Dream Theater’s brand new, self-titled opus is a masterpiece of ambition, adventure and redefined purpose. Dream Theater heralds an exceptionally energized and profoundly dynamic emergent chapter for the melodic, progressive and consistently heavy masters of hard rock invention. Dream Theater is a name synonymous with the penultimate synthesis of studied expertise and relentless creative passion. It is an album that at once recalls the brilliant hallmarks that have made the band icons to fellow musicians and hard rock fans alike, while simultaneously a bold declaration of a future yet to come.
The mountain of awards and accolades from guitar, drum and keyboard publications rightly bestowed upon the band over the course of their storied career shouldn’t overshadow the most important thing Dream Theater has always offered: engaging, deeply resonant and undeniably catchy songs. For all of the progressive instrumentation and time signatures that have caused heads to spin since before the band’s gold-selling sophomore set Images and Words through 2011’s A Dramatic Turn of Events, Dream Theater have consistently proven their proficiency with songwriting itself. It’s no surprise that “On the Backs of Angels,” released just two years ago, earned the veteran band their first-ever Grammy nomination.
“We have a great history. We’ve made a lot of albums that we’re incredibly proud of and that are special to us. Self-titling this album was a way to illustrate that we remain in a constant state of evolution,” explains co-founder, guitarist and producer John Petrucci. “We are striving to move forward, to do better. This is an album that both new listeners and longtime fans can point to and say, ‘If you want to know what Dream Theater is all about, this is the album to get.’ Dream Theater is alive, vibrant, moving forward, constantly.”
Dream Theater fixture James LaBrie’s supernaturally compelling and instantly identifiable vocals soar within the framework of Petrucci’s unmistakable guitar wizardry and steadfast co-founder John Myung’s rhythmic yet brightly expressive bass playing. The keyboard and atmospheric work of multi-instrumentalist Jordan Rudess has become essential and integral to Dream Theater’s sound, while formidable and near-unbelievable drum giant Mike Mangini pounds a territorial stamp upon the album, his second since joining the band in 2010.
Dream Theater delivers all things Dream Theater in every sense of the phrase, including a return of their mind-bending instrumentals: cinematic album opener “False Awakening Suite” and “Enigma Machine.” There are also epic storytelling centerpiece songs, like the multi-dimensional album closer, “Illumination Theory,” taken from the playbooks of Dream Theater spiritual forefathers like Yes and Rush. “Along for the Ride” is emboldened by a free-spirited, inspired vibe. The lyrics are incredibly optimistic and the song itself is uplifting. Dream Theater boasts the band’s heaviest production sound ever, courtesy of Petrucci and engineer/mixer Richard Chycki, whose resume includes work with Rush, Aerosmith, Skillet and Mick Jagger.
“It’s unusual for a band like ours, doing our own progressive metal mixture, to have stayed focused, to still be producing music that’s as vital and energetic as ever,” observes Rudess. “This is our strongest point since I joined the band, where the personalities are really united and creating a large statement with a lot of power. This album has all of the crucial elements of Dream Theater. This is us saying, ‘Okay, this is Dream Theater. This is our mark, right here.’ It’s bold.”
The minimalist, modernized version of the Dream Theater symbol, as internationally recognizable as the Misfits' Crimson Ghost, HIM's Heartagram or the Black Flag bars, is the bold anchor of the album artwork for a reason. It’s a mere taste of what lies beneath, within the music itself.
“This record is loaded with very passionate, simple grooves that drive people, but it’s also loaded with an outlandish sense of deep musicianship at the highest possible level we can offer,” promises Mangini. “LaBrie has got one of the most beautiful voices on Earth. “The guys in this band are no novices. The album has a very congruent feel, an organic mix of passion and nurtured songwriting.”
