Let me start off by saying that I have been a lifelong fan of Dream Theater. I‘ve had the opportunity to enjoy their unique vision since they were a bar band on Long Island named Majesty. I have their entire discography loaded into my iPod and I’ve seen them in concert dozens of times. I was very sad when I first heard that Mike Portnoy was no longer part of the group, though Mike Mangini is certainly a tremendous drummer and a great choice for a replacement.
However, I have to admit that I have been steadily losing interest in their music. Don't get me wrong, the level of musicianship is always incredible and I have tremendous respect for them, but their last few records have started to sound the same to me. I've always leaned more toward the lushly-orchestrated side of Dream Theater (which they seem to be abandoning), rather than the heavier side. Usually when I would get a new DT album, it would require about 10 listens before the main themes and melodies would emerge and get stuck in my mind. After listening to this latest album for about a month straight, it has just gotten stale for me. I think that the band used to have a much better balance between what is technically hard to play and what is catchy. After multiple listens, I’ve found that many of the riffs on the new album were becoming tedious and irritating to my ear, often sounding more like guitar picking exercises than musical motifs. Unfortunately, I've kind of felt the same about their last three studio albums, though I tended to overlook my disappointment because of the band's rich history. This last album has really epitomized that disappointed feeling in me.
I don’t write this easily. Dream Theater has long been one of the few bright spots in a music scene that is mostly barren. I still love their earlier work and revere it as some of the best music ever made; however, they just don’t feel like a vital entity anymore.