Following the controversial departure of Mike Portnoy, Dream Theater were assumed by many to go in a different direction musically. When I heard the news, I was just in complete shock. This is a band who I have fallen completely obsessed with for about 6 years and I was worried that the music wouldn't live up to the high standards that one would expect from a Dream Theater record.
However, leading up to release date; I bought the boxset as my excitement grew ever stronger during the time before release. This is certainly one of the best albums they have ever done.
The production is superb. Every single musician stands out in this album; especially John Myung who for the past couple of records has appeared to have been drowned out but every element is audible, which makes this such a treasure to listen to. I was so relieved to hear Dream Theater's synonymous heavy progressive style had not changed all that dramatically. But the progressive elements are compared to their classic albums Images and Words and Scenes from a Memory (in my opinion their best albums).
A combination of their metal ambiance, the much more experimental progressive formula and the usual powerful vocals from the great James LaBrie concoct to a create an incredibly powerful record, both musically and lyrically. The album title is such a perfect representation of both music and lyrics; touching upon themes such as political imbalance (on the Backs of Angels), civil uprisings (Outcry), the different paths that people take (This is the Life) and the false dreams that children are pushed towards (Far From Heaven). The prog sound of the album is quite probably the most obvious since Images and Words. This is clearly evident on songs Outcry and Breaking all Illusions especially.
Even the quieter and the shorter songs are incredibly consistent. The shortest songs of the album Far From Heaven and Beneath the Surface are just beautiful songs to listen to.
Bridges in the Sky and Breaking all Illusions are the stand-out tracks for me. Bridges in the Sky contains an incredibly dramatic opening introduced by a shaman song and eventually leading to the brutal riffing and leading to the progressive metal sound that Dream Theater have become so famous for. Breaking all Illusions reminds me strongly of the Images and Words oeuvre. Very progressive with many time signature and arrangements with each member of the band excelling. A very upbeat and virtuostic in sound and demonstrates an excellent representation of the bands old and new sound, reminding me of Yes and Pink Floyd throughout.
Without a single doubt or qualm, I can confidently say that this is their best record since Scenes from a Memory and certainly album of the year. 10/10
On the Backs of Angels- 8.5/10
Build Me Up, Break Me Down- 9/10
Lost not Forgotten- 10/10
This is the Life- 9/10
Bridges in the Sky- 10/10
Far from Heaven- 10/10
Breaking all Illusions- 10/10
Beneath the Surface- 10/10
In my opinion, 3rd best of their career, behind Scenes from a Memory and Images and Words