Dream Theater serves as both entry-point for curious newcomers and shining beacon to longtime devotees. It is a landmark statement befitting of not only the band’s multiple milestones, but of their increasing prowess, perseverance and overall fulfillment from creating diverse, nuanced and atmospheric compositions. Evocative, transcendent, genre-defining and as hungry as ever, Dream Theater’s music is as timeless as the dozen-album strong discography and more than 25 years of performing would suggest, while alternately ever-advancing toward new horizons.
Dream Theater has sold over two million albums in the United States alone and over ten million albums around the world, thanks to astoundingly important records like Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999) and Systematic Chaos (2007). Sharing stages with musical titans Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Porcupine Tree, Megadeth and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (to name a few) has contributed to the rightful perception of Dream Theater as one of rock’s greatest live acts. Petrucci and Myung have known each other since before they were in high school. They assembled what would become one of the world’s most impressive musical collectives together with fellow Berklee College of Music student Mike Portnoy. Many fans became exposed to Dream Theater through the MTV staple “Pull Me Under,” from the band’s mammoth second album, the first to feature LaBrie.
Mike Mangini, who beat out many impressive candidates for the drum position in 2010 and who has set five World’s Fastest Drummer records, was on the faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
The band worked on material at sound checks while touring behind A Dramatic Turn of Events, which debuted in the Billboard Top 10. The drum parts for A Dramatic Turn of Events were already mapped out before Mangini joined the band. With Dream Theater, much of the material was composed in the rehearsal room, as a unit. “We knew Mike was a great guy, a talented drummer and did an amazing job in the studio and onstage,” Petrucci says. “But we hadn’t really worked with him creatively before. He exceeded what we imagined and put this energy into the album.”
Rudess concurs. “Mangini’s personality is all over the new record. You can’t help but smile when you hear it. He’s so present. He’s so there. He's got this exuberant personality that has become part of Dream Theater. It’s been a real joy having somebody who is as focused and music crazy as all of us. It’s additional incentive to keep Dream Theater really strong, really alive and moving forward.”
Mangini has had a chance not only to gel with his band mates but to integrate into the worldwide Dream Theater community. He’s been just as impressed by the Dream Theater faithful as they have been with him. “Dream Theater fans are an extremely educated bunch for the most part, they are very smart,” he says. “They know their details. They know their music. They don’t mess around. When they hear this album, they are going to realize just how important they really are.”
That Dream Theater is creating their most inventive, invigorating and satisfying material on album twelve is testament to the continued creative drive and commitment to excellence they’ve always maintained. For many bands, fans will cling to this or that touchstone record. A Dream Theater fan can celebrate the catalog and newcomers can get a comprehensive look by starting right here. “This is album number twelve, there’s no reason why a band can’t continue to evolve and top what they’ve done before in a positive way,” Petrucci reasons. “It’s nothing rehashed, it’s not the same old thing, it’ not lazy. A new album, for us, is always an opportunity to put our best foot forward, to try to break new ground and try to be a better band.”
Classics will always remain classics, but nobody is running around saying they’d like to trade in their latest iPhone for the original model. Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All is uncompromisingly badass. But it was their fifth album (which was self-titled) that sold over 30 million copies. From Rush to Pink Floyd to The Beatles to Black Sabbath, a number of legendary bands continued to unleash pivotal albums at multiple points along their creative journeys. With Dream Theater, this band solidifies a place amongst the greats, whose work will always inspire.
James joined Dream Theater in 1990 and has placed fifteenth on Music Radar's list of "The Greatest Vocalists of all Time". Throughout his career with Dream Theater, LaBrie has lent his voice to many other artists (including Fate's Warning, Trent Gardner, Tim Donahue and Frameshift), as well as to Rush, ELP, and Queen tribute recordings.
Since 2004, LaBrie has been working with the True Symphonic project along with Thomas Dewald, Vladimir Grishko, Dirk Ulrich, Christopher Jesidero, Sandro Martinez, Paul Mayland, Marvin Philippi and Igor Marin. Their album "Concerto In True Minor - 3 Rock Tenors" was released in 2008.
