! Completely on point. While every other site is gushing about this album, I couldn’t find anybody who echoed my sentiments until now. Worst Dream Theater album in my opinion.