Throughout his musical career, James has become one of the most well-respected and admired vocalists in progressive rock. In 2010 his James LaBrie band released Static Impulse, brilliantly dynamic and melodic extreme metal mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Paradise Lost).
James' musical influences include Metallica, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Journey, Queen, Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, as well as classical composers Mozart, Vivaldi and Beethoven as favorites. Influential vocalists include Steve Perry, Freddie Mercury, Sting, Paul Rodgers and Nat King Cole.
John's awards include the 2007 "Guitarist of the Year" as named by the readers of Total Guitar magazine, and "Best Metal Guitarist" in the 2010 and 2011 Reader's/Player's Choice Awards polls in Guitar Player magazine. In 2011, John was named one of the 20 greatest-ever metal guitarists in Total Guitar's poll as well as "Best Guitarist" in Classic Rock Presents Prog Magazine's 2011 readers poll.
First released in 1995, John's instructional video "Rock Discipline" continues to be held in high regard by guitar players around the world as both an influential and comprehensive guide to modern-day guitar techniques. John's book, entitled "Guitar World Presents John Petrucci's Wild Stringdom", is a compilation of columns he wrote for the magazine.
Some of John's early influences include Steve Morse, Al DiMeola, Steve Howe, Allan Holdsworth, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Rush, Yes, Iron Maiden, The Dixie Dregs and Metallica.
John Myung and his high school friend John Petrucci enrolled together at the Berklee College of Music where they met their future bandmate, Mike Portnoy and, with two other friends, formed the band Majesty. This early band would later undergo more changes to the lineup, and change its name to Dream Theater.
John's outside projects include the Jelly Jam, along with Rod Morgenstein and Ty Tabor. In 2010, John was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and impressively, in 2010, was named the Greatest Bassist of All Time in Music Radar's reader's poll.
John's early influences include Chris Squire, Steve Harris, and Geddy Lee, and their respective bands Yes, Iron Maiden, Rush.
Jordan Rudess is Dream Theater's keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire. In addition to playing in Dream Theater, Jordan has worked with many other artists including Liquid Tension Experiment, David Bowie, Steven Wilson, the Dixie Dregs, Enrique Iglesias, Tony Williams, Jan Hammer and the Paul Winter Consort. In late 2010, the world-renowned keyboardist and Juilliard graduate premiered his first live orchestral composition "Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra" in Caracas, Venezuela.
Jordan is the author of Total Keyboard Wizardry: A Technique and Improvisation Workbook. He also owns the successful App development company Wizdom Music, creators of MorphWiz, SketchWiz, SampleWiz, and Geo Synthesizer. A mere four months after the release of MorphWiz (the first release from Wizdom Music), it was named "Best Music Creation App" in the first-ever Billboard Music App Awards, produced by Billboard Magazine.
In 2011, Jordan toured as a special guest for select dates on Blackfield's summer tour, opening for them in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Mexico City.
Mike Mangini joined Dream Theater in 2010; to do so, he gave up a coveted position as faculty member at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. A highly-respected session musician as well, Mike has jammed and played with a variety of musicians and bands including, among others, Annihilator, Extreme, James LaBrie, Steve Perry, Godsmack, Steven Tyler, Dale Bozzio, Skunk Baxter, and Steve Vai.
Mike is well-known for setting five World's Fastest Drummer (WFD) records and appeared on the Discover Channel show "Time Warp", displaying his drum skills for high-speed cameras. He remains proudest however, of being ranked/rated by his students in the top 1% of college professors in America by Online Course Evaluators. A natural teacher, Mike has written two books entitled Rhythm Knowledge; these describe his unique practice method, designed for deconstructing and simplifying complex polyrhythms and time signatures.
Mike has garnered multiple Grammy nominations, and won accolades for his jazz, progressive, and rock drumming. About playing with Dream Theater, Mike says "I consider this opportunity the absolute pinnacle of my career. Playing with these guys…it's the mountaintop. This is where I want to be."